Frank Bey Has a Gift
Ask Me How I Feel shares the wonder and joy of the 72-year-old soul blues singer's life and music. Your contribution helps us finish the editing and music licensing of the film. We want to celebrate a completed film with Frank and share his story with the world. Help us today by backing and picking a perk to receive when we are funded:
- Get an invite to a special live online film premiere
- Free subscriptions to Blues Music Magazine -- with any contribution.
- Singing cookie jars!
- Signed CDs
- Signed Drumhead/Drumsticks (used by Tom Hambridge on Buddy Guy's new album)
- More -- become a Kickstarter filmmaker and support us today!
The Untold Story
In 1977, Frank Bey's radical soul and funk band, The Moorish Vanguard, imploded after a deal gone wrong with James Brown. Crushed, Frank quit singing for 17 years. He found his way driving taxis, taming birds, insulating airplane hangars, building homes, and cooking seafood. But music called him back.
He sold everything and launched a comeback career in the blues and soul, capturing four Blues Music Award nominations and touring internationally. However, an ongoing battle with kidney disease put everything in jeopardy. In a remarkable act of courage, faith, and wisdom, Frank took a step back to refocus his career, return to his roots, and find a new, higher path for his music and story. In the winter of last year, he found his way to Nashville for the first time in his life to craft his dream album with Grammy-winning producer, Tom Hambridge.
There aren’t many voices from the roots of soul and blues music left. Frank Bey uses the tradition’s deep feeling and spirit to do what he’s done his entire life, make a space for audiences to bring their emotions, their truth, their vulnerable open-heartedness, and to set their vision on better, brighter days. Our film brings you into the radical love and labor that Frank gives to make these spaces and music despite all obstacles and all odds.
Frank learned his craft and message as a kid in the gospel choir with his mother, Rev. Maggie Jordan, one of the first women ordained ministers in Georgia.
In 1962, Frank escaped the Jim Crow South for Philadelphia where he went on to carry the message of love, truth, peace and freedom in the wild, jazzy funk of the Moorish Vanguard. Formed from the pool of Philly musicians that went on to be the 1970s Philadelphia International house-band, the Vanguard represented the other "Sound of Philadelphia." They were radical, community oriented, and immensely skilled.
Led by Frank they returned to his home state of Georgia where they soon found themselves in James Brown's studio. James Brown loved their recording and told Frank he would give them their big break. When they heard their single "Sitting in the Sunset of Your Love" (sung by co-lead Barbara Bey) on the radio, they were devastated. Their music was on Polydor but they had no money to show for it.
The band splintered and Frank was crushed. After 17 years of odd jobs and no singing, Frank couldn't hold out any longer. He had to come back to music.
The Unbelievable Story
A little over a year ago, we sat with Frank in an open air cafe in the Swiss mountain town of Baden, when he said “I want new music, music with a message.” After filming with Frank through an incredibly difficult winter, we were excited to see him take the stage at the Baden Blues Festival.
Little did we know, that night, Frank’s story and performance would capture the attention of Tom Hambridge, the two-time Grammy winning producer and writer for greats such as Buddy Guy, B.B. King and James Cotton.
We held on for a wild ride for Frank's first trip to Nashville where he boldly recast his career, putting his life into song with the best musicians in his business. The album became a creative and spiritual culmination that Frank has been moving towards for over 70 years.
Storytelling moments like this are once in a lifetime. Your support of our film this month, means that Frank's story carries it's undeniable momentum. Your contribution means that Frank's message and love reach far beyond the stage and the album.
What do a soul-blues singer from Georgia, a former public school teacher, an Iranian-American documentarian, and a queer, experimental filmmaker all have in common? A lot actually.
Marie Hinson -- Writer, Director, Cinematographer -- mariehinson.com
I moved to Philadelphia almost ten years ago, away from rural Appalachia where I grew up. I left for economic reasons, but also for reasons of personal survival — creatively, spiritually, and in my gender identity. I couldn’t have ended up in a better place.
My work as an artist and documentary filmmaker comes out of my deep need and love for community, place, and social change through art. My practice and my soul have been so fed by my new home. There’s a living tradition here of masterful artistic practice that is recognized for it’s excellence around the world while also meeting the needs of its community at home. This potent combination can be celebrated for its power, but the labor and time involved, much of it in this city by people of color, can be overlooked in narratives about our art and culture.
Making this film about Frank’s music and life is a way for me to honor the work and roots that have fed my artistic voice and have literally given me life. I hope that audiences watching this film are invited to celebrate the lives and labor behind the art that they love. I hope that many will open their hearts to listen a little more closely, speak a little more gently, and ask more questions about the experiences and feelings of those of us they may never have engaged before.
Marie is a cinematographer, artist, and experimental filmmaker currently based in Philadelphia. She recently finished production as director of photography on Catherine Pancake’s forthcoming Queer Genius, and lensed Iris Devins’ After the Date that premiered at Frameline41.
Jamila Paksima -- Sr. Executive Producer -- paksimaproductions.com
As an Iranian American female documentarian I never imagined I'd be drawn to produce a story about a Georgia born blues singer. This changed the moment I heard Frank speak from his steady and weathered soul. I listened to his stories and beautiful baritone voice and I found common ground in our lives. We both left our homes where we had little chance of fulfilling our dreams and landed in Philadelphia. He is in the city and I live in the suburbs. I was committed to telling Frank's story of steady determination and purpose as an artist.
After a few months of working on his film that I discovered our lives were deeply connected. Turns out Frank stopped singing for 17 years and in that season of his life, he had many jobs including drywalling homes in the suburbs of Philly. Frank built the walls in my open and beautiful home... it's my wish to help you experience Frank so he too can build an open space in your life through his message and his music.
Jamila Paksima is an independent filmmaker and an award-winning documentary director and executive producer of TV programming, and corporate and non-profit branding campaigns. Her woman-owned television and video production company, Paksima Productions, is based in the metro Philadelphia region.
Thomas Daniel Dwyer -- Executive Producer
Frank is the epitome of a man who has grown every day of his life, of a man who knows who he is, and of a person whom I wish I had met back in the day whom I might have been able to learn from and emulate. Knowing Frank today is a gift that I will forever cherish.
Tom taught public high school English in suburban Philadelphia for 35 years and college English, simultaneously, for 10 years at Drexel University, using music, acting, and film extensively in both settings. He has studied classical and folk guitar as well as Irish bouzouki. Tom has sung the classical and popular repertoire with The Philly Pops Festival Chorus as well as folk, holiday and popular classics in different venues and configurations. He continues to sing and play Irish ballads and songs at traditional Irish sessions domestically and internationally. In 2012 Tom studied with English guitar greats Richard Thompson and Martin Simpson.
Goals and Perks!!
Thank you for your generous support of our project. In return for a contribution, we have a few thank you perks -- see the sidebar -- and check out this quite entertaining introduction.
Our filming is completed and we are raising our next step of funding through Kickstarter to cover expenses for post production. All films are collaborative, but this one in particular is a unique mix of voices. We want to add one more voice to that mix, an editor. We need a fresh perspective to help us transform the powerful moments we've captured into a lean 90-minute cut. There are a number of other associated expenses that go along with this task including hard drives, edit suites, assistant editors, transcriptions, and research work.
The more we raise on Kickstarter, the more quickly we can bring the story toward completion. Your contribution is also a vote of confidence in our work and in Frank. It helps other investors and grants recognize that this is a film with a passionate audience.
To learn more:
Email Us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Risks and challenges
Filmmaking is hard work and is expensive! Fortunately, we've completed most of principle photography and finished all of our major travel shoots.
Looking ahead to the effort of completion and finding a distributor, we've enrolled a Senior Executive Producer, Jamila Paksima, who has brought ambitious, award winning documentary projects to the screen. Her woman-owned television and video production company, Paksima Productions, is based in the metro Philadelphia region. Jamila's clients include: PBS, NBC, BBC, Discovery Channel, ITVS, WNET, OPB, Johnson & Johnson, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, IMS Health, DePuy Synthes, among many others. Most recently Jamila received 9 directing and audience awards for her feature-length documentary ﬁlm Until 20, including the Courageous Filmmaking Award and the Audience Award for Best Documentary Film at the Austin Film Festival, the Virginia Film Festival, and Cinquest. Until 20 also received a Silver Remi at World Fest. Jamila also was named the and best female director in the ECU Film Festival and received the best historical documentary award at the San Antonio Film Festival.
A huge hurdle for a music documentary can be music licensing. Although we do need to raise money for licensing fees for Frank and the songwriters, they have all committed to consulting and working through post-production on the film. This assures a much, much smoother licensing task than most films face.
We have more research and archival material to acquire. Additional funds from our stretch goal would allow us to hire a researcher to work with our existing relationships with members of Frank's family, friends, and former bandmates. The more money we are able to raise, the more quickly we can begin this task.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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