I was working on ideas for Michael Jackson’s MAN IN THE MIRROR when Frank DiLeo called and said to shift gears and work on THE WAY YOU MAKE ME FEEL. He said that MAN was a slam dunk number one and that THE WAY…needed some help to get to number one.
I listened to the song over and over and I didn’t get it. I thought it was soft and felt like a Beach Boys song. It also brought feelings of a warm day in Kansas with a bunch of guys hanging out in a drugstore. All that after the excitement of MAN IN THE MIRROR.
I met with Frank and Quincy and just told them I didn’t understand what the song was about and Quincy just said it’s about Michael finally getting some pussy. Later we met with Michael and I asked him where the thing should take place and he said skid row. How do you ‘get some pussy’ on skid row? I tried to answer that question. Of course, Michael wasn’t told of the ‘pussy’ idea.
This was the first video after Martin Scorsese’s BAD video. At that time, Michael wanted to do short films rather than conventional videos. That made the idea more complicated. Scorsese had Richard Price write the BAD short film. He had written THE COLOR OF MONEY for Scorsese and I wondered who could write this ‘short film.’ I contacted August Wilson from my hometown of Pittsburgh but he turned me down. Frank suggested his friend David Banks, a black comedian, and to accommodate Frank I tried to work with him, but he was just a joke writer, although a great character.
I decided to structure the thing myself and I had a documentary of ghetto guys (South Central and Compton) hitting on girls made. These were real guys and girls doing their thing. Some of the language was rough and I cut the ‘auditions’ together in a form and showed it to Michael warning him of the language.
Michael was fascinated and loved the roughness of the filming, asking if the video could have that quality. He said it was ‘truthful cinema.’ I don’t think he knew the French term ‘cinéma vérité’ but I was taken by his response and perception, TRUTHFUL CINEMA.