At the Exclusive Media Mixer for the movie-White T-at the Dewitt Hotel last month-I was given the opportunity to speak with three key players in the film's production-Blake Phillips and the legendary Mixon Brothers. It's an interesting conversation on how movies get made and what it takes to be a success in Hollywood.
Blake, what is your involvement in the comedy White-T?
I am the writer, producer, casting director and soundtrack producer for the film White-T.
What's the story behind this movie getting made?
I met the Mixon Brothers back in 2009-introduced to them by a friend of mine who was as an actor on the series Glee-James Earl III. We collaborated on a few smaller projects-when in 2010 I met their mother Gaynel Mixon-who was also their manager at the time. And she wanted me to do a movie for Jerrod and Jamal. One day in December she called me out of the blue and pretty frantic-and she made me promise on the phone to do the movie. I had no idea-the seriousness of the call-but in about three weeks later-she passed away. While attending her funeral later that month-all I could think about was the promise I made to make this movie.
There was no script in place-so we just talked about a general movie premise of about achieving your dreams then adding some substance to it. And through my relationships with Macy Grey, Tommy 'Tiny' Lister and Faison Love I was able to come up with principal photography financing for the movie within a couple of months. With the budget we had I had the wear many hats. I wrote the script with my business partner and director-Lance Frank. I produced the entire film and had all the decision making including hiring the crew, casting the film, along with placing the music and soundtrack. I got Ice Cube on the soundtrack, Macy Grey, LEP Bogus Boyz, Ray J, Mack 10 and a host of others producing original music for the film.
The film stars Jamal and Jerod Mixon, Eric Roberts, Deion Sanders, Faizon Love and Tone Loc.
What did you enjoy most about getting this project completed?
We got it done and it took me two and a half years. And the best feeling about making the movie has been fulfilling the promise and commitment I made to their sick mother-for her children to star lead in this theatrical film. It's release was in 15 major cities-over twenty screens opening week.
Jamal and Jerod-tell me about how the movie White T-how did it all develop?
Man, the concept was crazy. Me and my brother were just driving in the car one day to go get some white-ts from the swap meet and we had this idea of doing a movie about this white t-shirt and how it comes down to ruining this dudes day. We met up with Lance and Blake to talk about it-they tweaked the story a bit to come up with what we have today White T.
What is the story's premise?
The story is about these two brothers who decide to enter this rap contest in order to use the prize money to pay the rent. They go to the show-perform and then win. But afterward-they decide they needed to come up with some better gear for upcoming shows and go to the store to buy some new white t-shirts. They get to the store-buy some shirts-not knowing there was a winning tag on one of them to perform at a major concert headlined by Real Deal played by Deion Sanders.
Everybody who was competing to be in the same show-figures out we have the winning tag-except for us. And everyone sets out to get that winning tag from us at all costs. We wind up get drugged, wake up belly out-shirts gone and we spend the rest of the movie trying to get back the winning t-shirt by any means necessary.
It's like and urban version of Hangover and Dude…Where's My Car.
How did you two get started in the business?
As kids growing up everybody knew us as Burger and Taco and people used to talk about us cause we were big. We stayed fresh dressed and always had jokes though-so after they got their fat jokes in-that was it-we'd talk back about their beat clothes you had on-how old their momma was-the old cars she was driving in-just snapping on people. We became known for that.
One day when we were at the Boys and Girls Club on 51st and Vermont in LA and this scouting agent lady came in looking for talent. She was asking around looking for two kids-two brothers who had this talent about them. They told her to go and talk to Burger and Taco. She left her contact info with the counselor who gave it to our mom and ever since that day-it's been happening.
What are some of the biggest positives about being an actor?
(Jamal) Biggest positives…so what you trying to say bruh…? (laughter) Well, the perk I enjoy the most is getting free Jordans…film set food by Craft Service and free Jordans. (Jerod) And for some reason as an actor you get out of a lot of traffic tickets. They don't be let rappers slide-but they let actors slide. We've been pulled over before and the cops will be like…license and registration…hey wait a minute…wasn't y'all in that movie…? And then let us go with no problems.
Our mom always told us to be ourselves and I think that's what gave us the ability to stay in the business after being child actors. A lot of child actors just fall off…and I guess the good thing is we never grew out of how we looked from when we first started…we look the same from when we were child actors.
Do you have any mentors?
We probably just look up to each other. And we look up to our dad and listen to what he tells us. Even though he'll preach to you for an hour-saying the same thing over and over-that's pops and he'll speak the truth.
If you could pick just one project outside of this one that represents you-what would it be?
(Jerod) It would be "Old School". (Jamal) Mine would be the "The Cookout"-clowning out with Danny Glover.
Talent, connections and solid relationships go a long way in most businesses-and in this case it couldn't be any more true. For those with similar aspirations-having the opportunity and drive to see things through-will ultimately lead to success.