Resurrection of The Last Black Man in 08:46 played to rave reviews at the December 2020 DOCUMENTARY Film Festival.
1. What motivated you to make this film?
In 2018, I visited my hometown, Kountze, Texas for a high school/family reunion. I caught up with Mr. Freddie James and Mr. Ralph Cruse, two of my late father, Terry Cooper’s friends and schoolmates. Mr. James is also related to him. They along with Kountze natives, Ms. Doris Sells McDaniel and Ms. Shirley Coleman Simon eduated me more about the death of David Gregory. Doing more research, I read articles by Texas renowned writer ER Bills about him being the last black man hung and burned by a lynch mob in the State of Texas. This was in 1933. Growing up in my great grandmother’s cafe, I use to overhear customers talking about a black man was dragged across the tracks. I didn’t know this was Mr. Gregory. That reunion set the stage for me to work on a full length documentary about my hometown’s past and present intriguing stories. Things changed during the pandemic, police brutality was at it’s most rapid and barbaric. Hearing the news of Breonna Taylor leading up to George Floyd calling for his “mama” before he was murder in front of he whole world kicked me into gear to unearth Mr. Gregory and bring his voice and story to present day.
2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?
Jennifer Hearn, the photographer/editor and I shot the film in one day. We thought post production would take only three days because of it being such a short film with only images and voiceover. It took a month and three weeks to final completion. The spirit of the film dictated our direction. No matter how short it was to be, it still has to have a beginning, middle and end. It refused to be shortchanged.
3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?
4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
One obstacle was timing the right images to the emotional narration of actor Michael May as David Gregory. The biggest was timing a transition within the great Mahalia Jackson’s spiritual song “The Upper Room” in juxtaposition with the image of the four cops who killed Floyd in their orange and the second movement with actor May as Gregory saying “I can breathe”. Due to the pandemic, Jennifer and I were constantly communicating via phone, text and video chat. The same with actors May and Jeannine Gaskin who was the voice of Gregory’s mother. I sent them there dialogue and asked to look at rough cut footage edited by Jennifer and articles to further their emotional content. The actors did a fantastic job from dramatizing the dialogue as well as actors Sharron Foxx as Gregory’s mother and six year old Carter Miller as young Gregory conveying joy and happiness through those beautiful shots taken by Jennifer.
5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
It universally got its message across.
Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:
6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?
Jennifer confessed to me that she was not an expert at editing moving pictures. She said, how about the direction of the French classic short, “La Jetee”. I said let’s do it! The film had only one movement. We put two in this very short film. I said, let’s make it eight minutes and forty-six seconds. The amount of time Floyd’s breath was taken away will be used to breathe Gregory back into existence.
7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?
I like the collaboration between FilmFreeway and the film festivals. It helps to keep me updated between both the fest and filmmaker.
9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?
Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” and Geto Boys “My Mind Is Playing Tricks On Me”.
10. What is next for you? A new film?
I hope to be directing a play by the summer while raising funds for a full length documentary. Both under my theatre company, Powerful Long Ladder.