2002’s “Still Not A Player,” directed by Antonio Carlos Miranda and Marcos A. Miranda, was too hot for TV despite being a straight-to-DVD project. The film was deemed controversial, mainly because it brought Big Pun’s issue with martial abuse to light and left fans startled and unable to cope with the realties that their hero had a dark side.
Taking note of this, director Vlad Yudin and producer Edwin Mejia set out to craft a more positive account of the life and times of Christopher Rios. The pair focused on Pun’s monstrous talents as an MC, his natural gift to make others laugh, and they try to remind fans of the amazing techniques the Puerto Rican rapper displayed throughout the few years he reigned.
Big Pun’s widow Liza Rios, alongside close colleagues and friends Cuban Link, Xzibit, Raekwon, Armageddon, DJ Enuff, Snoop Dogg and many more connect the audience to the man throughout “Big Pun: The Legacy”–slated to be released this fall–which debuted recently during the New York International Latino Film Festival.
XXLmag.com talked to the director and producer behind the project to discuss the making of the doc, what got left on the cutting room floor, and the challenge following a previously released Pun biopic.
With “Still Not a Player,” many fans voiced disappointment with some of the topics discussed and some of the visuals. Did you guys have any reservations before coming on board in creating this project because of that?
Vlad: We didn’t have to really watch what we put in the film, we just interview people and we ask them all the questions and they just answer it. With our film it is not like we wanted to keep something away, whatever you see there, it’s all honest. In the first film, the one that was made years ago, for some reason they emphasized certain things too much in a negative light. If you see our film, you will definitely see that it talks about certain things but people give interviews and it’s all there.
Although Big Pun’s career was short lived he had a unique impact on the world of hip hop. But, from that time span how did you obtain, decide/choose footage for this documentary?
Vlad: That was the hardest process, the footage. We had so much footage for this film. We had original interviews, we have over a hundred hours of interviews, and then we had like hours and hours of footage from his videos; rare stuff, pictures. That was the hardest part, we had to cut down over 100 hours of stuff into basically an hour and half. So we just went by what we thought was best for the film the most interesting stuff.
Now, we are speaking of your choices of footage in this film. But, as a filmmaker sometimes there are things that you might not have put in for the sake of timing etc. There can be many reasons why certain things are cut out. Were there any experiences or anecdotes about Big Pun that you wanted to include but were unable to?
Vlad: Yeah there was so many stories. We had a really big section of the film dealing with humor, you know? That is something that actually stood out a lot of time; that’s what stood out about Big Pun for me personally, he had a great sense of humor that he always like sharing, on the records and everything like that. There were a lot of stories that would have made it into a three-hour film honestly. There were so many stories. There was a story that Xzibit told us where Big Pun was actually in a Limo in L.A. somewhere. That actually should make it into a like a DVD behind the scenes, you know? He was telling us a story about how he was arguing with a driver or something like that and then he was trying to get out of the limo and he grabbed the top open of the interior of the limo and it was one of those old limos and the top just came off the limo and the whole interior roof just came down. It was hilarious. When he was getting out the whole thing just collapsed down. A lot of those type stories.
In the creation of this project as with all directors and their films it becomes a reflection and part of your history as well. What experience in the creation of this project will you cherish the most? Or what past time will you remember in creating this project?
Vlad: It was definitely a process, you know? It was like a journey making the film. We obviously learned so much about Big Pun from people ’cause we interviewed people that knew him very well. So we learned stuff that we didn’t know before, I think for me just traveling around and talking to so many people that was probably the best part about it, just learning so much about him.
Ed: For me personally, getting to meet certain people and building the relationships was key for us. Because that way we were able to get the story that we needed to on film. Writing it is one thing, but putting it in film is another. With the relationships we gained with Big Pun and Liza Rios, his widow, we were able to put that on the screen, that was really important to us.
In working on this project it becomes obviously your baby but as we are talking abut Big Pun and his humor and his life and things that you guys remember about him. What is your favorite Big Pun verse or saying?
Vlad: I like “Leatherface.” We actually open the film with “Leatherface.” The whole song; that is actually one of my favorite songs of his that’s from the second album.
Ed: “Leatherface” is definitely one of my favorites as well. And the festival, as well the entire audience, was able to understand where we came in as filmmakers; pretty much this project was a personal note to understand who Big Pun was in the community and everybody was able to get that chill. That chill factor in the movie is what we wanted.