The Andre the Giant Has a Posse sticker is probably up there with Cross pens, costume jewelry and calamari as the Ocean State’s most popular ever exports. While its creator, Shepard Fairey – then a RISD student and local skate punk who went on to design the Obama Hope poster – might not be as famous as Seth MacFarlane, Billy Donovan, John King or Amy Carter, how many of them can boast that they took on Rhode Island’s most well-known icon: Buddy Cianci.
Here’s the highly-anticipated, highly-dramatized 20 minute movie about how a unknown art student took on the most famous mayor in the country … and won! Political buffs will love the portrayal of Cianci, played by Keith Jochim of Providence.
Here’s a description of the movie, from its Kickstarter page:
Hi. My name is Julian Marshall. I am a 22-year-old film director from Washington, DC. I am currently a senior at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). I recently directed a short narrative film about the early life of Shepard Fairey and the origin story of his OBEY GIANT street art campaign. The film is set in Providence, RI, in 1990 when Shepard was studying illustration at RISD. In an illustration class, titled Style and Substance, Shepard received a historic assignment that would later establish his legacy in Providence. Each student in the class was given a fortune cookie, and tasked with illustrating his or her respective fortune. Shepard’s fortune read: TO AFFECT THE QUALITY OF THE DAY IS NO SMALL ACHIEVEMENT. He then decided to paste his Andre graphic over the face of notorious former Mayor of Providence, Buddy Cianci, on his re-election billboard, located in the heart of the city.
And here’s an interview with Marshall in which he talks about how he decided to focus on the incident with Buddy:
PPLA: Shepard is an artist with much acclaim in the community and both positive and negative publicity throughout his twenty plus year career. What made you decide to focus on the Buddy Cianci incident?
JM: That seemed to be the perfect story for me to tell, being a ‘RISD story’ and me being a RISD student. So it made sense for me to make a story about another RISD student 21 years before I attended the school. I wanted to get down to the moment where this thing was still new and fresh for Fairey and he was just reacting. The time before he had the controversial publicity that he has recently experienced, like right now with the associated press lawsuit or the way some people seem to react to his OBEY clothing. I wanted to keep it simple and I wanted to tell a story similar to The Social Network– a “where did this thing come from” feeling. A lot of people don’t quite understand where this movement came from and they just see what it is now and take from it whatever they want.
PPLA: Agreed. Not many people are aware Fairey’s initial ideas or intentions. You have a street artist pre-Obama where work was looked at by most as vandalism or “street art” as we call it. How was it that you learned about what led up to the Buddy Cianci billboard incident? It’s not as if Fairey woke up one day and said, I’m bored and I’m just going to slap an Andre the Giant face over Buddy Cianci’s.
JM: I can speak to some of that. The jumping off point for the story was me seeing and reading the story in Fairey’s book. There are plenty of people still currently at RISD that were around at the time of the billboard-teachers of Fairey’s that are still here- so I amassed all of the research myself by interviewing people and ultimately found what I believe to be the black and white truth. I pulled everyone’s contributions together and then basically looked at how to build the best story from that. I thought, ‘How can we build the best, intricate, but still factual story from those accounts.’