Director and Stars Appear at Rock Hall for Local Premiere of 'The Land'

click to enlarge EMANUEL WALLACE
Emanuel Wallace
Last night at the Rock Hall before the invite-only local premiere of his new movie The Land, writer and director Steven Caple Jr. admitted he was more nervous than he had been when the film debuted at Sundance earlier this year.

The event, hosted by local rapper Machine Gun Kelly, who also stars in the film and worked as executive producer, included mostly family and friends. Members of the media were also on hand, and MGK, Caple Jr., actor Rafi Gavron and actor Robert Hunter walked the red carpet prior to the private screening and answered questions from local reporters.

You can see a slideshow of photos from the event here

Caple Jr. based the concept for the film, which centers on four skateboarding teenagers who stumble upon some drugs that then they try to peddle, on a personal experience. When he was at film school at the University of Southern California, he met two teenagers through a mentorship program. The kids were trying to get sponsorships for skating, and they sold marijuana to fund that endeavor.

Having grown up in a lower middle class family, Caple Jr. identified with their experiences.

“The idea of coming home to shoot a film has always been a dream,” Caple Jr. said from the red carpet, adding that when he talked to the teens he mentored he realized their situation was “very similar” to his own. “When I talked to those kids about what their issues were, they talked about the school system and how they hated it. Growing up here, I remember having a rebellious attitude toward things. They struggled growing up, and I could relate to that. I transitioned those conversations into the film, and I want the film to be about the issues that youth of today face.”

Gavron said he considers Cleveland to be “the real deal.”

“It plays into the movie like a character in the same way that a city like New York will play into a movie like a character,” he said, adding that he often spent his off-screen time with Caple Jr.’s family. “It couldn’t have been done anywhere else. It was really important that we made the film here. I feel really proud to be part of it. I love Cleveland. It’s now a very, very special place to me.”

Hunter said that after he picked up the script, he read it again because he found it so compelling.

“Steven did such a great job of creating three-dimensional characters,” he said. “The film has great flow too. There’s not a point when it slows down.”

For MGK, who has done quite a bit of acting since his music career has taken off, the movie represents another creative outlet. In addition to having a small role in the film, he contributed to its soundtrack.

“I’ve been trying to keep creatively expressing myself,” he said. “If I don’t do that, I get really angry and really dark and really lost. I just want to keep doing this. The fame never interested me. It’s just the creative process that interests me.”

The movie opens on Friday at the Cedar Lee Theatre, and Caple Jr. will be on hand for a Q&A after the 7 p.m. screenings on August 5, 6 and 7 and after the 4:15 p.m. screening on August 7. Local rapper and actor Ezri “Ezzy” Walker and Hunter will join Caple Jr. for the Q&A's on August 5 and 7.

About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]
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