What began as a theoretical, theatrical concept for a playscript analysis final, “Michael” quickly transformed into an idea that I was determined to bring to reality. Previously my professor acknowledged his interest in the films that I create (after making an even shorter film for my midterm concept), so I was greatly inspired to show him what I could really create. Fun fact! Martin Luther King Jr. was born “Michael King Jr.”, and changed his name to Martin Luther after his father did. There are a handful of details that were thrown into the shot if you’re curious enough to spot them!
Racism plays a heavy role in my piece, obviously; a young black man killed just blocks away from his home in a dark alley. We are all dreadfully familiar with the scenario played out in “Michael”, but I wanted to give a specific identity to the Faceless Black Man that seems to haunts our headlines. What if Martin Luther King himself was a victim of racism? More specifically, what if he never grew up to be the man who changed America? I was inspired by the play “The Mountaintop” by Katori Hall; its story painted a real-life portrayal of who Martin Luther King Jr. was beyond the podium, and the message was inspiring to a young black artist like myself. MLK was never completely sure if his work would ever live up to his dreams, and he nearly quit many times before his death. What differs Michael from Martin is that Michael didn’t have the conviction to see out his dream, and never shared his writings with the world. The idea that future greatness stands upon a foundation of self-doubt is a topic that everyone can learn a lesson from! As an actor, I’ve always been worried about whether my legacy would be known, but this play genuinely gave me the piece of mind that I’ll never see the legacy I create until I finish climbing to my own Mountaintop.
Production for this film was by far the quickest that I’ve ever gone through, and I owe that to the experience I have with creating no-budget projects in the past. My best friends and I have been creating short films and documentaries for years, and we pride ourselves in making the highest quality content with the lowest possible budget; we use all available resources to support us and only create what we know we can pull off. Not going to college with them has taken a toll on my creative side, to say the least, but thanks to Dr. Rand’s Playscript Analysis final I got a great chance to let my inner cinematography run amok.
Anyway, I filmed this cut in one shot after about thirty minutes of rehearsal with the boys. I’m still saving up for a DSLR, but the iPhone X did a decent job (should’ve designed my own lighting though, yikes). The song I used is “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground” by the late Blind Willie Johnson. Enjoy :o)
– Chris Hawkins
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