Spotlight on Ohlone:
Mark Skillz debuts ‘White Lines and the Fever’
By Dave Sheffer, Staff writer.
Thursday, May 13, 2010—Reprinted from Monitor.
‘Mark Skillz’ a.k.a. Mark McCord went back to school at the age of 35 to become a writer.
McCord attended Ohlone College where he wrote for the Monitor for two years. After graduating he moved to South Carolina and went to work for Wax Poetics, an international magazine devoted to record collectors, DJs and audiophiles in general.
His first article ‘When the Fever was the Mecca’ looked at the hip hop club Fever during the 1980’s at its most influential time. The article exposed how wild Fever really was. It looked at the murder of the club DJ Junebug due to heavy drug dealing. Not a lot of money was being made in hip hop at the time and he resorted to dealing drugs.
Five years later, McCord’s first article has become the short film “White Lines and the Fever: The death of DJ Junebug.”
Just as “When the Fever was the Mecca” was his first published article, this is his first screenplay.
According to Skillz, “It was very hard to write the screenplay, I’m used to writing in prose and narrative. This is something I learned from Bill Parks in media class. Writing a screenplay you need to think about what images you are going to have and what music should be used. It’s like learning to eat with your left hand.”
Skillz went on to say, “I wanted to tell a story about people and not the birth of hip hop. Their life, joys and sorrows. It does a good job telling the story of consequences of bad decisions. To take the story and make a film that resonates with people is incredible.”
The first screening of the film was with the film crew and families and the second screening was with the cast of the film. “These are people that I used to watch on television and buy their records as a kid. That response was out of this world,” said McCord.
His short film won “Best Documentary Short” at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival, as well as the Special Jury Award at the South by Southwest Film Festival.
Skillz, who co-wrote the screenplay as well as served as music consultant, compared the success of the film as being akin to a rocket going off. “You see a rocket going into the air and pass our view and you don’t know where it’s going to go, it’s the craziest thing.”
The name ‘Mark Skillz’ comes from Mark’s desire to be a rapper in the ‘90s and even though he has since given that up, he has kept the name.
The article can be read on Mark Skillz website hiphop101a.blogspot.com. The trailer for the film can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-fUGcUTkkM. McCord is trying to turn it into a full-length feature film.
The best advice that Skillz has to offer to budding writers is, “Writing is a lonely craft and art. Whatever you’re passionate about you should write about because that’s where you best work is going to come from.
“My favorite book is ‘Seabiscuit,’ but what attracted me to it was the passion the author had for the subject. Don’t go out there looking for money, the money will come but stick to your passion never wave from your passion, stay with it.”