EXCLUSIVE: Xenon Pictures COO Steve Housden Talks DOLEMITE & Rudy Ray Moore BIOPIC
While many are crediting films such as BLACK PANTHER as a symbol of change happening in Hollywood, it likely would not been a reality without the groundwork set by the Blackspoitation era that happened decades before. With that said, I had the opportunity to speak with the COO of film distributing company Xenon Pictures, Mr. Steve Housden, to discuss some of the films from this era that they have available to audiences, such as DOLEMITE and SWEETBACK. Read the transcribed interview below....
BT: Could you discuss a bit about how you came across these iconic films and ended up distributing them?
SH: Sure. I would say it we would need to start with Leigh Savidge, who started the company over 30 years ago -a time otherwise known as the early days of [video] rental stores….(Changing topics)
....which is funny to think about as just yesterday, Blockbuster [Video], decided to close final 2 of their last 3 stores.
BT: Yeah, I recall…It's hard to imagine that we live in a time where these stores are no longer around. I vividly remember going to Errol' video store! (Laughing)
SH: Yeah exactly! In fact, even before Blockbuster, there were all these "mom & pop" stores….
BT: Right, right.
SH: …stores which Xenon [Pictures] was selling [its films] through. In time, Salvidge was getting regular calls from these stores saying, "Hey, I got a lot of customers coming in requesting films other than TOP GUN…" Of the various iconic [blackspolitation] films, the one being requested the most was DOLEMITE. Therefore Salvidge tracked the film down and found the supplier - someone who was distributing the film on VHS - and started buying the film wholesale from him. However, one day Rudy [Ray Moore] eventually shows up in our in our office and tells us, "Those guys [that you're buying the film] are not paying me!"
SH: Upon hearing his story, it really did seem like those people had been ripping Rudy off; therefore we cut ties with that distributor and dealt directly with Rudy, because we respect independence more than anything...
BT: Of course.
SH: ….and we really hate people who rip off filmmakers -artist who put their heart and soul, all of their money, likely all of their family & friend's money. So we again did a deal directly with Rudy-which, of course, resulted in a lawsuit with the third party distributer, but we resolved it. Since then, Rudy has been with us many, many years since. However, since joining us, he has stuck by his policy of keeping on year at a time contracts. (Laughing)
BT: Well, that makes sense. Especially considering experiences working with the previous distributor.
SH: Absolutely! We completely get that - as frustrating as it was. We continue to do it each year in order to earn his trust...
SH: Additionally, we purchased - during that time - more pictures of his. We had to wholesale-since they were with another distributor - Rudy's other films, such as PETEY WHEATSTRAW and DISCO GODFATHER. We ended up buying the copyright from both the distributor and Rudy on those pictures; however, we did continue to give participation to Rudy- particularly for clips. Hilariously enough, The Jay Leno Show would use a lot of clips - especially from the films HUMAN TORNADO and DOLEMITE - for various humorous segments.
BT: Alright, awesome…
SH: Afterwards, we then went after Melvin [Van Peebles] since he had the critically-acclaimed SWEETBACK['S BADASSSS SONG]. However, the first day we called him, and I'm sure you can believe this, Melvin just said, "F%&K YOU!" and hung up! (Laughter)