By Catharin Shepard
Military veteran Andre Baldwin, born and raised in Hoke County, has returned home and is seeking the community’s support to tell a story that he hopes will make it all the way to the big screen at international film festivals like Sundance and Cannes.
Armed with production equipment that he bought himself, Baldwin plans to film his first big project in the community where he grew up. His film “Illegitimately Black” will examine the experiences of black children born to unwed parents.
It’s a subject that some might consider controversial, but it’s an important topic to get people thinking and talking about, Baldwin said.
“The film follows a young black male and highlights the negative stereotypes associated with black illegitimacy in a broken home, and it depicts society’s perception of an illegitimate child and follows the child as they grow up,” he said.
The movie also touches on the profound effect that verbal and physical abuse has on adolescents, he said.
The film will be based on true events and explores the real-life situations that many African-American children face. Statistics show that 72.3 percent of African-American children are born to unmarried parents, the filmmaker said. That’s a large number of people sharing similar experiences, and it’s something that should be brought to light, he believes.
“I’ve found that a lot of people can relate to it, and it’s one of those projects that really hits home. Some people will consider it controversial, but I think it’s very enlightening and inspirational, simply because it forces us to have a dialogue,” he said. “Sometimes it can be a dichotomy between people that don’t really understand and know one another so well, and it bridges that gap to allow us to have that conversation and be able to understand one another better.”
Baldwin first became interested in film after he signed up for a theater class at Hoke County High School. Longtime drama teacher Jane Sellars encouraged his passion for performing arts, and he participated in the school drama club until he graduated in 2005.
“She (Sellars) transformed my life. I was trying to get an easy class to get that 4.0, and I just fell in love and I joined the drama club and I joined the International Thespian Society. We competed in several competitions in Raleigh and across North Carolina,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin joined the military after graduating from high school. After leaving the service, he used the G.I. Bill to attend a university and earned a degree in general education.
However, he missed the performing arts and wanted to tell his own stories on film.
“I had a longing to continue with filming, so after that, I used the money I had, I purchased a production camera, and I slowly accumulated all the equipment that I needed over the next year. I did my research and I just went for it,” he said. “I started pursuing my dreams.”
Baldwin has worked to develop his skills as a filmmaker and this year took the plunge into creating his first major project. He and his team produced a concept trailer that Baldwin hopes to use as a launching pad to get support to film “Illegitimately Black.” They’ve completed four drafts of the script, have the cast and crew ready to get to work and have a big goal in mind.
“We’re actually going for Sundance (Film Festival) and Cannes (Film Festival),” Baldwin said.
The film will be shot in Hoke County, and Baldwin hopes to get the support of a major film studio. Not only will it help get his film off the ground, it could also bring attention and possibly money to Hoke County in the future, he said. Working with him on the project are locals Sharvar Daniels, Janie Richardson Sloan, James O’Neil and Robert Littles Jr. and Robert Littles III, among others.
Right now, what he needs most is support whether it’s a donation or just a signal boost from the Hoke County community.
“We need more ears and eyes on this film, because we’re actually launching an Indiegogo for our funding campaign…we definitely need the support of everybody to ensure that we can get this film out to the public,” he said.
The fundraising campaign will kick off this Friday. People can see more information about Baldwin and the film project, samples of his past work and get the link to donate to the project online at vimeo.com/prodigiousfilmsociety and facebook.com/prodigiousfilmsociety.