The photograph above is half of the group of talented actors who came together on May 1st to give the first table read to my feature film script $107 A Day.
This script was inspired by the relationship I built with Henry, one of the subjects of the Blind/Sighted Project I finished in 2012. Henry told a story that made me remember a statistic I heard about how the racial inequality gap was disproportionately widened during the housing bubble crash and the recent Recession.
After getting permission from Henry to develop the story further, I spent the next year writing and researching about this cultural moment and the intersectionality of these two issues (racial inequality and fair housing). The table read was an incredibly rewarding experience: hearing characters come alive in the voices of actors is a remarkable experience for any dramatic writer. Even better, these generous (new) friends stayed and affirmed the script, discussed its issues and argued about the character and his choices.
My religious upbringing taught me two helpful things about this project:
1.) There’s nothing worse than a message movie. If the story you’re watching is a thinly masked persuasive appeal? The mask will not only look false? The story will also leave a bad taste in your mouth. So even though I care deeply about inequality and long for a more just world, I knew that a “message movie” wasn’t going to hep these situations at all.
2.) There’s nothing more persuasive than bearing witness. Aristotle, in The Rhetoric talked about how incontrovertible and effective the firsthand account of credible person could be. In church, on some Sunday Nights, the deacons used to pass a microphone around the massive auditorium and various members of the congregation would stand up and tell astonishingly intimate personal stories that added credibility to the idea that God was at work in their lives. I could feel the magic spell that was deepening in all of us. Belief and connection to ideas is strengthened when we connect to the experience of real people.
Both of these lessons have been incredibly instructive and helpful for me in my work in advertising, public relations and marketing, but they also inspired me to develop the script for $107 A Day. The video below is the pitch I made to the Ohio Indie Film Incubator which landed me in the finalist group with an opportunity to develop this project toward production and eventual screening.