Director's Vision Statement
My goal of making this film is to show how welcoming and captivating Louisiana’s French Creole culture is, especially in the heart of Acadiana. I also want to draw attention to an issue that was prominent during the 1930s and still is today, colorism. Willie Johnson, a dark skin musician from Shreveport, La., is an outsider to the area. During a time where the brown paper bag test was a popular tactic used to discriminate, Willie was not welcomed in many other places because of the shade of his skin. Colorism, although not as severe, is still an issue that lives on today. Freetown is the perfect setting to tell a story of acceptance for people who are often rejected. It was one of the
few places in Louisiana where multiple races were able to live among each other while racial tensions were high in the surrounding areas. Buried in the heart of Freetown, Good Hope Hall, was a popular jazz hall during the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression of the 1930s. It was one of the only venues of its time solely for African-American use in the area. When constructing a story about race and acceptance in the French Creole culture, Good Hope Hall serves as the perfect bridge between the two.
Willie had no ties to the French Creole culture or the area. It’s only after he had experienced the food, the music, the people and their hospitality at Good Hope Hall that he choose to leave the life he knew behind and start a new one. I am passionate to tell this story because, in many ways, I am Willie Johnson, an outsider that has found interest, comfort, and pride in French Creole Louisiana. I want my audience to feel the same bit of pride and warmth when watching this film. I want the audience to look at Alberta Dugas and be reminded of their mother or aunt. I want them to be amazed and drawn in by the excitement of the time, just as young Junious and Ada are in the film. I plan to use this opportunity to tell the unsung stories of the French Creole culture. I want to tell this story in its truest, rawest form. This film will feel like a biopic, incorporating real places and actual people, while focusing on the narrative that many of us have lived, or can relate to after experiencing this culture.
Visually and cinematically, this film will follow the same styles as Ray (2004), Life (1999), and The Color Purple (1985). Ray’s ability to capture the band’s larger-than-life persona, Life’s use of strategic humor while tackling serious issues, and The Color Purple’s gritty style that reflected the Great Depression era are all tools that I want to replicate in this film. I want to convince my audience that they are in a new time period while using modern film techniques to tell our story. My film, Pearl Motel, has given my team and I the experience needed to effectively do so. With a small budget we were able to film exterior shots with authentic cars while being sure not to reveal the advancements of modern day society, dress a cast of 10 along with countless extras in appropriate wardrobe, decorate multiple locations with authentic furniture and art, and fill a bar with people to film a party scene. These are all experiences from Pearl Motel that will aid my team and me when making this film.
From a technical standpoint, I want the camera to be steady, but never static. I want handheld shots that are modest with the amount of shake, making sure to fit the tone and spirit of the film. This enables the audience to feel as though they are a part of the story with the characters. A great example of this is in the film Selma (2014) when Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) and his partners have breakfast in Richie Jean Jackson’s (Niecy Nash) home. I want to preserve the quick cuts and fast camera movements for the party scenes, adding to the energy of the music and giving life and zest to Good Hope Hall. A great example of this is the scene in Get On Up (2014) where James Brown (Chadwick Boseman) and his bandmates take advantage of Little Richard’s (Brandon Mychal Smith) intermission and introduce themselves as “The Famous Flames” for the first time.
Lastly, my vision for the soundtrack is to partner with local musicians to compose original music for the fictional band that is authentic to the time period. I plan to tackle this early during pre-production, allowing the music and the script to build the structure of the narrative. I plan to use the experience I gained producing period music for my film, Pearl Motel, as a blueprint for tackling this task. Pearl Motel’s soundtrack embodied great collaboration with local artists and musicians, using lyrics and instrumentation to poetically tell the story of the film, and is a great example of what can be done with a small budget. The music will also serve as a great tool to market the film after production has wrapped, helping to reach a new demographic of audience.
~ Chris Jones