AN INTERVIEW WITH MESHAUN LABRONE, DIRECTOR OF "SPOOK"
Winner: Best Actor in a Feature Film
Nominee: Best Drama Film
January 2021 Edition
Acclaimed Actor, Writer, Producer, Musician, these are just a few of the titles worn by the DC resident, Meshaun Labrone. Born and raised in South Florida, Miami specifically, some of his noteworthy pursuits include previously spending 11 years as a Corrections Officer for the State of Florida, Special Deputy U.S Marshal.
In addition, he also worked on the Relisha Rudd missing persons case while serving as a Metropolitan Police Officer in Washington, DC.
Labrone always had a love for performing arts, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Florida International University (FIU) in 2005. That love for theater and the arts has led him to write, direct and star in a number of stage performances during his career. One of several notable shows is his role as the late, great rapper Tupac Shakur; Labrone wrote the show as a part of his senior project while at FIU in 2004. This one man show quickly gained international recognition and Labrone was invited to perform at the Tara Theatre, Off-West End in London.
Another notable accomplishment for the actor was his show "POWER! Stokely Carmichael" which played at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture's Oprah Winfrey Theater to a sold out show, both in 2017 and 2018.
Not one to be boxed in, Labrone has also had roles in film and television which collectively promoted him to a SAG-AFTRA union member. The exploration of the arts would not stop there, as Labrone would go on to explore his love for music – from curating a soundtrack for his web series Spook to releasing his own debut single in 2019, titled River of Deceit.
Labrone is avid about community and giving back, when he is not writing or acting, Labrone devotes his time to mentoring students in the DC area and has led acting workshops for college students within the region.
Thank you Meshaun Labrone for a stunning film. How did the idea come about to go from a theater play to a motion picture?
I wanted to take the idea of the play and set it in theatrical form to reach a larger audience.
The filmed version is shorter than the stage version, which unfortunately we haven’t yet had the opportunity to see. How did the change in length happen from one form to the other? Was it a choice? Did it involve any re-writing?
The play is about 60 mins and the film now clocks in at about 1 hr 1 min. The changes in length has a lot to do with the visuals we added to tell the story. Also, my performance in the play was more erratic. I approached it as if the character was running out of time. He cared that time was running out. The approach in this film is more centered. Most real killers are centered and don’t care about time or anything at all. They are focused on the business at hand.
There seems to be a sort of « advantage » in the film form, in terms of the rendition of the Live TV appearance for instance. Did your story-telling benefit in any aspect from being told on film?
The ability to show more visuals and sound design really helped elevate and expand on the deeper meaning of the story.
The film seems to want and address the full scope of the very problematic relationships between the police forces and the African American community in the U.S.. It is extremely dense and « up-to-date », if you may. What do you hope to bring to the table, in terms of the ongoing conversations on this crucial topic, in a now post-Trump society?
I hope to bring balance. The Left is screaming extreme wants like “Defund the Police”. The Right is screaming, “They are all criminals”. In the middle, there are Black people. There are many Black people in law enforcement and you have some Black people that are in the criminal element. What we want is Freedom, Justice and Equality. Either extremes, really hurt Black people and The Nation as a whole.
The Sound Design is stunning, making the sound the other main character in your story. Could you tell us about this aspect of your piece? Did you have such present sound effects in the stage version?
The Sound/Music designer, Devin Spear, is amazing. We worked together in the studio and he studied the film and created the music, scene by scene. He matched my cadence and emotion. He basically stated that the other main character was always there. Devin coaxed it into being.
Can you tell us about your experience as an MPD and state corrections Officer? How did you decide to jump ships and tell the insider’s story? Also, what was your training in acting and directing?
My experience in the Metropolitan Police Department and State Corrections was a learning experience. Painful in many aspects but also rewarding when it came to citizens I helped. I’ve been acting professionally since 2000 and this was my directorial debut. I hope to direct more in the future.
Although your topic regards U.S. society expressly, do you believe, or hope even, that your film will help engage in conversations beyond borders? Although we hear a lot about white supremacy and police abuse in the U.S., the problem is not limited to your country. Have you had feedback from other places in the world? Also, have you seen films by filmmakers from other countries, relating to the same topics? For example, Steve McQueen’s « Red, White and Blue » episode of his « Small Axe » series, released in late 2020?
White Supremacy is global and it has crept in every area of human activity: economics, education, entertainment, health, labor, law, politics, religion, Sex and war. We have to do our part as artists to rid the planet of it and set justice in the world. I admire Steve McQueen and hope to meet him soon. I’ve not seen « Red, White and Blue » but the title tells me I might enjoy it very much.
Short statement describing your vision of the post-covid cinema
"My vision in a post covid cinema, that it will make it easier for independent filmmakers to get their films seen by a larger audience. Social Media and streaming platforms have leveled the playing field. I hope this will continue. There are great stories waiting to be seen by the people."
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