Director Joe Talbot on 'The Last Black Man in San Francisco'
We're going to hear from the Director and Star of another brick shortlist her the last black man in San Francisco. This is directed by first time feature filmmaker maker Joe Talbot and it tells the story of Jimmy. A young man with dreams of reclaiming a large Victorian House in the heart of the city that he spent some time living in when he was a child. It's a home that his grandfather built. Jimmy's played by Jimmy fails in his first film role and fails was a childhood friend of Talbot's so this film story is very much fails story. He shares a writing credit with Talbot on the movie. The last black man in San Francisco debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January. Where Talbot won the Festival's best dramatic directing award along with a special creative collaboration award that he shared with fails? The movie played in limited release over the summer. And here's here's my conversation with Joe. Talbot Jimmy Fails so Jimmy. This is your story. You play a character with your name and the House and family elements Sir rooted in your actual experience and you guys were friends going back to your teenage years Is that right. I'm curious about how both of you on. This film approached the truth. And I don't mean so much you know what lines up with reality what events actually happened or not but how you each felt about taking your individual experiences this is and meshing those together and then translating them to the screen into something that is ultimately a fictionalized version of of Jimmy Story. Much sure I mean I think it's I think this story you know when it first the story that inspired everything. which is you know the story of the House of my family story? I think Once people reached out and We're we're telling us how much they related to that. I think that sort of helped the story get more and more developed Jimmy's referring into that as early on we knew you know this was going to be a hard thing to make a feature film. We've never done it before I'm a high school dropout. He's he's only ever start on my movies so we shot a concept trailer which was essentially him skating through the city telling the story of his grandfather. That had inspired the film Tom and so when we put it online not really expecting much are knowing what could happen. We started getting these emails from people who are saying These same things are happening in my city. And some of those people actually in the bay area and so we kinda banded together in what felt like the last group of artists in San Francisco and together. We developed it Over you know a few years And I think through that process. I mean everything that we've done that we've made including with my brother Nat. We made movies growing up. It always came from some true story. Sorry and then through our sort of conversations and our collective imagination grew into something else but we tried to keep the core of what was interesting about it to begin with what had made us want to make it even if characters change situations did. They often came from things that that we had seen. So I think that you know Jimmy says sometimes but I think it's true it's like we wanted to make it feel emotionally true. No matter how Dri Mike the worldwide the part that really resonated with me I grew up in a small town in Iowa and moved Chicago about sixteen years ago. But the part that really resonated with me was Jimmy's attachment. Your tach meant to the House that kind of sense of attornal ownership over this I think about the first house I lived in as a kid and lived in through junior high. I still romanticize it completely. If I'm back in town I drive by it every time I go there. If I had the means I'd I'd buy it. Just leave it sit empty like two times a year that I could go. Oh hang out and it'd be the worst summer home of all but it's something I would do if I absolutely could my dad I think about. He had a guitar when I was a kid and a motorcycle that now that he's this past if I could get my hands on those I of course I'd give anything to do that and I'm just I guess I'm kind of curious about that and and your relationship to that idea of of ownership over those things things and why we sort of as as humans. I guess just inherently romanticize objects and things like that. I think I've got a question for you if that's okay order. What is that house because you would want him back? What does it represent for you? Why would you want it back? Yeah I've thought about this a lot and a lot about in relation to this film and I think it is. It's more than just it being something from your past that you romanticize when you romanticize it because it's a time from your past when things were more stable able exactly we'll so yeah exactly the house represents for me represents family represents ownership. You know I've never owned anything to that. You know on their own a house. I'm twenty four so you know but I think that's what it represented and that's what that was my only tied to the city that made me felt like I belonged. I guess because it doesn't feel like I belong to that much anymore So he eh anything give. It's like everyone has some longing for something from their childhood. You know whether it's it's as big as a home and like Jimi cases place where your whole family was before they weren't anymore you know and you have memories of what that felt like or for us collectively like the city. You know there was a city that we grew up in and I think that was sort of one of the first things we talked about. As we became close friends was like what that city felt like. it's a hard thing to try and describe. Its amorphous sort of feeling of like sometimes you can distill instill it in like a certain interaction. You have walking down the street with someone that leaves you feeling a certain kind of warmth or a bakery that you we went to and the smells of that place You know collectively. I think those experiences are what make the San Francisco that we grew up and and as that city feels farther and farther away and that regional culture of you know all the things that Field San Francisco is You know the threat of being lost. I think it's it's part of where this movie came out of was as working through those feelings and also so almost wind to capture that city before it's totally gone. Yeah yeah and that feeling and that amorphous quality you talked about you definitely succeed in capturing and translating is leading to the screen. I maybe you just kind of answered it. But I'm curious about how you did manage to mix that sort of tone and that style style of of realism at time certainly but also surrealism and fantasy and whether or not. That's something that absolutely was crucial to telling this story. And The San Francisco story versus whatever next film. You guys might make together right. Is it going to be similar at all in style talking about hypothetical but is it something that would be similar or would it or or was it just the perfect tone and style for this think San Francisco Kinda feels real and surreal at times. We're products of that. So that's that's what comes through in our storytelling. I feel like you know Kinda was always. It wasn't something like we thought needed to feel like a dream but it just it does kind of feel that way at times because because the way that you you know you feel nostalgic for the place that you're from is kind of dreamlike it's like nostalgia is kind of like dreaming in a sense right. Yeah because you you know you always remember it in a certain way so I think that just you know. Did you speak star with Stewart showing. I don't know if joe was it. Was it more sort of where their actual the tactics that you took approaches to that to to make that To give that feeling is viewers or was it more kind of instinctual as Jimmy suggested I think some of it's instinctual. Is You doing it. You following your gut as to what had to capture the feeling of what Jimmy said. San Francisco feels like but but I think there are certain like nostalgia that is baked into San Francisco's history. You know that does feel specific to that place You read stories of Mark Twain. Like believe in the eighteen seventies going. Oh Gosh nothing like the eighteen sixties has gone to the dogs. This was such a fun town in the eighteen sixties. There's there's a line that similar in Vertigo where character sister Jimmy Stewart. San Francisco's not what it was and so there is this longing for time that it came before you or that you you know had maybe I arrived in San Francisco during As the city is changing and yet I also think there are very harsh realities that come with that change. It's not just a looking at the past with rose. Colored glasses were seeing in the very people that define San Francisco that people that fought for the people that have helped create the the city that we love being pushed out. And so it's I don't think that that changes Just a product of being human and and longing for the past and we're really seeing Are are fearing that. We're seeing the destruction of our city. And so you know there are certain ways you think about rendering that Certain light that you WANNA capture and colors Obviously people no one of the magical things about the city is its victorians and so. This film is based surrounded Victorian I think they kind of captured the imagination for people because they're almost palatial you know and they also every Victorian is different from the last they all have unique detailing that make them feel like individuals and I think that's something that we don't see in the newer architecture that's creeping in That feel as Jimmy sometimes has more like shelving they look shoving or boxes. Cardboard boxes So I think some of that's just inherent San