In the early 1900s Bert Williams* was a renowned entertainer who performed in blackface and is best remembered for his signature song “nobody.” Inspired by Williams’s life, this movie tells the story of Bert Waters, a black man in 1918 who wants to step beyond his work in blackface and amazingly obtains the opportunity to perform Shakespeare’s Hamlet on Broadway (WITHOUT blackface), only to come face to face with obstacles both external and internal.
* Please see "Bert Williams" section below
Note: As alarming as it may seem to us today, Blacks in the early 1900s were relegated to wearing blackface in order to perform on stage. The layers of complexity this created for them are many. Please see "Blackface History" section further below.
PROOF-OF-CONCEPT TEASER CREDITS - Writer & Director: Cajardo Lindsey; Assistant Director: Mitch Dickman; Producers: Michanda Lindsey, Cajardo Lindsey, Mitch Dickman, Travis Milloy; Cinematographer: Robert Muratore; First AC: Justin Groom; Composers: Monique Brooks-Roberts and J. Aaron Brooks-Roberts; Editors: Travis Milloy, Adam Espinoza; Production Designer: Robert Mark Morgan; Sound: Falon Wilson; Make-up: Megan O'Conner; Costume Designer: Linda Morken; Grip: JP Farraro; Production Coordinator: Samantha Sigler; Actor: Cajardo Lindsey; Acting Coaches: Sheila Ivy Traister, Alex King; Cajardo Lindsey stand-in: Jimmy Walker; Interns: Ajee Williams, Tori De Santiago; Location: The Bug Theatre in Denver, CO.
FROM THE WRITER AND DIRECTOR
With so many intense conversations surrounding blackface - its painful origin, its modern implications and the open wounds that still exist in this country surrounding race and difference – the time couldn’t be more potent for BLACKFACE: the story of nobody to go from script to screen.
After working on the script for the last five years, I appreciate all of these intense conversations because it allows for more opportunities to listen and to grow.
Most of all, I am grateful to create a movie that will pull us inside one man's heart and soul so that hopefully we know more about our own.
Thank you for your support and encouragement as I see this dream of mine realized... and as we collectively tell a story of what is possible and what exists within us all - unlimited magnificence.
- Cajardo Lindsey
WHY THIS FILM
“God has given you one face and you make yourselves another.” -Hamlet
This film is about race, but that's not all, it is about doing what others say is impossible.
When Bert Waters is offered the chance to be the first black actor to perform Shakespeare on a Broadway stage, it is the most treacherous endeavor of his life, challenging his confidence, threatening his career, his family -- even risking his life.
This film is about masks as well. Masks that some wear to make themselves feel superior as they demean others— such as what we saw when white performers started wearing blackface in the 1830s - but also the masks that many of us still today put on to be accepted, loved, and even to hide, play it safe and be “nobody.”
When Bert Waters is offered the chance to play Hamlet, he struggles with taking off his cover. Who is he to think, especially in 1918, that he could play a Shakespearean role, not to mention Hamlet on Broadway? It had never been done. He's made a living performing in blackface, and now he must take off his mask and show the world - and even himself - who he truly is.
How many of us struggle with feeling like an impostor, asking ourselves questions like:
- Who am I to start a business?
- Who am I to go to college?
- Who am I to try to make a difference in this world?
- Who am I to do one of the millions of things we as human beings desire for ourselves?
This film flips those questions on their head and asks, who are you not to do one of the millions of things we as human beings desire for ourselves? And if, and when, you do - what does it mean?
I AM ENOUGH (a little deeper)
When faced with a challenge, a new opportunity or even a dream, there is a universal question that many of us may face, “Am I enough?” Variations include, Do I have what it takes? Am I worthy? If we are unable to answer yes honestly, we may talk ourselves out of our goal, run from it, busy ourselves with something else that seems safer, or even sabotage the new opportunity altogether.
When our main character Bert discovers that a door almost magically opens to allow him to do what has never been done before, he must grapple with what lies deep within him. Who does he believe he really is, what does he believe about his worth and does he believe he can fulfill his deepest desire. Being scared to step out and doing something new is universal, we wonder what if we fail, what if we are ridiculed, what if we humiliate ourselves? Ultimately, when we go to the core of our being, we find out if we will choose the route of safety and familiarity or if we will take the risk and let courage and passion lead us further. In so deciding, we learn that the journey is just as significant (and perhaps more than) the end result.
KICKSTARTER GOAL : $80,000 (OR MORE)
OVERALL GOAL : 5 MILLION
By supporting this campaign, you will become a part of something that is rarely, if at all, addressed in modern cinema. No one has ever made a movie like this about blackface in the history of film. By getting involved, you will be part of making history.
The budget for BLACKFACE: the story of nobody is roughly 5 million dollars. Our goal is to raise at least $80,000 (and hopefully more) right here on Kickstarter. The first $80,000 will make it possible to complete development and begin pre-production. Anything above $80,000 will go towards the film's 5 million dollar production budget.
We are asking you to be a part of the momentum of pushing this project further.
By giving you will make it possible for this story to be told and to send the message to the world that as human beings, racism is unacceptable, and as individuals, we all are worthy of having our dreams fulfilled.
How we will spend the money:
- Package the film (packaging means tying creative elements to a production, such as producers, name actors, etc. to attract production investment)
- Bring on a casting director
- Travel and accommodation expenses to pitch the film to investors, sales agents and distributors
- Continue research, development, and editing of the script in advance of production
- Begin location scouting
- Table readings and screen tests for talent
- Website creation
- Create essential artwork for the film
- Attorney costs
- Story-board artist
WHAT ARE THE ORIGINS OF THIS FILM
This story was ignited in me five years ago, and it was solidified by my own experiences as a performer and a father. I had witnessed patterns in casting that felt restricting and suffocating specifically, as they related to Shakespeare and other classical works.
When I looked in my own backyard, and when I thought about what I wanted my sons to see, I was frustrated that main characters like Hamlet, Lady Macbeth, Richard III, and Juliet, etc. who appeared onstage did not look like my sons nor me.
As I began writing a story that would represent what I hoped to see, what emerged was... "If you think it is challenging for people of color now, then what was it like for those who came before?" Thus began my research, and that's when BLACKFACE: the story of nobody started to take shape.
FOR WHOM IS THIS FILM INTENDED
Anyone still reading this. Anyone who believes there’s got to be more than repeating our past or living smaller than we know we should.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
1. Fund our Kickstarter campaign: Kickstarter is all or nothing.
2. Spread the Word: After you donate (thank you!), and even if you aren't able to give, share the link with your family, friends, bloggers and your social media-- this makes a world of difference in getting more people to contribute.
Robert Muratore (Cinematographer)
BLACKFACE: the story or nobody was inspired by the life of Bert Williams (November 12, 1874 – March 4, 1922). Many don't know who he was, not to mention how prolific he became during his time. In my eyes, he opened the door for the likes of Paul Robeson and Sidney Poitier.
Bert Williams was the first black to be regularly featured in a Broadway revue: the Ziegfeld Follies. He is credited with opening the door for other blacks (most notably lyricist Noble Sissle and composer Eubie Blake with their successful show, Shuffle Along, in 1921). Bert Williams remains to this day the most famous black performer of pantomime. Although his movie appearances were brief, Williams in 1910 became the first major black star to be featured in a motion picture. Smith, Eric Ledell . (1992). Bert Williams A Biography of the Pioneer Black Comedian. Jefferson, North Carolina: MacFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers.
THE CREATIVE TEAM
22 Eleven, LLC
Cajardo Lindsey |Writer/Filmmaker/Actor
Michanda Lindsey | Producer
Cajardo and Michanda are the creative force behind the production company, 22 Eleven. 22 is the number of a Master Builder. Empathy is represented by number eleven. Together, 22 Eleven is a strong presence for creating kindness. Michanda and Cajardo are “transformation-agents” who began producing events in the late 2000s to help transform organizational and individual cultures. They brought their skills together as a news producer/anchor and actor/lawyer to create 22 Eleven.
donnie l. betts (lowercase is intentional) | Consultant
donnie is a radio, film and theatre practitioner. He has been making a personal statement about the marginalization of black Americans for decades with the intentional lower-casing of his name. donnie attended the Yale School of Drama, has performed on Broadway, and is the founder of No Credits Production, Inc., a film and video production company. His company produces the award-winning radio drama series “Destination Freedom, Black Radio Days”, and documentary films including “Music is My Life, Politics My Mistress: The Story of Oscar Brown Jr.” screened at over 25 film festivals worldwide, and has won eleven “Best Documentary” awards, Audience’s Choice Awards and aired on PBS plus stations nationwide. His film, “Dearfield: The Road Less Traveled” a docudrama about the all-black town in northern Colorado was nominated for an Emmy.
Travis Milloy | Producer
Travis has worked in film and television as a writer, director, and editor for twenty 20 years. He wrote and directed Infinity Chamber, which you can currently see on Netflix. He also wrote, and executive produced the sci-fi thriller Pandorum with Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster.
Mitch Dickman | Producer
Named one of the “Top 10 Documakers to watch” by Variety, Mitch is an award-winning producer and director. Credits for films recently released include Casting Jon Benet (Co-Producer 2017 Sundance), Speaking is Difficult (Cinematograpaher 2016 Sundance) Rolling Paper (Producer/Director 2015 SXSW), Being Evel (Line Producer 2015 Sundance), and Hanna Ranch (Producer/Director 2014 NY Times Critics Pick). Mitch is also the founder of Listen Productions based in Denver, Colorado.
Robert Muratore | Director of Photography
Robert Muratore has worked professionally as a cinematographer for over twenty years, directing and co-producing several projects along the way. He shot and co-produced the feature-length documentaries The People vs. George Lucas, The Life and Times of Paul The Psychic Octopus, Doc of the Dead and 78/52 for his company Exhibit A Pictures (the American Society of Cinematographers named 78/52 in a list of ten films of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival Standouts for its cinematography). Within the last two years, he has shot five other independent feature films. Robert co-produced and shot MEMORY-The Origins of Alien, which premiered in AT the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
Monique Brooks-Roberts and J. Aaron Brooks-Roberts | Composers
Monique is violinist who has performed and recorded for many notable artists including Alicia Keys, Common, Jill Scott, Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, J. Cole. She also toured with the Philadelphia String Quartet for seven years. She has performed with the Soulful Symphony Orchestra, Gateways Festival Orchestra, Harlem Symphony Orchestra, and the Philharmonic of Southern New Jersey where she sat Principal Second. Monique has played at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, the John F. Kennedy Center, The Kimmel Center, Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, the world-famous Tchaikovsky Hall in Moscow, and the Theater at Madison Square Garden.
Aaron attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. Soon after, he found himself creating with acclaimed artists like Anthony Hamilton, Angie Stone, Eric Roberson, singer/songwriter Courtney Harrell, and many others. After developing his sound, Aaron co-produced an album with jazz vocalist, Rajdulari, called ‘Journey of a Woman' which combined a mix of jazz, soul, and r&b. This album released in 2013 and held to the top of the charts in the UK for many weeks.
Robert Mark Morgan | Production Designer
Rob has designed for theater, museums, film, and theme parks including SeaWorld San Diego and Avatar the Exhibition at Experience Music Project. His stage designs have been seen onstage nationally at Asolo Repertory Theatre, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Cincinnati Playhouse, Cleveland Play House, San Jose Repertory Theatre, Denver Center Theatre Company, Alliance Theatre, Marin Theatre Company, Old Globe Theatre, and American Conservatory Theatre (ACT) in San Francisco. Rob is a proud member of USA-829 and serves on the faculty at Washington University in St. Louis. www.morgansetdesign.com
A painful history. Blackface was a popular form of entertainment in the American theater starting around 1830 and lasted roughly 100 years.
See below, theater industry publication circa 1916.
White performers would apply a layer of burnt cork (from a wine bottle cork) onto their faces to darken their skin, exaggerate their lips and wear woolly wigs while playing-out their projected characterizations of enslaved Africans and free Blacks. These performances, reinforced, and in many ways cemented negative stereotypes and racist images that linger with us even today.
The 1951 film "Yes Sir, Mr. Bones" shows several EXAMPLES OF A BLACKFACE MINSTREL SHOW:
BLACKFACE: the story of nobody provides a launching pad to discuss race and what is needed for healing and evolution.
Beyond talking, this film opens opportunities for all of us to deeply listen, so we can experience transformation and evolution for our families, communities and our country.
This film takes us through the door of what it is like to dream and then go forward in what may seem impossible.
Most importantly, at its core, Bert’s story reflects our own desire to feel important and valued, without a mask of any kind keeping us from showing the world who we really are.
Risks and challenges
What I do know is that now is the time to confront the challenges this polarizing topic presents and to create such a film. Some may not want to bring up the past; others may not want negative portrayals of race projected on the big screen no matter the end message. I understand the challenges. I also know, whatever we are not willing to own, ultimately will own us. Does taking on this subject matter and the overall creation of this film scare me? Yes. It scares the hell out of me. Nevertheless, I’m confident that this story has risen to the surface to be told and through fear to triumph a beautiful film will be made.
Overall, movie making is a crazy business with a lot of uncertainty. We start with a compelling story and a script we love. We build the best team possible, buy insurance, and make contingency plans. There are no guarantees that everything will go as planned. Be that as it may, we thank you for your support and encouragement as we see this dream of ours realized... and as we collectively tell a story of what is possible and what exists within us all- unlimited magnificence.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)