THE TURNT EXCLUSIVE
If you haven’t heard of Mann Robinson, you’ve likely been living under a rock. Arguably one of the film industry’s brightest talents, Robinson has been building his cinematic brand for well over a decade. He’s garnered a tremendous level of respect for his work in the industry from some of the biggest names, and that has ultimately allowed him to do some amazing things for so many who dream of working in this business. We had a few moments to chat with the budding filmmaker about his new project, Turnt, which premieres very soon...
U.G. Digital Mag: I want to begin by thanking you. This is such a dope opportunity. You’re premiering a movie, which we’ll talk about, but we’ll also talk about the business in general. You’re involved in so much, and people are able to look at a strong precedent you’re setting. Thanks so much.
Mann Robinson: No problem.
U.G. Digital Mag: So give us a quick overview of how you got to this point where you are in the industry?
Mann Robinson: As far as who I am, I’m Mann Robinson. I started in music a long time ago. I started doing songs in my head, and was blessed enough to release CDs. Where I’m from, I was the only one able to do it. I took that structure and moved into film. We all want to be filmmakers. Everyone wants to be movie stars and be rich. I realized when I was younger that I was writing movies in my head by the three wishes. If you had three wishes, people asked you what you would do. You tell em, but if you really had it, it’s like a movie. We all do it, but I took my knowledge of music and did that.
U.G. Digital Mag: Was it difficult to really get in, and transition?
Mann Robinson: To be honest, no it was not. I wrote my first movie in 2007. I had no plans to do anything with it. I was in a time space where I could think a lot, and I wrote my dreams out. I ended up doing a remix feature with Gucci Mane, and it was dope. I was just going by Mann at the time. When I decided to transition to film, celebrities knew me already for the work I had been doing. Unfortunately, you need a few celebs to transition in this business. It’s still a struggle everyday, but it wasn’t depressing or anything like that.
U.G. Digital Mag: There should be a certain level of work involved. It shouldn’t necessarily be so easy but for you, do you feel like the process has gotten better now, versus then?
Mann Robinson: My mindset was on film at the time. I was doing music and I had a couple stories. Around that time though was when the Canon 5D Mark 2 dropped. I knew about that camera because I had a guy come in who was shooting some footage, and I laughed in his face about the camera. I was used to seeing large cameras, and I laughed until he showed me what it could do. I started researching and realized Canon broke the ground. They did it for everyone in Atlanta. They were the first to make a $3000.00 camera that you can shoot movies with. I still wasn’t set on making films though because I needed to learn it. I still sit on that first movie though. I haven’t released. One of my fellow musicians moved to Atlanta shortly after that. He shot his film with the same camera. In a long way, things are much easier because of Canon.
U.G. Digital Mag: That’s dope to spend so little and be able to make a film this way.
Mann Robinson: Right. Now, you have so many different cameras to shoot with. I wasn’t willing to spend a lot of money back in 2007. Canon and Black Magic opened the doors for independent filmmakers. You have some people who will be independent filmmakers forever. Others will do a little more. I’m doing this as my final career.
U.G. Digital Mag: Talk about the project you’re soon to be premiering.
Mann Robinson: When I moved to Atlanta, I was shooting a completely different film. I was able to get a lot of big names in it, but it was taking too long. I chose to write a shorter movie to get it out. When I got ready to do that, I met Jamal Woolard. At the time, I had never thought of him for the movie. He was just a dope dude with a movie. He had gotten wind of my vision, and right there, he said my story reminded him of himself, and asked to be the main character. I’m just a man from Michigan., and had only done a couple remixes, but to turn things into this, it was big. I had people requesting to be in my film. Everyone you see pretty much requested to be a part of the project. So, I’m sitting with this film that everyone in the city is talking about.
U.G. Digital Mag: It’s the work you put in behind it. You can have you want in it, but without good work, it’s nothing. The word is obviously spreading.
Mann Robinson: That’s true. Nobody has seen it yet though, which makes it odd. This new film is about the industry of music, and the violence entailed. Street credibility is a death sentence. You need it though. It’s displayed in the film. It also talks about how DJ’s jump on the bandwagon. That’s really what it’s about. I can tell that story because I’ve been on both sides.
U.G. Digital Mag: What’s your vision for the film industry?
Mann Robinson: I consider myself first a business man. I don’t consider myself a filmmaker first because it’s something I chose to do. I’m good at producing, and I used my skills to become a filmmaker. I’d like to be known as a guy who can do all elements. I don’t want to hire someone to run my camera if I can’t do it. It’s no offense meant because some of the best directors have no clue of how to work the camera. I don’t think you can be a filmmaker without knowing how to do everything from top to bottom.
U.G. Digital Mag: That goes with any profession though. If you’re overseeing people, you should know how to do what you require of them. Makes perfect sense.
Mann Robinson: Yep.
U.G. Digital Mag: So when will Turnt release?
Mann Robinson: Well, since Torrei Hart came on, and she’s now signed on as a producer, she’s trying to show she’s also a filmmaker. She, I, and a few others are deciding how we will attack the market. The goal of the premiere is to show the work. If it’s a movie and the critics are talking, then you can pretty much pick your poison from there.
U.G. Digital Mag: That’s really dope. What other things are you working on?
Mann Robinson: I actually chose a different strategy. I also want to be diverse with my projects. It wasn’t supposed to be a hood film. I turned a few people away for that reason, but as we continued filming, it turned into a hood movie (laughing). To counteract that, I’ve shot and released other films. I have a scary movie going to Netflix called Sebastian. I did a television series with an up and coming star named Teresa Nelson, and I also did a trailer shoot for a 5.6 million dollar film. It’s called unintended. It’s not a foreign film, but features a lot of foreign actors. I’m going to Jersey next week to film another series. We are laying the foundation.
U.G. Digital Mag: It’s amazing man. How does this open doors for minorities.
Mann Robinson: I think it’s already started. There are so many filmmakers in Georgia who know what it takes to make films. Finances will stop things because it costs so much, but young black America is already aware of what’s going on. Growing up, there were only a few career options, but now being a filmmaker is on the list. I want to be like Spike Lee, Ice Cube.... Hopefully, some day people will say they want to be like Mann Robinson.
U.G. Digital Mag: It will happen man.
Mann Robinson: As I look back, it’s strenuous to do these things, but I look at how many people have blown up after working with me. They’ve used my films as the catapult. It’s really amazing.
U.G. Digital Mag: I agree man. In terms of people keeping up with you, where can they check you out?
Mann Robinson: They can google Mann Robinson. On Instagram I’m @mann_are, they can just search through Google, and they’ll find me.