The Highwaymen tells the true, untold story of how a group of young African Americans in segregated 1960s Florida elevated themselves from poverty to prominence
The powerful true story of how a group of young African Americans triumphed over discrimination in segregated 1960s Florida is coming to life in The Highwaymen Project, which includes both a feature-length film and a documentary series.
Production is now under way on the documentary series, with cameras rolling at the Orlando Museum of Art in several galleries where Highwaymen art is currently on display.
After more than ten years of dedicated development, this true, untold story of young African Americans that elevated themselves from poverty to prominence is finally coming to fruition at a time in U.S. history when powerful stories are particularly relevant and resonating. This is one of the first Florida-based films in production during Covid-19.
The Highwaymen tells the largely unknown story of how a group of 25 young African American men and one African American woman, barely out of high school, overcame the economic and social discrimination of the Jim Crow south by teaching themselves how to paint and creating a body of artwork that, 50 years later, would be identified as the “last great art movement of the 20th century.” The group, led by nineteen-year-old Alfred Hair, were seeking to escape hard labor in citrus groves fields and packinghouses. They crafted their works from left-over construction material and house paint, creating a distinctive, colorful style that captured the stormy clouds, windy waves, quiet marshes and deserted beaches of an undeveloped Florida that no longer exists. Traveling up and down Central Florida’s highways, they would hawk their paintings from the backs of cars for as little as $20 each, selling to motels, banks, doctor’s offices and tourists, eventually producing over 200,000 works. Due to their “outsider” status, they never received the recognition and respect they deserved, always yearning to be called “artists.”
But in the early 1990s, a curator and art journalist discovered their work in flea markets, antique shops and garage sales. Upon learning how their art was originally produced and sold, he named them “The Highwaymen.” Highwaymen art now adorns the walls of museums, governor mansions — even the White House.
The Highwaymen will be directed and produced by Thompson who, with producing partners Tim Franta (Woman In Motion) and Kathryn Kelly (It Doesn’t Take A Hero) and Joy Kigin (I am Frankie), are making the film under Thompson’s Stars North banner. Executive Producers Greg Galloway (Bobby Jones, Stroke of Genius), Benjamin Crump (Woman In Motion, Who Killed Tupac?), Lance Walker, Jr., Brigetta Cremata and Armando Cremata are also behind the film. Craig Fincannon and Lisa Mae Fincannon (Homeland, The Walking Dead) are casting.
After more than a decade of dedicated development, pre-production and casting is now underway on the project. Filming locations around Central Florida will include the Orlando Museum of Art, Central Florida Reception Center and Downtown Orlando districts like Washington Shores, Parramore and Holden Heights.
The Florida-based project is teaming the talents of award-winning director Thompson with the powerhouse writing duo of Lucien Christian Adderley and Richard ‘Byrd’ Wilson. (a.k.a. 89 Writers), who both grew up in South Florida and are currently in their second season writing for the critically-acclaimed OWN series David Makes Man, another South Florida-set drama created by Academy Award winner Tarell Alvin McCraney.
The feature-length film and documentary series are part of a larger project and ancillary campaign that may include a traveling art exhibit, a permanent Highwaymen museum, official Florida license plate, a U.S. postage stamp and a proposal for the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. The development and distribution of STEAM education curriculums will also be a core component of the project.
Thompson is managed by Curated By Media who is packaging the project with Concourse Media representing worldwide sales. The Highwaymen has been a long-time passion project for Thompson, who has been reaching atmospheric heights with the recent completion of his NASA/Star Trek doc and festival-favorite, Woman In Motion.
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