Interview: Dylan Avery – ‘Black And Blue’

❉ We chat with the director of Black And Blue, the story of police brutality, racial issues and social justice in America.

Dylan Avery, writer-director of the well-known 9/11 documentary Loose Change, labeled “the first internet blockbuster” by Vanity Fair, is back with a film just as confronting and powerful – Black And Blue (on DVD from Amazon), the story of police brutality, racial issues and social justice in America.

Shot over 2 years in multiple cities across the country, Black and Blue features not only family members of people killed by the police and people whose rights were violated as they fight for justice, but the film also features former and retired law enforcement officers who find themselves in the middle of a national movement.

Hi Dylan! What have you been up to since Loose Change? And did the movie open as many doors for you as it got coverage back in the day?

I’ve been busy!  I’ve directed, edited and co-produced several documentaries since then, as well music videos, short films, commercials etc.  I’m essentially living the freelance life here in LA between projects although I hope to someday focus exclusively on filmmaking.  Loose Change opened a bunch of doors in some ways, like my interview with Alec Baldwin and a killer quote from Kevin Smith, but when you make an incredibly controversial film that people watch for free the industry doesn’t exactly bang down your door with offers.  It’s definitely been helpful here and there as I try to get projects off the ground or when I’m up for a job.

I imagine you had to plan that next move – or movie – carefully? What kind of options did you consider after that film’s success?

As much as I wanted to move immediately on to something new, things didn’t go exactly as planned.  I wound up making four editions of Loose Change, and while the last one was narrated by Daniel Sunjata and was on Netflix, I still felt like I was spinning my wheels.  While living in San Diego I decided to actually shoot a documentary of my won with my HVX-200 which wound up as Buzzkill, a film about a musician that goes 21 days without coffee.  From there I moved up to Los Angeles and after editing and co-producing A Field Full of Secrets it was time for me to take on a new topic, which was Black and Blue.

Was a narrative feature ever a consideration?

It’s always been a consideration. Loose Change was originally supposed to be a narrative feature but I realized that at the age of 18 the film I wanted to make was not logistically or financially possible.  While I’ve been attached to several narratives as a director, none of them got off the ground.  However I’m still pushing.

How did Black & Blue come to be? 

I grew up in small town upstate NY where the cops aren’t necessarily your friends but they also aren’t your enemy.  After moving to LA and living in a small suburb patrolled by the Deputy Sheriffs I soon saw with my own eyes that all the jokes I’d heard about LA cops growing up weren’t really jokes.  I was stopped and questioned myself multiple times while not doing anything illegal or suspicious, and after listening to the Kelly Thomas trial on the radio every day on my drive to work, I was convinced along with many others that the officers would be convicted.  When they weren’t, it was the final catalyst in deciding to take on this massive topic that was just starting to creep into public discourse.  It was at the rally for Kelly Thomas that things kicked into high gear and I was well on my way towards production.

Who assisted in getting all those interviews? Or did you snag them yourself?

That was all me.  It was a lot of in-person networking, posting on people’s Facebook pages and stepping stones from one interview to another.  Alex Salazar put me in touch with several other former and retired police officers, and when I reached out to Captain Ray Lewis it was because of my work with Loose Change that he decided to give me his time.  But yes, lots and lots of networking and hustling on my part.

I’m very interested in some of the feedback you’ve received on the film – I imagine while everyone really digs the film they’ve all got different opinions on the actions of those in the movie? Had some wild comments flung your way?

It’s all been very positive so far.  It hasn’t had the crazy viral success of Loose Change so I don’t have everyone under the sun chiming in with their opinion, but between the journalists I’ve spoken to so far and the people that have watched it on Amazon, people are really digging it.  Interestingly the film got review-bombed on iMDb before it was even out, so I imagine there was some kind of effort by someone (or multiple someones) to try and sink the film before it was even out.

If anything changes as a result of your movie, what do you hope it is? 

Thankfully, things already seem to be changing.  Amber Guyger was indicted on murder charges for killing Botham Sean Jean, and hopefully the charges stick.  There was a time when you could guarantee that an officer would walk away from charges of brutality or misconduct, but now that doesn’t seem to be the case.  I hope that people realize that while police brutality is very much rooted in systemic racism and oppression, nobody is truly safe from police brutality.  Daniel Shaver in Las Vegas is a perfect example.  While many police officers discriminate, bad policies and training do not.

❉ Dylan Avery is a Los Angeles based filmmaker & the creator of the “Loose Change” series of documentary films. He has directed and edited music videos, short films, promotional videos as well as numerous feature documentaries. He currently resides in Los Angeles and his documentary about police brutality, Black and Blue, is now available on Amazon.

❉ News source: October Coast.

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