We are now living in a technological day and age where everything has the potential to be documented and/or recorded. In Malik Vitthal’s latest film BODY CAM, which is now out on Digital and On Demand, this supernatural police procedural finds a cop (Mary J. Blige) who, after the death of her colleague, uncovers footage that leads to a shocking discovery that feels eerily timely to what is occurring today in our world.
For the release of the film, I had the opportunity to chat with Malik Vitthal about BODY CAM. During the interview, Malik discussed everything from how the main character reminded him of his mom to the themes of police brutality and how we need to come together as a community of people to support one another.
Hi Malik, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today about BODY CAM. To start things off, can you tell us a little bit about how this project came to be?
Malik Vitthal: Some friends of mine, Matt Kaplan and Robyn Marshall, have a production company and approached me and said, “We got this story and we think it would be perfect for you.” Over the course of the next few months, we stayed in touch and kept working on it. I pitched my vision of the film to studios and eventually, they brought me on board to make it. I really fell in love with [the story] because of the main character. It kind of made me think of my mother who raised me on her own and was a little bit of everything to me. She was my mother, my father, disciplinarian, and best friend. She worked full time and was this example of how you can do everything and still really help the community around you. She was one of the people that really had a big impact on my life so I wanted to see characters like her in films.
I really enjoyed how the movie utilized different technology to film, such as body cams as well as drone footage. Can you discuss using these different types of filming techniques?
Malik Vitthal: It kind of goes along with some of the dramatic elements of the film, of catching different perspectives of who’s story is being told and how someone’s story is being told. Then you have these other angles that are a little bit higher up looking down which makes it feel like this other presence is kind of watching the people in the film. We kind of wanted to just share all of those different perspectives. At some point, you’ll see a drone and you’re like, “What’s watching them” and that kind of creates a little bit more suspense.
Mary J. Blige and Nat Wolff’s performance as two police officers working together was exceptional. How was it working with them on this film?
Malik Vitthal: Mary was my first choice because I wanted someone who the culture loved. I think, initially, it’s not a role that anyone is going to jump for because cops are right now… it’s a difficult conversation in our community. At the outset, I wanted to have someone that [the audience] loved that would make them say “Of course I’ll go watch that movie if Mary J. Blige is in it.” She ended up being such a fantastic storyteller, so giving, and such a gifted performer too, so it was a little bit of everything that made her perfect for the role. It shows off some of her best qualities and also lets her illuminate some of that mysterious side of herself. I think it plays really well on screen. Nat Wolff ended up being perfect as someone who would get [Mary J. Blige’s character] to open up. You don’t feel like he ever had any other motives so you’re like, “Okay cool, these two are partners, I believe it right away.” They have a good rapport, which is something you need when you are with somebody all the time working with them at night.
One of my favorite aspects of this film was the use of practical effects especially in regards to the kill scenes and a certain moment that features cockroaches. What made you decide to go with practical over CGI?
Malik Vitthal: For me, whenever I go see films, I get sucked in deeper when it just feels real. Because this felt like it was happening in the real world, we wanted to make everything feel as present as possible. And yes, those are real cockroaches. It was interesting because every time we had to do that scene we would have to go back and find the cockroaches and put them back in. It’s a little bit of a process and everyone on the crew wasn’t especially happy about that process (laughs).
The themes in this film deal with police brutality towards people of color with the use of a supernatural element to tell the overall story. I found that this helped in understanding the pain that these characters were going through. That said, what are you hoping people take away from this film after they see it?
Malik Vitthal: It’s a conversation that, unfortunately, is still going and it’s up to us to have agency on how we move the conversation forward and support each other. We’re all a community, we’re all in this together. Sometimes, our communities are fractured, sometimes there are people in our community that aren’t mindful of others. We are really being reminded that we are a community. People know their neighbors more than they have ever known them in the last couple of decades because you actually have to know your neighbors. We need a little bit more support locally because that will help our larger communities in the nation.
BODY CAM is available to purchase on digital and will be available for rent On Demand June 2 and on DVD July 14.