Hey, I am Gina Prince-Bythewood and I write and direct. Feel blessed and grateful to do both. But then if I couldn’t I would literally go crazy, so it is better for all of us that I have the opportunity. My five favorite things in music and film are…
BROADCAST NEWS. Hysterically funny one moment and heartbreaking the next. Its like a master class in writing. You can feel the craft in every line. There was not one false moment. Holly Hunter was brilliant! Changed the perception of what a leading lady had to be. Direction was flawless. It is the kind of film I aspire to make – commercial with critical acclaim.
HOOP DREAMS. If you scripted this as a film, you would be accused of hewing too closely to sports movie clichés. But because it was real life, it is mesmerizing and unexpected. I have watched it so many times and never tire of the surprising trajectories of William and Arthur. Changed the game for documentaries. Made them commercial. And I’m a baller so I have that added affinity.
LAURYN HILL, “X-FACTOR”. Listening to this song is an emotional experience. It is filled with so much truth and heartbreak and angst. On the level of Nina Simone’s “Blackbird.” Hauntingly beautiful. I ache when I listen. I create playlists for every script I write. “X-Factor” was on repeat when I wrote the fourth quarter of “Love & Basketball.” It was my fuel.
MAXWELL, “THIS WOMAN’S WORK”. Kate Bush sang the original and it was always one of my favorite songs. Then one night I was flipping through channels and I stopped on MTV, where Maxwell was on “Unplugged.” That falsetto hit those first notes and I was on the floor. It is an emotional wrecking ball. I knew immediately I wanted to put it in a film. Petrified that another filmmaker would discover it too and use it first. I put it up against “the first time” in ‘Love & Basketball” and it was a wrap. No edits or massaging necessary. Perfect marriage of image and song.
NINA SIMONE, “BLACKBIRD”. When I was in the early stages of writing “Beyond The Lights,” I knew the character Noni would sing a Nina Simone song when she was a little girl. I just didn’t know which one. Listened through a stack of Nina CD’s and stumbled across it. It was like it was written for the film. Lyrically perfect. Hauntingly beautiful. Stripped and raw. It changed the trajectory of the story. It was the original title of the film and it still kills me that I had to change it. “Beyond The Lights” is “Blackbird” visualized.
[Beyond The Lights DVD release is scheduled for Febrary 24th]