Andrew Davis, Director's Statement
I made STONY ISLAND partly as a tribute to my parents who raised their children with a clear social conscience, a feeling about humanity that is the basis of the story. My parents met at the theater in the 1930's and raised us on the South side of Chicago. We lived in the shadow of the steel mills adjacent to South Deering and Gary, employing 60,00 people near Stony Island Avenue. The neighborhood was called Jeffrey Manor, a housing development built on slag heaps for WW II Veterans.
My brother Richie was years younger than my sister Jo Ellen and I, and as we grew up and left the house, black families wanting to find a middle class life moved in. There was white flight, with the neighborhood changing overnight. My parents decided that they were not going to leave; they were going to stay and not be scared away.
Richie wound up having almost all black friends. There was a kid from the neighborhood named Stoney Robinson, who came from an amazing family of singers, and became like a brother to Richie. I became a filmmaker because I wanted to tell stories that would help the world become a better place. Stories about people overcoming, getting along and appreciating each other.
After college I became an assistant cameraman in Chicago, doing commercials, documentaries and industrials. I was given a shot working with Haskell Wexler and became a successful cameraman. I made my way to Hollywood, and found work, but trying to make a career as a studio cameraman was very difficult. With several other young cameramen, we filed a class action lawsuit against the union and the studios, to allow young talent equitable access to the studio system. In the meantime I realized it would be easier to become a director, and I decided to make a movie.
Everyone is told to do something one knows, find a subject that is close your heart and something you have a deep understanding and feeling for. I had seen George Lucas' American Graffiti and Marty Scorsese's Mean Streets and I understood that these directors were making films about where they grew up and their own lives. I decided to make a movie about music as a common language. It would be about a white kid in a black neighborhood making music, about kids growing up together and forming a band. My brother by this time was in college and playing guitar and I said, "Richie if I ever get this movie together, you should be the lead in it."
Having made STONY ISLAND, Chicago, became the place that I always wanted to go back to every time I got an opportunity. Those early images, of Chicago really became my palate. You can also see a lot of The Fugitive in STONY ISLAND, a lot of Above the Law, The Package, Code of Silence, and Chain Reaction. I've made six movies in Chicago and I would love to come back home and make another STONY ISLAND there.