After months of behind the scenes negotiations with Florida film commission officials, the major feature film, The Unknowns – Talent is Color Blind will be filmed in Florida. Top Cat II Productions, LLC, had initially selected the Fort Pierce area for the film’s location but was forced to move the film out of state when Florida funding assistance for production dried up. Faced with the prospect of filming in Savanna, Georgia, behind the scene negotiations began to keep the film in Florida.
“We were swamped with people wanting to keep this feature film in Florida,” said Walter T. Shaw, Top Cat II Productions, LLC. “The outpouring of support to produce the story of Florida’s Highwaymen in Florida was overwhelming. It took a lot of work and change of direction but we are pleased now to say the Unknowns will remain in Florida,” Shaw added.
The feature film depicts a stunning true story dating back to the 1950’s and 60’s about 26 African Americans who shared a special talent they used to rise above extreme poverty and racism in a special way – through art. And, because of their alliance they encountered drama, violence, murder, rejection – and later — exceptional triumph. Talent confirmed and in negotiations include: Sam Rockwell, Khandi Alexander, and Keith Stanfield. Screenplay by Gregory Marquette. Ferne Cassel is Casting Director. Preproduction is expected to begin in August.
According to Michelle Hillery, Immediate Past President of Film Florida, “We are pleased that Top Cat Productions has decided to buck the trend of major motion picture production leaving Florida for other markets. We are hopeful that other production companies will see the benefit of Florida’s unique setting and return. We are proud to have the story of Florida’s Highwaymen filmed in the state that brought their amazing talent to life.”
Florida is the setting for the feature film about Florida’s legendary black artists The Highwaymen. The story of self-taught landscape artists who ushered in a new age of art during the racially turbulent 1950’s and 60’s is captured in The Unknowns – Talent is Color Blind.
Their story is even more relevant today as young black men and women struggle in towns with names like Ferguson and on college campuses like the University of Missouri. The Highwaymen’s struggle to overcome white on black violence and racism through art is reflected in real time race relations today.
“The Unknowns is a powerful story that is still being played out today all over America,” said film producer, Walter T. Shaw, Top Cat II Productions, LLC. “In essence Florida’s Highwaymen began a journey that many blacks in America continue today. A journey where the road is more crowded but the destination remains in the distance. The white hoods and sheets may be in the closet today but prejudice is still here. Their paintings are vibrant and colorful, what they went through is a part of our dark past that, although hidden, remains today. Today, art is still a unifying force that can bring about change”.
The Unknowns tells the emotional story of The Highwaymen, also referred to as the Florida Highwaymen, a group of 26 African American landscape artists. With tutoring and emotional support from acclaimed white artist A.E. “Bean” Backus and his companion-friend and author Zora Neal Hurston (themselves the focus of racist scorn and anger), the eager students became self-taught and self-mentoring among themselves. Together, they created a body of work of more than 200,000 paintings, using “fast painting” techniques. They painted colorful Florida landscapes and made a living selling them door-to-door to businesses and individuals throughout Florida from the mid-1950s through the 1980s. Some of the Highwaymen continue to paint today. While their artwork is renowned throughout Florida and their paintings even hang in the White House, they, because they are black, remain the unknowns throughout most of America.
“The story of Florida’s Highwaymen should be a film to rally those who oppose discrimination and racism to bring about more change and equality through art. Their paintings should hang in every home or business in America as a visual rallying point,” added Shaw.
Shaw’s production company plans to produce the $8-million-dollar film in Florida and hire an estimated 600 Florida residents as extras plus an additional 100 cast and crew.
“As we have found out firsthand, the Highwaymen’s story is not unlike what today’s black youth face in overcoming prejudice. It’s a story that is every bit relative to today’s culture as it was to those who lived during that era some sixty years ago in Fort Pierce, Florida. They began a journey for equality that continues today. There are miles yet to be travelled before the journey to racial equality is complete,” concluded Shaw. Information about casting and other details will be announced in the near future. Pre-production is expected to begin in August.
About Top Cat II Productions LLC
Top Cat II Productions, LLC is an award-winning film production company based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The company works with top talent in all areas of production throughout the United States and abroad to produce films highly acclaimed for their attention to detail and exceptional production qualities.
For information about Top Cat II Productions, LLC, contact Sam Yates, 772.528.5185.
Distributed by PREngine
Company Name: Top Cat II Productions, LLC
Contact Person: Sam Yates
City: FORT LAUDERDALE
Country: United States