Here’s an introduction from one of our most recent grantees, Christopher Phillips, about the beginnings of his documentary, “Canfield Drive.” Click the following for a link to the powerful video he has released as a first glimpse into his ongoing work, which has garnered nearly 200,000 views: Ferguson: 100 Days | 100 Seconds
January 27th, 2015
I’ve been creating film and various types of media for a couple of years now. It is something that I have enjoyed because the way you can utilize one’s senses, particularly sight and sound, to captivate and move people emotionally. On August 9th, 2014 I was the director of photography (cinematographer) on a local project when I had several calls about a shooting death happening in my apartment complex, Canfield Green. Unfortunately, I wasn’t shocked about the occurrence of death in the city of St. Louis no matter how close to my home it is.
Michael Brown Jr. was killed in the same spot in the street that I walk my dog across to get to the mailbox during the week.
On the evening of August 10th, the world focused on Ferguson and St. Louis, and contrary to the belief of some, it wouldn’t be for a moment. After witnessing the pain, public outrage, and even destruction, I knew instantly I was going to document this period because it was historic. This is actually bigger than Michael Brown. I know this because as an African- American resident of Ferguson, I get it. I understand why many are upset. I also understand that right now, some don’t get it. But that is the power of being a filmmaker. You have the ability to give information and convey emotion through a narrative or story.
The city that I love is suffering because of systemic and institutionalized issues that exist in Missouri that put people like myself at risk. I’m an African-American male, young, and blessed. I have two college degrees, interned at one of the largest film studios in the world, work at an accredited university, a local television station, and independently have had Fortune 500 companies as my clients. However with all of these accomplishments, I am still treated with the same hostility and harassment by the police because of the area I live in and sometimes, because of the color of my skin. I don’t hate the police, I admire police officers and what they are supposed to represent. Yet, as a filmmaker I need to find a way to show someone across the world that even a guy like me can be nervous while driving if he sees a cop in his rear-view mirror having not committed a crime. I had a very lovely conversation with a woman in the McDonald’s located on West Florissant where the initial protesting took place. After finding out more about me, she admittedly would have never known an individual like me existed in Canfield Green based on what was being said in the media. So it is clear to me that issues with race, law enforcement, political and government structure, socioeconomics, and the media, all play a part of what is happening in Ferguson. I want someone across the world to understand these issues and why people were, and still are outraged. I would like to see something more than public discussion.
I’m always looking for creative ways to bring art to the world. When it was close to the 100th day with no grand jury decision in the case, I wanted to release the first piece of my work to encapsulate the events that have occurred in that period as a prelude piece to my full-length project. So I challenged myself to take months of footage, hundreds of hours of filming and condense it into 100 seconds. Hence, I came up with “Ferguson: 100 Days | 100 Seconds.” I knew the title was catchy, and by understanding marketing towards the modern consumer, short wasn’t a bad idea, so it may just work, and grow.
Film has a multitude of elements and is a very collaborative process. That is one of the reasons I love it. But this has been an autonomous process because of my lack of budget. So the most challenging part was I gave myself two days to select moments to tell a story in 100 seconds when I have enough to make a three-part series like “The Godfather” films. By combining effective editing, dialogue, visuals, sound, and color grading I had a short piece that still had a story arc. When I released it late November, I created my own marketing blitz by sending some e-mails, creating a website site, making a few phone calls, sending a couple texts, and sharing it on Facebook. I was surprised and honored that the video was viewed over 1,000 times on the first day because I definitely don’t know that many people. The following day another 7,000 people watched it. The video was played over 100,000 times in just over a week without the help of YouTube. As of January, it had 190,000 views seen in over 140 countries across the globe and I never paid for advertising. M.C. Hammer and Val Kilmer tweeted it. Hot 97 and Hip-Hop Weekly put it on their websites. KMBC-TV in Kansas City and Southern California Public Radio interviewed me, then “Good Morning America” sent me an e-mail message… Whoa. Yet while I was grateful for all of that support, I was touched most by the people without a celebrity status that shared it everyday. It may seem absurd to be excited about the success of the video’s views because of the circumstances of what the video is about. But I am excited because the world is connecting on a personal and emotional level with the content. It is an honest piece with an authentic experience of a resident. That made it unique and attributed to it being so potent. Some that were numb to the media coverage contacted me and said this video was able to move them to tears. That is a powerful thing.
So my next step is to get the world to see this project. I would like to exhibit the film when completed to film festivals and hold forums around it to create discussion as an educational tool. My current challenge is to gain additional funding to complete the project. There are many passionate people I would like to include so I can focus on directing and guiding this important film rather than do it all by myself. I hope to include assistant editors to help sift through hundreds of hours of footage, producers to help acquire the additional information and resources to bring the project together, utilize researchers to include the statistical data to indeed show that there are challenges that this region faces. Art is subjective. When the cameras leave Ferguson, what will remain through the course of time is this film. I believe that this project will drive people to the ballot box, or to talk to their neighbors so that one day, we all can live amongst each other as equals, so that history is not revisited.
By: Christopher Phillips