Monarch: How did the two of you come together?
CR: We came together out of love. It was an instant connection that from our very beginning included creating art together — which serves as the lifeblood, the engine of our shared identity. We are truly partners in every sense of the word. Bush + Renz is now a family crest, a legacy in the making.
Monarch: What made Janelle Monáe the perfect Veronica?
CR: We were already fans of Janelle the pop icon, but, frankly, we had never considered her for the lead role in our film. That was until fate intervened and we happened upon Janelle sitting stoically in the audience of The Grammy’s. Such calm, such beauty, but you could also see the super bright furnace raging just under the surface — we knew right then we had found our Veronica/Eden.
Monarch: For years, you have used artistry to raise awareness on social justice issues. What prompted this?
GB: We knew from day one that we had deep concern about the direction the world was headed. Barack Obama had just been elected President and we were ecstatic but history informed us —as with the period preceding the Union’s Civil War victory — the backlash to progress would be swift and mighty, and we needed to prepare and use all of the available artistic weapon-ry at our disposal to amplify a whole host of very ur-gent issues, not the least of which was race in America. Then when Trayvon was murdered, we were both left gutted; nothing was the same. Using our creative talents to sell champagne and luxury cars was a pursuit that suddenly left us feeling empty.
Monarch: From the inception of your career, were you always headed for the big screen?
GB: Yes. We both knew from the genesis of our partnership movies would be the end goal. Not just making films but advancing the art form. We also knew that it would not happen overnight, so we put in eight years learning our collective craft, honing our shared voice in Miami before making the giant leap to Hollywood.
Monarch: Do you believe more artists will begin using their talents to create social change?
GB: Absolutely. Just like hip-hop surpassed rock and roll, auteurs who push cinema as a thrilling and entertaining vehicle to activate meaningful and sustainable change will take their place alongside the rock star. In our case, we replace the mic and 40,000 fans with our laptop keyboard and a camera — to paint what a new world can look like for millions of people watch-ing from home or in the movie theater. Artists can no longer afford to entertain for entertainment’s sake — that’s tantamount to the orchestra playing on the deck of the Titanic.
Monarch: What artists inspire you?
GB: James Baldwin. Basquiat. Kubrick. Prince. Toni Morrison. Langston Hughes. Alice Walker. Maya Angelou. Joan Didion. Bob Marley. Jay-Z. The list is far too long, but what the aforementioned artists have in common is their unwavering commitment to telling the truth, no matter how uncomfortable it makes people; which is precisely the point.
Monarch: Will you continue using art as a call to action for change in every project?
GB: Yes. We are only interested in staying on mission. We are here to deliver a message and that is what calls to our hearts and solidifies our union. We’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of what change agent storytelling/filmmaking can look like. Humans are programmed to process information through stories; that’s how we can pluck the empathetic chord of the mind and then the heart. To do any-thing else would feel like a betrayal.
Monarch: What can audiences expect to take away from Antebellum?
Monarch: What birthed the idea of Ante-bellum?
GB: A nightmare I (Gerard) had when we first moved to LA shortly after my father’s sudden passing. It was essentially the story of Antebellum. Renz and I both tend to receive most of our ideas through dreams or day walking visions, so this wasn’t unusual. At the time, I was moved to tears and new within every fiber of my being Antebellum was an ancestral seeding.
Monarch: How have you both been affected by the current social climate?
GB: Like everyone else, we are rife with anxiety and rage. But at the same time we are hopeful that we can chart a new course, that is if we all have the courage to confront the truth— which requires acknowledging that America was built on the backs of stolen bodies and free labor and that the privileged class still enjoys the currency of their whiteness, whether they realize that fact or not. White supremacy is at the core of America’s founding and we must dismantle the scaffolding which sup-ports it if we have any chance of fulfilling the promise of this country.