Regina Mason and Sean Durant (Ep. 15, 2020)
BLACK AMERICA FROM RADIO. Speaking with Regina e Mason International Speaker Lecturer and author of life of William Grimes runaway slave now. A movie title genus. Journey the search for William Grimes and also with Sean Durant producer. The Fam- Sean highlight. You oughta go about assembling the concept which is a unique concept for the mommy so getting to the filming a of actual movie so It was it was difficult. Because you're trying to take you know William Grimes entire life is is enduring in the south. There's his escaping from the south his new life in the north almost losing that and and and having to find a way to maintain that live. And you gotTa Take Regina Mason's life of researching all of this coming upon finding That their ancestor wrote this book. Then going through the book which he published twice in his life And then trying to tell that story at the same time you have a ninety minute approximately movie but you're trying to tell to people's life story split in half and then you have to pick the right moments that are going to tell the story so it's a lot You know I always say that. The the movies like a large commercial for the to the incredible long journeys and lives of these two people so we had to figure out how we can put that all together and get that story out there. I initially was a big fan of documentaries but I was also a big fan of a narrative dramatic feature films. I knew that I couldn't do both types of films. I started my directing career and I was a big fan of docu-dramas which were becoming popular at the time in two thousand eight two thousand nine on television so my idea was. How can I do all of this and and knock it out in one movie? And that's when I decided to make it into a docudrama so I can have all the best parts of a documentary including scholars speak on the material as well as Regina Mason. But I can also have actors to push Ray William Grimes to portray the times and what he was actually going through as well as actors to Portray Regina Mason and portray her time and her struggles and her and her story so in the movie I tell both stories. In parallel particularly Gina finds the book and begins to read the book. We can tell more of William Grimes stories industries kind of move lockstep together and come together at the end. But they're separated from you know hundred years or so more apart. So that's really the ingredients and Kinda the recipe that I've I've put together and working toiling for four years shooting it in the bay area and filming in La on-location Savannah Georgia and Virginia and Connecticut. We would have put all those pieces together and and it. It just worked out came together in in a wonderful story That is being well accepted and and Kinda resonates but I think it really really shows you know the the perseverance and the struggle of winning grimes in what he passed on to Regina Mason and her struggle and her perseverance to reclaim him and tell the story again to a new audience can go well into the future so we really proud of it and it came out really well. We did the whole thing from script to screen to now streaming on Amazon prime. And it's getting out there to the world. I'm really proud of it. I was particularly impressed with the locations. How did you find locations for eighteenth century the locations Originally when I started doing the production I wanted to hire a location scout. Vocation Scouts and location managers but the people that I would interact with the they would start asking me questions and what to do and then they were picking things and doing things where I was constantly saying. No that's not right. That's not it so I got to the point. Finally where I realized that no one was going to get those locations better than me so I actually went out in the field and I acted as my own location scout. And I've found that the best way to get historical locations to actually go to the places where it happened. More on historical historically accurate locations like museums historical sites Places where people go to do reenactments or they use them and and then just talk to the people and tell them the truth and tell them what you're doing and you'll be surprised if you tell people the truth and and you really honest with them and they see the power which is doing and once. I showed him Regina's Story in her or her book they were open to it and we were able to get a lot of locations and us a lot of historically accurate props so a lot of what you see in. The movie is not fake. I've noticed that I noticed that. Yeah it's actually real the banning museum out in La was is a real place and that's a real home in those. Those interiors are actually real items in that museum. They were kind enough to let us use that. Some of the horses Carriages and things like oh. We did a little bit of that. Obviously we film some stuff While we were driving from Savannah all the way to Connecticut. We stopped in different locations to do the documentary footage and then we filmed the outside of those actual real location eagerness pill year where this actually took place so we had the outside of the real locations and I mixed them with the interiors of some of the locations in that were historically accurate in l. a. and in the bay area in in in we put them all and when you edit them together seamlessly with people in an awesome. Costin's great actors. It just came together to create this world where people could immerse themselves in the life of William Grimes in the eighteen hundreds or the life of Regina Mason in the nineties leading into the early two thousands but we found that in its original location in Oakland so a Lotta this. We filmed where it actually happened. And then we augmented with some movie magic and and it worked out perfectly convinced David to do the navigation so The narration part came towards the end. I originally did the Movie with just Non Union actors but towards the end When we did the cut we realized it needed. It needed a final punch in the final push. I had always envisioned having someone with a certain level power do the narration. I was a big fan of some docu-dramas that were on television through the wormhole and it starred Morgan Freeman and in that particular one. He would do a direct to camera talk and he would also narrate reenactments of when he was a kid or other reenactments and everybody knows he is quote unquote the Voice of God and he is the biggest rations in movies. But could we get someone like that? Obviously if we gotta be amazing we did approach through Connection with my co producer. We did approach a lot of actors. We approached him. Morgan Freeman Denzel Washington. Lavar Burton in in different people but the numbers that came back with whom we would make you say I had a list. I had a top ten list and in my top five. I put Keith David in there. And so my co-producer contacted his agent his agency and they sent it over and to my astonishment he came back and was like. I'll do it. And it was more than a reasonable rate and which also made a feint and the next thing. I was out in In Hollywood in Melrose actually at his recording studio in and directing keep David in the booth which was mind blowing to say the least and he was astonished to see you me and and and you know given my age and done and being an African American male to be directing this film so that that really made him happy when he saw that he was really blown away with it but he blessed the project came in he did the most amazing work on it and it really just elevated genus story and and Grind Story to a whole new level so we we'll be internally thankful to him for that and and every once in a while I do have talks with them still. He's just a really good person and I think he's a studier history. He's very big in the voice over world. He's an Emmy Award winning voice actor. Who's done ton of? Ken Burns documentaries so he was really into. This is his thing so I think he really enjoyed working on this project and we were better for it on the same Miss Mason. I'm is lead. This was labor and this is way before Google and everything else. Oh what gave you that consistent drive to want wanting to complete this project William Grimes himself you know when you read his narrative all that he endured in life to this cruelty abuse at every turn. He was reminded that he was nothing but he never bought into the status quo. In fact he defied the status quo at every turn just the fact that he had the notion that he was capable of writing his own story without any assistance from white people speaks to who he was and how self assured he was so his example of perseverance and endurance gave me the will to to just carry on. And see this per- This project to to the end. Regina e Mason International Speaker Executive Producer and author of life. A William Grimes and runaway slave published by Oxford University press. We would include our conversation on next week's program..