Interview with Screenwriter Henry Myers (Jubilee Nation)

1. What is your screenplay about?

Jubilee Nation is an erotic thriller about a political conspiracy that takes place in a fictional 1960’s all-black nation created in the aftermath of the Civil War. It is what the world would look like if reimagined through an alternate historical lens.

It is the story of a black journalist, descended from the founders of this black nation, and his white servant, who together, uncover and foil a plot to overthrow the government by a mysterious white conspiracy group.
They both have secrets which they hide, one we see throughout the film, the other is slowly revealed as the story goes on. All this unfolds against the backdrop of the fictional world in which the story takes place in.
I was intrigued by this idea of role reversal and of creating a unique character (specifically black) that I had not seen on the screen before. Elegant, urbane, wealthy, heir in a sense, of historic royalty, he is a very modern man for his time.

The story ponders the question: what if a black man had not had a history of racial discrimination after the Civil War? What would he be like? The story’s main character, Symington Smith, is that man. He still, however, is very human and beset with the same foibles we all have. In his case, it is an obsession with sado-masochistic sex that threatens all he hopes and desires.

The story is made up from a melody of influences. These include Roots, The Manchurian Candidate, Eyes Wide Shut, Fifty Shades of Gray, and especially the novel, Man in the High Castle by Phillip K. Dick.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

I would consider it to fall under a fantastical alternate history type of genre. It aims at evoking a feeling of escapism. Which is why it is fantastical. The story disengages from worldly rules and reimages our sense of the world as we know it.

3. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

I have never seen this premise for a movie represented on the screen before. It has a great commercial aspect to it. The black journalist character has the potential to carry over to other films in the same vein and world. The heart of the story is the fantasy world in which it unfolds. It could be thought of as “Wakandian” in its depiction of a black culture. I think a story set in this world is very enthralling.

4. How would you describe this script in two words?

Upliftingly edgy. Overall, its only intention is to entertain.

5. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?

Scarface. It is a quintessential universal story everyone can relate to. I see it in my writing. Everyone wants to rise up in their lives and reach for something that is important to them. It is the basic type of story I like to write about how we go about attaining the things we want and what stands in the way. In Scarface, it is money and power; in Jubilee Nation it is love and respect.

6. How long have you been working on this screenplay?

The idea originated about four years ago as a graduate student in my creative fiction writing class. It was intended to be an epic novel, and I began working on the outline for the book (character profiles, backstory, plot, world building, etc.) and created extensive story notes. Writing a novel takes a long time and I wanted to get it out quicker, so I challenged myself to adapt it into a screenplay version of my idea.

7. How many stories have you written?

This is my third screenplay. My first screenplay, Naked to the Night, was a short I wrote that was very successful on the festival circuit. I also wrote a feature screenplay, Night Heat, that received numerous screenplay awards as well. Both are urban stories and about an after-hours club operator, a character inspired by experiences from my earlier life.

8. What is your favorite song? (Or what song have you listened to the most times in your life?)

“Walk Away from Love,” by David Ruffin originally with the Temptations. I really love the lyrics of R & B and the emotion of this music. Nobody expresses pain and sorrow in my experience better than David Ruffin in his solo works. His songs make me to strive for the same type of emotional depth in my creative writing.

9. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

Putting it down after my initial draft to take a teaching position as a college professor for two years before I could go back to writing it. I was only able to start writing again when Covid 19 shut everything down last year. I was quite stationary and grateful I had my writing to take up my time. As life has stabilized a little more, I am excited about having time to write a lot more now.

10. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

I love playing music. I was in entertainment for many years. My first feature screenplay, Night Heat, was about an after-hours club and was intended to play against a backdrop of music from the early 90’s. All the time I was writing it music I thought fit it was playing in my head.

11. You entered your screenplay via FilmFreeway. What has been your experiences working with the submission platform site?

FilmFreeway is awesome. I like how they not only present a wide range of festivals to enter, but their platform also allows you a place to build a portfolio of your work that can easily be disseminated to festivals. Also, whenever I have had a problem with them, they responded quickly and were very helpful in getting it right.

12. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?

I was specifically looking for festivals which judged screenplays by opening scenes and came across your festival, among others. Mastering exposition in the opening scenes of a screenplay is critical. I thought these festivals would be a good gage of judging how close I am.

It was interesting, how the feedback I got was like other festivals, which gave me confidence in knowing what needed to be fixed. What impressed me was the degree to which your notes were detailed and candid. It was my first experience obtaining professional notes and I sucked up every word. It really saved me time figuring things out, instead of plowing through trial and error. If you want good feedback, there is no better place to get it than from some of the best judges in the industry. I am really honored to be a winner in your festival.

Watch the Screenplay Reading:

“Jubilee Nation” is an alternative history political erotic thriller set in a utopian 1960’s fictional black nation, where the Civil War resulted in a different outcome, and the South is ceded to the slaves forming a separate black nation after the war. The story focuses on a tormented black journalist, plagued by an addiction to sado-masochistic sex, who’s sexual perversions lead him to discovers a plot to overthrow the country when he enlists the help of his faithful white servant to foil the conspiracy. It has elements of love, sex, reverse discrimination, corruption, and violence in its story plot. It is a nostalgic look at what could have been America if it had a radically different history.

CAST LIST:

Narration: Hannah Ehman
Newscaster: Geoff Mays
Symington: Allan Michael Brunet
Farnsworth: Bill Poulin

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