We are a week away from the first screening of what I consider to be my most personal film to date, The Saxophonist. When I wrote the original draft of the script 13 years ago, I would have never dreamed of how important it was going to be for my career. As I reflect on the years leading up to this moment, I feel very humbled by how far this project has come.
I had the privilege of seeing legends like Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter perform live at Carnegie Hall; Wynton Marsalis at Lincoln Center; Stanley Clarke with Marcus Miller and Victor Wooten at the Nokia Theater; and Lou Donaldson with Dr. Lonnie Smith at the Village Vanguard. The latter of those shows was one where I attended with my late stepdad, Addison Branch, Jr., the man I consider to have introduced me to jazz in the first place. Their instruments spoke to my soul in ways that popular music never did as each artist projected their own story through the music.
There was always a burning desire to make a film with a real jazz soundtrack since I was in high school. It was only after taking a History of Jazz course at Emerson College that I found part of the inspiration I needed for the foundation of the story. In this case, I wanted to tell a romantic tale that mirrored my own personal struggles as an artist and I felt that the saxophone had a distinct kind of feeling that can be uplifting, somber, and sexy all at once. With every new draft that I wrote, more of my own personal experiences were incorporated to increase the reality of the tale.
The decision to finally put this film on screen was made two years ago after a very dark period of my life where I needed a strong feel-good story to give me hope again. Even in the most divisive times that we live in today, there’s so much that this film has to offer in the celebration of jazz music as well as having African-American characters that young audiences can look up to as role models. I truly believe I found such a role model in Beavin Lawrence who is without question one of the most generous people I’ve ever had the chance to work with. Being a talented saxophone player as well as a strong advocate for underprivileged kids are just some of his many incredible traits. It is through this film that I can honestly say I found a brother for life.
Whether it’s screening the trailer at the Emerson LA Film Festival or doing a sit-down interview with WBLS legend Jeff Foxx, it had been such an exciting time with every opportunity to promote this film. But the true recognization should also be extended to the crew and my actors Nadya Encarnacion, Michael Anthony Roberts, Ann Flanigan, Ron’Netta, Zoiea Ohizep, Ronnie Caldwell, and Jarett Smithwrick. These extraordinary actors went out of their way to work as hard as they could to breathe life into their characters and to instill confidence in Beavin who was making his acting debut. For that, I am grateful to each of them. I extend the same thanks to the New York Foundation for the Arts for all of their support and guidance with their fiscal sponsorship which added more credibility to the project.
Now The Saxophonist will make its way out for the world to see. A project so personal to the extent that I expect no monetary gain or feel any validation by any film festival award wins. The true victory I hope to gain from this film is if it inspires at least one person out there to pick up a musical instrument or a camera and tell their story wherever they can. Just be true to yourself. Then the success will follow.
Writer/Director, The Saxophonist
THE SAXOPHONIST premieres on Friday, May 4, 2018 at 7:30pm at Brooklyn Fete (1515 Nostrand Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11226) followed by very special LIVE JAZZ PERFORMANCE by the film’s star Beavin Lawrence and his quintet. This event will be open to the public.
RSVP today at our Facebook invite link here.