The Making Of
Director Gabriel Noble talks about how he discovered P-Star in a New York nightclub and found himself filming her journey from a shelter to the doorstep of stardom.
Independent Lens: What impact do you hope this film will have?
Gabriel Noble: In today’s culture, many kids grow up idolizing celebrities, but few understand what it takes to reach fame: the sacrifice of your childhood and the impact on your family. Many parents also sacrifice their own ambitions for their kids, and as a result put pressure on their children succeed. I hope the audience will relate to this and reflect on their role in their family.
IL: What led you to make P-STAR RISING?
GN: I was immediately drawn to Priscilla when I saw her perform in a nightclub at 2 AM for a crowd of people twice her size and three times her age. She blew us all away. She was nine and was a phenomenon. But it was not until I learned her father’s story of a dream deferred, and the pact between the two of them to realize it together, that I saw the potential for incredible success story and a recipe for a deep family drama.
IL: What were some of the challenges you faced in making this film?
GN: In the four years I filmed, there were several challenges — how to remain invisible in the room with a camera in order to capture an intimate family drama, how to live my personal life but be on call for theirs over such a long period of time and knowing when to stop shooting. The last one was the hardest, since their story continues to be fascinating and I had complete access to capture it.
IL: How did you gain the trust of P-Star and her family?
GN: That was vital to telling an authentic and intimate story. I proved my commitment to the story I was telling by spending time listening and being there for moments that were less important for the film, but important for them as people. I then could turn on the camera when I needed to as a supportive friend with an invested interest in all corners of their lives.
IL: Tell us about a scene in the film that especially moved or resonated with you.
GN: Priscilla, after years of trying to fulfill her father’s dreams, tells him to put the past in the past and move toward a better future together. This is advice that we all can benefit from in our own lives, but for it to come from a little girl to her father was very moving and solidified my belief that Priscilla is wise beyond her years.
IL: What has the audience response been so far? Have the people featured in the film seen it, and if so, what did they think?
GN: We had each member of the family watch the film alone. We did not want them to distract each other as they watched the last several years of their lives (the good, bad, and ugly) unfold. Priscilla laughed, cried, and when it was done she said, “Wow. Wow. Wow.” And then, “I hope my father learns something from watching this.” Jesse then called me and thanked me for making this a story about his family, and not just about a rapper or a father/manager. He appreciated that we stayed true to his past to understood the complexity of his life, and especially that we included his older daughter, Solsky. The reaction has been incredible in New York — where we premiered the film for 5,000 people at a free outdoor screening — and around the world (in different languages) at film festivals. There are both 7-year-olds and 70-year-olds in the theater, and both ask for P-Star’s autograph.
IL: Why did you choose to present your film on public television?
GN: The goal of the film was for this family drama to resonate for all ages and demographics, and that is the PBS audience.
IL: Is there anything else you’d like to share in this Q&A — interesting anecdotes regarding filming, a commonly asked question by audiences, etc.?
GN: Many ask if I set anything up or scripted anything. The answer is no. I shot alone, from the housing shelter to the streets of New York to travels in Puerto Rico and Mexico. And I never asked my characters to stage or repeat a scene I missed or that I wanted in my film. It comes down to trust, commitment and lots of luck.
IL: What didn’t you get done when you were making your film?
GN: Well, I got married, finished two other films and had a baby, so I managed to get some things done. But there is no question that I sacrificed a lot of personal time making this film over the years.
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