The last time we encountered Lowell cannabis rapper and movie director Myster DL was at the MassCann Freedom Rally, where he was rocking with a plant in one hand and a microphone in the other. The time before that, he was dropping a short documentary he filmed for Cypress Hill, while our hangout before that was for his first feature-length film. He’s always into something, and DL’s latest, The Weekend Warriors, pulls a lot of his usual camera antics and actors to set a new scene—namely, the backyards, basements, and back rooms that so-called grown-ups seize on when the workweek ends. The series features cameos from planet hip-hop such as Onyx, Slaine, and Termanology, and may be the closest thing to a New England spin on the Trailer Park Boys to date. We asked the maestro DL about his comedy adventure and about getting his show about “a group of immature losers” on Amazon.
My first question has to obviously be: How autobiographical is this project?
Besides the cannabis use this couldn’t be further from reality as far as personal drug use. I only partake in booze and weed. All-time stats: I’m a rookie. I smoke daily, but I’ve only been drunk about 30 times in my whole life. I didn’t drink or smoke until I was 19 years old.
In real life, I couldn’t hang with the Weekend Warriors. As far as the dialog and content—I think and say wild stuff. I write things to be funny; that doesn’t mean I agree with what I say all the time, but I think I’m good at writing funny conversations. I don’t think I am funny off-paper, though. I don’t have the timing, but I can find humor in anything. We aren’t as rude, vicious, or self-centered in real life.
Where was it shot? And how did you get the crew and actors together? I see there are a few repeat offenders from your former projects.
The show was filmed in Massachusetts, mostly Lowell, but some episodes took place in Woburn, Stoneham, and Boston. A couple of us filmed in Chicago to make the St. Patrick’s episode, which I feel had more production value.
Getting the crew together is always hard because the cast is so big. Everyone in the cast I know personally. There is only one main character that I didn’t really know that well—she showed up for a small walk-on role and wound up being a main cast member. Otherwise, I handpicked the cast from people that I thought were funny. It was pretty much that simple. The problem was, I picked funny people, not actors. I had to write a character I thought they could pull off without looking like we are acting.
In the past, you shot a feature-length movie that in some regards pulled off the look of a major motion picture. This time, I presume you have better technology but are going for a more independent home video look, per the subject matter. What’s your approach to making Weekend Warriors feel just right for what it is supposed to be?
I wanted the show to look like it was made by a bunch of boneheads. I wanted the focus to be wrong sometimes. I wanted the microphones to be wrong. I think mockumentaries are overproduced and it makes them not look real. Say what you will about the show, but it looks real. It looks like we are just hanging out. People have already told me they didn’t know I got down like that. I just reply, “I don’t. I’m acting. My name is Morgan and I have hair. It’s not me, bro.” I think I pulled off the look. If you notice, the camera work gradually gets better as the season progresses. Basically Morgan is learning how to use his new camera.
A lot of this is actually hilarious. Which I know is a lot harder to pull off than people may realize. How much of a jump was it from drama and videos to humor for you?
I find it much easier to write drama. I can write pages of dialogue in my sleep. Comedy is so much harder. More so than drama. You really have to chose your words, how many words, order of words, delivery, etc. The editing is what really makes comedy work. If it doesn’t hit right, maybe now it’s not funny. I also don’t need to take notes when I write drama. When I write comedy, I have pages of notes including on which character should say what joke, which character would have the best response. It’s all timing.
How much was scripted? How much was improv? What did you learn along the way about making something funny on screen?
The entire show is written. Improv is encouraged because that’s why the cast is here, to be funny. As long as we get what is on paper, I am completely on board with improv. Sometimes they improv a funnier wording of a line, sometimes they improv a funny idea. Improv is really tough because for every funny line there’s one that doesn’t land. We always film what is on the paper, though; that way the story will still be intact. As the writer and editor, it all comes down to which jokes and lines I personally thought were funny. I learned that letting people improv helps them be more in character. It works much better for comedy than it does for drama.
Who is your prime demographic? So-called grown-ups like us with man caves? Stoners and beer drinkers in general? Grandparents?
Our demographic is just fans of adult comedy. They can be stoners and party animals or straight edge. It might help, though, if they do drugs. Just because we do drugs in the show doesn’t mean you have to do that to enjoy it. I liked The Sopranos and I wasn’t in the mafia.
You’ve done quite a few things in the past couple of years—in addition to videos for big rappers, you did a behind-the-scenes series and also directed a short documentary for Cypress Hill. How do you go about selecting the next thing you are going to be working on?
I don’t always select what I’m going to do. I get contacted a lot. That’s a cool feeling. It’s extra cool when it’s an artist I’ve been a fan of. As far as selecting my personal projects, it’s a little different. I have a lot of ideas but I only work on a couple at a time. In 2018 I worked on the Weekend Warriors, a comedy, and my next film, As Thick as Thieves, a drama [and sequel to DL’s 2014 feature, A Sea of Green]. Those are deep, in-depth projects. Those take me years. To not get burnt out, I step away periodically. This is when I would release … straight-to-YouTube TV shows, things I don’t have to have enormous budgets on. Shows like Mmmedical Edibles, which is a successful show. I just need a kitchen, our chef, and some weed. My plate is never clear—I’m always working on something.
Ill Mannered Films is an independent beast, so to speak. How close have you come to stepping in establishment circles, with things like actor unions and permits, and how much do you care about going that route in bigger future projects?
As of right now I enjoy making movies and shows with my friends and lady. Sometimes my friends are famous and that’s cool too. I don’t think I would like the film business as it is. I want to film, not stand around. I don’t want the suits to edit my film and give me notes just to give them. I don’t want to spend one-10th of my budget on dog massages for the lead actress’s chihuahua. I never got a permit in my life. For this specifically, we aren’t shutting streets down or anything. We mostly film off the grid or in someone’s home or backyard. Mostly.
This is a pretty big move, having this accessible on Amazon. For people trying to do what you’re doing, what have you learned about distribution thus far that you applied to putting out Weekend Warriors?
I’ve learned it’s hard to contact the right people and because of that it is expensive to contact the right people. The fees to submit to some of these platforms is outstanding. Thousands of dollars for someone to click on your video and hope they don’t click off after 30 seconds. If you are Universal, it’s not that big of a hit to your budget, but we are independent filmmakers. We shouldn’t have to sell our cars and homes to submit a movie or TV show. Not that I did that, but some do. After all that spending you still might not be on their platform. It’s a huge gamble. I also learned that closed caption and sound editing is a nightmare.
Is there another season in the works?
Yes, there is a season two already being written and planned out. We have some cool special guests lined up and it will be filmed locally.
THE WEEKEND WARRIORS IS NOW AVAILABLE TO STREAM ON AMAZON.
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.