I can’t even front. When I first saw Benji, I was thrust on an emotional roller coaster and wasn’t strapped in. I experienced a good 5-6 emotions in 78 minutes- one of the most prevalent being anger towards Billy Moore. Did these director’s really expect me to hear- or even worse, sympathize with- this dude who stole the life of a man with such a promising future?
It pissed me off even more to see that Moore was out of prison while his co-defendant, who was innocent, was back in prison on unrelated charges. Sure, he was 16 at the time, but how many lives is one person allowed to ruin?
It wasn’t until I listened to Coodie speak about Billy Moore that my heart began to soften. The brutal truth is, I have no clue what it’s like to live in a war zone like Chicago. When I was growing up, we were more likely to settle drama with a dance-off than a gun fight. Fist fight if they talk about your mother.
My heart goes out to the young people in Chicago. Hopefully Benji and Billy’s story is powerful enough to incite change and stop them from killing each other. It’s not worth it.
One half of the director crew, Coodie, conducted an interview last night on H2G radio. Check out excerpts from the interview with him below:
On How They Began Producing “Benji”
It was really after we did Kanye’s “Through The Wire” video; his little brother had contacted me and Chike to do the movie. At the time he was excited to meet us because of what we did and I was excited to meet him! I’m like, “Ben Wilson’s brother?!”
So we were trying to make that [narrative] motion picture happen and by us being first time directors, it just wasn’t flying…At the same time, me and Chike started working on CreativeControl.tv, our website, which got us the meeting with Keith Clinkscales. At the time, he was the head of ESPN content so we went in there about Creative Control, but we just knew that we were going to talk about Ben Wilson because we were trying to do the movie…He said seven people tried to pitch the Ben Wilson story, what can we do different? …They actually opened up budgets and everything, especially after I told them I was from Chicago and about the house music, gangs- they were like, “Oh yea, let’s do it!”
On What Messages He Hopes To Get Across Through Benji
There are two messages. First, the whole thing with Ben Wilson- how he strived to be the best. He worked hard and set a goal and that’s definitely one of the messages for the young men out here. When you set a goal and you believe, no matter how big you think it is, you’ll definitely be able to achieve it.
The other message is to think before you act, which is something Ben Wilson used to say . One of his quotes is, “If it is to be, it’s up to me.” This is a 16-17 year old man! The other quote is, “Think before you act.” That’s also on the Billy Moore side…he said that was the worst decision of his life and once he pulled that trigger, he wished that bullet would’ve come right back in the chamber. But, once you pull the trigger, there’s no taking it back. We want these kids to see that. Once you shoot a person, you’re not only destroying the person who died- their life and their family- it destroys YOUR life and YOUR family’s life, as well.
On Billy Moore Agreeing To Film the Documentary
Of course, at first he was reluctant. He was like, “Nobody knows my face, now I’m back in public…everybody is hating me and is still hating me to this day.” But then when me and him had a talk, we related so much…I’m from the streets of Chicago, so when we went around, we had guns- I could’ve easily been him or Ben! Thank God that I got through it and wasn’t in a predicament like that but that could’ve easily been me. So we were going story by story and he just felt comfortable.
I told him that [through the movie] I was going to make sure they understand Chicago just so they can understand why you even HAD gun. I wish I had more time to explain how in Chicago, we couldn’t go on ‘this’ block because the GD’s are on this block; we can’t go on ‘this’ block because the Vice Lord’s are over there AND we can’t go in the white neighborhood because the white men and kids are going to try to kill us. So 9 times out of 10, you needed something with you- just in case. But that’s not the way to go, man.
On Billy Moore Leading The Charge for Peace
After Ben died, there was a lot of peace in Chicago- the gangs came together, the crime rate went down, they changed laws. So now, that’s the next [step]. You felt for Ben, you cried for Ben, now it’s time for change. That change is really going to come through Billy Moore. Billy Moore, Mario and Mike all came together, they forgave him…now they’re like, “We need you and we all need to come together to save these kids because they need to see what you went through.”
Billy said he went through a dark tunnel. He’s like, “Y’all don’t want to go through the tunnel that I went through.” People are kind of upset like, “Oh, he’s out and Ben died,” but now he has an opportunity to really change and that’s what he’s on. He said, “Man, I was 16 years old- that wasn’t ME! I wasn’t a cold blooded killer!
Listen to the interview in its entirety by clicking HERE.
RIP Benji. Well wishes to Billy Moore on his journey to help curb the violence in Chicago.