Years ago when North Carolina elected former Governor Pat McCrory, film incentives where eliminated for film makers who wanted to make their films here. They all moved to Atlanta. Boo hiss right? It also hurt me when making my film and screenplay Sins of Ashe County.
In addition, North Carolina has a history of racism, xenophobia, misogyny and bigotry that refuses to look at themselves in the mirror. Unfortunately, we elected racist Senator Jesse Helms, showed our racism towards the African America community during the lunch counter Sit-In's in the 1960's, and the shooting of members of the Communist Workers Party by the Klan in Greensboro (my hometown). The Greensboro Police Department were allegedly complicit before, during and after the shooting, (siding with the Klan).
So needless to say when I tried to make my film Sins of Ashe County (a film that forces North Carolina to face it's racist past) some people bristled at the idea. I also wasn't highly regarded as it was well known that my parents where de-segragationalists during the civil rights movement in Greensboro. Not only that we were prominent citizens in the state as well.
I know the venom directed at me had nothing to do with the script as it was praised by members in the African Community, including the Will Banks family; however, some members of the African American community scoffed at the idea that a white woman would write such a screenplay as I know nothing about slavery. That is a true statement; however, the film is from the perspective of the white Sheriff named Ambrose Clark. After thorough investigation, Clark felt the case was self-defense and refused to hang Will Banks when the jury reached a guilty verdict. Clark also fought for Banks' release amid death threats to himself and his family from all over the State.
Furthermore, it's imperative that white people step up and publicly denounce racism, the Klan and any group that promotes hatred to anybody. Sins of Ashe County is my standing up against racism just like my parents did during the civil rights movement. See, we were raised to be like the Kennedy's. I'm putting my money where my mouth and standing up too. Do I want a metal? No I don't. I want to learn and be part of the solution not the problem. One way to heal might be to shine the mirror of truth on my race and in return reflect the change & understanding we so desperately need right now. We must find our commonalities & unite.
Sins of Ashe County also deals with the inequities on our prison system then & now. After several attempts to collect money owed to him, Will Banks shot his Uncle Frank McMillan over a weeks wages ($1.50) after McMillan threatened to kill Banks with his shotgun. One thing led to another and Frank laid dead on the ground at Cox' Grove Baptist Church. Granted it was in self-defense and the least Banks should have received was manslaughter. Despite having Abolitionist & legendary NC Lawmaker Rufus Doughton defending him, Banks still lost his case. The DA Thomas Bowie, wanted to make an example of Banks and made sure he would hang. Even the NC State Court of Appeals upheld Banks' conviction. Sadly, hundreds of people came from three states or more to see the hanging of Will Banks. It was wrong, unjust, unfair and the story needs to be told. I'm going to tell it!
A sad & tragic photograph or reminder of the hatred in people's hearts that to some extent still haunt us today.
Despite having trouble making my film in North Carolina, I've been courting the idea of making it in the UK. Many of the locations I've discovered are similar to what Ashe County North Carolina looked like circa 1905-07. I also want to find a person of color to direct SOAC. He or she could offer a much needed alternate perspective to my script, making it an unbiased account of true events. If you'd like to be involved message me on one of my social media accounts and we'll make it happen.