Interview with the Director/Screenwriter:
I: Interviewer from Jet Magazine
J: Director/Screenwriter John Blair
I: We’ve brought in John Blair, the visionary behind the recent movie “No Way Out”, a film that focuses on the tragic death of Wendell Grieves, a local sports hero and all around good person.Thanks for taking the time to visit us John.
J: It’s no problem, happy to be here.
I: Now, I want to begin by asking about the character of Wendell. In the film, Wendell is shown as good as a person can get. He has a caring personality, is a good support to his family, especially to his younger brother. Why did you set him up to such a high level, only for him to be killed by the police?
J: I wrote Wendell as somewhat of a cartoonish character to make a point. These police murders, I say murders because that is what they are, these murders have always had some amount of clarity, and an angle to justify themselves with. The right wing news would always have some sort of crime to place on the victim, some way of convincing themselves and the audiences that the act of violence was necessary. Trayvon Martin: Zimmerman was the only witness, he had some signs of a physical struggle. Eric Garner: Resisting arrest, assaulting an officer. There are always excuses because of the weakness of the sources, and the confusion given by viral media. Garner swatted an officer’s arm, Zimmerman’s story doesn’t really add up. These were murders, but because of how information can be spread and manipulated, there is always a different angle. I wanted to depict a story where it is indisputable that the police were at fault, show an extreme example, a scenario where the confusion is nonexistent. I had to take police brutality to an extreme. Wendell’s story is me sending a message.
I: Religion was a big part of Wendell’s character. Would you mind telling why?
J: I didn’t want Wendell to be a blank character. He needed a source for his personality. A large reason that he is how he is is due to his christian upbringing. It gave him a reason to be kind, and helped me get a good mental image of his home life and daily activity.
I: So, Wendell was this shell of goodness, but you needed to fill it in?
J: That is one way to look at it. It also helped make him relatable to a lot of the audience.
I: Am I correct to assume that that is why you made him instagram famous? Instagram and Vine have been exploding these last few years.
J: Actually, that is a bit backwards. I made him instagram famous to support the theme of characterising these things that we only see through the media, be it the news or social media sites. Just like we only see the media’s views of these victims, we only see the instagram stars as they show themselves on the web. I wanted to give the audience another chance to look at how these characters you see in the media and online are real people, with lives.
I: Isn’t it a bit counterintuitive that you are trying to build Wendell as an almost unrealistic character, yet are trying to use him to make a point and personify a part of reality that people don’t see?
J: I see it as using him as a studying point for the police brutality aspect, and as a way to suggest an idea, or get people thinking and or make them see things they take for granted in a different way.
I: Going against what is accepted seems to be a major point in your story.
I: I’d like to ask about why you chose South Berkeley as the Grieves’s hometown.
J: Well, Berkeley has two key factors. It is a low income neighborhood, with a primarily black population.
I: Would I be too wrong if I said it was an alternative to using Compton?
J: Right again, I didn’t want to cash in on the Straight Outta Compton hype too much.
I: “F*ck the Police” isn’t quite the message you are trying to tell?
J: NWA is a bit more violent than I am trying to be. I wanted the film to be shaming and eye opening, but not threatening. It needs to scream loudly without being harsh, if that makes any sense.
I: I get what you’re saying. Might that be the reason you depicted Wendell as a member of the church?
J: That and the fact that I wanted to give Wendell a large family. He has his household family, but the church acts as a family in itself. In America, a lot of these low income, historically black neighborhoods are held together by their church communities. By having him be a friendly member of multiple communities, his death has a greater impact on characters within the story. Society these days is about community. It has gotten to a point where people cannot live without mingling with many different communities. Wendell effects both his Instagram followers, and his different communities.
I: So he is a metaphor for how these recent travesties have been affecting the nation's media and people?
I: You also show off some elements of white privilege, what with the football team that attacks Wendell’s team being almost entirely white, and from a richer neighborhood.
J: I did that to accent and give context for the police shooting. The fight gave a reason for the police to come, and contrast of the teams displayed an even starker, clearer image of the racism I am portraying.
I: Overall, the film has an almost sadistic feel to it. You are holding the audience in their chairs with an addictive, constantly progressing film, while you torment them with a narrative that pushes you further and further into hopelessness.
J: *laughs* Well, I don’t know if I was going for “sadistic”, but yes, I was trying to force a fairly aggressive message onto the audience. Earlier you had me talk about how I used Wendell to make a point about how the people you see on the media are real. Well, there was another reason. Social media “activism” is irrelevant. When people post, share, and like massive quantities of these ideas, they are accomplishing next to nothing. A like doesn’t actually solve a problem. Sure, massive quantities of these posts and shares help send a message, but actual action and deeds are required to make changes. I have placed the audience into a situation where they are forced to see this.
I: So, Wendell had all of these followers, and at the end everyone spread his death as a “martyr” of sorts, but nothing was actually prevented or accomplished?
J: Yes. It was meant to show that uselessness. The only thing we can hope for is that the useless hive mind that social media has become ends up being relevant when the current generation of youth is in charge. I wanted the audience to experience the feeling of not being able to do anything, so that, hopefully, after seeing that their actions are irrelevant, they will try to become real activists.
I: There you have it readers! Get out there, really make a difference in your world, not just on social media. John, thank you so much for coming, it was enlightening.
J: Anytime, anytime. I’m always looking for chances to spread my message.