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Screenwriting: Interview with Ricardo Scipio, filmmaker/photographer

Interview by Christopher Wehner

I found Ricardo's website while doing some research for my Independent Vision Series. My first recommendation is to visit his website after this article. I have some of his photography here for you to see. Ricardo is a gifted photographer, and his images capture human beauty. (Note: if you are offended by beautiful images, then please do not continue to read this article.)

Ricardo Scipio, filmmaker/photographer.

Who is Richard? We'll let him tell you:

I'm a Pisces with Scorpio rising and Moon in Leo. I'm an ex-Christian(Pentecostal)- I left the church-much to my mother's chagrin , when I was 17 to pursue my own esoteric path and to become a real , full-time , dedicated artist. I come from a line of healers and witchdoctors-both my grandmother's were herbalists and spiritual practitioners.

I was born in Trinidad , a.k.a. paradise , moved to Canada when I was four , grew up in Toronto , moved to Miami six years ago , and have been exiled in New York for the past year.

I am a recently retired art and fashion photographer-at the ripe old age of 31 and now I'm a full-time writer/director intent on putting my indelible stamp on the industry. I have long dreads past my shoulders and a beard and mustache-the full African Warrior package.

I'm a free-spirit , considered a rebel and somewhat of a visionary. I'm a full believer in nudity and free expression. I've been accused of being sarcastic and intense. I do however love to laugh and I still have my childlike spirit. In keeping with my sign I'm too trusting and honest for my own good , although I do have my secrets and I certainly have my numerous , precious flaws.

I'm a hardcore Macintosh enthusiast-I majored in computer imagemaking in art school. With the requisite indignation towards pc's. I would be lost without my powerbook. I fluctuate between between being overly opinionated at times and extremely open-minded at others. My core personality is laid back and reflective , but I can be extremely passionate , and I have a notorious temper when fucked with.

I'm the product of a loving single-parent home-my mother of course , (who is my ultimate hero) and a graduate of the ghetto. My I.Q. is supposed to be 34 points over the genius level but after 10 years in the modelling industry it's a wonder that I can still speak and form sentences.

My favourite writers are- Clive Barker(Everville , Imajica and Sacrament) , Tom Robbins (Jitterbug Perfume and Still Life with Woodpecker) , Anne Rice(the Witchig Hour ,Interview with the Vampire , The Vampire Lestat) , Evelyn Waugh , George Orwell , Aldous Huxley , Ayn Rand (The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged) and Sartre.

My favourite films are Glory , 2001 a Space Odyssey , Platoon , Rear Window , Cry the beloved Country-Sidney Poitier , A Patch of Blue , Last of the Mohicans , The Mission , Black Robe , The Last Emperor , anything by Kurosawa-he is God! My favourite directors are R.W. Fassbinder , William Wellman , Kurosawa , Roman Polanski , David Lean , James Ivory , Orson Welles and Stanley Kubrick.

My favourite music is Bob Marley-God , Miles Davis-God , any great jazz , and jazz singers , the Mississippi Delta Blues-Robert Johnson-God , Mozart piano sonatas , Beethoven , and Wagner. The "wessendonk musik' with Jessye Norman is the best opera recording I have ever heard , and of course there's Bizet's Carmen. As someone who loves his people-despite our deep flaws-I cannot abide rap music. Stevie Wonder is God and so are Earth , Wind and Fire. I'll admit a soft-spot for the Bee-Gees and Abba-my childhood nostalgia , and The Village People can always gets me going.

I'm a former socialist who cannot abide -politricks. I love to travel. My best memories are from my time in China and Hong Kong in 94. I am a citizen of the world and a worshipper of nature.


First, you're a photographer by training, or it was at least your first love?

No , photography was never my first love. Writing and painting were , but when I left college , I knew I could never cope with working for anyone else other than myself and I knew I wanted to make my living through art , so photography seemed the most feasible path to take. So I set up a darkroom in the bathroom of my one bedroom apartment , spent eight hours a day in it like an alchemist and taught myself photography. It took three years before i was any good at it , and there was a lot of ruined film in the process.

-Second, filmmaking is most of all a visual experience, is this why you became a filmmaker, to go beyond photography and to a higher art form?

It's the other way around , my ultimate goal was to be a filmmaker when I felt I was ready because I believe it to be the perfect balance between art , technology and commerce. So my photography helped me develop my visual skills for filmmaking.

-Third, the connection between your photography and filmmaking, is it the art of beauty? You seem to love beautiful images?

The connection is not in the love of beautiful images , because many times ugly and sordid images tell a more compelling story in film. The connection is more about self expression , about communicating the way I see the world to others through the use of still or moving pictures, Creating beauty was important to me as a photographer because I believe the human face and body are supremely beautiful and a reflection of the divine in us. Being Black , it was especially important to me to challenge the euro-centric , racist offering of beauty ubiquitous in the media.

-Fourth: Your work: Ocean Drive, The Posseman, and When, from reading the treatments, they seem to reflect life as struggle. Would you agree, and what is the connection these films have if any?

The connection is probably due to the stage of life I'm in. I'm 32 , and I think in your late twenties and early thirties many people struggle with where they are in life? Did they pursue their dreams or sell them short? Are they happy? How do they plan to live the rest of their life and what sort of legacy if any will they leave behind when it's all over? All three film deal with pursuing dreams , dealing with compromises and obstacles , and how far will people sacrifice to protect their personal integrity?

-Fifth, Does a true artist have a common theme in all of their work?

I don't know about a common theme , but I believe all true art has a common purpose- to explore human experiences and communicate the mysteries of the universe with varying degrees of universality to the community. In that way the function of art-making hasn't changed since the first paintings of ancient hunts and rites were painted on cave walls

-Sixth, Do you see filmmaking as a way to celebrate the human spirit, and body?

Filmmaking is a way to celebrate , but also ridicule , satirize , expose , exaggerate , compare , contrast and do all manner of inquiry into the darkest and most sublime corners of the human spirit , mind and society.

-Seventh, You have written, directed, and produced? What do you enjoy the most?

I enjoy writing the most , although I most find it very painful. Writing is a very pure art. Just yourself , your visions and a piece of paper or keyboard. You can write anytime , anywhere and don't need a six figure budget or a model or a crew of 45. Writing , music and dance are the simplest and purest and most powerful art forms and I don't see that ever changing.

-Eight, How are your projects doing, what ones are complete, and what stages?

I'm gearing up to shoot my first feature in late summer/early fall in Manhattan.. We are at the stage of attempting to attach a couple of name actors to satisfy the money people. It is a story called "When" , a irreverent tragic-comedy about the lives of five struggling actresses in New York.

Thanks for the interview!

Hey, visit his site at: Ricardo Scipio

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