Out today on home video is 'Preacher's Kid,' which stars LeToya Luckett of the original Destiny's Child. She makes her movie breakthrough in this inspiring tale bursting with music.
Making his directing debut is screenwriter Stan Foster, whose previous film was 'Woman Thou Art Loosed,' which stars Kimberly Elise, Loretta Devine and Debbi Morgan.
Family, faith and music -- small-town girl Angie King leaves the first two behind to pursue a dream of singing stardom. Luckett plays Angie, the daughter of a stern but loving bishop, whose attraction to the star of a traveling gospel show takes her on the road and into romance, heartbreak and the realization that happiness may lie in the home she left behind. Join her on a powerful coming-of-age journey.
Also in the film are Durrell "Tank" Babbs, Essence Atkins, Gregory Alan Williams, Clayton English and Sharif Atkins.
Black Voices caught up with Foster, who discussed working from the director's chair and casting the lead roles.
After writing screenplays for such a long time, what made you decide it was time to direct?
Stan Foster: It was a natural extension. I sold a movie to Lionsgate a couple of years, and I thought about directing it from that time. I also spoke with some colleagues, Michael Schultz and Bill Duke, about advice and they were really encouraging. No one has this vision like me, so let me see what I can do. I was really happy with the process and how it came out.
How did 'Preacher's Kid' become your first film to direct?
SF: This was my baby. Everything I write, from 'Woman Thou Art Loosed' to screenplays I sold are a piece of me, and it's hard to have a baby and hand it over to someone else. This was the first time I got a chance to see it through from every word on the screen. Every frame of the movie has my stamp on it.
What were you looking to bring to this film that you think hadn't been seen before?
SF: This is the first movie to show the world that there is a world of gospel stage plays. This goes back to Tyler Perry, Michael Matthews and some of the guys that came before them. 'Woman Thou Art Loosed' was the first gospel stage play that turned into a film. It's such a fascinating world when you go to one of these stage plays and you see 95 percent black. A few white producers would come by and one would say, "I had no idea that this world even existed." Tyler [Perry] wasn't even in the radar when this came out.
I put together the stage play for 'Woman Thou Art Loosed,' and Tyler happened to be in the audience, and he wound up talking to one of the producers and began directing 'Woman Thou Art Loosed' and T.D Jakes' follow up play, 'Behind Closed Doors,' and that got him really rolling in the game of stage plays. A few years later, we are doing the film version and Tyler comes on the set, and he partnered with my producing partner Reuben Cannon, and those two have been making money ever since. 'Woman Thou Art Loosed' was really the catalyst in a lot of ways to have stage plays make the big screen.
Can you talk about casting LeToya Luckett in the lead role?
SF: With LeToya, it was interesting because, if you can believe it, I wrote the role for Fantasia. I didn't know her. I saw her on TV and thought she was great for the role and would be a natural fit. I couldn't get in touch with her, and then a friend introduced me to Jennifer Hudson. I gave her the script and Jennifer called me and said, "I've been sleeping with this script under my pillow every night. I want to do this. She then got an Oscar nomination (for 'Dreamgirls') and had to drop out. The studio then wanted another 'American Idol' person named Syesha [Mercado] to be the lead and she was great in her audition, but she ended up dropping out three days before we started shooting. I had cast LeToya in a smaller role. In her audition, she had said to me that she was really closer to the role of Angie, the lead role, because she knew that character. I never forgot that, and at the last minute, with every one scrambling about casting the lead, and it's a Friday night, I said, "I've got the girl." I just gave her the role. She never auditioned for the lead.
What about bringing R&B singer Durrell "Tank" Babbs in the film?
SF: Tank, on the other hand, had missed several auditions. I didn't know who he was or even LeToya at the time. I wasn't familiar with their music. I asked a lot of women who Tank was and they just spoke about him with lust. After missing several auditions, I said no more, and he called and apologized and said there was a miscommunication. He said that I would be doing the movie a disservice if I didn't see him because he was the character of Devlin Mitchell. I liked that spunk. He came over and nailed the audition. It didn't matter to me that he and LeToya hadn't done films before. They were right for the roles.
What's the message behind the film?
SF: I think the message in the film is that you can always come back home. I think it's okay to pursue your dreams and your love, but at the end of the day, like the prodigal son, you can always go back home. I think that resonates, and the studio trusted the movie with that. At test screenings that we had before its release, with audience of black, white and other races, it resonated across the board.
When the film was released, whose idea was it to donate the proceeds to the humanitarian aid for 2010 earthquake relief?
SF: One of the producers, Matt Crouch, brought it up. It could have been as a ploy to sell the film, but it wasn't. His mother has a heart for Haiti and has been donating money for years and years. It was a process of talking to me and the rest of the producers and once we talked, it was a done deal. I said, "Of course, let's do this."
What's next for you?
SF: I'm working on a number of projects, but I would love to do a sequel for 'Preacher's Kid.' I have the story in my head and people are blogging about the movie. It caught a lot of people off-guard because it didn't get the most prominent theatrical distribution. People either heard about it or saw it on bootleg. I hope it catches a new audience on DVD because I have a great sequel in mind for it.