Justice Served: Marvin Young Talks About Directorial Debut And The Similarities of Music and Movie Worlds
Justice is blind.
Sometimes the court system may get a wrong verdict and innocent lives are ruined. But, if there are second chances to get justice--would you take it to exact revenge on those who got away?
From Marvin Young, who is also known as Grammy award-winner Young “Bust a Move” MC, JUSTICE SERVED marks his directorial debut into this psychological thriller genre.
The film stars Lochlyn Munro, Lance Henriksen, Gail O’Grady, Chase Coleman, Denyce Lawton and Marvin Young.
JUSTICE SERVED follows Luke Palmer, a Los Angeles widower, who has been in therapy for a year since his wife's accused killer was found Not Guilty at trial. In an attempt to get away from his anguish, Luke takes a trip to Scottsdale for a three-day vacation, but is kidnapped and awakens to find himself in a room with a recording device...and an electrified restraining chair. The next thing Luke knows, a hooded man is dragged into the room and secured in the chair. The hood is removed to reveal Galen Terry, the man acquitted for Luke's wife's murder. An ominous voice comes over a loudspeaker and says, "My name is Justice. You are here to retry the case of California vs. Terry for the murder of your wife -- The defendant's chair is electrified. The electricity is controlled by the red button. Feel free to use it." Luke is one of three individuals whose loved ones were victims of crimes, and the accused perpetrator was inexplicably exonerated. Now, these individuals will be given a second chance.
JUSTICE SERVED is available on iTunes, YouTube, Amazon, On Demand and other platforms today.
LRM had a phone interview with Marvin Young late last month in regards to his experiences of performing, directing and writing on this project.
Read our conversation transcript below:
LRM: So I checked out your film, JUSTICE SERVED, and it’s wonderfully different.
Marvin Young: Thank you.
LRM: Tell me on where the original idea came from for this film.
Marvin Young: It came from watching a lot of films and seeing audience reactions. I get to go to a lot of preview screenings. I’m not only able to see the films, but I’m able to see their reactions to them. I also sit around with a lot of critics and get to hear the things they react to on whether they feel positively, or negatively.
I always had an idea on making a film that people won’t see coming. You thought you knew everything that was going to happen--and it turned out you didn’t. That was the idea I had. I wrote six screenplays before JUSTICE SERVED.
In writing this one, I told myself that I really wanted to make it if I couldn’t get it sold. If I couldn’t get it sold, or into development, that I would do my best and try to make it. Then I had the opportunity to go do that myself.
The directorial aspect came to life. The rest became history. I’m really pleased on how it turned out for my very first film. I’m very proud of it.
LRM: You mentioned that you had six screenplays before. Why is JUSTICE SERVED to be the one to made into a movie, for sure?
Marvin Young: Every screenplay I wrote, I pictured it on the screen. This is the first time that I felt I’ve really grasped the business aspect of it and the ability to make the film. I went into it with the idea that if I had to produce it myself that it had to be manageable. Not too many locations. Most of the actions will take place in the white rooms. Mostly interior settings. No big explosions. Maybe a couple of landscape things outside. Nothing outlandish.
Those were some of things in my mind while writing it. I was able to keep it to that kind of intention. It also kept the thrilling aspects, and tension of the script.
LRM: I am curious. You had such a terrific music career. How did you transition into the movie business? That’s like two opposites.
Marvin Young: Not really. From the outside, it looks like it. I like to equate a film director as a record producer. A lot of that business is to be relating to people and down to relationships. It’s about knowing on what the talent goes through. The fact that I acted [in this movie], and I’ve acted before--I’ve dealt with difficult producers and musicians. I didn’t want to be a difficult director to actors.
Working with Lance Henrickson, that was the second day I’ve been on set. I think back at the time I’ve worked with inexperienced producers on the reasons on why I didn’t like them, or I did like them. Also, the fact with experienced producers and why I liked them. I used those same qualities in the way with my actors.
LRM: How did you make the decision yourself to say, “I want to direct?”
Marvin Young: To be blunt, part of it was financial. Part of it was logistics. Was I going to take six figures out of my pocket and put it into someone else’s hands who I don’t know for a story I wrote. Can they tell a better story and with more passion?
It really made the most sense all the way around for me to direct. With the people skills, it’s a lot to handle with many people. We had up to fifty or sixty people at one time on set. I’ve dealt with up to ninety student interns, crew, actors and all the way dealing down to the score for the film.
A lot of the skillset I’ve used to get through that experience was all I’ve learned as a musician for over thirty years now.
LRM: Since this is your directorial debut, did you get advice from any more experienced directors?
Marvin Young: I didn’t seek it out. There were a few friends of mine who had directed, and gave me a tip here and there. I was just eager to get through the process to get on set to really get things going. It’s almost like the first time I’ve ever produced myself, as an artist. There’s definitely a learning curve to that.
Once you’re in it and get your feet wet, it wasn’t as daunting as you learned the aspects. The first couple of days were daunting. I got my sea legs under me and now I can’t wait to direct something else.
LRM: How was the overall experience for you being in the director’s seat?
Marvin Young: It was good. It was eye-opening. It also made me really proud of my music career. A lot of people looked at a music career and thought it was only limited to what you did in music. There’s the people I’ve met and the relationships I’ve made. The little tips I’ve picked up. There are the business things. As the technology changes, I’ve adapted to it in the music industry.
By taking those skills and putting them into the film side, a lot of things happened [during the film production] reminded me of the times that happened to me while making records. I was like, “Oh! Let me try this over here. Let me try this over there.”
That life experience, and that business experience, were a really big deal for me. I was working with several people that had made films before--had never really sold art and commerce before. I’ve been selling art as commerce my entire adult life.
There had been people who had said that they made five films, but they sold none. They’ve never been with a distributor. Nothing had been on television or cinema. They bragged to people that they’ve shot films. Some of them never got through post-production. I had someone who told me that the most impressive thing I’ve done was that I got it finished. It was viable against something that made out of a major motion picture in Hollywood.
A film that was done locally in Arizona and finished was the best thing they’ll see. I had friends who filmed it here and none of it ever came out. They had excuses. We never finished the soundtrack. We had an investor ran off with the money. There are so many things that could go wrong from A to Z.
I literally went from a little pencil on a notepad on what the script idea was to my own hard drive to walk into a cinema. That’s much what you can do on a film.
LRM: When did you come up with the decision that you also wanted to star in the movie?
Marvin Young: Here’s the thing--I couldn’t think I could get famous people into the movie. I had written six screenplays that hadn’t gotten sold or done. I wasn’t aiming high. [Laughs] Let me give myself enough of a role so that if I’m the only known face in the film, people could see a familiar face to keep their interest.
It’s not a vanity thing. It’s not something that I wanted to be a star in the movie. It was just that if everyone was unknown--at least it’s about being on screen enough to keep the interest and to have a little star power in it. Once Lance [Henriksen] said yes. Once Gail O’Grady said yes. Then Lochlyn Munro and Denyce Lawton came on board. Chase Coleman came with his following. All of the sudden, I got a lot of familiar faces. It’s more of a cast I’ve could ever imagined to be in my first film.
LRM: Talk about the cast. You managed to get known faces into the film.
Marvin Young: That goes back to the script. I had to start with the script. The first draft took me a year and then another six months to get really close to the final draft. It was pretty close to the draft we went to talent with. Lance read it and he loved the role. It wasn’t written for a man at his age. It was written for a man younger and had a different idea for him, but Lance had such enthusiasm for that character and his name brought name recognition--I said, “Fine. Let’s do it.”
Lance was so dedicated that he was on set on the second day I’ve ever directed anything. Working with him gave me such great confidence--not just for my film, but for the rest of my career. Honestly, I can say I’ve directed Lance Henriksen through a brilliant performance.
Sometimes you just let him do his thing and he gave me on what I’ve needed. A lot of it came from the materials of the script. He brought a lot to the character based on the words I’ve gave him as a writer. I wanted to give him some leeway with that, and I just wanted to see what he brought to [this character]. Seeing someone else’s take on it will make you a better director, better writer and a more creative person in the future. We don’t know everything.
We were able to get Gail, because she liked the role. Lochlyn wanted his role. All of the sudden, we got names, names and names. Everyone came on board with great enthusiasm and did a good job. The funniest thing I’ll say—there is literally five or six people who could say that this is their film.
Marvin Young: Gailen’s role or Jay Giannone’s role all had a lot of impact as characters from the beginning to the end. Chase’s roleplaying Luke--I felt this guy was playing our hero--since a lot of the story happens to Luke. Lance Henriksen’s role was such a pivotal and villainous role stands out in the film, and then there’s my role that you said it was so big that I was starring in the film.
If you look around, it’s such an ensemble piece. It makes sure that every character had an arc. The actors bought into the character so much, they looked at them as starring roles. As a director it was a great thing and even better that it’s a world I’ve created as a writer. I went in my way not to put any characters that was disposable.
Different people will tell you that different characters were stars of the film. That’s probably one of the things I’m most proud of with the film.
LRM: Well, you certainly found a wonderful balance there. Was it difficult to direct yourself? Usually, you can be your own worst critic.
Marvin Young: What I did is to equate my acting to my rapping. Then it would go back to the writing. I didn’t want my character, Troy, to sound anything unnatural like it would come out of Marvin’s mouth. Literally, I went through a couple days with the script to do a Marvin-to-Troy polish to make it sound more natural. By doing that, I memorized my lines verbatim. Not only did it help me, it gave a real solid foundation with all the other actors I’ve had scenes with.
It was me making sure that I had successful scenes with the actors I was with rather than looking at myself. I had a great first AD and other people who had my back. My approach was to make sure that my dialogue was right.
I wanted to make everything believable rather than to have a horrible script and horrible character in front of me. I needed to make this look good. A lot of the experienced actors, and local actors, were pleased that the characters seem to be like real people. They could easily grasp upon and make something out of it.
LRM: With you wearing so many hats by directing, producing, writing and acting--what did you find most difficult on this project?
Marvin Young: I went into the project wanting to be a writer and knew I had to do some executive producing. As the project came together, it just made sense for me to direct. The producing came along, because I found myself putting out fires or a different directional on something being finished. I had a certain different directional than some of the people I’ve been working with. I found myself picking up the ball on where it was dropped. People thought, “Marvin, you can’t do this. Marvin, you can’t do that.” No, Marvin can do it. I’ve done it quite often in the music business. It would take a little more time and a little more money--I’ve found myself to do the things outside of my job description. I also got the title of producing, because of the time dedication that was involved.
LRM: Terrific. You got a wonderful result out of it.
Marvin Young: Thank you, Gig.
LRM: Let me start wrapping things up. Can you talk about some of your future projects? Are you going back to your music career or the movie business is going to be more permanent now?
Marvin Young: Here’s the thing, we shot JUSTICE SERVED back in 2014. We did the post-production in 2015 that bled over into 2016. From the beginning of 2016, I’ve been on tour called “I Love The 90s Tour.” I literally had more than triple the number of performances in 2016 than the previous twenty years. It was like 110 performances in that year in comparison to 25 performances, or 30, to be considered a big year for me.
We’re even close to that this year. I’ve been doing a lot of gigs in Canada like Newfoundland and Halifax, and then there’s going to Australia and going to New Zealand. We even went to the United Kingdom. That has taken so much of my time.
It’s interesting that I do want to do stuff creatively, and musically. I do like making a film and adapting music to that film. By going through that whole process, I could get some good music creativity out of that as opposed from scratch of making an album.
I’ve made eight albums and more than 200 songs. I like to take a different creative approach. My music will continue, but in the context of the films I’m involved with and the films that I make.
As far as future projects, I have several ideas written down. Basically, I’m going to see what JUSTICE SERVICED does and what the strengths of JUSTICE SERVED are. It’ll help me know on what the best genre for me to go into whether it will be horror or thriller, or what kind of budget I could get a hold of or on where I could shoot it. Once I have on what’s that going to be, that’ll give me a better idea on what project I’m going to work on.
LRM: Great answer. Marvin, I appreciate your conversation with me. I wish you good luck on all of your projects.
Marvin Young: Thank you, man. Thank you for taking the time to watch the film. Thanks for the interview. I really appreciate it.
JUSTICE SERVED is available on iTunes, YouTube, Amazon, On Demand and other platforms today.
Source: LRM Exclusive