Tag Archives: video

Death Art And Taxes


“We have art in order not to die.”
– Nietzsche

i’ve come to understand that filmmaking for me is not something i do or something that i want to do… It’s not some hobby or a means to making a living (i definitely am not making money with filmmaking).. Filmmaking for me is survival… If i go long periods where i don’t make a film my soul literally gets sick… i feel uneasy with myself and with the world…

For a long time i was afraid of admitting to myself that this was the case because being a filmmaker reeks of privilege… It’s an expensive art and to say that you need it to live seemed pretentious, seemed abusive in some way… Abusive because filmmaking requires so much of me and by making demands on my time and energy and finances and it also has the potential to take away from those who love and support me in the form of time and energy and finances… And if they are to continue loving and supporting me they have to accept that i need to make films…

It seems completely unfair… Having me in your life means understanding that i need to make films in order to be sane… That understanding carries with it some level of time and energy and sacrifice on that persons part… In some cases it may even require you to understand that i may hit you up financially to get my next film fix on…

That seems to me to be completely unfair to loved ones… i feel as though my whole life is going to be lived in debt… Not just a financial debt… (i’m an anti-capitalist… i don’t give a fuck about money…) But a physical debt, a spiritual debt, a debt of time and energy that i feel can never be repaid in full… i’m always surprised when friends and family continue to stand by me while i go off into the next project… i live in a kind of low-level constant fear that if i don’t “make it” (whatever that means) that they will abandon me…

To make matters worse the films i make are probably not commercially viable… i’m not in control of my filmmaking… i didn’t choose to be a filmmaker… When i was younger i thought i had chosen to do film… But i didn’t… Filmmaking chose me… i know this because i’ve tried to quit and painfully realized over the years that quitting it means quitting on a huge part of myself… Letting go of that large a part of myself would just mean being someone else… And how can you be someone else…?

Not being in control of my filmmaking means that the films take hold of me and use me to bring them into creation… More often than not that means i’m not making a film that has some financial reward attached to it… Which means that i’m forced to try to find some other value for those who contribute their time and energy and life force to my films… They need something in return, after all it’s only fair…

“Nobody rides for free… motherfucker.”
– King Of New York

The 800 pound gorilla that lives in a room inside my head is the financial hardships my filmmaking brings not just on me but on the ones who love and support me and it’s something i don’t take lightly because it wears on me more than i can ever express… The financial burden of it all envelopes my existence on a daily basis… There’s not a single day that goes by that i am not searching in my mind for a way to lift the friends and family who have donated their time and energy (and yes even money) to my films with some kind of financial remuneration…

It’s gotten to the point where i feel like that 800 pound gorilla has taken my head as collateral and is demanding payment for every film i want to make… Demanding some kind of potential financial reward for every project i embark on… The more i try to put it off the more collateral it takes in the form of space in my head… The more it tries to crowd out any other thoughts, the more it demands a larger sum for the space it claims in my thought process… The financial aspects of filmmaking are like a virus that’s overtaking my system and only “making it”, only making money will cure the disease… My mind is literally being colonized by the idea that i must monetize the thing that helps keep me sane, that keeps me able to deal with the world…

Capitalism sucks… The problem with living within a capitalist society is that everything must be monetized… Including art…  Its taken me all these years to become mildly comfortable with the idea that art and money are two separate things. If i said i was a writer and i needed to write in order to stay sane and alive it would be understood. If i said i was a painter and i needed to paint in order to stay sane and alive it would be understood. If i was a singer or a musician and needed to my make music in order to keep me sane and alive it would be understood.

However when it comes to filmmaking the idea of needing to make a film in order to stay sane and alive seems a harder concept to grasp because it requires so much capital to make a film… And that idea isn’t just harder to grasp for everyone else but for me as well… Becoming comfortable with the idea that my sanity and my life depends on making films is difficult for me to process, difficult for me to swallow… Even a no budget film requires some capital even if that capital is the time and energy it takes to make it. And if that capital of time and energy is being spent on making a film then it’s not being spent on creating capital for myself or others… And so i have struggled with the elitism of needing to make a film in order to stay sane and alive…

“And to all my friends
who’ve been the best to me
Soon will be the day
I’ll repay you handsomely”
– Big Audio Dynamite

It’s all coming to a head though… i’m maturing enough to understand that being an anti-capitalist in this capitalist world means being forced into living the contradiction… It means learning to balance the idea of doing something for love without abusing the ones who support you… It means learning to weigh your idealism against your reality… It means walking the tight rope of keeping your options open to selling your art to keep your soul and your self intact and in doing so maybe on a certain level keeping the soul and self of everyone who supported you along the way intact as well…

They say only two things in life are unavoidable – death and taxes… But for artist’s it’s much more complicated… For artists it’s death, art and taxes… Usually when people say taxes they mean paying the state a portion of your “earned” wages… But it’s all taxes to me… The concern for me as to how i will make a living is taxing… The concern of my friends and how they will make “a living” is taxing… The idea of “making it” so that my friends and my family don’t ever have to explain why they stand by me (not that i know if they do have to explain or not but i imagine that they do) is taxing… The 800 pound gorilla in my head collateralizing more and more of my thoughts and energies is a tax…

i’m finding it hard to find a way to end this little essay of self-indulgence… It was not my intent when i started writing this to say any of what i have said… My intent was to write about the joy of making another film with a new camera and how much it pushed away all the sorrow and hurt and depression and bad feelings i have been living with for so long since i was last shooting a film… i guess it’s difficult to write about the joy filmmaking brings me without talking about the pain it also brings…

Look at the picture at the top… That smile is me at my happiest… me at my most joyful… Look at the crew… Jeff “AK” my DP with the long board that double as our dolly, Omar’s daughter Mo, on my right shoulder (who is the star of this latest short film) seeing her work for the first time that night… Joe my producer who doubled as the sound man with his daughter Soliann finally seeing the fruits of our insanity… And Omar who is also a filmmaker and took the production stills, who i know is feeling good because he has a camera in his hands… Even the strangers – the woman looking over my head and the young girl in the background with the baseball hat on – are curious about what could be so important and what could be making so many people happy to on that little screen…

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1pz


Something Beautiful

Something Beautiful by vagabond ©
Something Beautiful by vagabond ©

Last Poet Abiodun Oyewole has a new book coming out this Spring from publisher 2Leaf Press called Branches Of The Tree Of Life. It’s an omnibus collection spanning over four decades of poetry. It will feature an introduction by Sonia Sanchez and is being edited by 2Leaf’s publisher Gabrielle David. i produced and directed a few short films for 2Leaf Press to help promote the book. Something Beautiful is the first in a series of short films highlighting the life and poetry of Abiodun.

Branches Of The Tree Of Life cover by vagabond ©
Branches Of The Tree Of Life cover by vagabond ©

Something Beautiful was shot over two rainy days. i got the idea to shoot in the rain after talking to University of Connecticut professor and fellow 2Leaf Press author Lisa Sanchez Gonzalez. The poem is about Abiodun struggling to say something beautiful but hampered by a cocktail of bad thoughts, bad feelings and unresolved history flooding his day and making it almost impossible to say something beautiful. i wanted it to seem as though it was the rain that was hampering his ability to say something beautiful but as the film progresses it’s the rain that is beautiful and it’s Abiodun in this space who is struggling with these bad thoughts and bad feelings and unresolved history.

My DP Jeff “AK” Akers did a fantastic job shooting the film. He found ways to make beautiful images out of the mundane. He took drain pipes and reflections and graffiti and dark skies and men pushing a shopping cart and transformed them using a delicate balance of composition, light and darkness, so that each shot evoked a kind of fragile tenderness… i’ve been working with Jeff for many years, he has a keen eye and resourcefulness for stripping away the artifice and getting to the essence of things… He had a huge role in making Something Beautiful, beautiful…

Abiodun’s Branches Of The Tree Of Life will be out soon, keep an eye out for it, as well as a few other short films i’ll be releasing around the book…

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1lX

2013 On The Books

Papoleto Take One by vagabond
Papoleto Take One by vagabond

At the end of 2012 i was shooting a documentary on original Nuyorican Poet Jesus Papoleto Melendez. His book Hey Yo! Yo Soy! 40 Years of Nuyorican Street Poetry had just been published by 2Leaf Press and after speaking with the publisher Gabrielle David i offered to take some of the footage i shot and cut it into a book video to promote the book.

i liked what 2Leaf Press was doing and i wanted to help them in any way that i could, so i started doing book videos for their other authors. The book videos led to photo shoots and book covers. A lot of great things are on the horizon for 2Leaf Press. i also did some book covers for a few other friends who were publishing books. So this the work that i did for 2013 that’s on the books…





This series of images were taken the night that Nelson Mandela died. i was shooting the book video for Last Poet Abiodun Oyewole’s new book to be published by 2Leaf Press The Branches Of The Tree Of Life. As we were shooting the video on 125th Street in front of the Apollo word came down that Nelson Mandela has passed away.


This gallery is of the work graphics i did for Last Of The Po’Ricans Y Otros Afro-artifacts a book Not4Prophet and i collaborated on published by 2Leaf Press. The graphics are based on his poems. i also designed a logo for 2Leaf Press for their Nuyorican World Series of books they will be publishing in the future. Last Of The Po’Ricans Y Otros Afro-artifacts is the first book to utilize the logo…


These photographs are publicity photos i took of Nuyorican Poet Samuel Diaz who has a book of poems coming out this year from 2Leaf Press. These were taken while i was shooting the book video in the Bronx where Sam has lived for the past 40 years. The title of his book is Our Nuyorican Thing. Keep your ear to the street for it.


A series of photos from the book video i produced and directed for poet Tony Medina’s latest offering Broke Baroque published by 2Leaf Press.


These are book covers i designed this year… The first book cover i shot and designed i was for former US held Puerto Rican political prisoner of war Dylcia Pagan. Her book Guided By Love comes out next year and is published by 2Leaf Press. The next book cover i shot and designed was for Last Poet Abiodun Oyewole’s new book Branches Of The Tree Of Life which is also due out next year. Scars/Stars is for poet Walidah Imarisha which recently sold out at Powell’s bookstore (the largest bookstore west of the Mississippi) in Portland Oregon. The collaborative book with poems by Not4Prophet and graphics i did Last Of The Po’Ricans Y Otros Afro-artifacts is a design i did based on a still image from the book video shot by Jeff “AK”. Roots Reality & Rhyme is a cover i did for poet Turiya Autry whose book will be out this month…

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1fH

Afro-Art-I-Facts Of A Last Po’Rican

Not4prophet lead vocalist and lyricist of RICANSTRUCTION, MC of the hip-hop duo X-VANDALS and star of the six-time award-winning film MACHETERO has a new book of poetry coming out from 2 Leaf Press. It’s called Last Of the Po’Ricans Y Otros Afro-artifacts and it features an introduction by poet Tony Medina and graphic art by none other than myself. Afro-Art-I-Facts Of A Last Po’Rican is a short film i did about Not4Prophet and this new book of poetry… You can get a copy of Last Of The Po’Ricans Y Otros Afro-artifacts on November 25th.


Not4Prophet on bench by Jeff "AK" Akers
Not4Prophet on bench by Jeff “AK” Akers

LOVE+REVOLUTION is my latest short film. i’ve been working with 2Leaf Press a scrappy little publisher that’s putting out some incredible work both by the iconic old guard old school poets and writers that other publishers have chosen to  ignore for decades like original Nuyorican Poet Jesus Papoleto Melendez and by fresh and exciting new up and coming writers that publishers refuse to gamble on like Not4Prophet. This short film is a promotional piece i did for Not4Prophet’s new book of poetry Last Of The Po’Ricans Y Otras Afro-artifacts, to be released November 25th, 2013. It’s an excerpt from his poem Love+Revolution.

For those who like to dig Love+Revolution was originally recorded as a song by the NYC Puerto Rican punk band RICANSTRUCTION. Not4Prophet was the lead vocalist and lyricist of RICANSTRUCTION. The song was the tittle track to the album and featured Chuck D of Public Enemy. The video highlight’s Not4Prophet’s aggressive rapid fire punk delivery and smooth hip-hop flow and if you listen carefully enough you’ll hear these influences melding together. You can cop RICANSTRUCTION’s Love+Revolution on iTunes. You can also check Not4Prophet’s website AGITARMY.ORG.

The video was shot by my long time DP (Director Of Photography) and best friend Jeff “AK” Akers. Jeff knows how to make beautiful images with less than nothing. HIs sense of space and composition and tone is always in synch with whatever we are shooting. He shot this with nothing but available light. It’s amazing what someone like Jeff “AK” can do when you get out of their way and them him do what they do best. You can see from the beautiful images he’s created here why i trust him so implicitly.

Below are some still images that were pulled right from the video. You see the raw talent that Jeff “AK” has and that i’m blessed to have the opportunity to both work with and have the privilege to call a best friend… Check out his website Brainwashed Films and see some of his other work… For more of the video work that i’ve been doing with 2Leaf Press you can check out the Vimeo album i created…

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1bM

No Escape From The Fire Escape

No Escape From The Fire Escape by vagabond © photo by Leslie-Jean Bart ©
No Escape From The Fire Escape by vagabond © photo by Leslie-Jean Bart ©

My latest short film on original Nuyorican poet Jesus Papoleto Melendez had its world premiere at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in the Loisida (Lower East Side) of NYC last night at the one year anniversary book party of the publishing of Papo’s book Hey Yo! Yo Soy! published by 2Leaf Press. The book party was fantastic with poets performing their favorite works by Papo. The film is a small  taste of a longer ongoing piece that i’m working on with Papoleto.

Do yourself a favor and cop yourself a copy of Hey Yo! Yo Soy! 40 Years Of Nuyorican Street Poetry published by 2Leaf Press. i don’t recommend things lightly so you have my guarantee on not being disappointed. The book is a bilingual edition of his poetry painstakingly put together with love and affection. As Papo says in the film they tried to create a book of poetry but ended up creating a historical document…

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1aX

Tony Medina Is Broke

TONY MEDINA IS BROKE by vagabond ©
TONY MEDINA IS BROKE by vagabond ©

A few months ago Gabrielle David the publisher of 2Leaf Press, a non-profit publishing company asked if i would be interested in doing a book video for Tony Medina’s new book of poetry Broke Baroque. It’s the third and latest installment in his Broke series. After a long and hard road the book has finally been released. Broke Baroque has an introduction by author and critic Ismael Reed who says Tony Medina is “…the Poet Laureate of the Broke. Like Jean-Michel Basquiat who takes Hip Hop to another level, Medina covers some of the same territory as Hip Hop’s best. Tupac. Public Enemy. Dead Prez.”

Tony Medina created a poetic character called Broke in the vein and tradition of Langston Hughes Simple and when i went to do the video i need something to reflect that. Right after i shot the initial interview with Tony i found about 300′ of undeveloped Super 8mm film that i had shot 25 years ago when i was at the School Of Visual Arts. i didn’t know what was on the film so i took it to the lab and had it processed, developed and digitized… When i got the hard drive back i was shocked to see that i had shot 50′ of homeless street scenes from 1987 in NYC. i immediately realized that this footage was perfect for Broke Baroque… So the footage you see that opens the video is from that 50′ roll Super 8mm film that was shot in 1987…

Check out the video below. There are also some photos of Tony Median i took on of him at the Throgs Neck Housing Projects in the Bronx where Tony grew up and where we shot the video. And cop yourself a copy of Broke Baroque while you’re at it…

Broke Baroque on Kindle

Broke Baroque in Paperback

Follow @PoetTonyMedina on Twitter

Follow @2LeafPress on Twitter

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-13P