Tomorrow night, the inaugural BlackStar Film Festival presents the first look at The Res Documentary, a forthcoming feature film profiling Philly homegirl, rock and soul singer Res, known as Shareese Ballard while growing up in the ‘burbs with her good friend Santi White, now known as Santigold.
As big Res fans, we’re excited. But we’re especially psyched because The Res Documentary was inspired in part by a 2010 PW cover story that profiled Res’ early efforts to go indie upon returning to Philadelphia. (Full disclosure: As a result, I have a brief role in the film.)
If you still haven’t gotten your hands on Black Girls Rock!, the album Res pulled out of the rubble after it was hijacked by her old label, you really need to get on that. And we’ll just assume you’re still rocking out to her 2001 debut, How I Do, like the rest of us.
The show will feature a 15-minute cut of the film and a Q&A with Res and director Steve Zegans, followed by a live Res performance. PW chatted with both in anticipation of Saturday’s preview.
(To Res) Hey! We wrote about your whirlagig through the music industry and subsequent move back to Philly to start over almost two years ago. What's been going on since then?
It’s been two years, and I sort of feel like I am finally clearing out the smoke of what my path as an indie artist will be. I am not writing nearly as much as I have in the past, but I have been forced to change how I work and the type of people I work with.
I have finished the debut album of my group Idle Warship with Talib Kweli, toured the album and completed three videos for that album. The last of the third is for the song “Beautifully Bad.” It’s our favorite song on the album. Last December, I moved to Brooklyn. I just got back from Russia and Siberia last week. I went with an amazing band, Ringside. Ringside is an L.A. band founded by Scott Thomas and Balthazar Getty. We rocked a huge show in Siberia. This lead me to now plan to be heavily featured on Ringside's next album! I am so excited about this because I love Scott Thomas’ songwriting, and the band is playing rock music, which is one of my loves. So I am excited to see what new music and vibes will come out of the new project. I am also stoked to work with people who make music to be heard. The finishers is what I call them.
I’m still having issues with getting Reset finished. My vocals are done, but the producer is being difficult and refuses to finish unless I sign to him or pay him [a certain amount of money] per track. Art is easy, and when it's not, it's fake. I’m unsure if we will ever finish Reset or if I will have to scrap the 10 songs. Sad, I know, but that’s the music biz. (NOTE: Producer Martin “Doc” McKinney declined comment.)
How did you meet Steve (Zegans, the director)? Were you totally down with having a guy with a camera trail you or were you nervous about it?
I met Steve Zegans on Twitter. I was totally down with having him trail me at work. I don't have much to hide in that realm, but having him in my home is a lil’ weird. I am super private. The other challenge was to get out the habit of twisting every negative to a positive. Sometimes people need to hear that you are having a tough time or not happy or disgusted or whatever—there isn't always a happy ending. I guess from media training classes, an artist can go into "save face " mode. This documentary showed me how much I do that. So I made adjustments. I keep it 100-percent and detailed.
What did you think of the film now that you've seen trailers?
I haven’t seen the finished product, but the trailer was exciting to me—yet it's about me, which is strange. I watched it, and afterwards I thought, Wow, I have done a lot, and I felt true anticipation. Then I thought, Wait, I already know what happens. What and why am I anticipating anything? I am the story; I lived the story. I am a living story, is what I realized. I am really a true artist. I am very proud of that. Some people are doctors, but I am an artist.
(To Zegans) How did the idea for the film come about?
When I heard the song "Industry Diaries" that she recorded with Talib Kweli, I thought to myself, That’s a movie. She doesn't even sing on this song; it’s all delivered in a rap. She is brutally honest, and in just one verse, it really maps out our documentary. Well, at least where we started from.
I know that you saw Res perform in L.A. clubs when she first broke out in 2001. What has surprised you about her or her path that you couldn’t have known then?
Being a fan of live shows, I never fully understood what went into them. How people got paid, what a guarantee is—I never had a concept of that part of the show. Once I met Res, she explained that without a budget, every instrument we see on stage costs money, and that the rehearsal/sound check costs money. Everything costs money. Res pays out of her pocket to make her live show better. If it [needs] a keyboard or a horn, she will add it. I took all of that for granted before making this film.
Did you look to any music documentaries as inspiration? Any favorites?
I crave documentaries all different types. For this film, The Rise of Neneh Cherry (1989) and Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (2010) were the key inspirations.
Sat., Aug. 4, 7pm. Free, International House, 3701 Chestnut St., For more information, visit blackstarfest.org
Res (pronounced “Reese”) still looks every bit the 23-year-old sexy club princess donning a tiara and white wife-beater with the girlie-glossed lips in the “Golden Boys” video that spun seemingly nonstop on VH1 Soul 10 years ago. While the singer looks—and sounds—pretty much the same, everything else around her has changed.
Philadelphia’s first black movie fest since 2007 wants you on board.