Chitlins & Cucarachas: A Love Story

THEMS Birff

Film has always been a passion, particularly the B-type variety made during the Golden Age of Political Incorrectness. So, when I had to design a poster for a Photoshop course a few years back, you know I was set to impress the profess with my illmatic cinematic acuity and on the way score an "A" for the boys at the Cuban Contingency Committee.

To get rolling, I popped in my James Brown "Special-E" mix-tape. Well, not exactly. I just opened iTunes and chose the third CD from the James Brown "Star Time" box set. I'm talking about the "Soul Brother No. 1" disk, which for those not in the know, is capable of making an Osmond move like a Jackson. For real.

Anyway, I began to organize the mess that was my desk and underneath a bag of pork rinds and film mags, I uncovered the 1954 sci-fi classic "THEM!" and 1974's blaxploitation joint "Three The Hard Way." I set these off to the side and raised the DBs on the JBs when out of nowhere, inspiration hit like a bowl of Crazy Joe's Chili on a Texan fresh off a stick of Fat Emma's deep fried butter. What I'm saying is, the DVDs began to coalesce, melding the 50's camp aesthetic of "THEM!" with the 70's grindhouse feel of "Three The Hard Way."

And that folks, is essentially how I got the idea for "THEMS!," well, the poster anyway. Another two years would pass before THEMS poster became THEMS shit. That is, THEMS super-fly joint. THEMS ghettofied funk fantastic. THEMS UP FOR THE DOWN STROKE CINEMATIC CONTINENTAL! But, I digress.

THEMS Trailers

Fast forward a year after earning an "A" for my poster. Word. My good friend L to da B and I thought it might be cool to create a teaser inspired by my design. I drew up a script and my boy Jay polished while rocking five pounds of polyester. The whole thing took about 10 hours to produce.



Our friends ate it up. But more than anything, the experience left me jonesing to create something that would standout from the surge of "fake trailers" popping since Tarantino & Rodriguez tore the roof off the sucker with "Grindhouse."

The new trailer would have one foot planted in 50's camp and one toe dipped in 70's blaxploitation. It would be much more ambitious, taking cues from the original "THEM!" trailer by way of a 42nd street hustler. L to da B dug on the concept, which was a considerable plus considering he possessed the gear and skills necessary to turn this mother out. Respect.

Jay would again represent and graciously lent his pad for the shoot. His saucy cousin Natalie also rocked the screen. My brother-in-law Fuciek was a scientist and gangster. The crazy talented Mark Asch played the general, nailed the narration and composed the score. Sweet Vanesa applied makeup and the lovely Rosa assisted with production. I directed and L to da B was the technical pimp.

The new trailer took over 9 months to complete and clocked in at 2 minutes, 11 seconds. Between setting up, breaking down, filming (I was an inexperienced 20-40 take director) and the mountain that was post-production, each second ultimately took about 50 hours to produce. Each second.

Our effort was worth the struggle, for on August 19th, 2010, "THEMS!" was showered with speck at its Facebook bash recognized as being righteously legit or as Brother James would say, "It had soul and was super bad."



THEMS Harsh Words

True. The trailer was dope, but tension developed during that final week of post where L to da B and I worked harder than a couple of China Town illegals. We had us a major disagreement and although we eventually chilled, it took its toll. Still, we were relieved about being done and that the joint was universally dug. We even planned on a making-of featurette until more verbal boxing ensued and before anyone could say Thelmus Rasulala, everything came to a screeching halt.

Let me tell you, I felt higher than a kite and dryer than a crack addict's lower lip. Nevertheless, I wanted to let more people know about what we had done. So, I entered THEMS teaser and full-length trailers at Atom.com's now defunct video tournament for which the latter got a Shout-Out and both took prizes before being disqualified on suspicious view-count activity. Disgusted, I yanked the videos off their site. I had run out of steam and was officially done.

And just like that, THEMS was no mo.

THEMS Dark Days

During the ensuing months, I bounced a few ideas around. One was a book titled "100 Great Ideas by an Idiot," which I may self-publish in 2012. The other was a ReelsurReal video competition site for which I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to develop. I also co-wrote a collection of vignettes with my friend Nicole on the horrors of waitressing that we hope to make public soon.

Yeah, I kept busy, but times was hard during that period on account of refusing to get a gig while developing these other projects. The good news is that I ended up earning a Certificate of Appreciation from the owners of eBay for helping sustain their affluence through the sale of most my shit in 2011.

Then one day, I'm chillin' with ma boy Jay when he says, "Yo puto, would you ever consider making THEMS?" What... huh? I hadn't given it a second's thought in a minute. I chewed on it hard and after a few weeks concluded that if there was ANY way that I could bring THEMS to the big screen, then by the tips of my Puerto Rican fence climbers, I HAD to try!

A few weeks later, I got a chance to grab a couple of ales with L to da B and asked if he'd be interested in lending his technologabilities for a THEMS feature-length film. Much to my surprise, he was in. Respect. A year earlier, he'd have chosen a Brazilian wax by three large black men over working with me. But, you know what they say about time and how it heals everything. Everything except for when Agostino sucker-punched me in 9th grade. 30 years later and I still hate that motherfucker.

I then approached the original crew to see if they would be down to represent in a THEMS feature-length film funk and their universal response was...

"HELL YES BITCH!"

And just like that, THEMS was back.

THEMS is Coming!

So now, we at ReelsurReal Filmhaus Production Studios Limited in Association with None of your Damn Business hope to bring THEMS cinematic masta-joint to you guys in 4Q, 2012. Thing is, it won't be cheap and the rents too damn high! THEMS playas and parlayas will need to get they ass fed not to mention greased for they time and skills. What I'm saying is, we need MONEY! And, if you give, your name will appear in the credits as an executive producer, which could technically lead to some ass kid! Can you feel me? Plus, if you throw us more than 10 bucks, or approximately the cost of 3 Mad Dog 20/20s, we will ship your Jheri curl ass some serious swag.

Look, it's like my man Chuck D said, "I gotta do what they don't like, cause I got a mic." We need money to make this film. Lots. That simple. And, we're counting on THEMS fanbase to get this mutha out by spreading the word and via their generous donations. Ultimately, you guys will decide if THEMS will come crawling up out of the ghetto and onto our screens later this year.

Until then, stay cool, keep it low and to the left and never accept a ride by anyone dressed as a clown.

Viva la Cucaracha!