Producer Curtis Scoon Speaks On Bringing Shower Posse To The Screen
In Buju Banton’s classic “Untold Stories,” the DJ sings “I could go on and on the full has never been told.” The tale of Jamaica’s notorious Shower Posse is one such story. A recent BET American Gangster episode did scratch the surface, but the segment’s producer, Curtis Scoon, believes there is much more to be told. He’s not alone in that belief, but what sets him apart may be that he’s not scared to go in where others fear to tread. Scoon envisions The Shower Posse as a major motion picture, blending elements of hit films like Traffic, Slumdog Millionaire, and City of God. Scoon has a few untold stories of his own, so Boomshots.com linked with him to find out why he wants to tell a story that so many others seem scared to touch
BOOMSHOTS: WHEN YOU WERE WORKING ON THE BET AMERICAN GANGSTER EPISODE, DID YOU ALWAYS SEE THE SHOWER POSSE AS A FEATURE FILM?
Absolutely. That was my intention from the beginning. The story of the Shower Posse stirs a lot of emotion and controversy in the Caribbean community. It’s a hot-button topic. And for me as an aspiring filmmaker, that shows a lot of potential for the big screen. That base has never really been tapped. Of course we have the urban gangsters that have been portrayed time and time again, but for these people from the Caribbean to come into America and have such an impact… And when you examine the origins of the Shower Posse, to see that it is tied in to America too, it’s a fascinating story. It’s just that nobody really wants to touch it. It was so hard to even get Jamaicans willing to go on camera to speak about this.
This is not like a movie about John Dillinger or somebody who’s washed up or long dead and buried. There’s people who are still affected by it, who represent it. It’s a sensitive topic, but it’s one that I’m willing to deal with. And I guess I’m probably the only one willing to deal with it at this point because this story’s been there. People know it but they don’t want to get involved.
So to answer your question concisely, Yeah I wanted to make a movie. I saw opportunity there. I believe in chaos there’s opportunity. And this is a chaotic story. A chaotic period in Jamaican history as well as American history. It affects everyone.
AND AS YOU MENTIONED, IT’S MORE THAN JUST A GANGSTER OR A “HOOD” TALE, THERE’S AN INTERNATIONAL DIMENSION TO IT AS WELL.
Every guy who’s ever held a gun, spent the night in prison, or sold ten dollars worth of crack, thinks that his life is a movie. The thing is, when I decide that I want to work on a project and commit time and energy to it, it has to be something that impacts a broad cross-section of society. Not just one city, not just one neighborhood, not just one culture. Why would anybody else want to go to the movies and spend their ten bucks to see this? How can they connect or relate to it?
In every movie there has to be a universal message, a universal theme. And with the Shower Posse, the geopolitical aspect is something that plays out around the world in third world countries. What happened is not exclusive to Jamaica. This is going on in Africa right now, in Asia. It’s the same game, so people could identify with that. The little guy’s getting caught up in the battle between the big imperial forces. And the poor people, they suffer. They’re collateral damage in this chess game.
As a matter of fact, a heavyweight in world politics is a man named Zbigniew Brzezinksi. And he wrote a book called The Grand Chessboard, because that’s exactly how these people see the world. And you can believe that people like the Shower Posse, and the whole of Jamaica, I don’t know if they’re pawns on the chessboard. They might just be dust on the chessboard.
DAMN. THAT’S HARSH.
That’s the thing I want to bring out in the movie. Of course the backdrop will be the drugs, the violence. But something more serious is going on here that people need to know about. And it’s so much bigger than just Jamaica or Kingston. I wanna use what happened in Jamaica as a vehicle to bring some of this to light.
THE DEA AGENT IN YOUR BET EPISODE SEEMS LIKE HE IS NOT AS GUNG-HO NOW AS HE ONCE WAS.
Well like a lot of law enforcement personnel, they mean well. But they too are just pawns in a game being played out. On September 11, we just paid our respects to the anniversary of September 11, 2001. One thing I know through my ties on the street is that after September 11, it was virtually impossible for drug dealers to bring narcotics into the country. The borders were shut down. Canadian hydro dried up, that border was sealed. Cocaine coming from Mexico was sealed. So it can be stopped when wanted. How could they just shut it down all of a sudden after 9/11? Why not do that all the time?
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE WAR ON DRUGS?
If you arrest these guys—and as a black man, my feeling is this—I think black gangsters and drug dealers such as Vivian Blake, they pretty much provide convenient cover for the real bad guys. When it’s time to roll someone out, Well, Roll out the black guy. His face is on the news, he’s the most wanted, he’s the most dangerous criminal in the world. When actually he’s just a pawn in all of this. And he provides convenient cover for people who present themselves as being sophisticated and dignified and legitimate. We have to touch on all of that. I don’t wanna get too preachy in the movie, but I want to make clear this is not gonna be a glorification of ignorance and violence. There’s a profound message to be brought out in this movie, one that I think would resonate across different backgrounds, nationalities, and ethnicities. It’s not just a Jamaica story. It’s not just a black story. I don’t want to be involved in stereotypical projects—black guy sells drugs, he goes to jail, end of movie. I don’t have time for that. I want to do more meaningful work than that.
The other thing is, I understand a lot of Jamaicans, they’re not proud of being portrayed in the way that a lot of people see the Shower Posse, or the Spanglers, or the whole gun culture and what have you. But what they have to realize is that if you dig deep enough, the responsibility will not rest at their doorsteps so they need not worry.
VIVIAN BLAKE DOESN’T STRIKE ME AS IGNORANT. WHEN HE SAYS HIS TALENT WAS “SUPPRESSED BY CRIME,” IT SEEMS HE’S LOOKED BACK ON HIS LIFE AND REALIZED THAT HE COULD HAVE GONE A WHOLE DIFFERENT WAY.
Here’s the thing. There are a lot of guys like Vivian. The Vivian you spoke to is a 54-year-old man. And yes, he had what it takes to be whatever he chose, but limited opportunity. And the environment that he was thrust in helped mold him into what he became. So it wasn’t that he was ignorant, but there’s nature and nurture that help us become who we are. And he merely applied his intelligence in the wrong arena. It’s misplaced talent. That’s really what it boils down to, because he didn’t have the benefit of being born into a different family or a different socioeconomic bracket.
I identify with Vivian on that point. I too feel I’m someone who could have done a lot of things. But yo, you gotta play the hand that you’re dealt. And the important thing is not what anybody’s done in the past, but what they’re gonna do from here on out. I believe Vivian, it may be a little late, but it’s better late than never. He finally realized the impact that he could have, and how he misapplied his God-given talent and ability. He’s looking to make that right, and I’m willing to help him. That’s the important thing. I think a lot of people harp on the negative so much. But he’s here. He’s among us. What are you gonna do? He’s paid his debt and he’s trying to do right. You gotta give him a chance to be the man he says he is.
YOU SAY YOU IDENTIFY WITH VIVIAN BLAKE. LET’S TALK ABOUT THE PATH THAT YOU ARE ON NOW, AND THE PATH YOU TURNED AWAY FROM.
Well first I was a consultant on the Fat Cat Nichols episode of American Gangster, and that came about through work I did on a book called Queens Reigns Supreme with author Ethan Brown. But really all of that came about when I was thrust into the public eye by being wrongly accused of a crime. When I was accused in the murder of Jam Master Jay, it seemed like the worst thing that happened to me in my life. But in hindsight it was a turning point. It was really something that created the opportunity that I needed.
I’m the type of person that, no matter what the situation is, I find a way to use it to my advantage. In other words, I believe that a blessing and a curse are one and the same, the difference being in the application. When this thing happened to me, once I got over the initial shock, and successfully navigated my way through it, my natural inclination was: Okay, now how can I make this work for me?
AND IT HAS.
But it’s not by chance. I forced it. I reached out to people. I knew all they wanted to talk about was what I was accused of. So I gave them want they wanted, and while doing so I slipped in what I needed them to know. I needed them to know, Yo, there’s more to me than this. I’m not a street thug. I have projects. I have talent. I believe I have a gift. And I just needed an opportunity for it to show and shine through.
Someone told me that fire is necessary for purification, and anything hardened and ready for battle must come through the fire. That part of my life, that was the fire. We must all come through the fire, each and every man, our own personal fire. What it boils down to is, you’ll either come through the fire, or you’ll succumb to it. And I believe I’ve come through the fire. So now I’m ready. That thing closed a chapter on my life. If I had any thoughts of going back where I came from, that made it absolutely impossible. So here I am, moving forward with the things that I do.
I believe my path, my lifestyle, prepared me to be comfortable with men like Vivian, and to really understand them. I don’t know anyone else that would have wanted to do this project with him. Not because he would have threatened them—he was one of the best subjects I’ve worked with thus far—but simply because they wouldn’t understand it. They would have preconceived notions, but I’ve been around too many guys and I’ve been in so many situations. Where the average filmmaker would be scared to death to do this story, even though he would want to, I’m not. My past prepared me for a lot of this.
IN YOUR PAST LIFE, WHAT WAS YOUR IMPRESSION OF THE SHOWER POSSE?
In the BET episode I produced, there was a segment that dealt with five people who were killed in an apartment in Landover Maryland. I used to be right around that area. That was across the street from Landover Mall. The apartment complex was called Village in the Woods. I ran into guys who said they were in the Shower Posse. To me they were just like anybody else at that time. They were trying to get their money. The ’80s was a time when that type of activity was rampant in American urban centers. I ran into the Shower Posse guys in Philly. I didn’t hang out with ’em. We might exchange a few words in a restaurant or a barber shop and keep it moving. But my impression of them? To me they were just doing what everyone else was doing—taking advantage of the times and the situation and makin’ money. I didn’t know their political origins at that time. I didn’t concern myself with that. I was a young guy. I was too busy trying to make money myself. Honestly they do have a fearsome reputation and all of that. But yo, there were a lot of people who had reputations back then. Yo, nuff respect to the Shower, but they weren’t the only badmen on the scene. There was plenty back then. There really was.
YET SOMEHOW THEIR LEGEND HAS LOOMED LARGER THAN MOST WITH THE PASSAGE OF TIME. IT SEEMS THE SHOWER POSSE HAS TAKEN ON THIS EXTRA AURA OF FEAR AND RESPECT.
I think the politics has a lot to do with that. Where other guys are just little outfits making money—you know, self-serving. But the allegations of the Shower having deeper ties and connections and what have you, I think that piqued the interest of people and it caused their legacy to live on. It’s deeper. If you have a criminal organization allegedly connected to a foreign government that is allegedly aligned with the U.S. government—and they’re wreaking havoc in the U.S.—people wanna know, what the hell is going on? This ain’t the crips and bloods. This is something more serious.
IT’S NOT EVEN SCARFACE.
It’s deeper than Scarface. It’s like, Man—what the hell is going on here? I think there’s a lot of people who are curious if the rumors and allegations are true as far as ties to the CIA and all of this stuff. People wanna know, Is there any validity to that? That’s not your local gang or group of drug dealers. There’s something more nefarious going on there.
IN THE VIDEO THAT VIVIAN BLAKE MADE, HE SHOUTS OUT IRV GOTTI AS PART OF THE TEAM THAT’S PUTTING THIS FILM TOGETHER. WHAT IS HIS ROLE IN THIS?
Well, I’ve known Irv for a long time. We’re from the same neighborhood, literally walking distance from each other. I’m a little bit older than him, but we’re from the same area. We move in the same circles. I presented the idea to Irv and I called Vivian and let Vivian and Irv speak on the phone. At this point, Irv and I are gonna produce this film together. Through his contacts, we’re gonna secure the proper backing and distribution. So it’s a symbiotic relationship with Irv and myself as far as this project is concerned. I have the content, I did the groundwork, I laid the foundation. And he has the contacts. We’re gonna work it together. That’s where we are with that. It’s looking pretty good but I don’t wanna say anything definitve at this moment,
SOME OF THE COMMENTS ON THIS BLOG AND ELSEWHERE WERE SAYING, I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE THIS MOVIE. BUT OTHERS WERE SKEPTICAL, LIKE: WHAT DOES IRV GOTTI KNOW ABOUT THE SHOWER POSSE? DOES HE REALLY UNDERSTAND THE CULTURE ENOUGH TO TELL THIS STORY PROPERLY?
For people with those concerns, first I wanna say, let’s give it a chance before the criticisms come. Second, everybody has their role. What Irv brings to the table is an established name and relationships in high places that could make it happen. That’s what he does, and he’s gonna do that well.
A lot of people don’t understand how things work. Take my experience with Queens Reigns Supreme. Ethan Brown is not from Queens. He’s not black. He’s not even from New York. But the bottom line is, he was able to make that book happen. Whereas no one who lived in Queens, who knew the story intimately, either thought about it, or made the effort to get it done. And if they did, they obviously didn’t succeed. Man, just take the progress. If there’s people out there who think they can do a better job, they should either one, do it, or two, wait till someone else does it and then let that create the opportunity for them to come with their own ideas. For all the people who think they’re experts, why haven’t you done anything with it? Because you can’t. That’s why. And don’t get mad because someone else is right now.
With the movie American Gangster, the first thing a lot of people did was comment on Frank Lucas’s status as an alleged snitch, the inaccuracy of the movie. But they missed, because the tendency of negative people is to always focus on tearing down, and not seeing opportunity. What they missed was the fact that Hollywood took interest in a guy like Frank Lucas meant that the door was open for more stories like that. They totally missed that. Because they only know how to tear stuff down. I ignore people like that.
If there’s other people in Jamaica who want to do a story on Jamaican culture. I think a movie like The Shower Posse will open the door for that to happen. And maybe the next time it won’t be Irv. It’ll be a Jamaican filmmaker. You have to hope that things work out, and be glad that someone took interest in something you’re familiar with.
ARE YOU PLANNING TO SHOOT THE FILM IN JAMAICA?
Well, that’s tricky. For me, being someone of Caribbean descent, and respecting the balance of society in Jamaica, I would not want to do anything that would disrupt things in Jamaica. I understand there’s some situations going on right now politically in Jamaica. I wouldn’t want to play a part in igniting anything. So I’m gonna watch carefully and see what the climate is there, and talk to the people who would be most affected by this, and see if it’s okay with them. I wouldn’t want to cause any undue stress in Jamaica. This PNP / JLP thing is very very serious in that country. I understand that and I respect it. And I know there’s a lot of people who will be concerned about how Jamaica will be portrayed in this movie. The only thing I wanna make clear to them is that Jamaicans will not be the bad guys in this film.
IT’S ABOUT SHOWING THE BIGGER PICTURE.
The story I’m telling is bigger than Jamaica. And that’s what I want people to understand.