For seven years Adrian Grenier represented the lavish lifestyle of an A-list celebrity. To many Grenier was a product of his meta-character Vincent Chase on HBO’s Entourage. As his character grew into his rising fame, Grenier took a direction that was off the beaten path. What resulted is a short but impressive body of work as a documentarian. Taking tentative steps as a filmmaker Grenier crafted a touching documentary Shot in the Dark, which took him on an emotional search to find the meaning of the word “father” while unraveling the true identity of his own.
Now years later he’s giving back as a producer in the documentary How to Make Money Selling Drugs. A controversial film that leaves out any cause for sensationalism, Grenier and director Matthew Cooke took on the arduous task of looking at the other side of the drug world. How to Make Money Selling Drugs is an entertaining, often humorous, yet poignant message that shows how one can hypothetically move up from a corner drug dealer to a drug cartel honcho roped in with keeping up the lifestyle. As the documentary winds on, it boldly targets the fallacies involved in the war on drugs policy, and leaves no stone unturned as it delves into the corrupted systems run by federal enforcers.
Taking what society deems as unsavory characters, the documentary candidly profiles ex drug-dealers, hustlers, and inmates and cracks the stereotype wide open, showing a charismatic and truthful look at people fighting to make ends meet in a society that “Just says no.”
The Inquisitr’sNiki Cruz spoke with Adrian Grenier about the film, and what’s next for his Entourage character.
THE INQUISITR: What about How To Make Money Selling Drugs inspired you to produce it?
ADRIAN GRENIER: It’s director Matthew Cooke’s vision. He was the inspiration. He’s very passionate about the topics and he’s extremely educated, but more importantly he had such an entertaining vision for how to tell the story. As important as documentaries may be you still need to get the audiences in the seats. I think it’s different. People will be entertained and they’re going to tell their friends and they’ll watch it over, and over again, but at the same time they’ll get the important message in it.
THE INQUISITR: What was immediately striking about this film is that it doesn’t come off like a Saturday Morning special, but it also doesn’t glorify the lifestyle in any way. Was that always the route?
GRENIER: Yeah I think in order to tell an honest story or attempt to approach the truth you’re going to have to look at it from all the perspectives. In real life there’s tragedy, there’s disaster, there’s a lot of different sides. You’re looking for human sides to these drug dealers. These are the people who have been there, behind the scenes, and you start to realize that there are tragic moments, and you have to represent that. At the same time these are just people that found themselves in a difficult situation, and made bad choices, and were put up against policies that didn’t give them a fighting chance.
THE INQUISITR: Did producing this film make that transition of coming off a long-running tv show like Entourage easier?
GRENIER: I’ve made several documentaries and this is my fifth one at this point. I don’t know. For me it’s really about the hustle of trying to capture the moment. I don’t think it’s ever easy. It’s always a challenge. I might of had a little more sway while talking to some of the subjects because they know me, so there might have been an immediate trust or legitmacy to the project. Beyond that you’re constantly trying to make it happen. That’s just the nature of film.
THE INQUISITR: Aside from the obvious ways, in terms of fulfillment, how does producing a documentary differ than directing one?
GRENIER: It’s really about creating final say. The director needs to have total control and trying to make that final judgement of what gets cut, but that being said, as a producer I’m certainly very vocal. It was really Matthew Cooke’s decision to make the film more entertaining, and it’s because of Matthew that the film has that visual and pacing. The visual style, which I think is so important, helped with the film being so accessible and as entertaining as it is.
THE INQUISITR: Was there anything while conducting the interviews that surprised you?
GRENIER: Yeah. How likable all our subjects are. These are supposed to be hardened criminals, right? That’s what the drug policy wants you to believe. People who do drugs or are involved in the drug game are people who should be punished. I don’t believe that anymore. There was a time where I, without thinking, took on that assumption from the taboo that it was propagated by. Then I realized, oh wait a minute that’s actually not true, most people who are in jail for drugs are non-violent and it’s the jail that has trained them to be violent for them to survive. Even the black market that creates the tension between gangs who are looking to militarize their own little operation become violent. I’ve learned so much.
THE INQUISITR: I found your film Shot in the Dark to be incredibly touching, and I also enjoyed Teenage Paparazzo. What does it take for you to say, “I want to make that film”?
GRENIER: Thank you so much. It’s something that you’re compelled to do. When I first made Shot in the Dark it was because I had a video camera, and I said, “Oh I can do this.” I went out and started filming. I thought, “How hard can this be?” It was only until later that I realized “Oh, it actually takes a lot of work to make everything flow and for things to have an arc.” I’m in the business of telling stories. It’s what I do. I love it and I find it really fulfilling and I would encourage anyone out there, if you have a story to tell, to go out there and make a documentary. You can use your iPhone now. I think that’s the beauty of documentary film. It’s important for us to communicate honestly and candidly about things.
THE INQUISITR: Jumping a bit, we’ve been hearing about the Entourage film for months now. The last time we saw Vince he had a pretty zen-attitude about his place in the industry. Everything came full circle. What do you hope this film brings to Vince?
GRENIER: I hope that they end up having a great time because if they have a great time then I’m having a great time. It’s my job to play that. I just hope we get to do something epic and very large.
THE INQUISITR: Do you see the Entourage film filming in a few months?
GRENIER: I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if they got it together that quickly, but I wouldn’t hold my breath either.
THE INQUISITR: Some people may not know that you’re an entrepreneur and a lot of that involves your passion for music and social media. Can you discuss your involvement with your latest project, The Wreckroom?
GRENIER: I don’t know how these things end up happening. You get something so simple and then I guess it’s the core concept that people get excited about and start contributing from there. The Wreckroom is really just a simple idea of giving away the excess bandwidth of my recording studio to hear bands that wouldn’t necessarily be able to record in a semi-pro studio. Then people started showing up and it collected good will, and it got larger than I originally intended. I think it’s sort of the whole give and you shall receive thing. You give and then you get back tenfold. Now we’re bringing a lot of attention from really well-respected people in the industry. It’s really excited. I’m happy.
THE INQUISITR: As far as your own musical endeavors, are you still making music with The Honey Brothers?
GRENIER: I haven’t been working with The Honey Brothers because I’ve become so busy. The Honey Brothers took a spring hiatus, but we’ve been working with a band called The Skins. The Skins are doing really well.
THE INQUISITR: The film talks a lot about the fabric of the American dream. What’s the American dream for you?
GRENIER: I think freedom. Freedom in having the opportunity to express yourself creatively and explore ideas beyond the day and day survival of trying to make a buck and feed your family.
HOW TO MAKE MONEY SELLING DRUGS IS AVAILABLE NATIONWIDE ON VOD JUNE 18.