Shameik Moore in Dope

So was there a line to that geekiness? Because you see movie posters and he has a Superfly VHS and Super Nintendo. But that’s just all on the periphery. It’s all production design. Did you consciously keep video games and movies out of the narrative in favor of music?

Well yeah. I mean, I wanted it to be there and and I think it’s a lot of the stuff that I was fascinated with. Like the Nintendo Game Boy and everything that I came up with and my friends played with. So yeah, I wanted to have that feel and these kids to kind of be partly digital, but also partly analog in their life. And so I felt like there was that nice mesh that they would bring together because they were obsessed with the ’90s. They could kind of bleed into their lives, but they’re still very much immersed in the technology of their generation.

One of my favorite songs of all time is Scenario by A Tribe Called Quest and you use it to great effect where visuals and actions are lining up with the lyrics. It’s so great. But that scene also seems completely different from everything else in the movie. Can you talk about the development of that scene. Which came first, the song or the scene?

Well the song came second. I mean, originally had in my mind a Pharcyde song called Drop. And I was always obsessed with that video shot by Spike Jonze where they shoot it forward, but they did everything backwards.

Yeah, right, I’ve seen that.

So the idea when I was writing the script was that you would see these characters converge in different points in different timelines and then go back, kind of in the spirit of that video. So that kind of evolved with budget constraints. It was one of those things you have to figure out you really are gonna do when you understand you can’t afford to do the big shoot-it-forward-and-do-it-backwards sequence. So then after that I had another song. It was Beastie Boys’ Sabotage. But they never clear music. So it ended up Scenario ’cause that was a song that was playing in the second half of the scene. We just kind of extended it to the first half. And then that one of [the shots] just lined up perfectly by chance with one of the lines. The “powerful impact.” But we were like “Whoa, that’s kind of cool.”

So we went and found some other spots like that. But that’s kind of the organic process of how it started originally in my head to production constraints to finding a song that you were like “Okay, this is really cool.”

Dope Zoe Kravitz

I think that’s my second favorite scene, after the Lily Montage where you cut and then relive the entire party on social media. How did you come up with that idea?

Yeah, it was just based in how we all communicate. So much of the information we get and share is not one to one. It’s like that scene 50 years ago would have been the phone calls and they’re all on the phone and then there’s split screens. It’s kind of like that was that generation’s Bye Bye Birdie, right? Where they’re all on the phone. That probably seemed like “Wow, the kids are all on phones.” So my idea was this is how this generation communicates and how would they share this information and what is that idea of going viral and what does that mean in real time? So it just sort of made sense with how I was telling the rest of the story.

You’ve already done a lot of studio films, films many people have seen. Now, when a director has a hit Sundance movie, they immediately go to the $250 million blockbuster.

I know, yeah.

Dope trailer

Is that something that you’ve been approached about, or would be interested in?

Yes. I mean, there’s been a couple of things that have come my way that would be really interesting to do. So I’m kind of weighing and figuring it out. But yeah, I mean, look. I grew up on Spielberg and Lucas. That was sort of what inspired me to make movies. And so Back to the Future is like my one of my favorite films of all times and it’s why [the character] Dom calls Malcolm “McFly.” And so doing that, taking sort of what I think I do well and then sort of putting it on that stage, I think is something that I’d really be interested in doing.

Dope opens June 19. Read our review from Sundance here.

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