Mission StatementPalm Sunday is the exact project we want to make professionally. We are fascinated by work that uses genre to unpack history and religion. As a Black director it's crucial that I tell stories with complex and flawed Black characters at the center.
About The Project
In 1970 on a Sunday unlike any other, a young Black man walked into First Baptist, an all-white church in Raleigh, North Carolina. That man was Jimmy McCloud and that day was...
WHAT IS IT?
Inspired by a true story, that occurred in Raleigh in 1963, Palm Sunday is a short gothic drama about a Jimmy, a young Black man who attempts to join an all-white church in 1970 Raleigh, North Carolina.
We will be filming at First Baptist Church in Raleigh (the church where the true story that inspired our film actually happened!) in mid-July.
JIMMY - A young optimistic Black man who's heard the voice of God tell him to desegregate First Baptist, and save their souls in the process. He's a Jamaican immigrant and generally an outsider. He's the Black kid who all other kids say "talk white."
FLOYD – Jimmy’s contemporary. He's less optimistic that the white community at First Baptist, where he works as a janitor, will welcome a black congregant. A chameleon.
PASTOR JOHN EVANS – The senior pastor at First Baptist, and “a good white person." Willing to let Jimmy in his flock, but unsure his congregants are ready.
This story could easily be interpreted as a stiff period piece devoid of humanity and tension or overly focused on giving a lesson rather than exploring complex characters.
We have seen films like that. This isn't that.
Palm Sunday will take a different approach. Visually, we want to reflect the tension that the story naturally has. There is something haunted and unsettled about this world and it is key that the film's tone and visual aesthetic reflects that. This film needs to feel like an Afro-Gothic film that could have been released in the 1970s. To that end, we are using films like: “Ganja & Hess,” "Losing Ground," “Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song” and “In the Heat of the Night” for references.
Have you ever felt that you were meant to do something? That is the central impulse at the heart of Palm Sunday. James, believes it is the will of God for him to desegregate this all-white Baptist church in the Spring of 1970 - and this film will give us a glimpse into his deep and complicated psyche.
From the minute Producer Patrick Nichols first offered to collaborate on this film, I knew it would be something special. This was a project that could examine ideas we were both invested in, namely the intersection of race and the American Church. As a young Black kid growing up in a Christian home, the journey of our hero Jimmy resonates with me. His questions of how to square the doctrine of neighborly love with the impulse to protect yourself from white violence is something with which I still wrestle. This film is about a man who believes he is destined to do something great, even if it puts his life, and the lives of his community, in danger.
Palm Sunday is a story that grapples with American history, but through a lens that’s haunted and genre-adjacent. Although it is set in the past, this film shows characters confronting questions that are as vital today as they were 50 years ago.
That is exactly why Palm Sunday needs to be made right now. It is a film about discomfort and transgressing social boundaries. It is our hope that our film will make its audience severely uncomfortable, but then spark much needed conversations.
Currently we are in the middle of pre-production. We’ve secured $23,500 of funding, from the Katherina Otto-Berstein film grant, a YoungArts Microgrant, and the Columbia University Dean’s Grant. The remaining $12,000 will allow us to shoot the film on location in Raleigh, North Carolina.
WHERE WILL THE FUNDING GO?
- This film is a period piece, meaning an important portion of the budget will go to sourcing and building costumes, props and furnature that are both period specific and feel lived in.
- We will be working with a hybrid crew. Half will be local to North Carolina, and half will travel from New York, where the director and producer are completeing MFAs for Columbia University. Some of the budget will go towards travel and lodging for the non-local cast and crew.
- Having the resources to film Palm Sunday in Raleigh, North Carolina is essential because it will allow us to film in the real-world locations which inspired our story. It would also help us include the communities personally connected to this history. Filming in Raleigh will also give us the opportunity to partner with the North Carolina Museum of History, which is located downtown mere steps from First Baptist Church and hosts the annual Longleaf Film Festival. Through the museum we have gotten assistance from several archivists and curators with regards to the period details of our film.
- We are devoted to the safety of the crew, and will use some of the budget for rapid COVID-19 tests, as well as personal protection equioment such as masks, hand santizer and wipes.
We are currently planning a festival run, which will consistent of applying in fall 2022 to both Southern and Black focused festivals, that we already have connections to, as well as to the larger festivals such as the Sundances and Tribecas. We're planning a roll-out of the film to hopefully gain momentum over the course of a the potential festival run. HOWEVER, those who pledge to support the film will get an early peek before any other audience sees it!
Let's say we're blessed enough to get past our goal of $12,000. What then? Well a movie is MADE in POST. Should we surpass our goal, the rest will go towards scoring the film with an epic and moody period accurate choral score, as well as other aspects of post-production such as:
- Paying a colorist to enhance the moody and gothic aesthetic.
- Printing the movie on film stock, before rescanning it digitally to give it a grainy and retro look.
- Paying festival fees to get our film out there!
WAYS TO HELP:
It sounds cliche, but truly every little bit counts. We appreciate any support you can give, whether that's a financial contribution or simply following along staying engaged with our project by boosting this campaign or the Instagram page: @palmsunday.film
Use the WishList to pledge cash and loan items - or - Make a pledge by selecting an incentive directly.
About This Team
Wes and Patrick did not have any writing or directing classes together in their first year in film school, but fortunately they were able to work on a couple of classmates’ sets. From there, Wes was both an actor and the UPM on Patrick’s 3-5 and Patrick edited several of Wes’ projects, including two commercials and the short film Pair. Working together, they discovered shared interests and sensibilities: an appreciation of American history, memories of growing up attending summer bible camps, and a love of genre filmmaking. They each bring a personal perspective and connection to this particular story, and while Patrick wrote the first draft of this script, Wes’ skill as a writer and filmmaker transformed that draft into a complete and compelling story. Patrick knew he wanted to work with Wes on Palm Sunday for at least a month before finally approaching him about it. He was excited when Wes showed interest and they are both even more excited about the story they have been able to develop together. With the support that a Seed & Spark Campaigm will provide, Wes and Patrick feel they can fully realize their shared vision for Palm Sunday.
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