Entertainment

We Interviewed the Guy Who Made Eric Adams’ Bizarre ‘Contraband’ Video

Now that the NYC mayoral candidate's incredibly strange, decade-old video is going viral, we unearthed the story of how it got made.
Drew Schwartz
Brooklyn, US
April 15, 2021, 5:43pm
Eric Adams
Screenshot via the New York Daily News / YouTube

One day in 2011, back when New York City mayoral hopeful Eric Adams was a state senator, he decided to make a video he felt was of critical importance to his constituents. The subject: how to search your own home for “contraband”—guns, drugs, and other illicit paraphernalia—that your children may have hidden around the house. He enlisted a staffer to help source the props and filmed the spot the very next day, shooting it at his apartment in Brooklyn in one take, without a script. Within a week, he had it uploaded to YouTube. 

The video, which resurfaced on Twitter this week, is incredibly bizarre. In it, Adams explains how an innocent-looking jewelry box might actually conceal a firearm, pulling a remarkably tiny gun out of such a box and waving it at the camera to prove his point. He rummages through a backpack—which he calls a “popular knapsack with many different locations,” for some reason—and reveals a “used crack pipe,” squirreled away in a pocket. Seemingly every corner of Adams’ apartment turns out to be a hiding spot for something sinister: Behind a bookshelf, there’s a giant bag of fake cocaine; behind a picture frame, there are bullets; inside of a doll, there’s a sack of what looks like weed; inside of a pillow, another gun.

The video was filmed by Matthew Kulvicki, who worked as the Director of Production for the New York State Senate at the time. According to Kulvicki, Adams gave him virtually no time to prepare. Instead, he just told Kulvicki to show up at his apartment ready to shoot. 

“He knew exactly what he wanted to do and how he wanted to do it,” Kulvicki told VICE. “Then he said, ‘I'm ready.’ Then I hit record.”

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VICE spoke with Kulvicki, who now works as the Director of Film and Video at the Institute for New Economic Thinking, about what it was like to film Adams that day. As it turns out, the story of how the project came to be is almost as ridiculous as the video itself.

VICE: Where did the idea to make this video come from? Were you ever given any kind of pitch?
Matthew Kulvicki
: With Eric, it wasn't really a pitch. It was like, “I want to make a video about looking for drugs in your house tomorrow.” He wanted me to do my thing, which was basically following him around as he speaks and making sure I could hear him. And then there was a staffer—she came into the office and was like, “Matt, are you working on the senator’s video?” And she said, “He told me to go out and buy weed and a crack pipe. How does he think I would know how to get a crack pipe? Who does he think I am?” 

And I'm just thinking, Well, I’m glad he didn't tell me; it could have just as easily been me. He didn't ask her for any specific reason; it just happened to [fall] to her. So she's running around getting things for him. [We needed fake] pot and, you know, you could use oregano. And then he wants cocaine—maybe you put like a package [of something] in a Ziploc? I remember he showed it to me and asked if it was too much. And I was just like, “Nah.” 

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What was the experience of making the video like for you?
So we go in to shoot the thing, and he tells me that he's going to look around and point to things, and he's going to talk to the camera. And he said, “I'm going to put this revolver in a pillow.” He was talking to himself and also kind of talking to me, like, “That’s where that would go, right?” 

And I'm thinking, No, I probably wouldn't put a revolver in my pillow. But I’m not gonna tell him that. Usually, you put that between your mattress and your box spring, if you’ve watched any movie ever, but I was like, “OK.” He had another pistol in a jewelry box that he pulled on me, and you can see my reaction with the camera. He didn't warn me that there was a second gun in there. He was like, “I'm just gonna wander around the room and find things.” 

The whole thing was insane. I knew it was gonna be bad when we got there—at that point, I'd already done a few [videos with him]—but I was a little bit shocked with this one. “There are no First Amendment rights in your home”—I didn’t know he was going to say any of that stuff. I didn’t know there were gonna be guns. I didn't know how much drugs he thought was a normal amount of drugs to put in a doll.

“I don't know where, ultimately, the crack pipe even came from.”

Was there any kind of script written, or did he do the whole thing off the cuff?
Oh, it was off the cuff. He says words in it that just don't make any sense.

Like when he says a doll is a place a child could “secrete” drugs, or when he refers to that backpack as a “popular knapsack with many different locations?”
Yeah. Rather than just saying “backpack”—he’ll never just say “backpack”—he'll come up with a word mixed with maybe a little bit of a metaphor or something. When he said “picture frame,” he could have said, like, “an image of your child that's a memory put into a box.” You know what I mean? 

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Is the “used crack pipe” in the video... real?
Like I said, I know that he tried to source the crack pipe from Senate staffers. And they came to talk to me, because it's just as likely that I would be able to source it, I guess. I remember it kind of looking like a crack pipe. But I don't know where, ultimately, the crack pipe even came from. [Editor’s note: It is legal to possess such a pipe in New York, as long as it doesn’t contain drug residue.]

Were the bullets real?
The guns were real, so the bullets were definitely real. I don't know if the guns were loaded. But I know that because he was a former police officer, he carries.

So the guns and the bullets were real, but the cocaine and the weed were not real.
He only had stuff he had legal access to.

What was the editing process like, and how quickly did you turn this around?
He wanted the finished product, but he [didn’t] want to be in the process of doing takes and doing inserts—whatever it is that we would try to do to make it more vibrant, or more effective. There's a cut with the revolver, for some reason, but otherwise I don't think there's a cut. I made some really bad music in Soundtrack, which was an old app that Apple had to go along with Final Cut Pro. I probably did it all in the same day. 

Whenever it came out—which was probably really fast, because [Adams] was like, “I want it out now”—I think it was on the cover of the New York Post the following day. And the senior staff in Albany [where the State Senate convenes] were like, “Matt, come upstairs.” They were like, “What is this?” And I’m like: “You know what this is. Ask Eric. What am I gonna do? Do you want to say no to him?” And then the leader at the time was like, “I kind of liked it.” So the chief of staff, the communications director, and the press secretary just surrendered. They just kind of accepted it.

The music you made for this is really strange. Why did you opt for sad violins with, like, a weird club beat accompaniment? It sounds like something out of Requiem for a Dream
Well, there are only so many available options. It wasn't gonna be acoustic, it wasn't gonna be hip-hop, it wasn't gonna be electronic. I had a limited palette to work from, but I had to put something over it, because he took these long pauses to look around the place, trying to remember where he hid whatever thing.

How did he react when you showed him the video?
He loved it. He sent it to as many people as he could. He wanted it everywhere. He was like, “It’s perfect.” 

Knowing what you know about Eric Adams, would you vote for him for New York City mayor?
We disagree on some things—I might be a little bit further left—but he cares a lot and works hard. He cares about the people that live in New York. He's from New York. He has a long history of working in New York. I would vote for him over Andrew Yang, or the banker [Raymond McGuire]. But Eric Adams probably shouldn’t be mayor either. I don’t know. I think you [New Yorkers] have a real problem.

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