In the Spotlight w/ Ken “Legend” Williams & KC Carson

I had recently had the privilege to write up some questions for Detroit’s filmmaker and Executive Producer, Ken “Legend” Williams, and Co-Producer, KC Carson, to talk about their film, Asbury Park, which is dropping November 3rd on Tubi! Thank you guys for giving me this opportunity to highlight your film, but first… Let us highlight and show the readers the trailer of the film.

Trailer for Asbury Park

Let’s get this interview going with my first question, shall we? 🙂

I love to hear folks’ stories and give artists an opportunity to share their stories. This is the essential part of my blog. How did you know when filmmaking was going to become your path? Did y’all always know from an early age or was it a happy accident, as Bob Ross would say?

Legend: I’ve been in love with stories since I was in the 5th grade. Around that time I realized that not only did I love hearing them, but I loved telling them as well. Writing for me became an everyday practice. I loved movies and wanted to get into filmmaking, but I knew I was too poor to attend film school so I brushed that dream aside. In 2006 a friend of mind, who was a huge fan of my stories, told me about a production team who was looking for writers. I offered to write the script for free if they taught me how to make a movie.

KC: Honestly it happened by accident. I’ve always loved movies and film, I even wanted to be an actor at a point in life. Once I met Legend our chemistry and vibe was organic. I made a decision once we became friends that I wanted to do this full time, so I’ve dedicated all of my time and resources into growing and learning every aspect of the film business. This was God’s plan it wasn’t mine, I’m just walking in my destiny.

We have a mutual and an amazing talent within this industry. You  recently teamed up with Tray Chaney on a new project called Asbury Park.” How did y’all meet and get connected with Tray?

Legend: I’ve always been a fan of Tray since he was on The Wire. I followed him on social media. I loved his grind. I reached out to him just to say keep up the good work and I let him know I loved his grind. We’ve been stuck together ever since.

KC: I’m a huge fan of Tray’s work and work ethic. I followed him from The Wire to Saints and Sinners. Legend and I decided to reach out to him because of the value that he could bring to our team and alliance. Once we had a meeting we instantly became family and the rest is history. 

What inspired the story behind “Asbury Park?” And how does it stand out from other films with similar storylines?

Legend: Asbury Park was inspired by my childhood and the fact I was tired of the same  narratives and glorification of drugs and violence when it came to inner city life. Yes there are drugs and guns in urban communities. Yes people break the law. But many people are in circumstances in which they’re just trying to survive. I started carrying a gun at 12 years old. I didn’t do it to be tough, but because I was being raised in a single parent home with my mother, we lived in a neighborhood with frequent break ins and murder and if you called 9-1-1 the police wouldn’t come. I wasn’t trying to be tough, nor was I a bad kid. I was simply a boy trying to protect his mother. Asbury Park tells the story of four young men who are good kids and simply trying to survive.

KC: The story talks about the truth that happens in urban inner-city America. Every city has a ghetto, and every ghetto has a hood, and the story is the same, however the truth about survival and how people got into those situations are usually never told. It’s not always about cars, clothes, and jewelry, this story talks about perseverance, sacrifice, structure, and disciple. The real things that are needed to make something of yourself. The Asbury Park characters are individuals who were forced to survive by any means once they were out of options.

For those not experienced with filmmaking, how long of a process was the creation of this film? 

KC: Legend started the script back in 2018, the film was delayed in 2019 due to an unexpected death of a cast member. The film was set for production for the spring of 2020, and unfortunately the pandemic made us put the brakes on once again. It took quite a few months to complete because we filmed during the heart of the pandemic, and there were a few untimelier road blocks, however we persevered and completed the film.

Felicia “Snoop” Pearson in Asbury Park dropping on Tubi on November 3rd.

Asbury Park drops in just a couple days on November 3rd on Tubi. Y’all have some big names in this film including huge talents like Glenn Plummer, Felicia “Snoop” Pearson from The Wire & the Rapper Peter Gunz. Also, Jamal Woolard, who killed his role as the legend, B.I.G. in his biopic, Notorious, as well as, TuPac’s, All Eyez On Me. What surprised you the most with working with such talents? 

Legend: I learned how easy they all were to work with and how much they were willing to help me as a newer director. Glenn Plummer, Fredro Starr, and Jermaine Hopkins were all very good with pulling me to the side to offer suggestions.

KC: I think I was most surprised at how down to earth everyone was and how they were willing to extend an olive branch to us seeing that we are an independent team. Not one of the celebrities brought an ego or attitude with them. They were very down to earth, humble, and professional. Each person gave us a different outlook and perspective of the business that was priceless.

As Asbury Park comes to life for y’all, I feel it’s very essential to give equal opportunities to black filmmakers to create their stories on the big screen. Do y’all feel that there is such a shift now with social media and the current climate our nation is in the present?

Legend: I think one of the positives that came with the pandemic is that people were forced to view films at home instead of running to the theaters. More content was being consumed which caused the need for more of it to be created. While Hollywood was shut down, independent filmmakers, such as myself, was able to navigate the filming process more freely than the bigger studios. Streaming platforms and social media allows us to go directly to the consumers. This allows us, as black filmmakers, to tell our own stories.

What do you feel needs to happen to elevate more stories to the level of Marvel Studios “Black Panther” to continue to lift black voices and representation of the black community and to make sure y’all are being heard? 

Legend: We need to collectively invest in the telling of our own stories and supporting our own films. Hollywood cares about money, so if we can show that our people will pay to watch films, then we’ll be placed in a better position to tell them.

KC: It’s actually very simple. It’s all about supporting one another. There is enough money to go around so there is no reason for us not to support each other. If our community ever comes together and truly supports one another the way that other communities support each other, we could truly change the landscape and dynamic of the film industry.

As you continue to grow as filmmakers, what did you learn from producing, creating, and bringing this current film for life? 

Legend: I’ve learned that anything is possible. I also see the importance of having a strong team that you can trust. Having KC and Tray on my team makes my job a lot easier because they’re two guys who are brutally honest, but who I know are about their business.

KC: I’ve learned that no idea is too big or crazy. With the technology that is available to us there is nothing that can’t be done. The most important part of this is having a strong team who all have a common goal. No egos, and no pride. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so we make sure all of our links are strong.

Behind the scenes with Legend giving direction to the cast.

I want to thank each and everyone of you for taking the time to allow me to interview and make this connection with all three of you. I have one more question for the both of you. Can you share any advice or tidbits for any young filmmaker out there trying to create and bring their own stories to life??

Legend: Don’t let money stop you from telling your story. If you have a story to tell, write it and shoot it. I don’t care if it’s on an IPhone. Get it done. If you make mistakes along the way, so what. Learn from them and keep growing.

KC: I believe that there is a valuable lesson learned even in defeat. So don’t worry about mistakes and what you don’t know. Ask questions study and learn, however the most important part is to finish the race. Don’t stop or quit and there is always an audience out there even for the most peculiar topics. Don’t let anything or anyone stop you from fulfilling your dreams and destiny.

Q&A Feature: To Your Last Death

TYLD horizontal widerI’ve became friends and a supporter for producer and filmmaker, Jim Cirile, when I discovered his project Liberator, which featured heavy hitters like Lou Ferrigno (Hulk), Michael Dorn (Star Trek), Don “The Dragon” Wilson (Bloodfist), and last, but certainly not least in my book, one of my favorite actresses, Peta Wilson (La Femme Nikita).

A few years down the road, the creation for To Your Last Death would come to life, and I would again, support this project for Jim and his wife and business partner, Tanya Klein. Two projects later, I am confident to say that this won’t be the last project that these two amazing human beings will create that I will support and promote for.

Y’all have an astounding cast including William Shatner (Star Trek), Morena Baccarin (Gotham, Deadpool), Ray Wise (Robocop, Twin Peaks). Did you already have these actors envisioned in your mind for your characters when creating the project, or was there an audition for these actors and actress?

Tanya Klein: No, we didn’t write those parts with anyone in mind. During the pre-production process, we sat around with our producers and director and made lists of actors who would be great for these parts. Our producers called their agents and then it hinged on their interest and availability and cost.

To Your Last Death, formally known as Malevolent, has been in production for a few years now. How does it feel to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel for this project for the both of you?

Jim Cirile: I guess the best way to describe it is simply “wow.” There were times during the production process when we weren’t sure we’d be able to finish it. Animated movies are pricey and sometimes there are unforeseen hiccups. So at times it was pretty stressful. Getting it done felt great. We recently had our first cast/crew/friends/family screening to celebrate the fact that we had climbed the mountain. To show it on a big screen in front of many people was, of course, nerve-wrecking and we were thrilled to discover that it went over really well. Everyone got it. They laughed at the right places and they were scared at the right places. It was awesome. So “wow.”

How long have y’all been working in the film industry?

TK: I have been in the entertainment industry for all of my adult life starting out in theater as a playwright, director, actor and producer in New York as well as Artistic Director of a theater company before switching over to film about 15 years ago.

JC: I started out as an assistant at a small production company in New York right after college. After that, I worked my way up to writer/producer at that company before coming out to Los Angeles. All in all, I have been working in the industry for 30 years.

shatner and team w logo
Actor William Shatner and the To Your Last Death crew. Jim & Tanya to your far left. 🙂

Producing isn’t the only expertise you both have on your resumes, is it? Can you give the readers an outline of your accomplishments over the years in the industry?

TK: We’re both writers, as well as, story analysts. I am also an actor/director.  I has a slew of NY stage productions, as well as, several short films under my belt.

JC: I am an artist/musician. I also have written on many features including having a three-movie deal with Lionsgate.

Y’all are just co-producers for film projects, you both are married to each other. 😊 When did you two decide to take your relationship to the next level, as not just husband and wife, but as business partners?

JC: That happened quite organically because when you’re around someone a lot you naturally get involved in their projects. So I’d say pretty much from the start.

What’s the best thing about working together?

TK: Firstly, it’s efficient. If you need to discuss something you can simply walk into the other room. Secondly, you know each other well and can develop a kind of shorthand.

TYLD 11You’re been behind two successful crowd funding projects with Liberator and now To Your Last Death. What are some of the advice can you can share with other aspiring filmmakers to accomplish this aspect of success for raising money to budget your film projects?

JC: Oh, many! First of all, if you can avoid crowdfunding your movie AVOID IT! This might sound flippant, but I’m absolutely serious. Crowdfunding isn’t a walk in the park. A few things to keep in mind: 1. you need a strong online presence months before you start your crowdfund (so plan accordingly). 2. When deciding how much money to ask for you must keep fulfillment of perks (which costs money) as well as taxes in mind. You don’t want to end up in a situation where you lose money or barely break even when you do a crowdfund 3.  On average one crowdfund team member can raise $6K (some a bit less and some a bit more depending on their social media footprint, but that’s what it averages out to). So if you want to raise $60K, you’ll need 10 committed team members.

What inspired to bring To Your Last Death to life? How was the story created?

TK: Often horror films end up in the same place: Final Girl, exhausted and blood-smeared, claws her way out of the wreckage after a time of absolute horror where she had to watch everyone else die only to finally best the bad guy. We thought: “what if that was our starting point? Final Girl crawls out into the light… and then we send her back to do it all again. Wouldn’t that be cool… and cruel? ”

Are any of the characters based on anyone you know in real life? How much did the TYLD 8actors end up relating to the characters they played in the film?

TK: No, thankfully not! (laughs) However, we do like to call Cyrus our Dick Cheney character. Similar bio and similar personality. (Yeah, he’s the bad guy.) The actors seemed to enjoy themselves a lot especially since some of them got to play against type.

How does this film stand out from the rest of the anime films? How does this film stand out from the rest of the films in America?

JC: Animation is only now in the process of “growing up” in the US. For many, many years animation was something for kids (and on the feature film front it still very much is). TV has led the march towards adult-themed animation and, slowly, this is opening up the feature film sphere. An animated horror film was pretty much unheard of when we first started this project and still is in many ways. It differs from anime films in the sense that we’re going for more gritty realism in character design and color-work as well as animation.

This is the very first American Anime here in the states, so that’s an accomplishment. Do you see yourself trendsetting for future anime films in this country, or even worldwide?

TK: That’d be cool! However, an animated movie is very difficult to produce when one has to do it on a small budget. Hence, the next animated movie we make has to be with a deep-pocketed investor or studio on board.

Are there any other projects in the works from Coverage, Ink you two can hint at for the near future?

JC: We actually have several scripts we’d like to make…

TK: …However, the first step is selling To Your Last Death and possibly a vacation. (Smiles!)

My Top Ten Films of 2018

As we count down the final hours of the year, here is a list of my top ten films for 2018. Enjoy and feel free to share your own favorites in the comment section below.

1. Isle of Dogs

2. Beirut

3. Den of Thieves

4. Avengers: Infinity War

5. Black Panther

6. You Were Never Really Here

7. The Ivory Game

8. Christopher Robin

9. ROMA

10. The Angel