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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

BAMcinemaFest 2013: Q&A with Shaka King

by Allison Kadin

Already named a “rising star of Sundance” (ScreenDaily), Shaka King just keeps getting higher. His debut feature, Newlyweeds, “a charming independent venture that takes chances,” (Indiewire) will be released by Phase 4 Films this September. Come take the first hit of this romantic comedy on June 28 for its New York premiere at BAMcinemaFest. 

Lyle and Nina are living the modern Brooklyn dream: drifting from mediocre day jobs into languid, plant-enhanced nights. While a tale centered on hazy, young Brooklynites may feel familiar to BAM locals, the film reveals the less than idyllic results of a relationship built on smoky foundations. In this  Q&A, find out why King shirked being an “underpaid, overworked, New York City educator” to direct stoner romcoms and develop a TV series about a teenage contract killer.

1. When and how did you come to know you wanted to make movies?

During my senior year of college I made a short documentary called Stolen Moments about rap, race, and capitalism. The film sampled clips from music videos and movies (Transformers, Bush Mama by Haile Gerima) juxtaposed with original interviews. I remember sitting with my then and present editor, Kristan Sprague, having such a blast as we manipulated what at the time was an imaginary audience. From that moment it was on.

Shaka King
Photo: Robin Holland (
2. What would you be doing if you weren't a filmmaker?

I’d probably be an underpaid, overworked, New York City educator.

3. What are some of the challenges you faced while making your film, both artistic and logistical?

Casting is always tough. You’re trying to balance the film’s commercial potential with its aesthetic needs and you’re competing with the litany of multi-million dollar films and television programs in production. In our case we cast a number of non-professional actors so we had to consider their 9—5 work schedules as well. Props to Barden Schnee (our casting directors) and Gbenga Akinnagbe (one of our producers) for assembling a terrific ensemble.

4. Talk about your favorite movie of the past two or three years.

Holy Motors. For a good chunk of the movie I was lost, which normally puts me to sleep. But in this case I found myself alternately laughing out loud and staring up at the screen in amazement. Denis Lavant gives one of the best physical performances I've ever seen. I can watch him stalk the graveyard eating flowers and cigarettes over and over again.

5. Are you working on a new project now?

I’m developing an hour-long dramatic television series with my cousin about his years as a teenage contract killer. I’m also writing a satire about America’s obsession with celebrity worship/sacrifice that I intend to direct next year.

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