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video: New Film About Shepard Fairey + Buddy Cianci Readies for Big Screen

Monday, April 23, 2012


He never stopped caring: Josh Wills as Shepard Fairey in Julian Marshall's brand-new film about the street artist's Rhode Island origins. Photo: Philip Scott Andrews

Anyone who lived in Providence in 1990 remembers a billboard for the return-to-office campaign of Buddy Cianci, perched prominently at the base of College Hill. And everyone remembers what happened one morning when Providence awoke to Cianci's face being replaced by the already urban-iconic face of Andre the Giant.

Suddenly, it was Andre who "never stopped caring about Providence."

It was one of the first major strikes of Shepard Fairey, the RISD student who launched the Andre campaign from the streets of Providence, and would go on to become one of the most prominent street artists in the world. Now, a new film by another RISD student, filmmaker (and senior) Julian Marshall, tells the story of what crossed one of RI's most infamous politicians with one of its most famous artists.

Obey the Giant

Obey the Giant is not only Marshall's thesis at RISD (he graduates this June), but the 25-minute, lightly fictionalized film treatment of that confrontation that stars Josh Wills as Fairey and Keith Jochim as Cianci, is certainly poised for national and international exposure, given its subject matter. (Marshall told ARTINFO that Obey will be to Fairey's origins what The Social Network was to Facebook.)

All Marshall and his producing partner, Andrew Gisch, needed was more money to finish the post-production work and raise another round of funds to promote Obey at Sundance and other film festivals. Marshall and Gisch used Kickstarter to raise $30,000 they needed to finish the film; now, Marshall said that they plan to revise their fundraising goal up another $40,000 to augment the promotion and support on the festival circuit.

From intern to chronicler

Marshall met Fairey when he interned for the artist in 2009, the summer after his freshman year at RISD. "I'd worked for him in an unpaid internship, which didn't matter a bit to me," Marshall said. "But on my last day, he said to go into the storeroom and pick out a couple of prints as his thanks for my work." Marshall went home with Fairey's Obama "Hope" print and an Obey icon poster. Both pieces went up on his walls immediately.

Two years later, as the aspiring film student was struggling to arrive at the topic for his thesis film project, he found himself staring at the Obey poster on his wall. "And I thought, 'What better story to tell than that of a RISD student finding his way in the world?'" Marshall contacted Fairey's wife in Los Angeles, and a week later was invited out to discuss his idea with his former mentor, who was excited to give Marshall the rights to the material about his life from that period. "It was amazing," Marshall said.

Obey: the film

Marshall churned out, with friend and collaborator Alex Jablonski, the story in just 6 weeks. Meanwhile, the young director reconnected with Gisch, not only a childhood friend, but an engineer with a degree from Virginia Tech who came in remarkably handy when it came to erecting a recreation of the 27,000-pound Cianci billboard on the steeps of College Hill (along with another Virginia Tech grad, unit production manager Jim Bird). And Marshall raised enough money to hire professionals he'd met while working on the Rhode Island set of Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom.

On a super-tight eight days of filming and with a cast and crew of 150, Marshall worked in and out of RISD's buildings, as well as in a recreated version of Fairey's 1990 studio that was housed at Hope Artiste Mill in Pawtucket, at an exhaustive pace. The result, hinted at by the trailer, below, is a vibrant, honest telling of one of the most colorful confrontations between art and politics. If you want a piece of it (and who wouldn't), check out the Kickstarter page to join the campaign.

Check out the trailer and Kickstarter pitch, right here:


For more coverage, don't miss GoLocalTV, fresh every day at 4pm and on demand 24/7, here.


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