Nathaniel Hörnblowér has nothing on Adam Yauch.
For years, the lederhosen-clad enigma (and Yauch's not-so-secret alter ego) had tried to steal the spotlight from the Beastie Boy, thanks to a string of directorial credits on B-Boy videos (dating all the way back to the Paul's Boutique days) and last year's live film "Awesome: I F---in' Shot That."
But now, Yauch has struck back, with "Gunnin' for That #1 Spot," a crackling street-ball documentary and the first film to feature his name in the credits. On the surface, the doc — which debuted late last month at New York's Tribeca Film Festival — is about a once-in-a-lifetime tournament that brought two dozen of the country's best high school ballers to Harlem's legendary Rucker Park. But it's also something more: Through interviews with eight of the competitors, Yauch gives us a look at young men on the cusp of superstardom, dealing with immense pressures and decisions well beyond their years.
"Of the eight kids that we documented, one of them was starting his sophomore year, two of them were starting their junior year, and five of them were starting their senior year of high school," Yauch said. "And there are certain moments when you really just see them as kids, joking and goofing around together. And there are other moments when they are very adult — you can see it in some of the interviews — and it's definitely very interesting seeing that, that there are parts of these kids, because they have so much responsibility and so much going on in their lives, that they can be very adult also."
The tournament actually took place in September 2006, and since then, three of the eight players Yauch decided to follow with his cameras — Michael Beasley, Kevin Love and Jerryd Bayless — have gone on to excel on the college level and are expected to be top-10 picks in next month's NBA draft. (Beasley, who played this past season at Kansas State, could go #1 overall.) And that made finishing the film — which Yauch originally decided to direct as a favor to a friend — all the more important.
"The original idea was to shoot the movie, edit it in, like, three months, and actually try and have it done at the beginning of 2007, but editing never works like that," he laughed. "Once you get into [post-production], it always goes slowly and it's more complicated. It kinda got to a point when I was a year into it when I thought, 'Man, if we can finish it by June, it'll be done when these guys are eligible for the draft.' And then we really started cranking on it and trying to get it down for now."
"Gunnin' " will hit selected theaters on June 27 — one day after the draft — but Yauch hopes it will appeal to more than hoop-heads. After all, he's crafted a film that's as much about athletes as it is about youth culture and hip-hop (the soundtrack features cuts by Nas, Jay-Z, the Notorious B.I.G., Lil Wayne and — of course — the Beastie Boys). It's a love letter to the city he grew up in and the music he's dedicated his life to. It comes from the heart — which is more than you can say for the average Hörnblowér joint.
"At one point, I took a bunch of music and put it into a playlist and gave it to my editor and said, 'This is some stuff to play around with.' And he was pulling some stuff, and some of the guys who worked on the film were throwing in ideas," Yauch said. "You know, just trying different things out. You can tell when something's working — you know, when you work on a scene, it becomes very obvious, like, 'OK, that feels right. That works.' You know right away."
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