SxSW 2018 Interview: THIS ONE’S FOR THE LADIES director Gene Graham

“THIS ONE’S FOR THE LADIES is initially a movie about exotic male dancers and the women who love them. But it evolves into a movie about female sexuality, sisterhood, family and community. Bold, hilarious, thought provoking and emotional, This One’s For The Ladies is a real time look at contemporary Black America.” Director Gene Graham on THIS ONE’S FOR THE LADIES which screens at the 2018 edition of South By Southwest.

Congratulations on your film playing in Austin at SxSW this year! Is your first time here and are you planning to attend your screenings?

This is my first time at SXSW and I will be there for the whole thing!

So how did you get into this business? Talk to me a bit about how you got your start and what you have worked on in the past.

I’m a self-taught editor (Final Cut) and back in 2003 I cut my teeth on The Ski Trip a small black gay indie directed by Maurice Jamal. That movie did well on the gay film festival circuit. We did another movie together in 2006, Dirty Laundry, and that movie did even better, winning best drama at the American Black Film Festival. While working on that movie, I was also directing my first feature documentary called The Godfather of Disco, which hit festivals in 2007. I worked on scripts and other ideas while being a commercial editor and producer until I stumble on what would become This One’s For The Ladies.

How did this project come together for you? Give me a rundown from the preparation, to shooting, to post-production to now!

When I saw Magic Mike, I was like where are the black guys? There wasn’t one main black actor in that crew, and that’s not how it is in real life. And the more I thought about it I wondered what was going on for the women who frequented these male stripper events. Somewhere along the way I met Michele (of This One’s For The Ladies) and she was using a male stripper night in Newark, NJ to raise funds for an Autism charity. Me and my DP went along and we met great people, really down to earth. Those conversations expanded to additional friends and family members over a nearly 4 year period. I edited as I went along and maybe fall of 2016 I finally cracked the edit.

What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you? How much coffee/sugar/tea (or insert poison here)?

In this instance it was the people I was following, their stories and what their stories would mean for audiences across the country.

What was your biggest challenge with this project, and the moment that was the most rewarding to you?

THIS ONE’S FOR THE LADIES tackles a lot of hot button topics like female sexuality, race, family and class. The challenge has always been to remain fearless and stay true to the stories of the people in my doc. We hear a lot about the white working class – and how authentically American they are. But we rarely hear from or about working class black and brown people. We rarely see women with different body types on screen. And we certainly don’t hear what black and brown women want or enjoy in the bedroom. This One’s For The Ladies doesn’t shy away from any of that and I think these types of discussions make some people – both black and white – uncomfortable. There have been many rewarding moments, but I’m waiting to see the audience reaction at SXSW.

I’m about to get technical, but I would love to know about the the visual design of the movie; what camera did you film with, your relationship to the director of photography and how the movie was photographed. (If you are not the director, please mention working with the DP of the film!)

This One’s For The Ladies is a verité doc – pretty much all hand held. I think there’s a rough beauty to it. All the club stuff is super vivid with strong colors, while outside of the club is pretty much real life – real kitchens, real back decks, etc. My DP, Paul Rowley, has a great eye and the more we shot, the better we got at anticipating key dancer moves. Our primary camera was a Canon C100, but we also used a Canon 5d, a C300, and an iPhone 6. I edited the movie on FCPX.

What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie here in Austin?

I can’t wait to be in ATX for this crazy festival. I really can’t wait to see how audiences will react to this movie.

If you could show your movie in any theater outside of Austin, where would you screen it and why?

Any major metropolitan area with a large minority population. I really want to see how the real Ladies react to this movie.
What would you say to someone who was being disruptive (talking, texting, leaving halfway, etc) through a movie? (Either your SxSW screening or in general)

Please stop!

We have a lot of readers on our site looking to make movies or get into the industry somehow. What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the filmmaking business?

Be willing to start at the bottom and learn everything you can on your way up. It’ll make you a better filmmaker.

And final question: what is your favorite movie?

Taxi Driver.

THIS ONE’S FOR THE LADIES is screening at SxSW 2018.

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