Mandon Lovett is an independent African-American filmmaker, currently based out of Miami, Florida and born in Los Angeles. His latest project The Field is a documentary about the drill scene that originated in Chicago and is defined by its grim, violent lyrics and trap-beats. Lovett interviewed the city’s most prominent music artist and gang members – and examined the reasons behind the violence. We had a talk with him about asking questions, bad questions and peeling back layers to find the true story.
What’s The Field about?
“The Field examines youth violence in Chicago, and how some artists within the city’s “drill” scene use music to communicate, express themselves, and improve their situation. “The Field” is unique in that all of the voices were from the ground level – they were really in “the field.”
How do you do what you do?
“I try do a fair amount of research. From there, I ask relevant questions. I think that there is such a thing as a “bad question.” A bad question is one that comes out of ignorance, or lack of preparation. These sorts of questions can be dangerous in a documentary setting, because they can lead to a loss of credibility, and from there, a lack of trust”.
What uncommon question does one have to ask to make this?
“You have to peel back the layers when conducting interviews. Your subject may give you an answer, but right then and there, you need to find a way to get to the heart of what they’re “really” saying. After a subject gives an initial response, I tend to follow it up with “…but why?”
If someone else would make it this instead of you, would it be a different documentary?
“Absolutely. Every filmmaker has their own voice, varied background, and unique story. I think that you can find out a little (or even a lot) about a filmmakers personality by watching their films. You can see what’s important to them. What makes them tick”.
Violence is obviously an outlet for these guys, but are there other things (that you might not have chosen to show in the documentary)?
“All of these artists are young men and women who are just like you and I. They experience the same emotions: fear, pain, hope, love. They just happen to live in a very violent place. I hope that this film helped to humanize them”.
“The popularity of the drill scene, and the violence that has plagued the city drew us there”.
What does hope mean to you?
“Hope is all about seeing a future for yourself. A future of any kind, really”.
What question should these guys ask themselves?
“For a lot of these guys, their gang, and their pride is all they have in life. However, I found that those two things were the source of the violence. Obviously, they need to ask themselves if a gang or a block is worth dying for. But this is also an easy question to ask, and answer, for someone who isn’t in their position. It’s my hope that a lot of these guys will see this film, see themselves on camera, and gain a new perspective on what’s going with their lives. Film is a powerful medium, in that sense. It has the ability to make us see ourselves in a new light”.
What’s the most difficult question you’ve ever got as a filmmaker?
“The one you asked me right before this one!”
What’s that one question you would like to ask to these men, but didn’t got the chance for?
“I wish I was able to dive deeper into their gang involvement, but there were just some things they wouldn’t discuss on camera. It was also important to me that we show the faces of these young men. I didn’t want to have to blur faces”.
What’s your favourite question ever?
“The question: Why?”
What’s your next project?
“We’re going to continue “The Field” series in other American cities”.