Many great filmmakers began honing their crafts in smaller, or less glamorous settings. Some of the great directors of our age, and the past, began in the business filming TV commercials, small student projects, cable access channel specials, or any other medium where they could get their chops. One very interesting venue for filmmakers, coming of age in the late 1960′ and early 1970’s, was in shooting porn films. There was actually a small sliver of time, as argued in the documentary Inside Deep Throat,
where these directors felt that the porn world would collapse into mainstream entertainment. Well, that never came about, but back to the freshmen of filmmaking.
Just like the people before them, two Jews came into the Def Jam fold, and began to learn and earn their chops. Their names are Brett Ratner and Steve Carr. Ratner we all know very well as the rambunctious creator of films that reach the apex of epic proportions. Carr, on the other hand, is not as known but he’s just as important to the history of Rap music video making.
Steven Carr grew up in Brooklyn, A/K/A The Planet – as said by the almighty Guru, RIP/Z’L, and attended art school and later Manhattan’s School of Visual Arts. Big ups the Manhattan art schools as many accomplished musicians and artists came out of that system, including the best drummer in the world, my father – Gene Cipriani! Anyway, after graduating from school Carr met with Russell Simmons and convinced him to hire him on as the album cover designer for Def Jam Records. Some of his legendary designs include, but are not limited to, Redman’s extra dark second album, Dare Iz A Darkside…
Which actually was an homage to the classic album cover for Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain…
He also did the cover for 3rd Bass’s Cactus Album….
And, the smokey, and very mysterious album cover, that at first sight took me time to fully comprehend what I was looking at, let alone the magnitude of the music….Method Man’s classic….Tical..
Carr eventually began directing music videos for the likes of Ice Cube, Ludacris, Moby (Nobody cares Moby!), Nelly, Timbaland, The Def Squad, Slick Rick and Jay Z….
Here’s the video he made for Slick Rick’s “Behind Bars,” made while Rick was still behind bars…
I just played my girl the classic film, Usual Suspects, thanks to our fanatic love of the Netflix show that is as addictive as crack, House of Cards. Funny thing is that Carr directed Jay Z’s version of the film in the video for his song “City is Mine.”
And, for the funny in all of us, he also directed Redman’s video for “Da Goodness” off his classic, and last great album Doc’s Da Name…
He was eventually tapped, by Ice Cube, to direct the sequel to the west coast hood classic, Friday. His first film Next Friday lacked that hood giving way to the slap stick funny, but it was successful. Since then he’s directed many Ice Cube ventures including other films like Dr. Doolittle 2, Daddy Day Care, Rebound, and most recently a segment for Movie 43, where Brett Ratner contributed as well. Thanks to Steve Carr, and Russell Simmons we got to see more talent. Simmons knew the potential, and still feels this kinship with Jews. He also hired another hungry Jew with the raw talent for filmmaking.
Brett Ratner has quite a different story to tell. Born and raised in Miami, Florida, he grew up in a middle-class Jewish family. Ratner attended some of his High School years in Israel until his return, and graduation from Miami Beach’s Senior High School. He later attended NYU, and as he says he barely graduated as he was more focused on directing and girls, girls, girls. He hooked up with Russell Rush, who was impressed by his masculine prowess. He also introduced him to some of his work, and the rest as they write is history.
Ratner, like Carr, has a distinct style and of course it would be natural for a Jew to debut his craft by directing a video diss of MC Serch by Prime Minister Pete Nice and Daddy Rich…called “Rat Bastard.”
Interesting diss, and a keen eye using the infamous bat scene from the great film, The Untouchables.
He caught the black and white world of Redman in his great video to “Tonight’s Da Night”…
He made the video for the great hit by Heavy D and the Boyz, “Nuthin’ But Love”
Take note of Chris Tucker who would later appear in some of Ratner’s films.
He also directed the energy swerving video for Wu-Tang’s second coming, “Triumph”
Not many remember, but when this dropped in 1997 it blazed open the last frontier that burst open when they dropped their debut album, Enter the 36 Chambers. The video was also highly anticipated, and hyped beyond belief by the station that is the conveyor belt of popular culture, MTV. When it hit the TV screens fans of the Wu, including myself, were frothing at the mouth. Ratner gave us the visual matching the Wu-Tang’s prestige in 1997.
Ratner went on to direct high-flying, and fully explosive action movies. These include, but are not limited to films such as Money Talks, the Rush Hour films, X-Men: The Last Stand, Tower Heist, and is currently working on the fourth installment of the Beverly Hills Cop films…..say it ain’t so Axel Foley.
These Jews are very interesting, as they paved their way through hip-hop in order to fulfill their dreams. Also, Ratner is very connected with his Jewish heritage and past. I can’t speak for Carr, but I personally heard about Brett Ratner’s adventures of discovering his people’s past. Here’s my story.
I was in Poland, venturing with a group of Jewish young adults, sightseeing the passed glories and not so past atrocities. When I was on the journey I went with a group affiliated with a religious organization out of New York City. When I was there I met a past participant who was on the same flight as Brett Ratner. Sitting right next to Ratner was the legendary Polish filmmaker Roman Polanski. Apparently he was so fascinated that he wanted to experience Poland through the eyes of a Polish Jew. It’s interesting as I said how American Jews broadly define themselves, yet they still have some clinging to the past. I’m not a huge fan of his films, but I admire his work and his determination. May we all be able to be true to ourselves, our identity, and our pasts .