Outlaws: Mario Van Peebles & Producer Kip Konwiser

High Profile Production and the Opportunity to Invest in Western Through WeVidIt

The western, Outlaws, just wrapped production and it boasts an all star cast. Led by writer, director and star Mario Van Peebles, he’s joined by Whoopi Goldberg, Cedric the Entertainer, Edward James Olmos and more! It’s set in America in the early 1900s, where a group of mixed race Outlaws are forced to confront deep-seated issues, choices & sacrifices, fatherhood, loyalty, and an America planting the seeds for a progressive future. Kip Konwiser is producing and we got a chance to sit down with him, and Van Peebles to talk about the production, themes and a unique opportunity where we can come alongside and invest through WeVidIt prior to the film’s 2023 release.

Interviewed for Risen Magazine

Risen Magazine: Mario, let’s start with you. I’m excited to learn more about Outlaws. You wrote it, direct it and star in it, plus it’s got historical characters and events since set in early 1900s. Talk to me a little bit about the story.

Mario Van Peebles: Well, part of what I enjoy about this period having done a Western before, is its early America and it’s just forming. And when you take this melting pot and you take Chinese and Italians and Africans and Jews and all of us, and you put us in this pot and you stir it up, you get sparks for sure, but also you get great art. And if you think of those sparks in a way as causing steam in the pot, if you keep the lid, pressed down, the pot’s going to explode. But if you let that lid up and the steam can come out, then it can go on.

And so you get this great sort of creative energy where out of America, you get with African roots, you get a look at the music, gospel, hip hop, jazz, R&B, country, rap, rock and roll, because you put us all in there and great things happen because we inspire each other, we imitate each other, we compete with each other, we grow with each other. And this is the melting pot of America. And there’s no better creative environment to be in for that. And I think that period, it’s such an interesting period because you had newly freed slaves going out west. You had this sense of this ever expanding horizon, the ability to the work ethic of, if I can pull myself up by my bootstraps and I can make anything of myself. And admittedly some people didn’t even have boots!

And then of course our Native American brothers and sisters who showed us and taught us so much and we’re thankful for all they’ve done. And so I thought it was such an interesting time in America to make a film that doesn’t shy away from some of our more difficult stuff, but also acknowledges that there is no place like this country and the potentiality for everything is just off the chain. And so that’s why I like that period.

So Outlaws is about a group of outlaws who discover that by combining, by saying, you know what, we’re not — you think of certain outlaws, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, well they’re all white or the Rufus Buck Gang, they’re all black folks — but rarely did you have outlaws who were of different races getting together and say, well, in a raceocracy like this, we can actually get more done and be more efficient if people don’t even realize that we’re in this together at all.

And so it’s a group of outlaws of mixed race, and some women too, who get in there and they make it happen. And in a way, there’s a Robin Hood element to it. So they’re not just outlaws, they’re actually rebels with a cause. And I won’t tell you more than that, but it’s a fun romp through the west. There are real characters that you meet and they’re played fairly real. This is before healthcare. People sweat, there’s grit, but the movie has a bounce to it. It’s got a pluck to. It’s got a humor to it and it’s pretty fresh.

Risen Magazine: Kip, you have assembled quite the cast to take on these real life historical characters and share some of that flavor. Talk to me about some of the people that are involved.

Kip Konwiser: Love to, well, you’ve got a real mixed cast reflecting everything Mario just said as well a group of, in many cases, Hollywood icons also here reflecting what Mario just said because they’re here for Mario. And the continuation really of what I think is a Van Peebles franchise of philosophy, which you see in this movie. And that’s what attracted the cast. They knew they were going to be signing onto something that would be timeless, that probably be iconic. And when they read this script, they saw some great dialogue and scenes that are not only super fun to be in, but have a subtext and a vulnerability. So when Mario ran into his friend Whoopi Goldberg, she said, “Hey, what are you doing?” And he says, “I’ve got this fantastic role of Stagecoach Mary.” And she says, “Well wait a minute. I’ve been wanting to play Stagecoach Mary for as long as I can remember.”

He says, “Well, why don’t you come and have fun with us?” And so she plays Stagecoach Mary and she plays Stagecoach Mary in such a way as Mario intimated earlier, that is authentic to the time. We didn’t Hollywoodise the execution of that character. There is a wonderful character played by Edward James Olmos, who is a traitor in transition and reflecting the age of invention, which is 1908 right now. And when America’s discovering that, why not and why not me? And it’s this gentleman making this transition when our group, both our protagonist and our antagonist crosses path. Later in the show, you get to spend time with Cedric the Entertainer, who’s wearing every different kind of hat and all the pattern and all the noise and all the sense that comes from someone like Cedric, in that period time behind the master of Mario. We also got a stable of cast that is our outlaws that rides with us along these journeys meeting not only those that I mentioned but others along the way in the journey that Mario mentioned, in what is really a father son story.

So we have Mario and his son, Mandela playing in the very meta sense, father and son. And this is a family movie as well as an action film as well as it’s got Western elements because of where it’s set, but it’s a romp. Now we’ve got John Carroll Lynch, we’ve got Amber Rain Smith, we’ve got a fantastic musician named Madison Calley who you’ll hear about for years to come, who’s performing off the charts right now with really the largest R&B singers in the world. And she takes a turn in front of the camera that is really special as Mandela’s wife.

And I’m leaving some out. D.C. Young Fly who brings with him a huge following of African American and crossover comedy and we get all his irreverence. We’ve got this young Brad Pity kind of guy, Jake Manley, whose career is taking off like crazy, and this gorgeous, super talented young man and we shot in Montana. So part of our character, I’ll round out here is the state of Montana and our fantastic cinematographer Kurt Soderling. We shot in wide screen, we shot in old school Western. We’ve been watching westerns for a year. We’ve been studying the craft diligently for years. And Kurt Soderling put his big gorgeous lenses around Montana and that is a character as well.

RM: I love that because I feel like as an audience member and I know for sure as talent, there’s so much more when you can shoot on location and especially somewhere when we’re talking about America and its roots to be able to shoot in Montana. Mario, talk to me about what that meant to be able to do that and how it draws performances unlike you’re able to get on a sound stage somewhere else.

MVP: Yeah, it’s interesting because some of it almost looks so gorgeous that it looks like it was CGI… it really is that beautiful. But we also shot in California too, so this is a big movie in that it covers a lot of expansion. And so in California you start with folks who’ve been doing it for quite some time, Emmet Walsh and Neil McDonough and Cam Gigandet is in it. So it’s a really big cast and we go from what we feel is Mexico up through Texas to Utah, all the way up to Montana. Of course, if you know your history, Stagecoach Mary ran a stage coach line up through Montana, so we’re actually shooting Montana for Montana and then we shot up there and there’s some cliffs that are amazing that just go straight up for forever.

So I always think that somehow on some level nature as God’s art, and we were right in the middle of the painting and the sunsets that we had with this magic hours were so beautiful that we would actually schedule specific scenes to get our bigger shots at magic hour so we could capture some of that beauty that is Americana, that’s the American West. So you’re going to see some of the vistas that you’ve probably got to know through Pecan Park or even a touch of Leone, I mean a Leone spaghetti western.

But like Kip said, we really were watching a lot of westerns and thinking about it, and we go to many different western towns. So this is not one of those westerns that stays in one town. This thing really travels and we all had to go to cowboy school. So I had done a western some years ago called Posse, and so I already know how to ride. My mother had a Tennessee Walker, but there were some folks that needed to get to cowboy school a little bit. And wasn’t just like you could act in the movie and show up. You had to learn how to ride and then of course learn how to get Zen with the horse that you’re going to ride and make that acquaintance. And I’m directing, acting, so when I’m in there and I call cut, you got to be able to turn around and come back. But that’s communicating with something that’s a lot heavier than you are, man. And so it forces you to be aware of forces other than self. And I think that’s actually therapeutic.

RM: Kip, you’ve been producing for more than 20 years now and the landscape has changed so much since we first seen film come out. It’s changed so much with TV and streaming, and COVID had a lot to do with that, but then just thinking of new ways to adapt and engage with audiences and one of those ways is that we can be investors — we can be part of your project. I saw this through WeVidIt. Tell me a little bit about how I, and others, can get involved.

KK: Appreciate that very much. Yes, I think that the walls between filmmaker and film appreciator and audience have come down dramatically. And that’s great for everybody on both sides of what used to be a wall. WeVidIt has found a very clever way of bringing audiences closer to movies that they love in the process of them being made. And we provide that opportunity with Outlaws. There’s an opportunity to be a participant in the film and in exchange we have not only revenue potential for you and some ownership in the film, but some access as we begin now in 2023 with the marketing campaign and a lot of fun stuff. We’ve got the rollout of the film and the publicity surrounding the film, which not only can benefit somebody personally, but possibly their company as well. And we’ve got a lot of corporate sponsors and more and more coming on.

The movie’s distributed worldwide by a first class distributor. So we’re very proud of that. And we’ve been a studio based movie from the beginning. So it’s a chance for independent people to be part of a studio type of a release. In other words, you know the movie’s going to get out there and it’s going to be seen. And we have a very profile cast who is super supportive of the film and not only would enjoy the collaboration of people out there, but you’ll see these people out in front of the movie so that if you’re an investor, your money’s going to work for you with our movie.

And I’d say lastly, it’s important with art, I think to invest in things that make you feel good about yourself and that make you feel that you’re doing good things for others in the world. That brings self respect. And when you see Outlaws, you’ll feel this. This movie was made from love, this was born from two guys, Mario and I sitting in a room. What about and wouldn’t it be great if we took your attitude from New Jack City and Posse and all the things that we’ve learned as men over the last 40 years of being in this industry, he and I separately, and really put them to work in today’s world and did something with which our kids and the world could be proud to have conversation and to feel that they were really a part of. So join us. We’ve had a lot of success in the past and we’d enjoy sharing it with you.

RM: I feel like Mario, based on our conversation that we’ve had now, it’s at the age of invention, but it’s also at a time where right now in America, I feel like we have the opportunity to do whatever we can think to do, where there’s so much available to us. Are there aspects of what we will see that also mirror what’s happening today? One of those great intangibles that where life imitates art, art imitates life.

MVP: Oh yeah. And the thing is this, what’s interesting, it’s one thing to show an issue, but it’s another thing to show a positive way to get over, get through and get past an issue. And like any country, any young country, we’ve got challenges and things to get through, but we know that we’re stronger united than we are divided. We know really that as Americans we have more commonalities and common denominators than we do as differences. And so some of the funnest to enjoy our differences, to see people, different cultures at different places, bump heads a little bit and figure it out. But it’s a beautiful thing when you see us figure it out and work it out. And I was expressing even earlier musically. And then the other aspect is the family aspect that when I did Posse, my father was there and he’s passed and this time it’s with my son and there are things that we have to get past his father and son to really understand each other.

Mark Twain had a great quote where he said, “All my life my father was an idiot. And at 21 he was a genius”. Meaning that when I turned 21, there were things that I understood that I didn’t understand before. And it’s not just me, Kip’s son was on the set and our daughters were on the set and our extended family and friends, not always just our biological family and friends. And I think that if you look at it, if you think about a baby, a baby cries when it’s hungry, it’s wet, it’s tired, it’s cranky, and that’s what it feels. But as it grows, if it’s unimpeded, it realizes, well, I can’t really be happy if my mom or my family, my dad’s unemployed, my mom’s sick, then my happiness is now bigger. I’ve got to worry about the family. And then if it grows unimpeded, it starts to say, well now I’ve got to worry about my people.

And so as you continue, if you grow unimpeded, you understand that there’s an interconnectivity to us all. And when you get to that aha moment that actually Kip and I are connected, and probably you and our kids breathe the same air and drink the same water, and we might have different beliefs, but our hope is for the best for all of them, having kids is having a little piece of your heart somewhere else.

And so you start to care about the bigger picture and realize that the bigger picture, all the interconnectivity of all is very important. I think you see that in Outlaws and that’s the fun of it. You realize that the us, is a big us. It’s a big us. Beautiful.

For additional information on WeVidIt and Outlaws please download the WeVidIt iOS App (Link to the AppStore) or Android App (Link to Google Play). You can also go to www.WeVidIt.com to access WeVidIt investment offerings.  

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