John Ridley discusses his Los Angeles riots documentary 'Let It Fall'

Director John Ridley talks "Let It Fall" doc, "Guerrilla" backlash and creating your own narrative.
26:51 | 04/25/17

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Transcript for John Ridley discusses his Los Angeles riots documentary 'Let It Fall'
Skidded ABC radio and I have a very talented and gifted man sitting right in front means you're currently how are you. It. I gave I appreciate you use saying that and I sometimes that's hard to take me as I know what a lot of people recognize that pouncing Gibson really. Sharing other people's stores other people's circumstances so I'm I'm happy to be able to do that. And it's very interesting that you see that because you're sharing a very important story right now with the the lead up to the this documentary which is going to be on ABC this Friday 9 PM eastern standard time I love putting that in. Let it fall. Los Angeles. 1980 student in 1992 Q. And I I I know you have a lot going on right now but this documentary he is very important I feel with marking the 25 anniversary. Yeah absolutely I mean it's it's hard to believe that it has been 25 years a quarter century since these events and incidents but at the same time. We really wanted to look at a ten year period. Prior to that it's so we start our story in 1982. With the vans with incidents with people with communities that initially may not seem related. To what people call Rodney King riots but they really are and that's very important as well for people understand that what happened. It wasn't just one night it wasn't because of one thing. But it was something that built up over time. It was an and I think you'd do that very well on I want to delve into that but I also want to know that. It's it's already getting such great feedback this Google apparently it was released unlimited. Locations and people who have seen it already are raving about it because. I think what you're able to do with this particular document or is your allowing. People who the rate varied experience it really tell the narrative. Which I think it's extremely important. It's it's it's very interesting because I am curious as to what that selection process with life. One of the things we wanted to do was not just make it a dry retelling facts. That it's just people who were not connected to the events saying well this happened in the and that happened there's certainly value and that because they're. In the number of incidents that happened I think people are not really the milieu. But beyond that we really wanted to have individuals who personally were involved and decision making processes war events that happen to themselves their family members but that people could speak. To what happened in a very personal way so that there are any number of moments where individuals that you see on screen. Are able to say things like and then. I did this when this happened to me or I'd picked up the phone and am a member was telling me he's got to come on here right away. Because something's happening. The choices that people make the consequences of those choices they're very immediate. And I will say very emotional again it's 25 years later. But there's so many people in this film to telling these stories with the motions as though it was something that happened whom just yesterday. Yet it's from my understanding and also just reading a lot about this in tired docket in exactly what is illegal in to. I read something very interesting to me how long time coming written EU about ten years ago you're gonna working on you had. Are ready kind of put out a script there was something thought about writing flowing. Channel years ago. Spike Lee. Ron Howard Brian greater. They approached me about. Trying through Friday feature length narrative about these events hand obviously. At a new group of individuals like that just wanting to explore. This topic and subject matter unity is in pushes you inspires U to to do the best work that you can and in that time period. To me and my opinion became very evident that the story was very broad based. There were so many community so many individuals. Who were affected were connected. So. Ten years later even though on fortunately in terms of now what people think of as a Hollywood type narrative. This didn't masterly at the mole. Of the words no. Easy heroic narrative there were people who make huge mistakes I mean to say the least. But were not necessarily traditional villains. There were to meet again was very important to show. Many different communities have many different voices. There was a scope and scale and policy put all that together. And it's not a traditional Hollywood film but very fortunately. There was some folks at ABC news Lincoln square productions. Who approach may not knowing that I'd spent ten years. Looking at this material becoming aware of stories. They approach in the title with his this subject matter that you would want to try to squeeze in to the documentary and narrative. And absolutely jump at the chants and even at that in the difference between. The actual marriage of any real documentary where you have to be. On horrific to the facts. But at the same time have animal from the lost is that the story telling the first summit Donna documentary. So the learning curve was very very steep but very fortunately. Because I was working with folks and news division too. This kind of story telling a daily basis were able to talk to people who think. Otherwise would be unwilling to talk to individuals we were able to get our facts straight. But at the same time two way that I think from an audience. There is a velocity there's move away from emotion. That they will get caught up. And I I think that was a really a perfect match in that because you you you seemed to make these connections. Throughout this series and I want people to understand that where you talk about the actual cold air up purse day. And then the baton to use of the baton and other things which I think are very important because. You you kind of present that there are many there's a series of events that were at catalyst. To these riots and I kinda wanna get your prospective dove on. How people can understand these connections when they're able to to watch is document. I think unfortunate history at sometimes. Major events like this they get distilled to a momentary few moments and because that was the beginning of an era and I think a lot of people clearly were warm and who have been born of the last 25 years and it can't imagine a time. When one piece of footage could land. So partially in we're so used to things being recorded instantly and sent around the world. And obviously still an impact but if you can imagine a piece of footage couple pieces of footage. Where it's their introduction into the public space. Just has an outsize impact on people so a lot of people that think of what we call the right thinking rises as the beating Rodney King in the salt on Reginald Denny's and some. In appropriate but some kind of balance to you know black man got beat whiteman the it was terrible but let's move on from that. But there are moments that they're not aware that not aware that he says Mitchell older people like James mintier can't fishing in. Edward Lee. Operation hammer 39 and all all of these moments that did not seem connected. But unfortunately with hindsight you can allow if someone had stepped in at one point and the work community is that were saying look there are things going on. Things that are happening in our community to be that we need to be aware. But unfortunately people did just beat did not connect the dots. And what we wanna do is show people that there is a clause in the fact that we've got to be aware that and other spaces and other places right now. And essentially connecting those dots would you say that. This also lowered this to is not a connection or is a connection to what we're. What we're in now which is the black lies matter movement aero. Specifically. Where you perhaps saying also that this could be that connection to this illnesses where we are today we look at Eric Gardiner and Mitchell cold and we look at other things have happened trade on Martan. Could this be a reflection as far as where we are right now. It Camby they're there obviously similarities. There obviously at least as far as I'm concerned clear systemic issues that continue. But we want to make sure that people view of all of these circumstances it's Los Angeles if it's. What's going on Ferguson Baltimore anywhere else that he gave them their own singular examination because. There are similarities but the people involved the demographics the circumstances. All of them deserved to be approached. In a very singular manner because the solutions. How we engage those are singular as well so I think it's all right for people who say. If something happened something clearly did happen in Los Angeles could happen elsewhere. But I don't think anyone should ever say well you know Los Angeles is Ferguson the issues the people. Those who were caught up in this that they. Deserve to have their own hearing they deserve their own examination and those places they deserve their own solutions because. What needs to happen for every place is very different. So I guess not far from meets asked and you know having feeling that there should be some separation of different hurt him. Would that be your next undertaking perhaps to say because you you have this I feel affinity toward social issues that they are important to people. And I guess people would be saying okay you you've handled this salon I know I'm. Almost confident on on Friday they'll say okay he handles it very well I think I'm Matt. On that perhaps that will be the next undertaking. Because I feel like. This is such a pivotal time in our lives people are yearning for that maybe we'll be done now because Bristol going right this movement but is that something that you can foresee. I'd I don't I can't say right now what I would tackle Max I mean honestly eight months ago I'd I didn't know that it would ever have the opportunity. To bring. The story of the LA uprisings to an audience room with is deepen understanding is I think we were put together but. Whatever it is you know in its. Tummy of people Selva time there's more to the story. But that's the true that there always is more to the story. And I do think in the moment. With the motion. A lot of us get caught up in our own singular. Opinions are viewpoints you know we root for certain outcome as opposed to rooting for justice itself. So if there's an opportunity to go into. A community and really talk to individuals and get them to share their stories I apps Hulu wanna do that I mean if there's any thing. That I've learned over the last few years you know as a younger man and wrote in different spaces a lot of it really was about my opinion I think when I believe. And trying to keep people to pay attention to that. Over the last few years with stores like red tails or twelve years display of American crime. Had seen the value and making it less about what I believe. But creating an apparatus where people have the opportunity to share their stores and share their experiences. And by way of that hopefully other people. How can see themselves in other individuals a little bit more clear. Absolutely. I think you know with. With so much would this be the 25 anniversary and so many different narratives kind of in this space right now. Has any of them I. I'm clearly a fan of what we're presenting today but at at any of them peak dirt and tres have you checked anything else out because I feel like there's so many great people. When he to present business conversation right now has had that been something on your mind to check out. Well I'll be honesty over the last year having worked on American crime having worked on and officers and doing Coca real. Black power movement in London in 1971. Working on let it fall a lot of issue oriented work I think a lot of work that Tom tries beyond terrific two stories. And represent individuals who are not normally represented so I know there are so many stores that are out there. I would love to find that next story or more importantly for me. Is to find a storyteller who I can support whose viewpoints. Experiences background maybe a little bit different than mine. But has a passion for exploring a topic subject matter. That may be outside of my own experience. I think that one of the things that I can do at this point you know I've been blessed to be able to do the things that I do. But who were the people who are still going to be active in storytelling. You know five years from ten years from now long after I'm I may not be working anymore. That's what excites me right now are who are the people. Who can start now but continued in this twenty years from now. Absolutely and and one of the things I I I do have to talk a little bit with you about is he'll. Gorilla because it it is something that I think people are excited about in this sense of of what it's talking. You know what it's getting into parent and you know I I feel like with it there has a lot of conversation and that I wanted a kind of maybe. Give me your thoughts on TV action that I mean just everybody knows it's about the British. Black power movement in 1970. The port of the militant radical is common thing that we're going on. Out the year. But. You know I I saw a video of the screening in the UK and so I. I'm just curious as to what your thoughts were on the feedback that people had an end to so people understand. Some some felt that there was a com sort of be a race a race of black female leads in in guerrilla because. Com I'll. Frieda Pinto who who cleaner he was you know that she took the place of perhaps they thought it would be African American won it. So first of what is your thoughts all line just steamy action or that feedback initially. Well I will say for me it was very surprising that the opportunity to write thinks strong parts for people like the peace in the Congo. Regina. King. Two Emmys so there's sort of a sense for me. Tom win I've done probably as much as I can to include all kinds of people. You have some and I think as you say really emphasizing some people. Who had a problem. Now with. Another individual or another community or some other individual being represented. But I do think that win column people who with. Clearly demonstrate an in and literally it's sad but they have a problem with the representational in racial Koppel which is what the story. At its heart is about. The caller controversy. Is the sort of legitimized. In power. And that means it comes down we have. All kinds of individual corporate doesn't grow. Black people white people black women. Irish individuals. Indian individuals so at some point he tore it to say when you win when one makes an effort. In all spaces to a percent all kinds of individuals and when people. Despite. That representations garnering. Oscars Emmys. That other people have a litmus test and who should be involved I mean honestly just think of any other demographic they said well. And put that person put me. 0% here you know I under stand. Oh. People wanting. Their own person representational but when it comes at the expense. Other individuals then that's not you can. Quick what ever sort of modern. Pop socio political euphemisms. To. Blunt the term is intolerance. And for me personally. Having worked as hard as I can to represent people and having done that and extremely high level. Who really can legitimize the people's. Yes I I eight. I understand and I and I asked this particular question because I feel like there is a little bit of. Hurt. Perhaps that's really what what the under the surface there is that you know. It's it's speaking to that feeling that you have that old you know this is another image that I don't see me and I of course you have a history of representing. That's your come difficulty is when one does have a history and certainly understandings that for me or. For people like myself were very fortunate tell stories at all. On these become their singular. And so people look at the work to. Tell everyone's story be all things to all people and unfortunately they can't. All I can do is try to tells many stores in as many spaces McCain. So rather then. I got one piece of work and say well you know that doesn't serve my needs. Look at the totality of the work and by the way even if that's not good enough at some point if that's. Doesn't fit one's needs you know nobody needs somebody else's permission to go out and tell the stories that you wanna you know I never waited for other people. To represent the things that I wanted to represent. So YouTube you don't need. My permission you don't need anybody's permission we need is encouragement towards that those people who feel dissatisfied. Consider this encouragement you can. You can sit down Twitter you can pick up final draft. You can go write the stories that he wanted to also announces that truly with blue entrance to anyone because I can't tell you how many times I looked at. A TV show or film. In or read a book. Or read graphic novels. And I didn't see the representations. That I want agency and every one of those spaces television film novels graphic novels. Prom rather than just wait for someone else to do that. North wind of that space and represented itself I really don't say it I get it you know some people look at some things in the OK why don't see the thing that I want. And I want to see something else. But for me personally the only two things I can say is cannot. Room than dismissal remove other people. To fit someone else's opinion you know it's a personal a couple of people. I'm but at the same time I would say to him. If you feel that strongly then go right create. Put it in the space the way that you want to see. I definitely feel like that's agree advocacy for people to get up on it and and in also be a voice that they want to hear to sell because I. Vitally important really really do think it's very very important for people to. Not just believe you know I. I say this in I don't say this kidding on the square or trying to be overly self effacing but if I can do it. Anybody know that that you want additional. But here's my thing is you know and you say that very nice and very sincerely but you know even think about it just. Three years ago five years ago the perception that people have of me if it didn't exist the way it does now and 34. Years ago. I started working on film like almost by myself about Jimi Hendrix or twelve years mostly red tails and I did those. And largely. That work the united announced back wasn't being paid it was an about. How much money I was gonna get it was about stories that I felt very important felt very passionately about. Tell me I'm so again you know people saying now well your John Ridley and you know people look at you differently they do but they do because. I was going to write these stories here respectable it was going to write these stories. Because I felt that it was important for people. To see. Home stores like Solomon the story and see stories like the stores has the story of the Tuskegee airman. And have them out there and work on it sound even though there are people so we never gonna tell that stores narco war no one wants to hear. These kinds of things so again the kinds of things that I say to people say them. Really as points of encouragement. So where those labors of love and I mean with it was. Although every one of these stir well I I would. Not self funded but in the sense that I was not being paid to write them nor obviously once they made. There people who came on board. Undertaking a film is is no. Small feat but it does start with the script starts with the idea the words on the page it starts with. And writing something and being reported in front of people and by the way you know a lot of it is rejection improper rejection by if you are. If any myself included if all were waiting for someone OK well see the value and that in use a paycheck. And now we'll work on that that's going to be along it's going to be an incredibly long way. So I think that's what's important by the way for any they don't have to be. Distressed about what piercing. They can look at it. And just go gosh that's terrific but I would like to see this as well Seymour. Like to see representational style. Do you think it's important we understand that. Other people circumstances. Other people's distress what they've been through it all has value and just circling back to. Let it fall and that's 1 of the central tenants. That film. That we're talking about a time and space people did not see themselves people. People did not see the value individuals strong. Problem to have. In need but also there to young people who just sort of count and you put other people's struggle in front of them you know that's a prop it really really years ago. My commitment is to work whether it's American crime let it fall real. That is reflective or circumstances. Understanding. Our human capacities. And building and apparatus for delivering empathy even in the race the people's. We have to go hey I just want to touch with your body of work because I think it's all amazing. To me. Because you're the writer of some of my favorites it comes back and and talking about you know you're writing from right now France. French presidents of Bel Air I mean. And the barbershop. Theories. And so shall I race that clearly by Martin and I records and other top about you know reboot which is happy is very exciting since there era. An and the funny thing is I remember undercover brother as well well. But you've done typing. Leaned in 88 Heston to kind of who you are. Because you see the documentary out annual seated as well and so. Actually laugh about this. Tires. Oh. It is there was you know really wonderful series that we did it was the early days. They. Small network called you -- at that time which I think has now become CW. But it was a neat this is gonna sound craze was familiar but it was about it. Family that was working and music industry's net com and all kinds. Interpersonal issues but. We're trying to do the best thing that they could put the music that they look now. Another show on right now. But this is I guess it was in about 2003. It was amazing to work on. Really phenomenal rate of talent. As well as the Coppola's producers France. Dollars. Via I was. A producer on the show and was actually the first time. Direct the televisions well Souza real learning experience for me. So it was fun to do you know I I wish we could have done more and more of wisdom. You know there was was enough of and moved from removed from that when plan when impart did happen you know actually appreciated appreciate. That somebody Figo waited two put this really interest story analyst put it on television find a way to make it comic show. It was like empire original and then this is like yeah. Yeah it's I saw that connection and now know what I had to ask Cuba and of course because. Now is are we really wonderful shall organ was I cannot tell you how much. Fun it was to do Tom how great the cast was. For mean one of the early shows were I was right or executive producer which. You really you know learn how to that's like running a business of running a small business so the opportunity there and the opportunity to work with individuals like. The Coppola's you know things that I learn. Things that I took away from just. I've probably would not be sitting here talking to you prepare for that show and honestly. Martin shows while preference in the opportunities. For. In a young black kids. Back in the day that would who were not nearly as many are still not nearly enough. But to work on shows like that that were so incredibly entertaining. So will were on hand and arm as he says people today remember though shows. He and I know we have to go one last thing we do you probably can't talk about it's we might have ended here I'm hearing that you're working on something in the marvel universe. Clearly you have to say something and I understand you down. All the concerns. We're hearing that the throw. Out. Well at the mysteries or type are. It's everything and everything in the marvel universe is a mystery until. Or. At app but I think he's much for. Me. And it's really it's. All the things into. That Q. And clean line. It's happening this Friday 9 PM eastern standard time they eat the. Let it fall Los Angeles 1980 to tan. And thank you very.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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