The year 2067: Interview with director Torey Byrne and screenwriter MJ Slide of “Extract: The Ghost Complex”

Director Torey Byrne and screenwriter Mahogany J. Slide, who made the new scifi short film Extract: The Ghost Complex earlier this year, did a video interview together this Fall since my webcam was on the fritz.  Many thanks to them for taking the time to do this. (Due to length and some audio problems, parts of the interview transcript below have been truncated.)

UPDATE: Byrne’s film Extract will be taking on a new form soon (work is currently being planned), and news about the direction the film will be taking will be posted on the film’s Facebook page at the beginning of 2013.

The entire interview can be viewed on the Her Film YouTube channel or by clicking on the video below.  (Total running time about 33 minutes.)

 

Check out the Extract: The Ghost Complex page on Facebook
Follow Torey Byrne on Twitter @toreybyrne
Follow MJ Slide on Twitter @MJ_Slide

 

____________________________________

[I]f you ever want to work with me,
you  have to watch ‘Firefly’ first.

____________________________________

Extract: The Ghost Complex tackles a huge philosophical question: “are we really only defined by the things we know?”  And the main character is under existential threat!  Can you give a brief background on the story and talk about what inspired you to write the film, MJ?

Slide:  [Inaudible] Well, I guess it was one of these things where I have this thing, it’s basically a library of ideas I’ve come up with that I just haven’t had any time to be able to do anything with, and — long story short — Torey wanted to direct something and she was like, ‘Oh, I need a writer,’ and I’m like, ‘I’m a writer.’

Byrne: Are we really gonna talk about this? [laughs]

Slide: I’m a writer.  So, I basically gave her access to the dropbox folder with all the ideas and she picked one she really liked, and we went from there.  I just have a crazy obsession with information and data. I think it was sort of the concept, that we were both captured by the idea that society has gotten to a point where everyone and everything is defined by their digital footprint in one way, shape or form, and it doesn’t even have to be just your digital footprint.  Information in itself is everything because it also is who you are, and the things that you choose to do and your personality, and all of that.  And is there a way to take that and simply strip it down to its rawest form and it just be data and things you know about you and things you know about other people and the world around you, because everyone and everything is sculpted by one’s interpretation and perception. That’s why I found it interesting.

Byrne: I wanted to, I had a campaign, that I wanted to direct my own short film, and we had a plan and that sort of fell through.  So I was on Twitter one day and I was like, you know I really kind of want to direct something, I need a script. And that was the whole ‘I’m a writer’ thing from MJ, and she asked me a stupid question, and she was like, ‘Okay, do you want scifi or drama?’ What kind of question is that? Of course I want scifi. So, I don’t know, we made a scifi film. It was awesome.

Slide: She’s just so darn eloquent, folks.

Byrne: Shut up.

Slide: [laughs] So, yeah, that’s pretty much — I wanted an excuse to finally get to cut my teeth on writing or seeing one of something — [groans] speaking of eloquence!  I wanted to be able to cut my teeth on something that was science fiction based because that’s the genre that I love the most and it’s one of those things that’s relatively hard to tackle in a short film and just in independent film in the South.  We chose something incredibly high concept which has been an entirely interesting journey in itself.  So that’s been a fun process.

How did you become involved in the project, Torey, and how have you approached the material as a director?

Byrne:  I met MJ on Twitter, was it April?  Not too long ago! [both laugh] We haven’t known each other for as long as most [people] think.  We just sort of clicked.  I stepped off of the bus in South Carolina and it was like we were instantly best friends, it was weird. But I wanted to work with her for a really long time and I finally got the chance to fly out there and meet them about a film that was called Those Lighter Fluid Days and I was cast in that.  So, we’d been working together and we had a couple of really awesome opportunities for that, so it [Extract] was pushed to the next spring. So, we have been trying to film and we decided that we were going to make another film! [laughs]  We had originally planned on making this back to back with Lighter Fluid Days when I was out there which would have been insane.

Slide: Just a [inaudible] [laughs]

Byrne: That would have been crazy.  We were exhausted by the end of the two or three days. But, I don’t know, [inaudible] it was really this small couple minute-long short film just to give me the chance to direct something of my own.  And after Lighter Fluid Days was pushed, we decided this story and the universe that the story takes places in — we needed to give it the chance to be what it could.  We needed to give it a chance to grow and become something that we originally hadn’t planned, because everything was there, all this information was there, so we had numerous really long phone calls.  [laughs]  We were up until five in the morning, six in the morning, and we’re in two different states.  So there was a time change…

Slide: And then you were in California.

Byrne: I was, I did go to California for a couple of weeks for a couple auditions and to go to Comic-Con, which was awesome.  And so that was — is it three hours?

Slide: Three hour difference.

Byrne: So it’s already difficult for us to find time to do this ‘world-building,’ as we called it, but that was even more difficult.  But we did it!  We did it.  This story is its own world.  It’s just really insane, it’s really awesome what we did.  [laughs] I’m really proud of us because we turned something that was, well, just an idea that you had into a living universe.

Slide: Yeah, and I think it’s deliciously ironic with the whole concept of the film, and I don’t want to give a whole lot away, but the fact that we’re doing, like, predominantly, most of our collaboration has taken place online, is — you will understand the irony once you see the film and see how it all comes together.  But it’s been a very, very interesting process.  It’s just something that any writer or any person who has a massive love for scifi understands and has the desire to be able to create a world from the ground up.

Sci-fi’s such a popular genre, but the production of a sci-fi film isn’t typically considered an affordable process.  How have you put together this film to portray the world and characters of the story in a way that you feel is believable, working with a less than astronomical budget? What were your biggest challenges?

Byrne: Am I taking this one, or are you taking this one?

Slide: You’re the director.

Byrne: Obviously, it was difficult.  MJ is so talented that any time that she writes — [laughs] — and I’m [inaudible] to do this now and I’m quite proud of myself, but any time that she’d write something I would want to film that. I don’t want to change anything, I don’t want to do anything to it. I just want what you wrote. And that’s not possible a lot of the time! [laughs]  So I’ve started in this next film we have on the docket, I started to [inaudible] to do that, but we basically went line by line and was like, what do we need for this? Do we need special effects for this? Is it something we can do in wardrobe? Is it something we can do in the art department? Which was us! By the way, if any of you are wondering —

Slide: We had a fabulous art department.

Byrne:  People were like, who did you have for costuming and art, and, that was us! Basically we went on Etsy and found everything cool that we could.

Slide: Pretty much.

Byrne: There was a little more planning.

____________________________________

I’m really proud of us because we turned something that was, well, just an idea that you had into a living universe.

____________________________________

Slide: [inaudible] The thing about it is this is where the seven plus hour conversations every couple of days came in and everything that we decided that the characters ended up wearing and that were portrayed was very, very purposeful because the two leads are, like, they’re polar opposites physically, but there are so many things about their characters that are oddly similar that we wanted to sort of create that contrast but let the audience pull together the similarities to how they actually are as individuals and how they play off of each other.  So that was all very purposeful.  Like any indie film, you spend the money you have and you make it happen and you make it work.  There are always sort of surprising expenses, but we had a movie on our hands, and we had a film that we absolutely adored and we wanted to see come about and happen, so we made it happen.  It was cool because there was like — we needed bikes — so we had a local bike shop, we called them up and were like ‘hey, what can we do to get a bike for free?’ And that all worked out and people were being incredibly supportive of the film, and I think they’re kind of surprised with, like, by the way, two 19 year old chicks and we’re just doing this film for it, and there’s just something refreshing about the whole situation and there have been a lot of people who’ve just signed on simply because first of all, they love the genre, they love our take on it, and they want to see cool films happen.

Byrne: And that’s my favorite part about the whole, the entire indie film community, and I’ve said that from day one, the fact that everyone is so incredibly supportive. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are, if you’re making an independent film, another person from the independent film community will come and help.  That’s how our entire crew — I talked about this in my director’s statement — we didn’t know each other.  With the exception of you and I, and you and Rebecca, none of our crew knew each other, we just, we talked with them on Twitter all the time.

I’ve seen more than a few mentions of “world-building” and creating a “world” for this film on your film’s facebook page and MJ’s blog.  What does that process entail and how are you going about tackling such an enormous task?  You also have to create a world of the film in terms of social media — for fans — so how are you going about doing that for Extract?

Slide: I think, hilariously, now, I think part of it we do unconsciously because we’re so darn excited about the story. So many people ask me ‘what’s your mentality for promotion?’ And I’m like, ‘Um, I just think it’s really exciting so I tell lots of people about it.’ I say that, but it’s obviously a lot more complicated.  But as far as the world-building goes, there aren’t any questions that you don’t ask. That’ where we got, like half, wow, more than, more like three-fourths of the things that we concluded will never end up on screen.

Byrne: Oh my gosh. We know way more about this world than we should.

Slide: And scenarios, and it’s sort of, I actually posted an article on Extract’s Facebook page about sort of, Steven Spielberg did an ‘idea summit’ for Minority Report, and Tim…our graphic designer actually linked me to it.  I read the article… and basically he just got a bunch of intelligent people in a room and started asking them questions about what  they felt the future would be like.  And that’s pretty much what me and Torey ended up doing, where fashion, art, culture, how would the [inaudible] of the McGuffin in our storyline affect…world economics and all of that jazz. Those were the kind of conversations we had, and we started off with a very large view and then pull it down to how does that affect the characters’ mentality, the leads and all of that?  So it was really like, as a writer, it was really the greatest process ever.  They were these ridiculously long conversations and there goes all of my sleep, but I was okay because my brain was happy.

MJ stated in a video posted on YouTube about the production, that “a lot of the inspiration for the process and the approach has come from Joss Whedon’s ‘Firefly,'” Can you explain what you mean by that?

Byrne: When you watch something that is done, you don’t question the universe that he created, and the universe that the characters live in.  And it’s because of all those details that normally people don’t think about, you know what I mean? Like the fact that they speak another language, because that’s probable. That’s probably going to be the case in the future that there are brands everywhere, things that you don’t pay attention to, it’s all art department and things like that, but it brings that to life. And we tried to do the same thing, so we created brands, not that would exist in the future, but that would help us bring that to life.  We had slang that people would use.

Slide: That was fun.

Byrne: We talked about culture a lot and where we are headed in the future.  We actually, originally it was in 2097, [but] we pushed it back to 2067, just to close that gap. That would give us —

Slide: Primarily because technology moves so quickly, I was just just thinking about, 1957 was the technical birth of the internet, and what, it’s 50, 60, 70 years later and we have all of this. So it was, it was one of these things, like I tried to talk Torey into bumping it to 2036 but we had already, like, made stuff official.  It just is the opportunity to interpret something that is, that doesn’t exist but could. I think that’s the allure, playing with the familiar and making it unfamiliar but approachable at the same time.  And it was empowering, it was a lot of fun, because who else goes to work, serves ice cream and then comes home and builds a world on the phone with some person in Oklahoma? It’s like, we love our lives and we love our jobs because it’s absurd and fantastic… Joss Whedon is kind of my hero.  It’s funny…if you ever want to work with me, you  have to watch ‘Firefly’ first.

Byrne: I had to do it.

Slide: She did.

Byrne: It was great.

Slide: She did.

Byrne: Really good.

Slide: Yeah, and just to sort of gather the mentality, because it’s really, it’s why I write. Like, ‘Objects in Space,’ final episode of ‘Firefly,’ probably one of the best hours of television ever. And it’s like, I just sit around and I’m like I’m just gonna write that good one day, like, that’s the goal, to get to the ‘Objects in Space’ level.

Her.Stories: Women & Screenplays, female character added to The #Hobbit, #BAFTA Study, the women in #Argo & more

The Documentary Summit on Nov. 3-4 in Toronto
(Speakers include filmmaker Michèle Hozer, Program Manager Marcia Douglas (Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund), Stephanie McArthur of Doc Ignite, and more)

Venevision International Enters Initiative for Female-Created Programs
at World Screen

BAFTA Study: Young People ‘Discouraged’ From Careers in Film, TV and Gaming
at The Hollywood Reporter

Sexism In Cinema: Where Are The Women In Argo?*
at Thought Catalog

(*As I mentioned in a facebook post today, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, writers of the new Hobbit movies, created a female character that wasn’t in The Hobbit (the book), but in keeping with Tolkien’s world, so as to avoid the crushing masculinity that the film was suffering from with 13 dwarves, a hobbit, a wizard, etc. — all male — in lead and supporting roles.  This new character, “Tauriel,” played by Evangeline Lilly, was mentioned in a video of a Comic-con panel I saw but can’t locate it now.  You can google it, though.  I will say I am terribly disappointed in the utter lack of a positive look at the creation of a female character, and disappointed in Geek Girls Network which posted a piece called “Tauriel, Shmauriel,” in which the writer states she’s a feminist, but goes on to express her feelings that it’s unnecessary and ridiculous to have more “feminine energy,” in the film, as Boyens herself has stated as a reason for the creation of Tauriel in the first place.  Fans of the Middle Earth stories  (and I am a hardcore one, and yes, have even read the oft-claimed “inaccessible” book, The Silmarillion, and think it’s the best of all the Middle Earth books), have a right to be disappointed or surprised by changes occurring during the book-to-screen adaptation process, but fans can oftentimes become so invested in the authenticity of the movies, comparing them to how they follow the books, that they forget that there have already been numerous changes by Jackson, Walsh and Boyens from the books to the screen.  Why should the creation of “Tauriel” be treated any less acceptingly than the changes we’ve already witnessed with The Fellowship, The Two Towers and The Return of the King when adapted from books to films?)

The new ‘Star Wars’ and women: Female sci-fi directors on Leia, Amidala, and what lies ahead
at Inside Movies

Question Time: Women & Screenplays
at Wellywood Woman

Feminine mystique (The Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Festival)
at CS Indy

2012 Houston Cinema Arts Festival Focuses on Women Directors
at Women and Hollywood

British woman, 79, becomes martial-arts action hero
at the Los Angeles Times

Preview Stark ‘Living/Building’ (A Thorough Look At Technological Change In A Remote Part Of Chad) — by filmmaker Clemence Ancelin
at Shadow and Act

War on Women, Waged in Postcards: Memes From the Suffragist Era
at Collectors Weekly  (Note: some disturbing content)

TIFF: Interview with Margarethe von Trotta and Barbara Sukowa – Director and Star of Hannah Arendt
at Women and Hollywood

Her.Stories: Sexism rife in drama world, Aida Begic’s film chosen for Oscars, Gaylene Preston to direct NZ drama, Shola Lynch’s new doc

Gainesville Latino Film Festival Kicks Off, Produced by the Latina Women’s League
at Gainesville.com

Sharon Lawrence: “Listen to Your Own Heart and to Another Woman’s Story”
at the Huffington Post

Parade’s End director says sexism is still rife in drama world: Directors’ group to investigate after Cannes film festival snubs women for Palme d’Or prize
at The Guardian

Bosnia selects ‘Children’ for Oscar race: Aida Begic’s film premiered at Cannes
at the Chicago Tribune

‘The Headless Woman’ Director Lucrecia Martel To Return With ‘Zama’
at The Playlist

Patricia Riggen Directing Chilean Miners Film, The 33
at Women and Hollywood

Magnet Releasing Embraces Xan Cassavetes’ Erotic Vampire Film ‘Kiss of the Damned’
at Indiewire

Gaylene Preston to Direct New Zealand Earthquake Dramatic Series, Receives $5M from NZ on Air
at the New Zealand Herald

On Screen & On Scene: ‘Somewhere Between’ (documentary by Linda Goldstein Knowlton)
at Hyphen Magazine

 

S&A In Conversation: Shola Lynch Talks ‘Free Angela & All Political Prisoners’
at Shadow and Act

Toronto: ‘Inch’Allah’ Director Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette On Her Politically Charged Drama
at Indiewire

Audio: Behind the film Dreams Of A Life on Detour
at Triple R

‘Wadjda’ by Haifaa Al Mansour, first film made by Saudi woman and first film made in the KSA

Wadjda is a new film by Haifaa Al Mansour, the first Saudi woman filmmaker.  She is writer and director of the film.  To add to the enormous responsibility of representation she now carries, the film is also the first to be filmed completely inside Saudi Arabia.  While movie theaters are illegal in the country, producers have stated they plan to distribute it through “DVDs and TV channels” (Telegraph). You can watch two clips of the film below.

I’ve been excited about this film since I read about earlier this week, and am looking forward to seeing it (somehow, some day).  It screened at this year’s Venice International Film Festival, and has received quite a bit of press.  Check out the links below for more articles on Al Mansour, plus this week’s Her.Stories post.

From Al Mansour’s “Director’s Statement”:

I come from a small town in Saudi Arabia where there are many girls like Wadjda who have big dreams, strong characters and so much potential. These girls can, and will, reshape and redefine our nation. It was important for me to work with an all-Saudi cast, to tell this story with authentic, local voices.  (Read more.)

Have you see the film?  It’s a Saudi Arabia-Germany production, with most of the crew being German, but Al Mansour still had to deal with the exigencies of directing as a woman in Saudi Arabia where gender separation is required.  Without being able to direct the male cast or work with the male crew face to face, what did she do?  Worked from a van and used a walkie talkie.

Wadjda screened at La Biennale on August 31 and September 1.  Visit the film’s page on the festival’s website.

Watch an interview with Al Mansour at the Doha Film Institute’s website.

Read a review of Wadjda in Variety.

Watch clips from the film:

 

Writer’s Block? Maybe you need a PUSHER

(Cross-posted with permission from Chick Flick.)

So Shanbone and I have been to some writing groups and those stories could be their own blog. (I’ll leave that task to Shannon; her memory is way better than mine. Why doesn’t her brain react to Diet Coke and age like mine does? Scientists: please weigh in.) We are in a group that Shannon started of her own spirited volition, and for which she deserves some serious credit – cos it’s a useful, successful, fun, genuine, productive, challenging, tasty (people bring food, y’all) and enjoyable writing group (haha, I wrote ‘enjoyable writing group’ and meant it) replete with the coolest chicks I’ve come across in my expansive lady search. Bitches Who Write should run a country!

So it got me thinking: What makes a great writing group?

WORK CAUSES WORK.
The first thing you need for a great writing group is a PUSHER. The PUSHER is the organizer. She pushes the drug. The drug is satisfaction of work. The high is completion. If you don’t have a good pusher, you’ve got no group and you ain’t getting high. Shannon’s a perfect pusher because she’s passionate about women writing together and making each other better. How do you find her? If you’ve got a vagina (or just want one – like really have made the effort), then join our group (shannon.bowen@gmail.com).

YOU NEED A PROMPT.
Get out of your head. Ask someone to direct you. You can’t do everything yourself: Writer, director, producer, editor, actor, critic and consumer. Ask for a prompt. Be challenged. You have no ideas? You have no stories? ASK FOR ONE, THEN WRITE ABOUT IT.
(I can’t come up with shit. OK, not true. I come up with some half-cocked joke or idea or recall a random story from my past that might work written down, but honestly, IT’S THIN IN THERE. But I do know when I’m inspired or just give myself the space and time and make the effort, I can come up with something worth reading. I think. Who knows. Judge me.)

WRITE.
The Pusher makes you write in silence for 30 minutes. 30 MINUTES. No TV. No music. No blah blah blahing with your girlfriend. No dishwasher. No day job. No Salvation. It’s you and the page for a sweet 30 minutes. When is the last time you did that? Yoga hustlers make time to mediate for 30 minutes every day (I might be making that up). David Lynch, that friggin’ transcendentalist, he does it. Then he writes for like 4 hours. So just do 30 minutes. Everyone around you is doing it too.

SEEK & HELP.
Read it out aloud. Seek criticism. Seek ears and brains that aren’t yours. It’s not the only way you’ll get better, but it is one way. OK, NOW I’M GOING TO CONTRADICT MYSELF SO STOP READING IF YOU CAN’T HANDLE IT.

[CAVEAT: YOU BETTER FUCKING KNOW WHAT YOU NEED FROM PEOPLE. This is important and probably worth its own website or like its own internet. (That would be such an annoying internet). I’ve been to many of these meet up groups for writers and for as much help they can yield, be wary of the dreaded opinion. These groups draw from all walks and experiences and TALENT and SANITY LEVELS. Ignore the idiots. You get better and better at it. But first off, just realize that there are tons of idiots and they must be ignored or you’ll be driven crazy by an idiot. WHEN YOU HEAR A COMMENT THAT RINGS TRUE TO YOU, YOU’LL KNOW IT. Also, don’t be the idiot. When someone reads their piece, be really thoughtful and honest.]

Listen. Just as you edit your own writing, edit your comments. Don’t self-indulge. Be helpful. And if you’ve had too much to drink THEN DON’T TALK AT ALL. LISTEN.

Now, read your shit. Do it. Be brave. Be humble. And when you read, if you hear a laugh, be proud. If you wrote drama, quit writing drama.

If you don’t live in the Bay Area but need writing support, follow @JaneEspenson or @jeannevb on Twitter who are two rad screenwriter ladies who organize writing sprints.

Her.Stories: Nina Simone biopic, Toronto Int’l Film Fest, Sweden & women filmmakers, and For a Good Time, Call…

The Controversy Surrounding the Casting of Zoë Saldana                
as Nina Simone in Cynthia Mort’s New Biopic

Cynthia Mort is writer/director of a yet to be titled biopic(ish) of the legendary singer/musician Nina Simone.  With Mary J. Blige originally attached (for several years before she departed the project allegedly due to financial problems with the production), Zoë Saldana has recently been cast as Simone.  There has been an outcry about this mainly around the fact that Saldana bears no resemblance to Simone, but also because Saldana is a Latina (she’s also black, by the way) and has a lighter skin tone than Simone.  Director Mort has indicated that it’s not a strict biopic as it takes liberties with the facts (one of which is that Simone had an affair with a gay man — she didn’t).  Even Simone’s daughter, whose name is simply “Simone,” has spoken out against the story, and has claimed that following an initial conversation with Mort where they agreed to speak again, Simone was met with silence for, as Mort explains separately in an Entertainment Weekly interview, she was told not to communicate with Simone.

One disturbing fact about this entire conversation is that I have seen several articles that refer to Saldana explicitly as “Dominican,” without mentioning the fact she is multiracial — yes, she is a Latina, but she is also a Black Latina (and there are a great many number of Black Latinos in the world).  Also, this is not to disregard that she may be more than “just” Latina and Black.  The language used to describe her as a Latina, while simultaneously avoiding that she is also Black smacks to me of a sort of ethnocentrism which pits the Latino community against the Black community and dismisses Saldana’s ethnic, racial and cultural complexities (just like we all have).  Yes, I’m in agreement that the casting is bad because of the complete lack of resemblance Saldana holds to Simone (and yes, resemblance also includes skin tone), but I do not think that “she’s not Black, but Latina,” is a valid argument against Saldana being cast in the role; in fact, that argument is completely fallacious.  That is one reason I wanted to provide this digest, to not only follow along with the controversy surrounding a biopic of a woman I greatly admire and have been a fan of for years, but also to address, in some small way, the prejudiced approach that many journalists and those choosing to leave comments on news sites, have taken with regard to Saldana playing Nina Simone.

What are YOUR thoughts? Please leave a reply below.

*MUST READ*:  We Need To Educate Ourselves On Race vs. Ethnicity (And Other Things I Learned From The Ongoing Zoe Saldana/Nina Simone Conversation)
at Shadow and Act

Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone: My thoughts
at the Monique Blog: race, entertainment, culture

Nina Simone’s Daughter on Her Mother’s REAL Legacy
at Ebony

Will ‘Avatar’ Actress Zoe Saldana Play Legendary Singer Nina Simone?
at The Daily Beast

Disappearing Acts: Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone & The Erasure of Black Women in Film
at The Huffington Post

Nina Simone’s Daughter Responds to Zoe Saldana Casting, Says Film Is ‘Unauthorized’
at Clutch Magazine

Larger-than-life: Nina Simone film writer-director, others, on beauty, challenge of musician biopics
at Entertainment Weekly

Casting Notice For Nina Simone Project Reveals More About What To Expect…
at indieWIRE

_______________________

Other stories about women in film this week:

Toronto & Women Directors
at Wellywood Woman

The Smart and Funny Young Women Behind the Most Surprisingly Empowering Movie of the Year
at The Huffington Post

More Female Documentary Directors, But Celluloid Ceiling Remains
at The Wrap

Ann Richards Film Recalls a Woman and Her Era
at the New York Times

First-Time Director Leslye Headland Talks About Her Uproarious Comedy ‘Bachelorette’
at Backstage

Reichert honore for lifetime achievement in film
at YS News

Venice film festival: female directors get recognition for a change
at The Guardian

LUND 2012: New Wave Of Titles Focus On Female Filmmakers In Genre Film
at Twitch Film

SPOTLIGHT: “Sweet, Sweet Country”

Dehanza Rogers is a third year MFA student in directing and cinematography at the University of California Los Angeles School of Theater, Film & Television.  She’s currently crowdfunding her film, “Sweet, Sweet Country,” which is “a refugee’s tale set in the South – an exploration of the American Dream.”

Dehanza Rogers (writer/director)

Logline

With her parents and younger siblings living in a refugee camp in Kenya, 20 year-old Ndizeye struggles to support not only herself, but provide for a family she’s not seen in five years. Living in a small southern town, her struggle becomes so much more when her family literally shows up at her doorstep.

The trailer

Crowdfunding

Raising funds through:  Kickstarter (campaign page)

Campaign goal: $5,000 (At the time of this post, the campaign is 40% funded)

Campaign ends: September 4, 2012

“Ernesto” and “Ndizeye” (Gbenga Akinnagbe and Danielle Deadwyler)

“Ernesto” (Gbenga Akinnagbe)

Director’s Statement
I grew up firmly rooted between the Southern black experience and the Immigrant experience. Growing up black in Georgia meant I was tied—bound really—to a troubled past that still plays out in the present.  The same can be said of the Immigrant experience. The vitriolic spirit behind the sentiment of the “hyphenated American” is alive and well, just repackaged. Sweet, Sweet Country is set in a small Southern town and while there is goodwill by some, the idea of these Others holding fast to their culture while in America seems to offend.  (Read more.)

“Ndizeye” (Danielle Deadwyler)

“The Simbagoye Family” (left to right: Tammy McGarity, Josphine Lawrence, Dave Sangster, Ce Ce Sandy)

Credits

Cast:

Danielle Deadwyler (“Ndizeye”)
Gbenga Akinnagbe (“Ernesto”)

Dehanza Rogers (Writer/Director)
Dana Gills, Doug Turner (Producers)
Autumn Baily-Ford, Shadae Lamar Smith (Co-Producers)
Ragland Williamson (Director of Photography)
Sarah Jean Kruchowski (Production Design)
Brianna Quick (Costume Design)
Vivia Armstrong (Casting Director)

“Fahkta” (Tammy McGarity)

“Danai” (Dave Sangster)

Connect with this filmmaker and learn more about this new film:

Kickstarter: http://kck.st/QMNWAk

Facebook: /sweetsweetcountry

Twitter: @dayerogers (director) / @sscfilm (the film)

Website:  www.hercelluloidself.com

Blog:  www.sweetsweetcountry.com/blog

(All photos and information courtesy of the filmmaker.)
_______________________

Do you have a film you are trying to finance that you would like to feature here?  Visit the Contact page to submit your information.