by Darren Griffin / @dgriff123
As the sneaker culture continues to grow and kicks become a lifestyle choice for millions across the globe, documenting the culture has been tasked to journalist, anchors and reporters worldwide. And sadly enough, most of them have failed to capture the true essence of the movement. It hard to do. Well, unless you’re raised in the very sub-culture you aim to explain. That’s Calvan Fowler. He begin filming Jordan Heads years ago—an effort that is now finally in its ending stage.
With the launch of his new Kickstarter campaign to help fund the final stages of post-production, Fowler talked with us about his journey in creating his film, how the Jordan culture has changed over the years, and why today there are more opportunities for filmmakers to prosper than ever before.
SLAM: So what’s happened with the film since the last time we talked with you?
Calvan Fowler: Well, to paraphrase Michael Rapaport, “Doing a documentary is a muthafucker.” It’s a very serious journey you take with lots of highs and lows, especially when you self-finance a project such as this—it’s a big undertaking. So, when you have life happen to you, something needs to be set aside for a little while, and this film was one of them. There were some issues, but now I’m back to take this bull by the horns and go full stream ahead with it.
SLAM: What happened? And what type of challenges did they present?
CF: Basically, it was finances in the sense of continuing to shoot the film. It takes money to travel, you need equipment, and people’s time to help you with the film. And then there was another side dealing with some family/personal issues that set me back.
SLAM: In between that time and now, why do you think the film is still relevant?
CF: I finished shooting in mid-2012, which is really crazy because I started a while ago on this project. It’s been a journey. But it’s funny because every time I meet someone and tell them what I’m doing, they either are a Jordan head or knows someone who is a Jordan head. That then itself turns into something else and I have to do an interview, then I have to shoot them with a shoe, or they have a special story to share—and I have to hear it. I have to document it. But it came to a point where I had to stop shooting. And it’s not easy because there are so many fascinating people and stories out there with regards to the shoe, but it had to be done. If I didn’t stop shooting, the film would never get done. I have terabytes of footage. I could probably make two films out of all this to be honest.
SLAM: You mentioned shooting upwards until mid-2012. What’s changed in the filming process since then?
CF: I shot the film on a camera that is not high-def. It’s not the same as the other footage that I have which kind of gives it a unique, historic feel to it. I had a Canon digital camera that wasn’t high-def. So I was shooting for years, and then this new technology of DSLR’s came out, and I had to capture what was presented to me. So naturally I went out and bought a DSLR and continued shooting the documentary. It looks amazing. I wish I had this camera early on—things would have been so much easier when it came to carrying it around locally, internationally, across the US and otherwise. But that’s a part of the film-making process and the journey, so I wouldn’t change it.
SLAM: Are you still working with Michael Rapaport?
SLAM: What does he bring to the film? Do you think his knowledge of sneaker culture is as extensive as say, his love for A Tribe Called Quest?
CF: [Laughs] Wow. I don’t think I can answer that question, per say. I do know that he is a sneakerhead. I’ve never seen him in a pair of shoes. As far as tribe and his affinity for shoes? You’d have to ask him that.
SLAM: Aside from financing, what would you say is the hardest part of putting this film together?
CF: Going through the vast collection of video I have. It’s roughly two terabytes of footage, and I have to go through all of it. I’ve gone through it and I have some pretty amazing stuff—some of which I forgot I even had. It’s really dope stuff that people will be very surprised to see, people who you’ll be surprised to see in the film.
Traveling was a big thing. I think that if I didn’t spread my wings and get out there and hit the road in the manner in which the film deserves, it would have been a half-ass documentary.
SLAM: In the films early stages, there was no involvement from Nike or Jordan Brand. Has that changed at all?
CF: It’s still the same. I really feel that if certain powers were to be involved, the film wouldn’t have the creative control that it needs to tell the right story. I don’t want it to be one big commercial. It has to have the right balance. So, you know, if someone doesn’t like a certain shoe, they have the right to say that. Or if they don’t like a certain person, they can say that.
The film is about people who love Air Jordans, but there is another side to it. There are different issues people have with the shoe, and the man himself, and they get to say that. And if certain companies were involved, they wouldn’t get to be honest.
SLAM: How do you feel the Jordan culture has changed over the past few years?
CF: One of my questions to the people in the film is, “Why are you a Jordan head if you have never seen this man play before?” What is it about the shoe that attracts you? And it’s strange because a lot of them have the same answer. Their parents brought them into it. And they’ve seen games. They haven’t seen him play live on a Sunday evening, but they watch YouTube, game tapes, and things like that. And not to sound like a commercial, but the legacy continues. It says a lot about this man and how he transcends different ages, social economics and time.
When I was growing up, kids wore sneakers because they wanted to be fly, or cool. It wasn’t this mass appeal. I guess its kind of akin to hip-hop to a degree in that—once everyone has ahold of it, it takes on a whole new, much bigger form. Sneaker companies got wind of it and it’s big business now. Lots of sneakers aren’t viewed as athletic shoes but more of a lifestyle thing, and a fashion thing. I’m not mad it, but at the same time it kind of diminishes the idea of fresh. The vibe used to be when you saw something on someone’s feet that was the only way you saw it. Besides maybe in the store, of course. But now it’s all over the web, on the news, its crazy.
SLAM: How much has your Jordan collection grown over the past few years? Did you like the XX8s?
CF: I became a Jordan head in the process of making this film because when I was a kid I couldn’t afford the shoes. The first pair that I saw in person was the IIs. This kid at my school, Far Rock High has them. He came to my house and I showed my mom. They were close to $200 at the time. I had to have them but couldn’t afford them. Fast forward to making this film—I’m standing in line with these dudes and now, I have a few hundred in my pocket so why not get a pair? I was living out my childhood while making the film. I acquired quite a few pairs of Jordans. And now I’m giving them away which is crazy! No doubt about it, I’m a big Jordan fan.
When I first saw the XX8s I thought they were insane. I’ve never tried a pair on, but they looked like boots. They reminded me of my father because he wore ankle brakes. So when I saw them, I was like, “Did my father design these boots?” [Laughs] I’m actually looking to buy a pair. I think they are going in a great direction with the design—a place where no one has gone before. They make high-performance shoes aside from retros. It’s genius.
Roughly around 2008, I had the ear of the Smithsonian Museum. We were in talks to induct the Air Jordan shoe as an American icon. Ultimately, it didn’t quite work out, but having the museum consider it was an honor. It just goes back to the importance of the shoe from a global standpoint.
SLAM: Does the documentary go into and took on certain negative perceptions in the sneaker community?
CF: I don’t want to give too much away but there is an instance that takes place in the film. And you’ll be surprised at who and where it happens. I was surprised. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. So the film does touch on that.
One of the questions I ask in the film is if you’ve ever been robbed for your shoes or know anyone who has. And that’s another thing: If certain powers were involved, it wouldn’t be said or shown. And it has to be shown in true documentary style.
SLAM: You’re going to be doing some traveling promoting the film at sneaker conventions. What do you hope to achieve by attending those events?
CF: So what I’m going to be doing is going to numerous sneaker events—the first one being the DunkXchange in Vegas. I’ll be handing out info cards on the film, selling t-shirts to generate revenue to finish the film, and most importantly, meeting the people. I want to let people know that this film is happening and it will get done. I’ll have a special guest accompanying me to these events. I’ll be like a politician kissing babies and shaking hands.
SLAM: When do you anticipate the film will release?
CF: I would like for it to be done and ready for theatrical release [or film festivals] late 2014.
SLAM: What type of release will the film see?
CF: My plan is to have a midnight screening, or something along those lines; similar to a sneaker release. Initially we’re looking at festivals but the goal is the big screen. Bottom line. The film deserves as much and that’s my desire as a filmmaker.
SLAM: Nowadays, there are lots of different fundraising platforms. Do you think that commissioning the film now is a little easier with so many more options?
CF: Yes. And that has a lot to do with why the film isn’t out yet. When you are paying for a film out of your own pocket, you can make a film. Anyone can do that. But I didn’t want to half-ass it. I really wanted this to be something special and unique. Getting those stories from far and wide took time and money. A lot of these indie fundraising platforms weren’t around. I really appreciate whoever created this stuff. You’ve got people like Spike Lee, actors like Zach Braff, and lots of others. Why not Jordan heads?
SLAM: How can people support the film?
CF: I would appreciate if they would go to the Kickstarter campaign website and make a pledge. In return they’ll get some dope stuff. They can go to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to like/follow those pages. Also go to the film website and sign up for the newsletter. But mainly, go to the Kickstarter campaign and make a pledge. And not only will you get dope stuff, you’ll see an incredible, completed film in 2014.
I’d also like to thank Ron Finnie, Michael Rapaport, Valerie Fowler, Tamara Daley, Rich Pierre Louis, Phillip Shung, Like Mike Printing, Nice Kicks, Modern Notoriety, ODS Live and the entire Chicago Bulls organization. And of course SLAM Magazine for their continued support.