By: Vernon Nickerson
Edited by: Christopher Roberts
“Tribes” is a tremendously poignant and thought provoking film. With a rich textured story “Tribes” paints a picture of humanities complicated identity. It is the consequential poem of our times. Tribes” will be a featured short at the 2020 Santa Barbara Film Festival and The Art Of Monteque had the privilege to do a sit down interview with the cast and its director.
The Art of Monteque (TAOM): Good morning. I’m here with part of the Production and performance team for the short film Tribes which is going to be premiering at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in January 2020. Joining me today are Director Nino Aldi, Producer/Actor DeStorm (day-storm) Power and Producer/Actor Jake Hunter.
TAOM: I had the opportunity to watch Tribes and was inspired/blown away by it. So, what I want to know is what (was) the inspiration for creating this work?
Nino: Well I would say the beginning of it was finding a great script. So Jake had reached out to me about wanting to do a really high quality short with his team and he essentially tasked me to find it, so I since I had made other films I was able to reach out to companies for short film festivals and screenwriting companies and I just wanted to see some of their material for shorts; like their award-winning screenplays and we had a handful of them, and I saw Tribes and I said, you know what? This is really good and it spoke to us and I shared it with the team and they all agreed and we reached out to the writer of Tribes, ( who would probably be better suited to answer this question cause he wrote it, but we loved it and ultimately, that’s how we found the story. It (was) by a writer named Andy Marlatt.
Jake: And this… like Adam (Waheed), who plays the Nino sent me about 5 scripts to read and Andy’s was (one of the) one’s I read, and it was by far the best. And (I) was like, yeah, we gotta do this for sure. It actually started because me and Adam were talking because at the time I was trying to do videos like these guys ( Nino and DeStorm) and I was trying to be funny like them but I’m going to leave that to them and then Adam was like, I’ll help you with this if you’ll help me with the TV and film side, so I was like, we’re going to do a short film together and I was like, we found Tribes and went to Nino and then Adam went to DeStorm and then we all (kind of) came together on it and made it happen.
Nino: Couldn’t have been better, I mean, everyone was great.
TAOM: And then what was the selection, of the cast process like?
Nino: Well the casting process… Because Tribes obviously deals with 3 races together, or rather I should say 3 ethnicities together because there is only one race- the human race, So, we needed to get 3 different people. We had 2 of the guys in it already (nodding to Jake and DeStorm)
DeStorm: … our racially ambiguous guy (group laughs as Nino gestures to Jake) …
Nino: …there, but it was initially Hispanic but basically, you know white, brown, and black was the idea, basically it was these guys (gestures to Jake and DeStorm). So the casting was essential, especially (when) reading through the script and then once someone said um, especially for DeStorm cause there were some talks about this other actor that people liked and people saying, yeah, but we (already) got this guy DeStorm Power. Then he (DeStorm) came in and read it and I’m like that’s it, I’m good.
TAOM: So, all of this was over what kind of a time span? Months? Weeks?
Jake: We came together so quick
Nino: It came together quick once it was a go. Once we had had decided on everything; once we had financing, which is … like the biggest part of half these things. It was going to cost more than a traditional short though
DeStorm: I think when I found out it was a few weeks out, maybe…
Nino: …Yeah. So, we picked a date when we were going to build a set; so then it came together relatively quickly. Yeah, they were already building the set when I was coming in. I said, Whoa! The set is all ready.
DeStorm: They did an amazing job on that, by the way.
TAOM: Yes, they did. It was a matter of months then?
Nino: Yeah, absolutely.
TAOM: Now, has it (Tribes) been screened anywhere prior to Santa Barbara?
TAOM: Tribes struck me sort of as an epic poem, so I am wondering did the sort of lyrical aspect of the script; is that what really jumped out at you when you were looking at screenplays or was it sort of an emotional attraction?
Nino: For me, you know when you’re directing something you need to have a story that speaks because it is like you (Vernon) said, an epic poem. This is the first time I’ve heard that term used; very topical but , I don’t use the word epic poem; we are all think we are very different; but it is essentially very topical where you know what it’s like that you know, we all think that we are very different, And basically, we act on what we think is true, but; we can all discover than in essence you know, we are all the same. That’s why I said basically, there is one race essentially, the human race.
DeStorm: I think for me the message was like this is an ongoing thing, especially here in America or at least in the Western hemisphere and just dealing with the racial divide, especially with the president we have today and just the politicians we have today, I’ve travelled throughout the country and from what I’ve seen the racial divide is very thick, so, like when you get to a major city like New York, Miami, LA, and like when you see that the unity is heavier(thicker) than the divide. The unity from this film will reach a whole lot of those that you cannot reach.; (those) that you haven’t been able to reach, I mean like in those small towns—like just to show that “This is what it Is.” Not just with the lead characters but with the patrons on the train. I mean like you could see that throughout the film everybody was just relatively relating. And then you see that at one point you…(they) couldn’t find like a coming together, it was always something, there’s this group, there’s; like this issue, but then in the end its just like togetherness, and fair. For me, it’s just that message that stuck and for me it hit home and I think it will hit home for a lot of people just watching the film.
TAOM: Now (to DeStorm) you have what I’ll call a soliloquy which is sort of a turning point
TAOM: Was it always clear that you were going to do the soliloquy?
Nino/ Jake: Yeah and that is how it was written in script, basically. And that is the point where you find out what is really going on in the film; at least that was hope, that weren’t sure that this was dark and scary, and then it sort of morphs into something else from the beginning. Ultimately you reach within each character within each character in order to play to that character to caricature especially in something that’s only 10 minutes. So, the lead character (gestures to DeStorm) is actually really intelligent which is in contrast to, in juxtaposition to him being the, you know, …
TAOM: Yes. A totally non-stereotypical and then again spot on choice as it shifts the action.
For the supporting cast of passengers on the train, was it a simple process that you got the reactions you needed on the first take; or was it multiple takes?
DeStorm: They were (all) amazing to me
Jake: Yeah, I pretty much cast everybody in the film most of the people who were supporting were legitimate actors, they weren’t extras…like these actors would come for one line like for nothing (i.e., being paid below scale) pretty much. I did (the) casting but everyone that was there had done something. And that’s what made it so real was that there…
DeStorm: …were no weak links, everybody was solid they hit. Even those (actors with) one liners, they hit those one lines, it was crazy (good).
Nino: And I always say too, you know for directing for me is essential a series of plans. The plan for this particular piece was, tell these guys (gesturing to DeStorm and Jake) what I’m going to do, which is play straight, let the writing speak for itself and I would say the same thing to the actors to get this sort of reactions to the film. And then sort of on your shot list you can sort of pick things up as cut-a ways and things like that. So, it was sort of very simple once we started. Cause we actually didn’t start shooting until after lunch on day one (of) a two-day shoot because the train was not ready… it took a second to get that train ready. But once we get in there with 360 lighting, we were able to get it all to get all the shots though…
Jake:… that and DeStorm hit that monologue that was like 10 minutes…
DeStorm: Oh my God. I was bustin’ my brain when I did that. That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done before…
Nino: well you know what it is we did that over lunch because it was one shot, we couldn’t cut away (even if) we wanted to it was a nice juxtaposition from everything else which was hand-held (cameras). This (monologue by DeStorm) was our static shot with the push in, so it had to be one take, we had to use it, we couldn’t just cut away to reaction. Sometimes you can do that…but he (DeStorm) got it!
Nino: And I remember, like everyone was standing and cheering.
TAOM: Oh good, I wasn’t the only one
DeStorm: No (you weren’t) It wasn’t a normal monologue though If you watch in the history of films a normal monologue goes into a certain direction so you can know your next line. This was a monologue that took you in so many directions with so many big words, purposely, so, I couldn’t like freestyle, you know, if you take a certain type of monologue you can freestyle, I know where this is going.
DeStorm: I know where this is going and then Nino is looking at me like ‘you gotta get the shot” (and I’m like) oh-no…
TAOM: …No stress…
DeStorm: …No stress, that’s good. And everyone was like a full-(professional) actor, like (saying) “you better hit it!” and you see this d** (camera) rig coming at your face…
Jake: But after he got it, I was like, just give him the d** award now! But like, I’m saying it on the record, this dude’s (De Storm) going to win awards for that, like for real.
DeStorm: Thanks man,
Nino: And again, going back to the writer, that dialogue was more about Andy Marlatt and his experiences. Andy is really into geopolitical, geopolitics, I mean he’s really (telling us) that is why this line is here. And when I read it initially I was like I want to take this (or that line) out, I men like this was a PSA (public service announcement) but it also sort of goes to the selling of the story which is why I have to make it work to make it different ..
DeStorm: …it wouldn’t have been as amazing if we had chopped it up…
Nino: …well (you’re right). No, it wouldn’t have been as amazing, it must exist as its own shot, because it’s so different from everything else and then obviously with everything else and I mean you know the joke.
Jake: But everything was so serious until then and then he goes into like this deep philosophical like genius monologue I mean like I was reading that as my character, Kevin, who’s like a step slow but as myself as Jake and I mean I had no idea what I was reading at that time, I had to like really research ‘till I figured it out, yeah…
DeStorm: …like dig into it…
Jake: …yeah, that was a toughie.
Nino: …and again, my plan was based when I read the script initially, I do three or four passes initially before I really start to break something down so as soon as I started reading this I thought, because I didn’t know it was comedy, I thought- thriller. So that’s going in my mind until I got to that monologue, then I thought, wait, comedy. Then, it made sense, I’m like I’m just going to go with that original instinct. It’s really the most important piece of the whole short.
TAOM: If I were to say it’s a thriller and a comedy, would you agree, disagree? (Is it) … something else?
Nino: I would agree, because I designed it like a thriller, which is typically my body of work is that.
DeStorm: It felt dark in the beginning. It was a ‘thrill-a-medy’ (i.e., thriller/drama/comedy).
Nino: Because the other way, i.e., comedy first, people don’t take the material seriously, like you have a choice… …you know like going to the Director of Photography Alexander Nikishin and him asking, how do we want to light this? I (Nino ) said dark because you know I want to keep it dark, moody, contrasting, because sometimes of you light things comedically, it’s a different vibe and then all of a sudden it’s like were making fun of things as opposed to the opposite approach which would be to keep it gritty, natural and let the moments happen with these guys ( gestures to actors) and they crushed it, (I mean) all of them. Everyone was prepared, with what they were supposed to say.
TAOM: Was the writer present during the filming.
Nino, Jake and DeStorm: Yes.
Nino: He was a very big help to me because it was so specifically written, and it was an award -winning script that it needed to be said how he said it. He and I had a few conversations of my interpretation of it um we kind of finesse things that didn’t work. You know, sometimes when you write things they are impractical to shoot based on budget constraints, but he (Andy) was helpful) definitely for the words, because I am mainly focused on the mood and how people are saying lines to each other, like mood that we have essentially as an editor-in-chief as you will
TAOM: Has there been any thought of creating an educator’s guide for Tribes?
DeStorm: …but after we win!
TAOM: Okay, so another conversation will be held after you win
DeStorm: Right here, yeah same place, remember that…
TAOM: …Oh yes, I will, its already embedded here, (pointing to recorder). So, do any of you envision a sequel?
Nino: It feels like a one-off to me because it needs to be short and to the point (in order) to be honest to the theme which is “Stop looking at differences and start looking at human beings”, which is basically the opposite direction. That’s basically the theme. If you did a whole movie that way you would have to have so many story arcs and story points to get it done so I feel like for me personally it’s a one-off the theme is strong and you are getting in and out in 10 minutes; that’s the way you want to do it.
TAOM: What would you say to someone between the ages of 18 and 40 that would have a passion to make a film or storytelling
Nino: Do it. I mean you just gotta get your feet in, pick out your end goal, and just start doing it. That’s how you get good at anything, no matter what it is. You’re always going to expand upon it, so big, small large, whatever it is, just do it. You don’t learn by reading, you learn by doing. The wisdom is the action, not the knowledge.
DeStorm: Yeah, You have to find a way to tell your story differently because in my opinion most stories have been told at least once through the history of time, so you have to find your way to tell your story or the story you want to tell in a unique fashion and also just be able to bring it current, to date, Because a lot of times people, they’ll tell a story but it doesn’t translate to what’s going on today. When you look at Tribes, everyone knows the story in some fashion because they’ve dealt with discrimination and stereotypes out there, especially as a minority, I have. But the way the story is told it’s told in such a big way that everyone can get it. So, you have to find that proper way to tell your story and I think that’s the story will go, as they say, today, viral.
Jake: I would just say manifest whatever it is that you want to do I mean for me it’s been about 4 years since I’ve been here. I came here, same story as a (those stories of) a lot of people’s stories: you know, you come here, you got nowhere to stay, you’re homeless, you don’t know anybody and then there’s just been things that I’ve done since I’ve been here that (other people) have said, that’s crazy, but it’s not crazy at all, you can do whatever it is that you want to do for me like I was pushing all sorts of different things that I tried to do that I couldn’t do but I wasn’t successful, but I was pushing so many different things that it doesn’t matter because you don’t know what is going to be the right path for you but pick out a bunch of different paths for you that are going to be exciting for you and like just go for those. Like for me my first break as a producer because I didn’t think it was going to happen for me because I think I’m a much better actor than a producer but, I know DeStorm was nominated as well, I won an Emmy as a producer and like the year before that it was just me cruising around in my car. What I’m saying is you put it out there towards whatever goals you have and like good stuff will happen to you. I guarantee it.
Nino: And I want to add to what they are saying because you (DeStorm) mentioned storytelling and having a unique story. That is good because as a storyteller you have unique story. You’re imitating art, right, but you will eventually find your own style. You have to as a storyteller develop your own perspective, it’s different.
DeStorm: …that’s why we watch…
Nino: …Right, when someone else makes it, you have the same different story, but from a different perspective. Finding what you’re good at, knowing yourself, being passionate. If you’re not passionate about what you are doing with a clear goal of what you want, you’re not going to do well at it, basically, what these guys said………….. All my material its all the same, tense, thriller-oriented, all my shorts. If you look at my reel, my directors reel, I cut it all in one piece, so that’s what I am saying I found that out about me. So, I could never make a Steven Spielberg movie, but no one can make a Nino Aldi film better than Nino Aldi. You have to have that mentality and you have to find yourself. And you find by doing it that you get your own style. You must fail. You don’t learn when things go well, you learn when things don’t go well. And this guy’s (gesturing to DeStorm) got 12 million Instagram followers.
TAOM: Thank you Nino, because I wanted to ask a question about the potential impact of millions of internet followers upon promoting this film. I think between you De Storm and Adam have almost 30 million followers. So, what does that translate into in terms of the potential audience for this short? I’m thinking there’s at least 24 million people right off the top who are going to know about this.
DeStorm: Well there’s a percentage of the people that will know about this as soon as we get the green light to promote it. You know we’ll start to push it out to the people. Like you said across my social media is 20 million people. My Facebook alone is 10 million. For me it’s just like trying to keep new projects in their face all the time. I mean, every platform is different. So, one thing I wanted to do just coming into social media in the very beginning, I noticed there’s an audience everywhere. Facebook is a totally different audience than Instagram, TikTok is a totally different audience than twitter was and everyone if those is used differently so just the way that you promote things has to be done differently so you can grow in those spaces. So, taking something like Tribes right into those audiences, it must be done in a specific way in order for it to be successful in social media.
Nino: (softly) I have 800 followers. That’s sage advice (nodding to DeStorm) follow him. Everyone who wants to get in that game; that’s the guy. I didn’t think I realized that until like after the fact.
TAOM: So, can you talk a little more about this difference between platforms or is that like a “secret sauce”?
DeStorm: It’s not a secret sauce; it’s just reality. Because at the end of the day you can give somebody a blueprint, but it’s just up to them to do it. You can tell many people to do something but if only one person will do it…
TAOM: So, would you say that…
DeStorm: …Facebook is more family oriented, whereas Instagram is for the celebrity/I want to show my life/this is what’s going on in my life currently today amongst your friends and not more like your family. Like if you go to Facebook, you going to see you cousin, you’re going to see what your grandma has been up to; you’ll see your old college roommates, cause that’s how they built out the platform; so content is there is more like home. Instagram is more where you floss, where you put out the projects, more where the celebrities stay, more where the people want to see, not day to day, but like, more where you could be more flashy, you know, that place.
TAOM: And TikTok?
DeStorm: TikTok is going to be the number one platform in 2020. It’s going to crush everything. It’s blowing up really quick. I’ve never been wrong in the last 15 years; everyone is going over to TikTok. Its more of musical platform, but everyone’s there. I see Alicia Keys, I see Wil Smith, I see Diddy, I see Kevin Hart, you see everybody that’s somebody on TikTok. So, I would tell everybody if they get in early… I always get in early. Then you’ll get millions of followers. You do something simple and see your following just blow up, right now. I love this conversation ‘cause in a year you’ll be able to say I was there when DeStorm said that. I said the same thing about Vine, said the same thing about Instagram, said the same thing about twitter back in the day, and now TikTok’s about to be huge; it is going to be huge.
Jake: And you are musical, De Storm so you will be successful. We have this behind the scenes video where he’s (DeStorm) rapping, did you ever see that? (asking Nino and DeStorm)
DeStorm: Na, I don’t remember that
Nino: Yes, got this huge video, it was him (De Storm) rapping, like “Tribes rappin” Did you ever see that
DeStorm: I don’t know, my mind was filled with monologue (chuckles)
TAOM: A final question, which I think I’m going to phrase in terms of True/False. Post release, there will be feedback from the current administration which will let you know you have a hit. Would you say that is True or False?
Jake, Nino, DeStorm: Yes.
Jake: This is going to be really big. Yes, that’s the goal we’re putting it out there with the intent that everyone’s going to know about it, so if everyone’s going to know about it, they’ll have to say something about it.
DeStorm: If not we’ll throw it in their face.
Nino: So, what happens is we go… so 2020 is going the be the year of (entering) the festivals, so we start doing the big festivals, i.e., Academy Award- qualifying, with the hopes that Tribes wins at one of those, then we can submit for consideration of the 2021 Oscars.
Jake: What’s great about it is that we are in one of the first Oscar-qualifying festivals of the year. It’s like we’re off the ground running, so I’m super excited.
Nino: …and we didn’t know anyone, so this is off the sheer merits of the film; submitted with probably thousands of other shorts that people did; and they’re like, oh, this one (Tribes).
Jake: You guys want to say anything else about what you’ve got coming up or promote anything else?
Nino: Yeah, well, I can say as part of my own work. I’ve got a film that’s going to be coming out this year, called Who Killed Cooper Dunn? Still working out details; its either gonna be Netflix or Universal. It’s a mystery/thriller, a feature film. Who Killed Cooper Dunn? Check it out.
TAOM: Anything else you guys would like to add?
DeStorm: Gotta get a suit.
Nino: Get ready! TRIBES!
TAOM: Thank you. [TAOM]