Detroit has been given a lot of nicknames over the years. It has been called “The Motor City” due to being one of the top cities in the manufacturing and automotive industries, known as “Hockeytown” for the 2008 Stanley Cup champions Red Wings, and the founder of Motown.
Now, in 2009, it will going to have another name — Snitch City, the name of Lee Mahoney’s urban crime drama about loyalty and betrayal within three friends when one of them is accuse of being an informant for the police(and yours truly is going to be a part of it):
GG: Though your film won’t be coming out until next year, aren’t you worried that filmgoers are going to confuse Snitch City with 2005’s Sin City — though the former isn’t adapted from a graphic comic book?
LM: First of all, I would like to thank you for taking the time out to ask these questions. This whole experience, thus far, has been a breath taking joy ride filled with ups and downs; and we haven’t even begun the production yet. Thank you to all the supporters, fans, believers and non believers.
It is only the beginning. As far as the question goes, I would just like to say that “Sin City” is a cinematic masterpiece and probably one of my top favorite films of all time. However, other than name similarities, “Snitch City” is in no way, shape, or form similar to “Sin City”, other than the fact that “Snitch City” will also be a cinematic masterpiece. Not to say the name similarities are not a benefit, because by me being from an Advertising background, I realized that people will assume certain things about the movie based around the name similarities.
Whatever they may liken from “Sin City” to Snitch City, is always going to be positive because “Sin City” grossed over 100 million dollars. So I encourage the name similarities, and I think that the confusion will be positive. If you look at some of the promotional pictures, we used some of the grunge text with the blood splatter graphics added, which Sin City popularized, so that people would further liken Snitch City to “Sin City”. Now it is purposely done to add popularity around our movie.
GG: Why did you name your film Snitch City, and why shoot it in the Motor City known as Detroit?
LM: On the Detroit-based TV Reality series, “D.E.A.”, the DEA Agents made a lot of their arrests as a result of criminals cooperating or “snitching”.
As a matter of fact, the whole premise of their show was to start off by arresting lowly criminals, then to work their way up the “Corporate Ladder” until they got to the head of the criminal organization. Since the show had national syndication, people affiliated with crime or “the streets” around the United States started calling Detroit “SNITCH CITY” instead of Motor City, and “SNITCHIGAN” instead of Michigan.
At first, the movie was going to be called “SNITCHIGAN” because the name was a bit more original; however we felt it was too hard to pronounce. So, we changed the name to “SNITCH CITY”, because it sounds more provocative and exciting. We decided to shoot primarily in Detroit, because of the aforementioned reasons. However, the script never specifies that the movie location is in Detroit; the characters just call it “The City”.
GG: Now, your synopsis includes “a thin line” when it comes to helping the police. What did you mean by that: the line between cop and criminal, right and wrong, good and evil, and so forth? In other words, the gray area between hero and villain?
LM: For example, think about in terms of rebellion or fighting for what you believe in; you can take either an aggressive or passive stance. You have to think that in the eyes of the Romans and Egyptians; Jesus Christ and Moses were seen as “Villains” or “Bad Guys”.
I do not want to bring up this tragic incident, but think about what happened during the Hurricane Katrina Crisis. You had people who were looting stores, robbing people, committing crimes to survive, etc. Now I am not saying that was right or wrong, and I am definitely not condoning the fact that some people took advantage of the situation by doing fraudulent things with the FEMA checks and raping those young girls in the Silver Dome, etc.
However, when your Government forgets about you, and you do not know when help is coming, you have 2 choices in so many: starve on top of a sinking roof for a week and eventually die off; or break into a grocery store and steal a loaf of bread for your family. I think “right and wrong” is all about perception. Because most people are not natural leaders, one is perceived as a radical when one steps outside of the box and tries to be pro active. So, when you are in a poor city such as Detroit, which is statistically considered one of the top dying cities in the U.S.; I can sympathize with you if there are no other options, and you do what you have to so your family can live to see another day.
You are a “Hero” in my book, a modern day Robin Hood. But if you kill or “prey” on some one for a pair of “Jordan’s”, glasses, an article of clothing, OIL, etc., you are a punk, a coward, and you are truly a villain because you could be using your strength to actually help people. Remember, the meek shall inherit the Earth, but the strong will lead. Hopefully the strong have moral decency and good intentions. Right now, in movies and in reality, the strong are only out for personal gain.
GG: Over the years, films such as The Godfather trilogy, shows like HBO’s The Sopranos and The Wire, and the soap opera General Hospital have depicted crime figures romantically as “heroes” despite the fact that they’re bad guys who break the law — albeit, with the best of intentions as well as having hearts of gold. Why do you think people root for them?
LM: Since you name dropped those movies and shows, I have to name drop a couple of my own. Love The Wire, Scarface, Goodfellas, Training Day, The Heist, Menace To Society, any John Woo movie, and most British and Asian gangster films. You know what it is – it is being human. Being human is a contradiction, because we strive for the unattainable – Perfection. So we have all of these emotions; one day you are angry, the next happy. That is what makes life exciting. And in a lot of films you see nowadays, the character has a dark side or a dark past. It is not just crime movies.
You have to think, one of the basics for any story for character development is a primary flaw that your character has to overcome. It makes your story exciting. Plus just think, the Ladies love Bad Guys. The audience loves a happy ending and hates to love the Bad Guy. Statistically, the Best Movie of the year was Dark Knight. They should have called it “The Joker”. And it is the perception of what is right and wrong; man’s law and God’s (or a higher power’s) law. In most of these films, the Bad Guys are not animals. They do not molest children and murder innocent people and things of that nature (most of the time). They are just people who have been wronged in some form or fashion, most of the time by society as a whole or the government. Because these people did not get the proper nurturing or structural foundation to be seemingly functional human beings, they rebel against the system.
Somewhere down the line they come to a fork in the road, and go down the “wrong” path. I think in reality, top to bottom, we must look at the system, which is still racist and sexist. Now it is to the point that it does not matter what race you are; if you are considered under privileged, you are “screwed”. Not to go off subject, but look at the mandatory minimum 5 year sentences they give for drug possession. You can have a sizable amount of cocaine or have a drastically smaller amount of crack cocaine that is readily accessible to the average corner boy, and you get the same amount of time. Then you have to ask yourself, who is more likely to have crack cocaine, as opposed to pure cocaine in their possession.
Do not answer that question, just look at the staggering numbers of Blacks and Latinos in the prison system. And just think, cocaine used to be an ingredient in Coca Cola and Alcohol used to be illegal in the Prohibition Era. Al Capone must be rolling in his grave knowing that he served jail time, and many of his friends and family were gunned down over something that you can buy for $2.60/half pint on every corner now. What are all of the people who are serving sentences for selling weed going to say when they get out in a couple of years, and weed is legalized?
Like I said, these people are human beings. I think it is the hypocrisy in the system. I truly believe we need to spend more time on child and teenage development and assistance, and less time on building developments for prisons. Since all of the lead characters in Snitch City are essentially “Bad Guys” because they are in a gang, whoever is the “snitch” in the movie is technically the “Good Guy”. But in the end, we all know who the audience is really rooting for.
GG: The focus on your movie is snitching, so what are your views on snitching? Do you think if someone snitches, it means that person is a rat or sellout? Whatever happen to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you God? Is doing the right thing now all of a sudden the wrong thing? Why or why not?
LM: Well, coming from my background, I am kind of bias so I will answer this as objectively as possible. I know that in “The Ghetto”, a lot of people have been wronged by the law enforcement in some capacity. So, people rebel against the system. That is not to say that they do not want crimes to be solved. It is more so, not helping out someone who is perceived as your “enemy” capture someone who is “a brother” or “an ally”. So when someone “snitches”, yes it is looked at as selling out. It is downright mutiny. That is why in less affluent communities, not just minority communities, but underprivileged communities in general, where more violent crimes are assumed to be more prevalent-
“Snitches”, “Rats”, “Whistle Blowers” “Dime Droppers” and now, the phrase we coined and are using as a form of personal viral advertisement for instances when you have no words for how bad a person has snitched, “SNITCH CITY”, these people are persecuted physically and emotionally. And snitching does not just exist in reference to criminal aspects – again Judas snitched on Jesus Christ. Myself personally, I do not condone “snitching” because of the disloyalty and cowardice factor. You have to think, most people snitch to lower their jail sentences or take the heat off of themselves. I believe that if you are a man, you must own up to “your responsibilities”. Never speak on another man’s discretions. That’s so “Cat Like”. The only snitching I could ever condone would have been if someone snitched on George W. and Jeb Bush in Florida some 8 years ago.
“Everybody’s Talking…” at Snitch City in 2009