For 17 years, film director, Price Hall, had a goal. It was to make a movie based on my novel, ARTISTS DIE BEST IN BLACK. He hoped to film it in Richmond, Virginia, where he was raised and where I was running the art gallery that had inspired the novel.
The characters in the novel were blends of artists I represented and the neighborhood personalities that enriched the urban area where my gallery was located.
Price Hall’s mother first read the book, then encouraged him to raise the funds to make the film locally. We hit it off from the start. He liked the quirky story, wrote a dynamic screen play based on the book and went after the money. A typical Hollywood pattern emerged: the funds would be there one week and vanish the next.
Price never gave up. Over the next few years he worked in Texas, then New Mexico, always seeking financing for ARTISTS. We kept in touch. Then he visited me in Biloxi, Mississippi, where I was managing the Dusti Bonge’ Art Foundation after Hurricane Katrina.
I loved the coast and the people, as well as the possibilities of making the movie there instead of Richmond. Friends in Biloxi who visualized the economic and social benefits of a film produced in South Mississippi pulled a group of like-minded people together. I invited Price to the coast, introduced him to the right people and gradually he had the funds to make the movie.
The major investor was Paul Bonge’, the grandson of abstract impressionist painter, Dusti Bonge’.
Seasoned producers Mark Headley and Billy Badalato came on board as producers.
Two of the major actors—Hani Furstenberg and Luke Goss, who played art dealer Rosemund Wallace and Detective Mavredes respectively —had been in several movies and were on their way up.
Malcolm McDowell, who was already famous, stared as Dr. McGowan, while Derrek Anthony played Mayo, Christopher Emerson was Austin, Kate Orsini played Lucy Moon, Byran Batt was Bernard, Kelly Tippens was Beverly, Jennie Kamin was Connie Lee and Andrews James Allen was David Moon, the young film maker found handing in Rosemund’s gallery—an apparent suicide.
The project took two months to film with settings all along the beautiful Gulf Coast—in Ocean Springs, Biloxi and Gulfport. Historic homes, bars and cafes were featured along with the impressive former Williams Gallery in Gulfport filled with avant garde art and transformed into Rosemund Wallace’s art gallery.
I watched much of the filming and became very fond of both cast and crew.
Halfway through the shoot the production was picketed by representatives of the union even though Mississippi is a Right to Work state and the film was from the beginning an independent, non-union movie. Union members of the crew were threatened. When they left the set, replacements were quickly found and the filming continued.
Production went over budget, however, because of the attempts by the union to shut down the film. Post-production with financing for the final editing was almost two years.
On June 5, 2015 the premiere of ARTISTS...was at last scheduled at the historic Saenger Theatre in Biloxi, Mississippi. I plan to wear a pink silk dress and smile a lot. There is always talk of the next movie.