Youssef Delara: I found myself at the Green Cottage one night, a small cave-like venue with bleachers and a weather-beaten stage in West Hollywood, CA. An annex to Fairfax High-school hidden away behind the bustle of the city, It's a place where street poets, rappers and dreamers come to spit verse. After my first show I was hooked. The poets held an uncanny power over us, taking us on a journey. We laughed and cringed as they dealt out word after word. I was intrigued by the idea of how words informed the world, how that night they drew me and the entire audience into the mind of the artist. I left that night with the idea of telling a story about a person who uses a lie to create her world. When the basis of one's word is built on lies it is unable to cause change or move people. I think that's why we gravitate to music that is honest, sometimes vulgar even, because the truth is a magnet. I wanted to tell a story about a person's journey to discovering herself through their music.
Michael D. Olmos: for me the inspiration was the story. After reading Youssef's first draft, I was impressed with the seamless integration of drama and music. There was a rhythm to the story. It was something we picked up on during development and were able to continue in post, in the editing. It's not noticeable unless you look for it - but the rhythm informs the story even when there's no music, there's a beat in the pacing of the cuts.
Youssef was very open to me diving into the story with him to take it deeper. I think we both attack story as directors first, rather than writer first. We both see the movie "unfold on page. We started on the process and dove into the world of these amazing characters, this family, each trying to do what's right for each other, yet each so out of touch with their authentic self, and each so emotionally isolated from each other, that they're on the verge of destruction. The tension is electric; It's a house built of cards on a foundation of melting ice.
The themes of the story are powerful. Like every story there are multiple themes but the core for Filly Brown is the tenant of being true to your self - of finding the authentic self. It's a theme we can all relate to - the universal theme of being who you are, of not having to wear a mask to fit in, to be accepted for your uniqueness and difference rather than being punished for them. For each character in the story, and each in their own unique way, this is the transformation they must all make.
The statement the story makes is that once you find your voice, your "truth," all problems in your world either fall away or are manageable, solutions present themselves, you find compassion, and you navigate life on your terms.
Parallel to this journey is the music journey of Majo (aka Filly Brown). The other side to her character is that she's a talented MC. Her talent is obvious to everyone, and as opportunities open up, the sharks take notice. Everyone starts to see dollars and wants a piece. It's a tenuous journey for Majo, because deep down she is scared of her own talent. She has not been able to trust in her abilities, and instead would rather "adapt" someone else's voice as her own. She's scamming and hustling to make a buck, It's a skill she picked up from her parents. Like her personal life, her music life is a sham. It takes a reckoning in her personal life for her to admit she's a fake, and influence those around her to see that they are too. That's one of the most inspiring things about this character - she's a catalyst. Her journey sparks a reaction in you, and it resonates off screen.
Pulling it all together is hope. We did not want the story to fall into a deep, dark chasm as some dramatic stories might chose. We wanted a light at the end for these characters. We love them, we respect them, and we want to see them succeed at all costs. In the end It's not about whether they get there or not, It's the glimpse of hope that resonates after the film. Hope that they will remain honest with each other, and make it on their own terms.
The story is inspiring for us on many levels -- the story of the underdog -- the story of the artist searching for an authentic voice; in many ways these are our stories. Bringing Filly Brown to life, working with an incredible and talented group of actors and collaborators, helped us find our authentic voices as filmmakers.
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