02.13.2019

Tarell Alvin McCraney & Andre Holland on “High Flying Bird”

Michel Martin sits down with screenwriter Tarell Alvin McCraney and Executive Producer Andre Holland to discuss their breakthrough sports film shot entirely on an iPhone, “High Flying Bird.”

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> AND WE'RE TURNING NOW TO A DIFFERENT STORY.

WITH OUR NEXT GUEST ACTOR ANDRE HOLLAND AND THE STAR AND SCRIBE OF THE OSCAR WINNING MOONLIGHTJ AND THE NEW FILM 'HIGH FLYING BIRD' TELLS A STORY OF A SPORTS AGENT IN THE MIDST OF AN NBA LOCKOUT AND FOLLOWS HIS FIGHT TO PUT POWER BACK INTO THE HANDS OF MAINLY BLACK ATHLETE -- GRAPPLING WITH SOCIAL JUSTICE AND GRACE AND BY STEVEN SODERBERGH WHO SHOT IT ALL ON A THEY SAT DOWN WITH OUR MICHELLE MARTIN TO TALK ABOUT 'HIGH FLYING BIRD' AND WHY IT IS NECESSARY FOR AFRICAN-AMERICANS.

SCREENWRITER TARELL ALVIN McCRANNY AND PRODUCER AND STAR ANDRE HOLLAND BOTH WITH US NOW.

THANK YOU FOR TALKING TO US.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING US.

ONE OF THE WRITERS REVIEWING THE FILM CALLED IT THE MOST RADICAL SPORTS FILM HE'S EVER SEEN AND NOT JUST BECAUSE IT IS A BASKETBALL MOVIE WITH HARDLY ANY BASKETBALL IN IT.

TELL ME ABOUT WHAT YOU WERE GOING FOR.

SO I UNDERSTAND YOU WORKED ON THIS OVER A PERIOD OF YEARS, RIGHT.

I THINK ABOUT TWO TO THREE YEARS.

WHAT WERE YOU GOING FOR?

I THINK IT IS WHAT WE WERE GOING FOR REALLY.

THE BEGINNING OF THE PIECE CAME FROM CONVERSATIONS THAT ANDRE HAD BEEN HAVING WITH STEVEN AND THEY BROUGHT ME INTO THAT CONVERSATION.UGHT FEATURES AND S AND ARTICLES AND BOOKS, A VERY IMPORTANT BOOK, THE REVOLT OF THE BLACK ATHLETE AND THEY PUT IT IF FRONT OF ME AND SAID, LOOKING, WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THIS?

HOW DO WE MAKE THIS STORY INTO SOMETHING THAT IS ABOUT AN INDUSTRY THAT CIRCLES AROUND ONE OF THE MOST POWERFUL AND EXCITING GAMES EVER.

TALK ABOUT MORE ABOUT THE CONVERSATIONS YOU WERE HAVING WITH STEVEN SODERBERGH.

WHAT WAS THE IDEA.

IT WAS TWO-FOLD.

ONE WE WERE WORKING ON THE SHOW AND I WAS ENJOYING THAT PROCESS AND IT HAD BEEN A LONG TIME COMING.FELT LIKE I GOT A PART ID SINK MY TEETH INTO.

SO I THOUGHT, IF I'M GOING TO HAVE THE KIND OF CAREER THAT I WANT IT WILL INVOLVE ME MAKING THINGS FOR MYSELF AND STEVEN AGREED WITH THAT AND SO I HAD THIS --

WHICH ISSEN -- WHICH IS GENEROUS TO TELL THE TRUTH TO YOUR FACE.

TO KNOW THE INDUSTRY AS WELL AS HE DOES, TO SAY YOU ARE RIGHT.

HE DIDN'T SELL ME A DREAM AND SAY KEEP WORKING HARD AND KEEP ON AUDITIONING AND HE SAID THERE IS NOT A LANE FOR YOU SO YOU HAVE TO GO OUT AND MAKE THIS STUFF.

I WANT TO GET TO THE FILM BUT I WANT TO HEAR MORE ABOUT WHAT IT FELT TO HEAR I GOT TO MAKE MY OWN WORK AND CREATE MY OWN WORLD BECAUSE IT IS NOT GOING TO JUST BE THERE FOR ME.

WELL, THE TRUTH IS IT WAS SAD.

IT FELT SAD TO ME TO HEAR THAT.

I THINK FOR SO LONG I THOUGHT THAT GOING TO A GOOD UNIVERSITY, GOING TO A GOOD GRADUATE PROGRAM AND THEN WORKING HARD AND BEING ON TIME AND BEING RESPONSIBLE, DOING GOOD WORK WAS ENOUGH.

AND THEN I REALIZED THAT IT WASN'T.

AND I COULD SEE THAT OTHER PEOPLE AROUND ME WERE GETTING GREAT OPPORTUNITIES.

AND DON'T GET ME WRONG.

I'M NOT BEGRUDGING ANYBODY OR POOR ME SESSION, BUT THE REALITY IS THERE WERE OPPORTUNITIES THAT PEOPLE GOT THAT WEREN'T AVAILABLE TO PEOPLE OF COLOR.

I THINK YOU'VE HAD SIMILAR EXPERIENCES --

ABSOLUTELY.

-- REALIZING THE LIMITATION.

THE SLAP ON THE FACE WAS THE BUMP ON THE GLASS CEILING WHICH I'M SURE YOU UNDERSTAND, THERE IS A MOMENT YOU RECOGNIZE THE AMERICAN DREAM IS A BIT OF A WOLF TICKET.

THEY TELL YOU IN THE GOOD SCHOOLS THAT WE'VE GONE TO AND THE INSTITUTIONS THAT WE GO THROUGH THERE IS NO LIMIT TO YOUR IMAGINATION AND IN FACT THERE IS.

THERE IS AN INDUSTRY CONSTANTLY KEEPING YOU CHECKED AND BALANCED IF TERMS OF HOW FAR YOU COULD GO AND HOW FAR YOU COULD FAIL.

HOW MANY JOBS YOU HAVE TO TAKE, HOW MANY PROJECTS YOU NEED TO DO AT ONCE JUST TO KEEP UP WITH YOUR WHITE COUNTERPARTS OR YOUR WHITE PEERS.

WE BEGRUDGE OUR FRIENDS NOTHING.

WE'RE NOT TRYING TO TAKE ANYTHING AWAY FROM THEM.

BUT WE ARE BEING ASKED TO DO MORE FOR LESS.

AND CLEARLY YOU COULD SEE HOW THAT MADE ITS WAY INTO THE EEJ -- INTO THE ETHOS OF THE FILTH.

PERFECT SEGUE INTO THAT AND LET'S SEE THE PLAN AND FOR PEOPLE THAT HAVEN'T SEEN IT.

WHAT IF THE PLAYERS WERE IN CONTROL?

THE MONEY WOULD GO DIRECT TO YOU.

NO PLAYERS ASSOCIATION.

NO LEAGUE.

JUST 10% FOR YOU AND TAXES, RIGHT?

ERIC, IT AIN'T ABOUT THE MONEY, THAT IS WHAT MAKES THEM LISTEN AND PAY ATTENTION BUT THIS MAKES YOU THE DECIDER, THE GAME THAT THEY MADE OVER THE GAME IS OVER.

IT IS YOUR GAME NOW.

IF YOU WANT IT.

COME ON, WE DON'T NEED TO LEAVE, MAN.

WE DON'T NEED THE PLAYERS ASSOCIATION.

LET THEM BATTLE THAT [ BLEEP ] OUT FOR THE NEXT FEW MONTHS AND WHILE YOU AND ME AND A FEW OTHERS AND WE PAY EVENT BY EVENT.

BUT WITHOUT THE BRAIN DAMAGE.

WELL, OKAY.

IT IS ABOUT CONTROL.

WHO DO YOU THINK YOUR AUDIENCE IS FOR THIS FILM?

I START WITH AN AUDIENCE OF ONE.

TRYING TO MAKE SURE THAT THE PERSON WHO BEGAN STUDYING AND RESEARCHING AND HAVING CONVERSATIONS WITH ANDRE AND STEVEN SODERBERGH ABOUT THIS, WILL I BE FED?

WILL I KNOW MORE THAN I DID BEFORE?

INCREASINGLY YOU WANT FOLK WHO ENGAGE IN -- ENGAGE IN ANY SYSTEM IN THIS COUNTRY IN THE WAY IT WORKS TO WANT TO LOOK AT THIS AND SEE, YES, THE CRITIQUE BUT ALSO HOW WE ALL PLAY A PART IN IT.

HOW WE ALL HOLD UP -- HOLD UP THE SYSTEM IN SOME WAYS.

AND ARE AFRAID TO BE DISRUPTORS.

I KNOW I HAVE THAT FEAR.

I STILL HAVE THAT FEAR.

AND I THINK THE ENGAGEMENT AROUND THAT CONVERSATION IS WHAT I'M INTERESTED IN.

I'M INTERESTED IN -- I'M NOT INTERESTED IN FOLKS WHO WANT TO TALK ABOUT THAT.

ANDRE, WHAT ABOUT YOU?

WHO ARE YOU INTERESTED IN TALKING TO. IT IS INTERESTING, N THINK BEING IT A LOT AND TONIGHT WE HAVE OUR FIRST PUBLIC SCREENING OF THE FILM.

AND MY NEPHEW WHO IS 12 YEARS OLD IS COMING TO SEE IT.

AND HE'S A --

IS HE A BALLER?

NO.

WELL HE COULD PLAY.

HE COULD PLAY.

AT THE BEGINNING OF IT.

HE COULD HOOP.

BUT HE IS A YOUNG WHITE BOY FROM ALABAMA AND IT IS IMPORTANT TO SEE IT AND SOMEBODY WHO LOOKS OR OWN LIVE.

WHAT IS IT YOU WANT HIM TO SEE?

DO YOU WANT HIM TO SEE DISRUPTION AND THAT YOU COULD THINK THOUGHTS THAT HAVE NOT ALREADY BEEN HANDED TO YOU?

EXACTLY.

YOU COULD READ FROM A SCRIPT THAT YOU WROTE.T AND ALSO THAT D SAY -- YOU COULD LOOK AT AT THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE LIFE AND SAY, WELL, I COULD STILL HAVE SOMETHING WITHIN THIS AND TAKE CHARGE OF THE SITUATION AND SHAPE MY LIFE TO BE WHAT I WANT IT TO BE, REGARDLESS OF WHAT PEOPLE HAVE TOLD ME IS POSSIBLE FOR MYSELF.

I WAS DESCRIBING THE FILM TO PEOPLE WHO HAVE NOT YET SEEN IT AND ONE PERSON SAID IT IS LIKE BLACK PANTHER WITHOUT THE MAGIC.

OH, I HAVE TO THINK ABOUT IT.

BECAUSE IN A WAY WHAT THEY'RE SAYING IS IT HAD TO BE MADE UP.

BECAUSE THE IDEA THAT THE PLAYERS COULD TAKE A CONTROLLING POSITION SEEMED LIKE SCIENCE

AND THAT IS THE TERRIFYING THING ABOUT IT.

WE BELIEVE THAT THIS DISRUPTION OR NEW SYSTEM OR THIS WAY OF PUTTING CONTROL IN THE PLAYERS' HANDS IS FAR AND DISTANT IN SCIENCE FICTION BUT IN TRUTH IT IS ACTUALLY RIGHT THERE.

ALL PEOPLE REALLY NEED TO DO IS REACH OUT AND DO IT.

AND I THINK AGAIN IT GOES BACK TO THE QUESTION OF HOW MUCH AGENCY DO YOU ACTUALLY WANT?

WELL, BUT AS WE'VE SEEN WITH THE PROTESTS BY NFL PLAYERS AND HAVE LARGELY DISSIPATED BY THE WAY, THEY'RE NONVIOLENT PROTESTS OVER POLICE VIOLENCE AND OTHER ISSUES HAVE NOT BEEN WELL-RECEIVED BY SOME PEOPLE.

EVEN SETTING ASIDE THE FACT THAT THE PRESIDENT HAS BEEN HARPING ON THIS BECAUSE ONE ASSUMES THAT HE FINDS IT TO BE A GOOD ISSUE FOR HIM, YOU HAVE TO ASSUME THAT IT WOULDN'T BE A GOOD ISSUE FOR HIM IF WHAT HE IS SAYING DIDN'T RESONATE FOR CERTAIN PEOPLE AND SO THE BOTTOM LINE IS FOR SOME PEOPLE THEY DON'T WANT TO HEAR IT.

SPORTS IS MY RELEASE, MY RELAXATION AND I DON'T WANT TO BRING YOUR POLITICS INTO IT OR THEY SAY.

LOOK, THESE PEOPLE ARE MAKING BIG MONEY, WHAT DO I CARE WHAT THEY THINK. UP YOUR SHORTS AND . AND SO WHAT DO YOU -- WHAT DO YOU BOTH SAY TO THEM?

TO THE PEOPLE WHO SAY, WELL, SHUT UP AND DRIBBLE?

WOULD SAY THAT THERE HAS BEEN A LONG LINEAGE OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN ATHLETES WHO HAVE ALSO BEEN ACTIVISTS AND VOCAL ABOUT THIS.

DR. HARRY EDWARDS WHO CONSULTED WITH US ON THIS OBVIOUSLY AND BOOK WE -- WHOSE BOOK WE BORROWED FROM?

HOW MANY SOCIOLOGISTS MAKE AN APPEARANCE --

I DON'T KNOW.

HE'S SUCH A GREAT GUY.

AND HE BELIEVES IN WHAT WE WERE TRYING TO DO AND HELPED US TO SORT OF STAY ON THE RIGHT TRACK BUT HE HELPED ME TO THE HISTORY IT IS GOING ON FOR A LONG TIME.

SO I WOULD SAY THAT CITIZENS HAVE A RIGHT OR A RESPONSIBILITY TO SPEAK UP AND TO BE VOCAL AND TO BE POLITICAL, I THINK.

AND I DON'T THINK ATHLETES ARE ANY EXCEPTION TO THE RULE.

THE MOMENT YOU START TELLING CITIZENS NOT TO HAVE THEIR POLITICS INVOLVED, YOU HAVE TO LOOK AT THE ECONOMICS OF IT.

WHICH IS 60% TO 70% AFTER THE TENURE IN THE NFL, FIVE YEARS LATER THEY ARE IN FINANCIAL SAME WITH THE NBA.

IF THEY ARE NOT A MARQUEE PLAYER AND HAVEN'T BANKED A KIND OF WEALTH THAT THEY COULD SORT OF REST ON FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES, THEN THEY AND THEIR FAMILY NOW FALL INTO FINANCIAL BURDEN.BUT ALSO IF IT IS A MATTF JUST SHUT UP AND DRIBBLE, THEN WHY DO WE WEAR JORDANS?

THE LEGACY OF THE PEOPLE ON THE COURT IS GOING INTO THE KIND OF FEELING THAT IS INTIMATE, IT IS BOTH POLICY OF A CITY AND MEANS SOMETHING WHEN A PLAYER LEAVES OR IS TRADED.

PEOPLE REALLY FEEL BETRAYED BY THAT.

THAT IS NOT JUST SHUT UP AND THAT MEANS THAT IS -- THAT IS CONNECTED TO A COMMUNITY.

THAT IS CONNECTED TO FOLKS.

SO YOU CAN'T ASK A PERSON TO REPRESENT THOSE THINGS TO BE ECONOMICALLY ENGAGED IN THOSE WAYS AND THEN TO HAVE NO ABILITY TO SPEAK OUT FOR WHAT SHOULD BE THEIR BETTERMENT.

ONE OF THE THINGS THAT STRUCK ME ABOUT THE FILM IS THAT IT IS ALSO ABOUT VULNERABILITY.T IS IT SHARES WITH THE OTHER WORK YOU ALL HAVE DONE TOGETHER, MOON LIGHT THE MUCH LAUDED FILM FROM YOUR PLAY IN WHICH YOU HAD A ROLE IN.

I WONDER IF THERE IS ANY WAY YOUR UPBRINGING INFORMED THIS FILM AS WELL.

BECAUSE THE HARD ROAD YOU HAD, YOU LOST YOUR MOTHER AT A YOUNG AGE AND DID IT FORM THIS IN SOME WAY.

OF COURSE.

BUT I THINK THE FRIENDSHIP AND WHAT YOU TOUCHED ON THAT IS RELEVANT IS THE BOND THAT DRE AND I HAVE.

DRE IS AN INCREDIBLE ACTOR BUT ALSO PEOPLE DON'T KNOW THIS, WAS AN INCREDIBLE ATHLETE.

AND WHEN YOU ARE AN ATHLETE AND ONE OF THE BIG GIFTED KIDS IN YOUR COMMUNITY, YOU ARE OFTEN TOLD YOU HAVE THE TALENT AND THE KEYS TO GO ELSEWHERE AND MAKE MONEY AND GO AWAY FROM HERE.

AND THEN AGAIN LIKE WE'VE JUST BEEN TALKING ABOUT, WE GET TO THIS PLACE AND WE RECOGNIZE THAT THERE IS A LIE THAT HAS BEEN TOLD AND THAT THE COMMUNITY THAT WE WANT TO BE HERE WITH US ISN'T AFFORDED THE ABILITY TO BE HERE AND THAT THE ABILITY TO GIVE BACK TO THEM IS ALSO CONSTRAINED IN MANY WAYS.

THERE ARE THREE CONSEQUENTIAL WOMEN'S ROLES IN THE FILM.

THE PLAYERS UNION REP, THE MOM WHO IS ALSO THE MANAGER OF THE KIND OF -- ONE OF THE PLAYERS AND MAYBE A CHIEF RIVAL OF THE STAR AND ALSO THE KIND OF RISING STAR WHO WORKS WITH YOUR CHARACTER, THE AGENT, WHO IS ALSO I GUESS THE GIRLFRIEND OF ONE OF THE PLAYERS SORT OF TO.

I WANT TO ASK ABOUT THAT.

WAS IT IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO HIGHLIGHT THE ROLE OF WOMEN?

BECAUSE AGAIN WOMEN DON'T GENERALLY PLAY A BIG ROLE IN SPORTS MOVIES.

YEAH.

IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO ME THAT WE INCLUDE THREE DIMENSIONAL WOMEN.

BECAUSE THE MORE REASON THAT WE DID AND DISCOVERED THERE ARE WOMEN WHO WERE INVOLVED IN PROFESSIONAL ATHLETICS AND SO WE WANTED TO MAKE SURE WE ARE DOING BEST WE CAN TO TELL THEIR STORY AS WELL.

THANK YOU FOR TRESPASSING.

I'M SORRY.

BUT YOU KNOW DESPERATE TIMES, RIGHT?

LADY, YOU HAVE A BRIGHT FUTURE.

YOU SURE ABOUT THAT SUGGESTION --

THAT IS EXACTLYE HEADED.COME WORK FOR US.

WE COULD USE YOU --

I DON'T LIKE TO BE USED.

BEFORE WE STARTED SHOOTING, WE GOT TOGETHER AND --

SO HE PLAYS THE -- SHE'S YOUR ASSISTANT BUT KIND OF A CO-AGENT WITH YOU.

LET'S GET REAL ABOUT THAT.

EXACTLY.

SO SHE AND I GOT TOGETHER FOR LUNCH TO TALK ABOUT THE SCRIPT AND THEN SONJA AND I GOT TOGETHER AND WE SAT DOWN AND SAID, WELL WHAT -- WHAT DO YOU SEE HERE?

WHAT DO YOU SEE IN THIS WOMAN, THAT WE HAVE ON THE PAGE AND WHAT CAN WE ADD OR TAKE AWAY THAT WILL MAKE HER FEEL FULLY REALIZED FOR YOU.

AND SO I THINK THAT SPIRIT OF OPENNESS IS SOMETHING THAT WE HAVE WITH EACH OTHER AND I THINK THAT WE HAD THROUGHOUT THIS PROCESS. IT IS NICE TO SEE THAT REPRESENTATION.

I DO WANT TO TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE FACT THAT THE ENVIRONMENT IN FILM MAKING IN HOLLYWOOD AND THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY IS SO ROYALED AROUND SO MANY OF THE ISSUES AROUND RACE AND OPPORTUNITY, AROUND THE WAY WOMEN ARE TREATED, THE ME-TOO MOVEMENT, THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY IS SPEAKING OUT PARTICULARLY ON THE WAKE OF THE HOPE KEVIN HART THING WITH THE OSCARS AND SAYING WE HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY ABOUT HOW WE'RE DEPICTED AND REPRESENTED AND AS ARTISTS I'M WONDERING DOES THIS MOMENT FEEL FERTILE OR FRAUGHT?

I WILL SAY THIS, IT FEELS LIKE A TIME FOR COMMUNITY.

A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE LIKE, WELL WHY A BASKETBALL FILM?

IT WAS BECAUSE ONE OF MY BEST FRIENDS FELT REALLY -- FELT IT REALLY IMPORTANT AND THEN MADE ME SEE HOW REALLY IMPORTANT IT WAS.

AND COMMUNITY SO ME IS THE WAY -- IS HOW I'VE ALWAYS WANTED TO CREATE AND MAKE ART.

I'M INTERESTED IN WORKING WITH MY PEOPLE AND CREATING THE STORY WE NEED FOR OUR NOURISHMENT FOR NOW.

AND THERE IS A WINDOW NOW AND MORE PEOPLE ARE GETTING THROUGH IT BUT I DON'T FEEL LIKE I'VE EVER BEEN IN A PLACE WHERE I FELT COMPLETELY JUST FREE TO SORT OF DO WHATEVER I WANTED TO DO OR -- I'VE ALWAYS BEEN AWARE OF THE PITFALLS AND I THINK MAYBE THAT IS A PART OF -- THIS IS A VERSION OF VULNERABILITY THAT WE UNDERSTAND.

WELL ANDRE HOLLAND, TARELL ALVIN McCRANNY, THANK YOU FOR TALKING WITH US.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING US.

About This Episode EXPAND

Christiane Amanpour speaks about climate change with Jay Inslee, the Governor of Washington; Anna Taylor, an environmental youth activist; and James Balog, an environmental photographer. Michel Martin speaks with Tarell Alvin McCraney & Andre Holland, the screenwriter and executive producer of “High Flying Bird.”

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