The Quiroz Brothers (Director's - 'Dope Game 2')
’The Real-Life Knockaround Guys'
Jose (30) and Eduardo (28) Quiroz were raised in the San Francisco-Oakland
Bay Area in the city of Hayward, CA (next to Oakland). Growing up poor in
low-income housing, the brothers did what they had to do to survive - both the outside world and their abusive family environment. In 1990, at a Lowrider carshow that we were performing at, the met David "Dyno" Rocha and immediately hit it off. After a few years, they were mass-producing
CDs and making enough money to get us clothes and food.
In late '95 Jose and Eduardo started getting a crazy idea about making a movie. They wrote a few small screenplays that they would show friends, but in '96 decided to get serious and actually make a film. They saved $3,000 dollars from their part-time jobs at Target to finance the film and then shot a full-length feature on 16mm film. Learning the hands-on how to write, direct, edit, produce, and finance a film, they got the film into a few festivals in Texas. in 1997 where they met a record label. They ended up showing them the film just for kicks and before they knew it they had been signed to a rap label contract as The Darkroom Familia.
All together they now have three recording studios and two editing studios. They are completely self-contained and are extremely proud of their latest feature 'Dope Game 2' which comes out November 11th from Delta Entertainment. 'Dope Game 2' is the story of four corrupt Oakland Task Force officers who turn the city inside out with murders, beatings and whatever it takes to clean up the streets and make a little cash. They try to sell their services to a new Oakland Drug Lord but he ain't buying. All hell breaks lose and the cops won't stop until they get their way or end up dead.
Chatting with the Quiroz brothers, I first wondered that with 'Dope Game 2' being their sixth film in five years how their style of filmmaking had changed since their first film, 'Penitentiary Chances'?
Jose: ”I think it's gotten easier to solve problems. We've learned a lot from past mistakes. I think we've always been able to tell a good story but finally we were able to bring it to the screen like it was in our heads. We've become better filmmakers all around. The first few films were a little too gritty and homemade. Our latest film, I feel, can be seen, and enjoyed by anyone, any race. Before ‘Dope Game 2’, it seemed like only young "urban" males would like or understand them.”
Eduardo: ”Yeah, definitely I agree. Basically from our first film to our latest film has been our film school. Jose and I never went to any kind of film school. We learned everything we know about filmmaking directly hands-on. We learned and continue to learn by making films and correcting and improving from the previous one. From doing so many films the way we do, we've learned to use certain shots and take our time with everything until we feel it's right within the amount of time and money that we have. As opposed to in the beginning when we'd write and shoot extremely fast just to get the film in the can and waste the least amount of film. And I also agree that this is most definitely our best one. We are extremely proud of ‘Dope Game 2’ and know that any actor could have played these roles and any movie audience can appreciate this film. When we were writing it, we set out to write an action/crime/drama that could entertain anyone and we personally feel that we've succeeded.”
What's the most important thing you've learnt as filmmakers over the past five years in the business?
Jose: ”To solve problems. Every single movie we've done, something horrible, and unpredictable has happened. If we would throw in the towel we wouldn't be getting anything done. Our motto: Every problem has a solution.”
Eduardo: ”Exactly. We realized early on that what you envision in your head and on paper turns out much different in the end. Problems come up. Certain shots won't work. Sometimes certain dialogue won't work. So, we change stuff up in an instant if necessary. But we do it so it makes sense to the story. I think that we have developed a huge amount of confidence over the years to where we know what to do when situations call for it.”
Did you always know, back writing/making the original 'Dope Game' that there was going to be a 'Dope Game 2'?
Jose: ”We knew that we wanted to make a sequel to one of our earlier films, but we hadn't decided which one. ‘Dope Game 2’ was chosen because the first one did extremely well and the story also dealt with the subject of Dope.”
What's your favorite scene from 'DG2'?
Jose: ”The ending. I don't want to give anything away but that cop (Diaz) is always two steps ahead of the game isn't he?”
Eduardo: ”My favorite scene would actually be two scenes. The opening of the movie and the ending of the movie because they both reveal so much of the story.”
b>Explain briefly to me just what you were going through as kids growing up near Oakland and what you were witness to back then …
Jose: ”We grew up very, very low income (welfare, food stamps, WIC, Gov. Cheese) with an alcoholic abusive father (he's now been sober for 7 years). We saw everything from drugs to gangs to robberies. Dope fiends would sit in abandoned cars by our housing complex and smoke crack in front of us while we played basketball with a milk crate hoop. Most of our friend were in gangs and always tried to get us to go do things with them but we always just kicked back and played street ball. My brother and I, as well as some of the neighborhood kids would save every nickel and penny throughout the weekdays and on Saturday we would go to the local video store and rent 3 get 2 free. We'd have 5 videos to watch all weekend in our makeshift clubhouse (abandoned van, B&W TV, 70's VCR). That was our happiness: ‘Fast Times At Ridgemont High,’ ‘Porky’s’, ‘Return Of The Living Dead,’ ‘Scarface,’ ‘The Mechanic,’ ‘Death Wish,’ ‘The Blob,’ ‘The Godfather,’ ‘Friday the 13th,’ ‘Kramer Vs. Kramer,’ etc. We watched everything. We loved movies.”
Eduardo: ”Growing up in the Oakland area as a child was a hard experience but at the same time, we DID find stuff to do that normal kids do. We're from Hayward, Ca which is roughly 5 minutes from Oakland. A lot of the problems they have in Oakland, we had in our neighborhood. We literally grew up seeing heroin junkies and crack heads and drug dealers on the corners, gangs, police brutality, shootings, drive-bys. Hell, even prostitutes. Despite all of this, it wasn't the worst place to grow up in, but it wasn't the peacefully-clean-suburbs either. And like Jose said, we found our escape in movies. We grew up watching every genre of movies. And we grew to love them all.”
... and what was it that gave you the final big push to get out and make something of yourselves?
Jose: ”I think we got tired of dead end jobs with no future. We did a couple years in college and we were making enough money to eat through our record label. We ended up getting a big check and decided not to buy something stupid (a car we desperately needed) with it. We decided to do something more stupid (shooting a feature on 16mm with $3,000). The second option was risky but it worked out for us. The first movie was our film school. We learned to run a film camera, change film in changing bags, develop and transfer film, and edit, etc. Now we both own houses, and I have a family. Two beautiful kids and a wonderful wife. We're very lucky and thank the Lord every day for what we have. I love making films. I am SO lucky to have found something that I love doing and get paid at doing. Our heads are full of wonderful stories. We have many more films to make. Movies will be around forever and I hope I can make them for as long as I'm alive. It's truly my passion.”
Eduardo: ”Yeah, we were just sick of working just to pay bills. We felt we were getting old and needed to choose something in life before it chose us. We didn't wanna wake up 30 years from now and still be driving fork-lifts and punching a time clock. We saw that we could make money doing something that we love and have a deep passion for, so we jumped right in head first. If you knew us, you'd know that we're not talkers, we're doers. In other words, as corny as this may sound, whatever we set our minds to doing, we do. If I tell you that we're gonna pilot a space shuttle, you'd better believe we'll make it happen. We've just always been very confident and determined. We've never been afraid to take chances.”
Tell me more about your Hip-Hop label and does it have a website?
Jose: ”We started making tapes back in '88. I was 16 my partner David DYNO Rocha was 17 and Ed was 14. Over these last 14-15 years we've had over 60 releases. We started making a big name for ourselves in the Latino rap world back in '96-'98. Our CDs are released nationwide in all the well known stores (Best Buy, Circuit City, Sam Goody, Hastings, Musicland, Camelot, The Wherehouse, Tower, etc.) We're very close to signing a distribution deal with a major distributor this month. We've been in magazines, we've made music videos, DYNO even gets to vote for the Grammys. Our website is www.brownpowerrecords.com and our film website is www.pumpkinpatchpictures.com".
What's next, film-wise and record-wise for the Quiroz Brothers?
Jose: ”More bad ass movies! We're currently working on a new script that features two ex-law enforcement types who are now bounty hunters. They were fired for excessive force and now on their own, they always get the bad guys. That is until a major Mafioso becomes their next target.”
Eduardo: ’Yeah, it's a story we've been working on for a little while now. We also have several stories that we've thought of over the years and are saving for when the time is right. As far as music, we're always doing music too. We always wanna have new songs for our films. You can check out the website to see the latest in music.”
Describe your working partnership!
Jose: ”We get along great. I love my brother about as much as you can love a brother. All we had was each other growing up. We work well together. We think VERY much alike. We know how the other one is going to end a sentence!”
Eduardo: ”Definitely. As kids, all we really had was each other. So we've developed a taste for the same things. Usually, if Jose likes a movie or a TV show, chances are that I'll like it as well and vice versa. We have the same twisted sense of humor and between us both, have seen so many movies to draw inspiration from.”
Finally, if you were locked into a studio and told to make a movie with five actors (male and female), who would they be, what would be the premise, and what would the name of the film be?!
Jose: ”Sean Penn, Clint Eastwood, Michael Douglas, Christopher Walken, Bobby Duvall.”
Eduardo: ”Only five? Damn. That's a good question, because I personally have more favorite actors than actresses. Well, here goes: Sean Penn (I think he's the greatest actor of our time), Johnny Depp, Gary Oldman (DAMN good actor), Steve Buscemi, John Malkovich, Reese Witherspoon (don't laugh, her great performance in ‘Freeway’ won me over!). I know that's more than five but I couldn't just pick five. There's tons of more actors we admire but that's all I could think of at the moment. The premise? Wow, that's even harder. We'd literally have to write the greatest drama ever with those actors. It would probably be some sort of organized crime drama like ‘The Godfather. Something that would get several Oscar nominations of course. The name of the film would be something like ....’The Family,’ obviously referring to the organized crime-family in the story. I know it sounds cheesy but hey, I'm on the spot here!”
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
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