Hitters – Documentary

FACT TV presents Hitters, an intimate doc about New York’s street dancing scene.

Directed by Scott Carthy, Hitters looks at the world of New York b-boy culture, from the godfathers of the movement to the current faces on the street dancing scene, tracing how it came about and examining the issues which could be bringing it to its demise. The soundtrack comes courtesy of Lex Records’ BADBADNOTGOOD and Ghostface Killah album, Sour Soul.

Watch the doc above, and scroll down for our Q&A with Scott.

What’s Hitters about?

It’s a look into a branch of New York’s street performing culture, specifically the groups of b-boys who perform shows at various spots throughout the city. It’s an insight into how it came about, and the issues which could potentially be bringing it to its demise. It shows the developments from the early days of b-boying, how the godfathers of the movement began to use dance as a way of making money from the streets, and how this over the years was developed by certain dancers into a refined show with a clear beginning, middle and end, supported by a talk show to add to the whole performance.

Why did you decide to make the film?

The film was a natural progression from my previous work covering New York’s subway dancers. I spent quite a bit of time in the city working with various dancers so I became aware that there was a difference between these realms of street and subway performing. Personally, I felt it was important to define the difference between them, out of respect for the dancers but also to educate everyone else who classifies them all as the same thing. They’re very different and come from completely different roots. After slowly becoming acquainted with various dancers it seemed like a good opportunity to cover the story in more depth.

Did you have to gain acceptance from the dancers to film them or were they pretty easygoing?

I think with any subject you have to slowly build a relationship that will allow you access to the truth. I couldn’t just sit down with the guys and expect them to be completely honest or to allow me to go back to their place to do an interview, etc. This tends to work in my favour. This initiation period gives you time to understand what type of narrative is evolving, and how to best position questions while interviewing them. I think this is also where there are advantages in working alone. Situations like these just aren’t suited to a team of more than one person – a completely different atmosphere would be created, one white guy’s enough. It didn’t take long before there was a mutual respect and we were all just chilling and shooting on a regular basis.

Is the film what you expected it to be when you were making it?

I think I’ve learned to accept that you just can’t predict what films like these are going to become. It’s only in the editing stages where your really able to construct a cohesive story so until then I only have a vague idea of the what’s evolving. Similarly, shooting in New York city on the street on a daily basis you can’t predict what may happen. The characters at the start of the film came out of the blue. I was sitting on the subway heading to meet the dancers when I saw this kid doing card tricks. I thought I’d shoot some footage, potential filler shots, you know, city of hustlers all that, it just felt appropriate. To then find that this kid’s dad was second generation of one of the most prevalent b-boy groups in the ’80s was crazy. I then met his dad and he drove me to the park where the movement started for him, and from there he linked me with Kid Freeze, first generation from the opposing team which was held in similarly high regards. Shit like that you can’t predict, I could have just sat there and said nothing. New York’s crazy like that.

Generally though, I just wanted to get more of an insight into an aspect of the city’s street performing/busking culture. I’d seen how the crackdown was being carried out on the trains, so I wanted to see if anything similar was happening above ground. These days Times Square is so packed with people in movie character costumes, often in multiples of the same character, it’s so irrelevant to the location and makes no sense – why would want to get a picture with some idiot in a costume while you’re in Times Square? I wanted to understand where all the genuine street performers had ‘disappeared’ to, and despite the hustle, these dancers seemed like some of the last ones.

What was the most challenging aspect of making it?

Taking into consideration the city this is happening in and the nature of what’s being done, you have to be very street smart. It’s something which I’m lucky to have from a childhood in the Irish countryside where things are moving 100mph. Due to the nature of the show there’s an obvious hustle going on so again you have to be careful with when and how you film as you don’t want to piss anyone off. The dancers are always subconsciously analysing what’s going on in the show and around them so you have to be on your toes.