The real world of the Jamaican gangster scene.
Cess Silvera grew up in Jamaica, he knows Jamaica, he knows what it's like to be in gangs. And people tell you - write about what you know.
So Cess set out to tell audiences what he knows in his film, Shottas - a modern day gangster film, starring Kymani Marley, Bob Marley's son and Jamaican star, Spragga Benz. Wyclef Jean started on the film as just the musical supervisor, but found himself smack dab in the middle of the production and a supporting role in the movie.
We spoke with Cess to talk about getting people to see the film, legally; and what the saying 'bros before hoes' really means. Here's what we talked about:
Where did the concept for Shottas come from?
Cess Silvera: I started working on the script in 2001, we made the film, and it became a hit classic on the streets. It had been around the block for a while, and my manager had a friend who knew someone at Sony; the movie finally got to him and that's when he said we have to get this out there. All I want is a fair chance to do what it can do; it's a sweet victory, and I'm really grateful, but I wish this could have happened long ago. I could have made my money back; it's sold 2.5 million copies on the streets.
How did Wyclef get involved?
Cess Silvera: Wyclef got involved initially to help me with the score, the music; I called him up and said, 'Hey man, I need you to help me out with this movie.' And he was like, 'Cool Cess, no problem; I got you.' So he came down to Miami on the set where we were shooting, and I didn't have anyone at the time for that role. And so with no rehearsal, I just threw him into the role - cold turkey, he jumped right in.
So he was just there for the music.
Cess Silvera: Yep, and he got bamboozled into this.
I guess that's what friends are for -
Cess Silvera: That's what friends are for!
So is that basically the same thing with Kymani; are you guys friends and the two of you came up with it?
Cess Silvera: Yeah, Kymani and I grew up in Miami for many years; and same thing, when I reached out to him, he was like, 'Yeah man, without question. Let's go!' Spragga Bens, who played Wayne, we went to high school together.
So how did you come up with the concept?
Cess Silvera: I just went off one day, and took a three day break and told them I was going to write about my brother. It's what I know; this is a movie from the streets of Jamaica, but I look at a lot of these mobs; there's the Russian mob, there's the Jewish mob, and that's where Shottas comes in. Everyone knows about what goes on, but they don't know the inside; this is what life is like.
Can you relate to these guys; is this your culture?
Cess Silvera: These characters are what I know; I lived with these characters every day, and raised by many of these characters. I knew many Biggs' and Wayne's and Mad Max's, and some of them aren't around today; in the movie, I have a 'In Memoriam' section of all my friends who have passed away since I shot Shottas. There are 50 names, and only one died of natural cause; so yeah, I know these guys. I know Biggs, I know Wayne, and it's a very dear story to me.
I gotta know, the battle scene where Kymani jumps behind the couch - he leaves his woman out to dry!
Cess Silvera: I've been getting flack for this since the movie came out. In real life, you gotta look out for you; you can't sugar coat it. You've got to save your best friend first. There's always a lot of girls to hang out with, but you only have that one best friend. Biggs and Wayne grew up together, they're brothers; the girls will be there. With girls, sometimes they're overwhelmed; they see the money, the cars, the houses. But when the gunfire happens, they panic, and sometimes that panic can paralyze you.
But Kymani does get to show off his real skills in that shower scene - major props for that!
Cess Silvera: Thanks! Yeah, Kymani's done quite good from that scene! That scene took one full day, and we blocked it out for that entire day; Kymani wanted to get it 'just right' for the big screen. I put it in there for selfish reasons. He owes me big time for that.
And Mad Max - holy crap he scared the hell out of me. I say anyone who counts the number of people he kills is nuts.
Cess Silvera: He's a modern day Dracula; he's a person possessed by the love - the love of death. He fit perfectly right into this story; at first, I only had three lines for him to say, but we could tell he was becoming a cult icon. He went along with it - and he has become that cult icon.
What do you want people to know about this movie?
Cess Silvera: I want people to see the love, to see it for more than just the violence; because there's a method to the madness. I want people to see my voice; Shottas is for the guys in Jamaica, for the kids in Jamaica who grew up in the slums, who have no option, they don't have an education, they don't have a dad, there's no one around. I wanted to show if this trend continues, we're going to create monsters like Mad Max, and Wayne and Biggs. I really want them to see there's a balance, and see there's a voice. I remember back in the day on CNN, with the black culture - that's what I want; I want Cess Silvera' movie to be the voice of the Caribbean, and the world as much as I can.
Shottas opens in limited theaters November 3rd; it's rated R. It'll open in other cities in the following weeks.