Our mission to help you navigate the new normal is driven by subscribers. Subscribe today for full access to our journalism.
A successful writer is trapped as a slave in the 19th century. This is the general premise of Antebellum, a new psychological horror film and the feature film debut by writer-director duo Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz.
"It's like the color purple meets Hitchcock," Bush told Fortune.
The filmmakers acknowledge that some of the images on the screen are difficult and uncomfortable to look at, but they felt it was important to the story they were trying to tell. "As much as we want to look the other way because we don't want to deal with it, it is necessary," says Bush.
Antebellum, the film, has its roots in a short story the duo wrote in October 2017. It was then turned into a script the following February before it was finally shot. Bush and Renz have worked together for about a dozen years, producing commercials, short films, and music videos that focus on social justice. That means they were very used to working together at the time of filming.
"We're able to solve any problems with the story during the writing process and know exactly how we're going to tell the story and make our vision crystal clear before we're even on set," says Renz. "So that we're on set, we know exactly what we want."
"There was an absolutely unified voice on set," added Bush.
Janelle Monáe plays in the psychological horror film "Antebellum", which will be released on September 18th via video-on-demand. Matt Kennedy – Lionsgate
Even so, the two scriptwriters sometimes split up when they needed to discuss certain aspects of filming with their cast.
"We're two men. We don't want to come on set and rush an actress who just had a really difficult scene. That's not appropriate," says Bush. "We both meet, and then we think," Who would be in Best suited to have that particular conversation at this moment? "But we're always within seven feet of each other."
Filmmaker Laray Mayfield (known for her work with David Fincher) who brought the ensemble together. Other actors are Jena Malone, Jack Huston, Kiersey Clemons and Gabourey Sidibe; each brought something special to the production.
"She's one of the most intense listeners. She's always there," says Bush of Malone. "Gabourey has sunshine in bottles. She's just one person who gives warmth to every room she walks in. She's also one of the smarter people I've ever met. "
Bush describes the film's star, Janelle Monáe – the Grammy-nominated singer whose films include Moonlight and Hidden Figures – as a polymath: “We think the transition from supporting roles to a film of such weight that she's the Has to be the spine and be the centerpiece of the film, I think it will surprise a lot of people. "
Antebellum comes out at a time when the US is grappling with its history of racism and inequality. In the past year alone, there have been a number of titles dealing with such topics, from HBO's Watchmen series to Spike Lee's Da 5 Bloods. In a sense, this is an indication that “art reflects time,” says Renz.
The directors Christopher Renz (left) and Gerard Bush on the set of "Antebellum". Kyle B. Kaplan – Lionsgate
"Our focus has been storytelling about social justice for a decade, and we really believe the film has one very specific thing that we are saying," says Bush. "I think America is finally waking up to the idea that there is a horror prism for a large segment of the population in which it would probably be the most effective way to understand some aspects of the black experience."
Current events and their connection to the themes and plot points of the film are part of what Bush and Renz hope that audiences will no longer be able to see the film.
“We have to go forward. And to move forward, we have to deal with the past and all of its ugliness so that we can correct that behavior now, ”says Bush.
"There is great hope in America's future if we are brave enough to face the past," he added.
The film, which should hit theaters earlier this year, will be released via video-on-demand on Friday as the coronavirus pandemic continues to keep theatrical releases up to date. It wasn't what Bush and Renz initially thought of the film, but they chose not to push for a theatrical release later in 2021 because they believe it is important that the film be part of the conversation now "is.
"We hope people will turn the lights down and louder and turn off their phones and try to experience it as best they can," says Renz.
Antebellum will be available to watch on VOD starting September 18th.
More needs to be read Entertainment coverage from capital::
- Inside I Am Woman: A new biopic tells the story of Helen Reddy and her famous song
- Paris Hilton was the original influencer. Now a new documentary lets the viewer see past the facade
- Podcast recommendations for a better life and career from Fortune & # 39; s 40 Under 40
- Book referrals from Fortunes 40 Under 40 in media and entertainment
- Fortune & # 39; s 2020 40 Under 40