Film Courage: I understand that you prefer vérité style instead of the talking head sort of documentaries. Were you concerned for your own safety [while filming THE FORCE]? Had you ever seen anyone shot or stabbed in your own life, traveling in the Bay Area?
Peter Nicks: You know, I’ve been around some pretty hairy situations. And part of my story was intersecting with law enforcement when I was in college. I got in trouble. I got arrested and I ended up serving a year in prison on a drug charge. But I didn’t have the experience that a lot of young African Americans have. I don’t know if it’s because I am mixed-race? I’m lighter skinned? The way I dress? The way I talk? The way I carry myself, I’m not really sure?
But the first memorable experience I had with law enforcement was them basically saving my life by intersecting me at a very, sort of…where I could have gone either way…where it could have gone either way.
But the first day I was in prison, somebody got their throat cut. And I was around young black men just like me, but from the other side of the tracks and so I had a very unique kind of coming of age. This is when I was 21. This is you know right at that moment where you are starting to come into your identity. But I did grow up in the suburbs of Boston and I went to private school. I went to Howard University. And so I’ve always…(Watch the video on Youtube here).
Film Courage: Pete, did you used to watch the TV show COPS?
Peter Nicks: You know…I watched a little bit of it. Like I’m sure everybody has seen a little bit of it, but once you’ve seen a guy take his shirt off and jump a fence and run through somebody’s backyard, you’ve basically seen COPS. So yeah…I’ve seen it and it’s part of the grammar of non-fiction storytelling. It was one of the early reality shows (actually I think that and THE REAL WORLD maybe?). And everyone brings up COPS when they hear about our project…(Watch the video on Youtube here).
About the film:
At a powderkeg moment in American policing, The Force goes deep inside the embattled Oakland Police Department as it struggles to confront federal demands for reform, the rise of Black Lives Matter and an explosive scandal.
PETER NICKS Director, Producer, Cinematographer:
Peter Nicks is an Emmy Award winning shooter/director known for his courageous cinema vérité style. He directed/produced The Waiting Room, which was released theatrically in 2012 to critical acclaim and won numerous awards including the Truer Than Fiction Independent Spirit award. Nicks is a 2015 United States Artist Fellow in the midst of his trilogy of timely, immersive films exploring the interconnected narratives of health care, criminal justice and education in Oakland, CA.