- Tue, 2003-05-06 15:03
I Like Music Interview with Ken Peters - Director of Tupac Versus DVD
Ken Peters is the Director of the new Tupac Versus DVD: The Unreleased Tupac Shakur Interview. This documentary film needs to be seen - by everyone. It is the most intelligent look at Tupac and what he stood for that we've ever seen. The centrepiece of the film is the previously unreleased interview with Tupac Shakur, filmed during his time at a correctional centre in 1995, just one year before he was killed. Wholly new, unreleased material of Tupac at his most reflective, a completely new, unexpected version of the thug that crashed into the scene in the early nineties.
''I didn't create thug life, I diagnosed it.'' Tupac Shakur
The new DVD/VHS explores how Tupac outgrew the image of thug life but couldn't escape it, and which in the end killed him. It asks if Tupac's life was a cautionary tale or one of a martyr? What did his life say and what did he represent? This is a very intelligent look at Tupac. A great blend of expert commentary, imagery, narrative and unseen interview footage, also providing social, cultural and political commentary and looking at the bigger picture. Tupac Versus is released on VHS and DVD on 28th April 2003.
''Can't nothing stop me but death itself.'' Tupac Shakur
I Like Music caught up with Director of the film, Ken Peters, to chat about the film and stuff we didn't know about Tupac.
''I like music because ... life needs to be scored.'' Ken Peters, Director of Tupac Versus
ILM: First of all, congratulations on an amazing Tupac video. It's a really intelligent look at Tupac and what he stood for. Is this your first film? And do you have any advice for people wanting to get into the music video industry?
Ken: To begin with, let me say thanks for taking an interest in the project. I knew Tupac had a wide international fan base and I was quite curious as to the reception something like this would get overseas.
Yes, this is the first film I've directed. I've been working as an editor for the past 3 years, but I actually started doing that just as a means of getting an opportunity to direct. The advice I would give to anyone wanting to break into the music video or film industry is: Persistence. Don't wait for phone to ring because it won't. If you want to work in the industry, on any level, you have to let people know it, and you have to let them know it often.
ILM: Can you tell us a bit about yourself. How old are you, where are you from, how did you end up making a video on Tupac? What are your interests and what kind of music are you into?
Ken: I'm 28 years old and I'm from Niceville, Florida. I actually got involved with Tupac Vs. by accident. One of the producers, Yanko Damboulev, brought in a stack of tapes one day back in late 2000; consisting of Tupac being interviewed in jail, and of some of a concert he had done with other Death Row artists at the House of Blues two months before he died. At that point, all I did was create a promotional piece for a film that didn't exist yet, just to test the waters and see if there was any interest in the market (at the time the deluge of new Tupac material hadn't hit yet.)
After that it became an 18 month gradual acquisition of source material and interviews; the film grew organically from that. We eventually had to give up on the idea of including music from the concert; but looking back, I think that probably benefited the end result.
My main interests are film, music, politics, and basketball. My music interests are, more often than not, what right now sounds like to me. I havestacks and stacks of CD's in every genre there is, but I'll typically listen to what's current in modern rock, hip-hop, and film scores.
ILM: Did you do the voiceover? Who did?
Ken: I wrote the voice-over, but I didn't record it. A guy by the name of Ross Hagen did that. He's been in hundreds of films over the years. He was even in a movie with Elvis.
ILM: If you interviewed Tupac (or edited the interview) - is there anything you can tell us about the great man that's not included in Tupac Versus - any observations about his character?
Ken: My observations of Tupac while putting this film together were this: When I started this project, I didn't really know much about him other than the headlines. That's why I started the film off that way, I figured most people were like me and only knew the bad. As I learned more about his history, listened more closely to his music, and watched that interview, my perception changed and I started to see an actual person. I think he was at a crossroads when he did the interview. He still had the optimism of his previous work, but it was colored with the events that had led up to him being put in jail. There's also hints of what's to come. I feel like he knew how it would all end.ILM: Also, who is the little boy in the photograph on the wall behind Tupac during the interview?
Ken: The little boy in the photograph is named Yummy Sandifer. Time magazine did a cover story on him in '95. I don't know know the specifics, but apparently he shot another child, then died himself (I'm not sure how.) That year he became a a kind of emblem for the children that slip thru the cracks of our system.
ILM: Did you get a sense that Tupac was happy at this time, or sad that he felt he couldn't trust anybody?
Ken: For the interview, I got the sense that Tupac's guard was perpetually up. He comes off as positive, but there's a tragic tone to it all - but then again, it's impossible to filter out the end result, so when you watch or listen to him, a tragic tone tends to blanket everything.ILM: Did he give any insight into his changed priorities - his child and so on?
Ken: I think his priorities shifted, but they shifted to a more me-first attitude after his shooting and imprisonment - but out of necessity. There'sa very selfish component to survival intstincts, and I think he was operating on those - given what had happened to him in the previous year.
ILM: What motivated you into doing a Tupac video that focused on the bigger picture: social, cultural and political issues as well as his life?
Ken: As far as the scope of the project. I knew the Death Row drama, I knew the negative headlines, and I knew how it ended. And while I didn't want to pretend that they didn't happen, I didn't want to focus exclusively on them either. The elements that intrigued me the most were his contradictions, which gave rise to the name Vs. As I looked at these contradictions, I started to see (in a broad sense) where they came from socially, and politically; and how emblematic he was for the time that he was born in, as well as the time he died in. It became an equation: In America; the 70's + the 80's = Tupac.
ILM: Tupac represented duality, between positivity and thug life, virtue and street, thug/revolutionary, hustler/soldier. Was this something you were aware of before making the video, or did it become more noticable as you made the video?
Ken: The duality issue wasn't there in the very beginning, but it became the focus of the film not longer after I started. It appeared to be the best way to try and express within a larger context, who he was, or at least who I thought he was. It was through the research into that dualism that everything else sprang from.
ILM: What are your plans for the future?
Ken: My plans for the future are: first to get married (my wedding is on May 3rd), then after that start another project as soon as possible. I'mcurrently shopping myself on the open market, as it were, very anxious to get started on whatever's next, whatever that may be.
ILM: Can you tell us what is in your CD player right now?
Ken: In my CD player right now is the new Beck album Sea Change.