Blacksite: Noun - A secret facility used by a country's military as a prison and interrogation center, whose existence is denied by the government. While the definition implies that a black site exists only in times of war, unbeknownst to most Chicago residents one exists right in their own backyard.
Telling stories in a unique way that captures an audience, teaches a lesson and entertains is always the challenging part of creating any sort content. Recently, while browsing Chicago based crowdfunding sites, we came upon a project titled, “The Blacksite: The Musical”, created by David Holcombe. While David is a friend of Camera Ambassador the project still stood out to us as important and dynamic. Why? Because it’s relevant. David came up with the musical, Blacksite, after visiting Freedom Square in the fall of 2016. David mentioned the energy, creativity, and passion of the occupation was inspiring. Using art and joy as a radical means of protesting police brutality felt peerless. Creating a space that served the community, directly across the street from a source of injustice was a powerful statement, David mentioned. He also mentioned this project is important in its goal of calling people to action against injustice and displaying artistic expression as a radical means of resistance.
The story inspiring the script was so important - their focus was on making sure they give it the justice it deserves throughout our process. The “Let Us Breathe” Collective that founded "Freedom Square" is still a major force for change. Their goal from the very beginning was to uplift their message, their tactics, and to call people to action: get involved right now. David mentioned, “We are living through very turbulent times, and that presents an opportunity to directly engage in social change. The Homan Square Blacksite is very representative of the injustice, oppression, and trend towards fascism that our society is currently taking.” To keep the story authentic while developing the script, they interviewed past detainees of the blacksite, lawyers, musicians engaged in activism, as well as legendary bands such as ONO and Silver Abuse. They felt they needed to immerse themselves in these stories in order to infuse our story with the spirit of radical resistance.
Being such an important story to share, we asked David why he felt this story would be best told as a musical. He said, “I knew from the very beginning that this film needed to be a musical. Not only have I always wanted to do a musical, but I needed to do it differently. I needed it to come directly out of the story. When I visited "Freedom Square", the first thing I noticed was the stage. There were also arts and crafts tents. One of the first impulses of the encampment was to use art as a form of resistance. There were dance troupes, MCs, hair braiding, face painting, poetry performances, etc. Chicago policing is a stark black and white proposition that divides communities. Artistic expression is a radical use of voice, color, music, and culture that brings the community together.”
What also really stuck out was the team David curated for this project. A diverse group of young industry professionals rooted in the story and the history of Chicago. David mentioned, “The team for "Blacksite: The Musical!" was cultivated organically through previous collaborations and active outreach. For example, one our lyricists, Fury, was giving a radio interview that caught my attention. Then, 4 months later, I ran into her at a street festival and pitched the film to her. She was immediately drawn to the themes of the film and also our musical approach. It was right in line with what she is trying to do as an artist.”
He also followed up with, “A big part of Soft Cage's mission is to take chances on passionate young artists. A lot of the leadership at Soft Cage would have given anything to be involved in projects such as "Blacksite: The Musical!", when we were first starting out. Not only because of the experience of developing and producing a project, but to model a way of making films that is inclusive, artistic, thoughtful, and takes risks. Our goal is to empower young people, through providing an experienced support system, to make their own kind of art that no one else is making. Take a risk, be bold, don't be afraid to fail.”
Camera Ambassador is proud to assist with gear for this film and we are looking forward to seeing it blossom and come to fruition. Donate to the post production crowdfunding site here. Films like this need the support of a village to get the message out.