Interview with Filmmaker Blair Avery (STILL ROLLING PAPERS)

STILL ROLLING PAPERS was the winner of BEST SHORT FILM at the April 2022 Toronto DOCUMENTARY Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

This was actually a project I was selected to direct. Will Dzombak who is Wiz Khalifa’s manager has always wanted to make a documentary highlighting the moment in time when Wiz made his first studio album, Rolling Papers. So when the tenth anniversary arrived Warner Music asked him what they could do to celebrate it’s release. He suggested doing a documentary and we were approached over at Hip Hop DX to do the honors!

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

It took about 8 months. We were approached on March 5th 2021, we turned in the first complete draft in August and the polished version landed in November.

3. How would you describe your film in two words!?

Taylor Gang

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

The label had initially asked us to do something fairly simple, and they wanted it finished by the end of the month. When we told them it may take several months to complete they were far from pleased. But we had a vision and we were married to the idea of taking this as far as we could. Little by little, they came to understand what we were building. What was supposed to be a project that celebrated the 10th anniversary of the album became a project celebrating the eleventh, but Wiz loved the film and it took off quickly when it was released, organically reaching 1 million views in less than a week. So everyone was thrilled by the end!

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

It was heartwarming to see people moved by the project. One of our producer’s, Jeremy Hecht, had mentioned that he especially appreciated this quote from one of the fans, “the importance of knowing when to listen to your team and when to listen to yourself. And how well it can turn out when you bet on yourselves.” In his eyes, that quote epitomized the entire process of making this film.

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

Very distinctly when I was 12 years old.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

I’m not entirely sure, but one that comes to mind is Almost Famous. I love that movie to death.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

The best possible exposure is the kind that happens in the third dimension. Real life interactions with people coming together in an actual room and enjoying the film.

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?

Film freeway is so absolutely dope!

10. What is your favorite meal?

I’m vegan, but I always tell people (even though I don’t eat it anymore) Sushi is still my favorite food.

11. What is next for you? A new film?

Always. My best work is my next work. We want to do more music documentaries and we’re working on setting the next one up. But in the future I also hope to cross over to scripted film and TV. I have a feature I’m getting ready to shop which explores the subject of psychedelic therapy. You heard it first!


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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