Locally made horror film is Black — in front of and behind the camera

By Charles Hallman
Staff Writer

The Inheritance has African American cast, director, producer

Too often a Black person is the first to meet their untimely demise in a horror film, but The Inheritance bucked this trend because it is an all-Black horror feature. In fact, it is virtually all Black, both on screen and behind the scenes.

It stars Golden Brooks, Keith David, Darrin Dewitt Henson, D.B. Woodside, Rochelle Aytes and Shawn Michael Howard. Robert O’Hara, who once received a NAACP Image Award for his theater work, is the director and Effie T. Brown is the producer.

“Usually in most horror films, all the Black people die first,” joked Monica Johnson of St. Peter, Minn., who attended the screening of The Inheritance on opening night of the 2010 Twin Cities Black Film Festival (TCBFF) in October.

“We didn’t have our Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger. What we are trying to do is an intelligent horror film,” noted Brown.

Both she and Howard took audience questions after last month’s TCBFF screening.

Howard admitted that he doubted the film’s scary premise when Brown first sent him the script.

“A Black horror movie? You are not going to get any actors for this,” he said he told the producer. After he learned that David was signed, “I said I wanted to work with Keith David because I have been watching him my whole life,” added the actor. “Once Keith David was on board, everyone else just signed up.”

The Inheritance was filmed entirely in Stillwater, Minn. “This was one of the coldest places I’ve ever been,” remembered Howard.

Filmmaker Lee H. Jordan and Constance Anderson were among many local persons who worked on the film. Both Anderson and Jordan appeared on screen in non-speaking roles.

Anderson has appeared in several other films and is one of the stars of TH3M, a locally produced series about same-gender-loving women. “I hope that she will come up and take the next level,” proclaimed Jordan, who calls Anderson “our next Cicely Tyson.”

“Even though we were extras, we were treated as principal actors,” Anderson recalled.

When lead makeup artist and Minneapolis hairdresser Monica Price watched the film last month, it was the first time she had seen her work in its entirely, she pointed out. “I’ve been doing makeup for seven and a half years, but that was my first movie,” said Price. “I just had to make sure it was exactly what the director wanted. It was really cool to see it all come together.”

“On a budget this small, you have to find a location where you can shoot all [scenes] in one area,” explained line producer Stephanie Elmer, who also is from Minnesota. She said the film was shot two years ago during the winter.

“The line producer sets up the crew and all the contracts. I oversaw the production from beginning to end,” added Elmer.

“The biggest challenge of doing this was having actors performing outside in the snow at night in -20 degrees weather,” admitted Brown, a Los Angeles-based independent producer. “The Minnesota crew was beautiful and awesome.”

NBA player Jermaine O’Neal and filmmaker Cynthia Stafford were among the key financial backers of The Inheritance, she continued. “We made the movie with very little money. We are working on getting [national] theatrical distribution.”

After earning a degree in film production at Loyola Marymount University, Brown’s first cinematic job was as an intern on Robert Townsend’s The Five Heartbeats (1991). She later served as development director for Tim Burton Productions and served as a line producer on several features.

Brown later produced Stranger Inside on HBO and Real Women Have Curves, which won two Sundance Film Awards in 2002, and was executive producer for In the Cut (2003). She started her Duly Noted production company in 2005. “I’ve done 13 films,” she proudly pointed out.

Johnson said that she’s glad that it was an all-Black film. Many Blacks, especially young ones, are unaware of who actually makes other so-called “Black” movies, she added.

“They just think, ‘Oh, it’s a Black movie with all Black characters.’

They think Black people make it. I thought that [as well] until I started doing the research, and found [such movies were] made by a White producer, and made all this millions and millions of dollars, and have a mind of portraying us [in a way in which] some of it is true and some of it is not.”

Brown is now working on a film that David is directing. “It’s called Killer Instinct, and I have another film called Polish Bar,” she added.

Both the producer and Howard urged the audience to go to the film’s website, www.theinheritancemovie.com, and submit comments. “Write what you think about it, even if you didn’t like it, because it is going to help us and help people like us make more films like this,” the actor summed up.

“Whoever will listen, I will show it. It’s all about grass roots,” pledged Brown.

An extended interview with Shawn Michael Howard will be featured in a later MSR edition.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.