From Stars North
The true, untold story of how a group of young African Americans in segregated 1960s Florida elevated themselves from poverty to prominence will come to life in a powerful new feature film called The Highwaymen. The Florida-based project is teaming the talents of award-winning director Todd Thompson with the powerhouse writing duo of Lucien Christian Adderley and Richard ‘Byrd’ Wilson.
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. Thompson’s newest project touches a Sunshine State sweet spot for the Lucien and ‘Byrd’ (a.k.a. 89 Writers) writing duo, 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 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 fellow Woman In Motion partner Tim Franta and producers 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 Crematta and Armando Crematta are also behind the film. Craig Fincannon and Lisa Mae Fincannon (The Walking Dead) are casting.
“While our film’s story takes place during segregated times, it transcends racial divide and embodies the great, American dream,” said Thompson. “In the face of extreme obstacles, these artists captured Florida’s raw, natural beauty and created inspiration, meaning and purpose. I want the audience to experience their struggle but walk away feeling uplifted, enlightened and empowered. The Highwaymen’s experience shows us that when we want to make a difference, there's nothing greater than hard work, dedication and the power of the human spirit.”
Said 89 Writers’ Adderley and Wilson, “We’re excited to be part of this project because of our desire to tell Florida stories and take responsibility for getting them out there on a level that exposes the world to Black history in our home state. We see similarities between the Highwaymen and ourselves as a team of artists who once traveled from town to town sharing our poetry."
After more than a decade of dedicated development, pre-production and casting is now underway on the project, slated to be one of the first Florida-based films in production once the Covid-19 ban is lifted and safety measures are in place on set and location. 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.
Sheena Fowler, vice president of innovation for the Orlando Film Commission, a core component of the Orlando Economic Partnership, said “We are thrilled to see the treasured Florida story of the Highwaymen come to life for the big screen via production in our own backyard. Producer/Director, Todd Thompson has been a valuable part of the Orlando film community for many years and we look forward to working together.”
“The creative initiatives that make up The Highwaymen Project provide a strategic, global advantage for Florida, not only preserving an important part of our state's history and heritage, but by also expanding awareness for the arts and providing both short- and long-term economic growth through the creation of jobs and an increase in incremental visitation and consumer spending in Florida,” added Thompson.
Thompson is managed by Curated By Media who is packaging the project with Concourse Media representing worldwide sales.
TRAILER LINK: http://www.starsnorth.com/portfolio-item/thehighwaymen/
ABOUT STARS NORTH™
Stars North™ is an award-winning, independent, motion picture production company based in Orlando, Florida. The company actively pursues the development and production of original digital content and short and feature-length films, leveraging state legislative incentives that help support growth in the local economy and generate a continuous flow of work for cast and crew.
ABOUT 89 WRITERS
Lucien Christian Adderley and Richard ‘Byrd’ Wilson comprise the screenwriting duo known as 89 Writers. Both born in South Florida, Lucien and Byrd became writing partners while part of a spoken word poetry team at Florida State University. Together, the duo have experience in television drama, sketch comedy, web series, and playwriting. They have developed a style true to the young, educated, imaginative minorities they are, with a desire to bring untold Florida stories to the page; both ratchet and righteous.
Currently, Lucien and Byrd are writers on the critically acclaimed OWN series David Makes Man, a South Florida-set drama created by Academy Award winner Tarell Alvin McCraney.