Exclusive Interview with Director Christian Davis Building Detroit in Film, ‘Homiez’, Film Festivals and More

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Growing up in Detroit, Michigan sometimes positive opportunities aren’t always  readily available. With Detroit filing bankrupt last year and Detroit Public Schools falling in the hands and  of the State of Michigan, a decline in resources for the youth and many families have become prevalent. Because of this many entrepreneurs in the metro Detroit area have become innovative in order to reform the economy and thus rebuild  Detroit.

24 year old Christian Davis, a graduate from Detroit School of Performing Arts and Wayne State University,  is among a list of natives changing the tarnished image of the city.

As a young filmmaker, Davis decided that he would not be another victim to the negative ‘hustle of the streets’.  That isn’t to say that Christian  aka ‘Rosco Davis’ isn’t trailing out in the streets  to rebuild Detroit’s image, by creating unique films and documentaries that captivate the viewer’s conscious by implementing themes of art, love, race, culture, friendship, pride, and family.

The director recently just finished working on a film called ‘Homiez’, a feel good movie that depicts the life of two childhood best friends that will soon be graduating from high school, attending two completely different colleges and are questioning their future as black men in America.

Homiez is due to mainstream media not illustrating African American males as role models reaching for their dreams and sparking positivity in the inner city life.

Davis shares, “I wanted to make a film that many people could relate to. I’m sure we have all encountered friendships that we may have thought would last for’ ions’ of years, yet those friendships started to deteriorate once getting accepted into college.”

Christian Davis is inspired by  black films in the 90s and highlights the decade as being the time when black filmmakers directed films that ignited controversy from social injustice,  yet also expressed themes of love, loyalty, family, friendships, education, and  urban  life.

Among those films include ‘Love Jones’, ‘The Wood’, ‘Do The Right Thing’, ‘Juice’, and ‘School Daze’.  

Recently, Davis won an award from the Ann Arbor Cinetopia 2015 International Film Festival for his work on the short film Solitude.

Davis has also  been featured in  Metro Arts Detroit,  Aint It Cool News’, and even did an interview with Oh So Radio , a  radio media platform in Detroit. Aint It Cool News,  a site promoting film, comics, and television named Davis as the next big in ‘Black Cinema’.

Checkout Christian  Rosco Davis exclusive interview with Insidethegirlsroom.com below.  

How old were you when you first fell in love with the motion and production of film?

I was about seven or eight. I would steal my grandfather’s camcorder and make little movies with my action figures.

After school on Fridays, my grandparents and I would make a trip to Blockbuster Video Store , buy Pizza, and watch movies for the night. I came across a few movies at that time that were inspirational such as ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Prince’s Purple Rain’. My whole family is a huge Prince fan, so I  grew up listening to old school jams like him and Michael Jackson.  I wasn’t really into musicals at the time, but when I saw ‘Purple Rain’ I thought it was such a dope movie.  

Then eventually I got into martial arts movies like the ‘Last Dragon’. I always wanted to be like Bruce Leroy and even took up a martial arts class. I also used to make out little acts and clips with my friends. They would act out the scenes and I would film though. It was pretty cheesy at the time , but it always got the point across.

Once I got to high school and started winning awards for my work, I knew this had to be my calling.  I wanted to do basketball but dislocated my knee in high school and gave that up. Film was something I saw a future in!

Film isn’t just about  making movies, directing, or acting. When creating a film, inspiration is definitely derived from a special place in the filmmaker’s heart. Inspiration comes from any and everything. With merging into radio and television, my inspiration comes from past decades, fashion, my love for music, people, education, art,  and personal experiences. How has music been an inspiration to your films?

I have a musician’s ear. I played the guitar when I was younger. My grandmother was really adamant about me trying different avenues. I played soccer and baseball, but the guitar was something my grandmother always instilled in me. We shared that common interest, but when she passed away I lost my passion  and urge to play the guitar. I always had a love for all genres of  music.

What I’ve learned in film is that music carries a movie. A filmmaker can have dope movie but if the soundtrack is crap and the music edits are horrible , then the whole movie can be in ruins.

Prince scored the whole soundtrack to the movie ‘Batman’ back in the 80s which was unheard of for a pop musician at the time. My love for jazz , hip hop and rock and roll has helped in me in my productions. Music and film are synonymous , one cannot live without the other. Everything has to come into fluorescence for  the completeness of any piece of artwork.

Before our interview, we spoke briefly about music and the J Cole video directed by Lawrence Lamont, which I’m sure blew the mind of all fans, pushing the limits in creativity! A true filmmaker or videographer is a magician. Imagery and creativeness is everything and it all stems from the mind. With marketing yourself, are you ready to push your own creative limits even further?

I want to be able to hit on more themes in films and not just get placed in a box when exploring creativity. I want my films to be looked at 10 to 20 years  from now and  still be inspirational and eye opening.

I don’t want to limit myself just because it may be uncomfortable for some people to watch. What may be uncomfortable for someone else may be a voice of empowerment for another person. Some people think that they are the only people in life that feel a certain way about a particular topic and they aren’t.

With the J Cole video ‘GOMD’ , I was shocked and so amazed that there was a portrayal of slavery and showed the  injustice of slavery in the video. It painted a picture of injustice that not just blacks face today but many other groups of people. It highlighted injustice in a skewed perspective and also tackled on stereotypes that black people are still dealing with today. J Cole is one of my favorite artist that is a  conscious level rapper and very intellectual. His content level in music and his videos may sometimes go over people’s heads if they don’t dive deep into the subject matter.

Between high school until a person graduates from college there is  a crucial time when a person doesn’t have a sense of  knowing what the future may hold. Can you name a time in your life when you did not know about your own future and have felt like any of the characters in the film “Homiez’?

Before graduating from Detroit School of Performing Arts High School, I was originally an actor. In my sophomore and junior year, my advisors suggested a vocational school  called ‘GoLightly Career Technical Center’.  But acting didn’t work out for me there and I had no idea what I wanted to do until I worked behind the scenes in set design, screen play writing, and camera operations. That’s what I fell in love with.

I had two teachers that took me underneath their wing and molded me into the man I am today with directing. When I was looking for colleges the only places I knew that were great in film and production, were Wayne State , the  International School of Art and Design, and other schools out of state. I had no idea where I wanted to go and I didn’t want to move out of state, so luckily I was accepted into Wayne State University.  I didn’t just want to be another person who won film awards in high school and become another lost talent that no one hears about afterwards.  

When you got the news about being nominated for a Cinetopia International Film Festival award, what emotions did you feel? How did you react?

The Cinetopia Award was an overwhelming experience. Tristian Taylor, one of the writers  I worked on a film with, suggested that we make a film and enter it into the festival. I was reluctant at first because I always felt my films weren’t good enough.  I never had a real enough budget to create films.

From our work combined blossomed ‘Solitude’. A few months after entering the film for the Cinetopia Film Festival, we found out we made the cut. We were one of 75 contestants and only 13 made it into the contest.

It was eye opener, because there were people in the city of Detroit that we had no idea existed. Their work was incredible. To see other filmmakers work on screen from your own city made Tristian and I realize that we needed to step our game up. We won 3rd place and definitely did the ‘Shmurda’ dance when  we went on stage to get our award. I definitely want to enter more films into more festivals like SxSW and Sundance so we can show people from all over that there are people from Detroit that are great at what they do as far as being in film.

With my new film Homiez I am definitely considering entering the film into SXSW.

Are you interested in moving to LA anytime soon to work on your films and meet other connects?

I thought about moving, but for now I would like to stay in Detroit. Detroit is on the come up and although the city had a bit of a stint because of bankruptcy and the economic downfall, things are blossoming. Filmmaking is bringing Detroit back and changing the perspective of many young artists. I want to be able to show my city and people outside of Detroit and Michigan that we are not all gangbangers or the stereotype. There are people here that just want to tell a good story and not put black people down.

What film did you see that made you say that did it for me—that’s who I want to be like when directing a film?

Spike Lee’s ‘Do The Right Thing’! Spike Lee has always been a huge influence in my life. He’s controversial but so is life. He touched on topics that most filmmakers were afraid to touch on such as race. In ‘Do the Right Thing’, when Radio Raheem was strangled by a white officer, the illustration of the scene came to mind after the death of Eric Garner in New York.  What’s ironic is how both took place in New York and ‘Do The Right Thing’ was released in 1989. Racism is still prevalent even  in 2015.  

Spike Lee’s films have stood the test of time. You can  reference a Spike Lee movie to social issues  we are still facing today.

His movies that were shot ten , 20 and almost 30 years ago, like ‘Jungle Fever’ , ‘School Daze’ and one of my favorites ‘Mo Betta Blues’, still bring out the  joy and awareness  in a person watching them.  

Lee had actors such as Denzel Washington, Laurence Fishburne, Wesley Snipes, Tisha Campbell-Martin, and  pretty much an all star cast in which no ones ego’s were over inflated or bigger than the others when it came to him directing.  I want to be able to work with a crew and cast in that way as well.

He was able to break down racial barriers when it came to black filmmakers, especially with his iconic movie ‘X’. It was  one of the best depictions of Malcolm X.

Are you worried that you will become known as a typecast director?

No not at all, I try to dabble into every genre. I want to be known as the director where you expect the unexpected. I want someone to watch a Christian Davis Film and not know. It may be a love story, a horror movie or a feel good story. Like with Homiez’ for an example.  

What makes me different from other directors is  how I live life and turn  my personal experiences into film. I read many articles and books, listen to music, and I think outside of the box. One of my films was how I dealt with my breakup from my ex fiance. The film is called Infidelity. I put everything into my relationship, so when it fell apart I felt lost. I started questioning my creativity after that rough patch in my life. Infidelity is a love story I created French.

My mentor Dtonio JoiRida Cheatham (who I had the privilege of working with in the film ‘Homiez’), taught me if you don’t go hard with filmmaking, then you won’t have a home to go to. I’m not going to put out any work  that I am not proud of or passionate about. I want to be able to showcase my work everywhere and anyone, where people understand my messages. I want to be associated with some of the greats such as Quentin Tarantino, Spike Lee and John Singelton.

We’ve been spending a lot of time on the film Homiez, so share and tease our readers with what the intensified and action film Gearheads is about?

‘Gearheads’ is my first Hot Rod film. It is a story about an ex street racer who falls in love with his rival’s girlfriend. The film also touches on  a bit of interracial dating. With the limited amount of time I had,  a few clips were removed. I wanted this film to be epic and different than what I’ve done in the past.

When I first started out making films, many of my movies were dark. Lately I’ve been stepping away from being so dark and making films that are more fun and relatable.

‘Gearheads’ is/was my first film dealing with a lot of egos and personalities as far as actors are concerned. When you aren’t paying actors they don’t take the production seriously. As a starting off filmmaker, my budget is not up to par like those in the Hollywood industry. I had to hire and fire a lot of people during my production. One of the people who stayed true to the film was a fellow Detroit  School of Performing Arts alum, Travis Gooch, who plays the protagonist. When I sent him the script he fell right into his character because he said the film was about him.

You go through so many stipulations coming up in this industry.  I  had to make this film ethical because it was my thesis film for my film major at  Wayne State.  While filming  my own school, dismissed us from shooting.  I was doing the film for my last production as a student and Wayne State University wanted money from us in order to be able to film on the school’s property.  It didn’t matter if I was a student or not.

However, I was able to construct something visually stunning and definitely worth watching. The film is most definitely a heart pounding and exciting film to see.

Congratulations on graduating from Wayne State University.  As a filmmaker and scholar what does black excellence mean to you?

Black excellence is not just the talent that you have but also what you stand for. My grandparents instilled in me when I was young to go get my education and obtain a degree. They always supported my artistry, but always told me to have something to fall back on as well. A degree is like having your credentials.  Before my grandmother passed I promised her I would get my degree and I kept that promise.

Black excellence means that you are not only able to be an artist but an scholar as well. Take school seriously and make something happen for yourself. Many people think it’s impossible to go to school and also work on their craft at the same time. That is not true. It’s definitely possible and durable. A person just has to have the time management skills to do so.

In the media and even within the city of Detroit, you hear many people say well so and so didn’t go to school and they are making millions of dollars. I’m not saying I’m better than anyone because I have a degree. I’m just saying that I was able to go to school and hone in on my craft as well. I just so happen to have a degree in my craft and my talent. I wanted to be able to say hey I have my degree and I’m making ions of money doing what I love as well. No one can take my degree away from me. Someone can try to take your art or music away, but no one can take the fact that you stayed in school for however amount of time and got a degree. Going to school and obtaining a degree also shows dedication and commitment. It’s the first step at aiming  high and sticking to something you said you wanted to do before honing in on your craft.

I always ask my grandfather questions like if I didn’t go to school where would I be. He always answers like I don’t want to answer or even think about it.

What is the  most challenging thing you have came across making films?

Conformity! There have been numerous times when people have tried to make me conform to what other directors, videographers , and filmmakers are doing in Detroit.

Not downing the hood movies that tell the stories  of making it in the city by stripping, selling drugs, or twerking,  but that stuff gets boring to me as a director that wants to use his creativity to help people become aware of other things. We have iconic movies that talk about the ways of the hood but don’t focus on just all the negative concepts that are being thrown at us.

‘Belly’ for an example was an awesome movie that tackled on all the odds of how hard it is to survive in the hood, but there were other themes too, such as loyalty, the come up, love,  the struggle.  It  just so happened that Belly was directed by the most successful  music directors of the 90s and 2000s, Hype Williams.

I want to be able to hit on more themes in films and not just get placed in a box when exploring creativity. I want my films to be looked at 10 to 20 years  from now and  still be inspirational and eye opening.

I know you as Christian but often times go by the nickname Rosco! Where the heck did that name come from if your name is Christian?

Rosco was derived my senior year in high school, when I went on a Black college tour. I met a friend named Jon who told me I looked like a Rosco. He started calling me that name during the whole tour and so did everyone else. About a year later, Jon was murdered at a party in a suburb outside of Detroit. I decided to hold on to the nickname  to pay homage to him.

I always have someone I interview leave one piece of advice for the youth on insidethegirlsroom. So name one thing you would want one person to treasure?

Never let anyone shatter your dreams or discourage you.  No matter if it’s family , friends, or teachers you will always have someone who will try to shatter your spirit. Remember that knowledge is power and be able to take what they say with a grain of salt and say I am better than this. Use good judgement and stick to your craft.

You can find more of Christian Rosco Davis on IG: @Sweet_obsession_films and FB: Rosco Davis

You can also checkout more of his interviews on Listen to Detroit Pulse Radio Ep.17 by DPR &The Nerd Table soundcloud.com/detroit-pulse-radio/detroit-pulse-radio-ep-17 and MetroArtsDetroit | Episode 403: https://youtu.be/0kRMmy32jo

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Here are some of Rosco’s films below:

 

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