Yolonda Ross, actress ( Treme, The Get Down) and co-star Levi Fiehler - As "Girl" and "Boy" - Photo by Frederick Ross-Johnson
Girl flees a heavy situation, with her boyfriend. By circumstance, she comes face to face with a vision of confidence and sophistication that changes her outlook of who she is, and more so, who she can become.
Director: Yolonda Ross
Producer: Yolonda Ross, Timothy Mather, Sasha Solodukhina
About the director and producer: Yolonda Ross- Yolonda Ross is a two-time Spirit Award Nominee and a Gotham Award winner. She's director of #BreakingNight and currently developing her first feature.
Timothy Mather - Timothy Mather developed his skills in production with NY's Dalzell Productions, doing the 1st Tribeca Film Festival, the Sundance Directors Labs, and now at Youtube.
Sasha Solodukhina- Sasha Solodukhina is a Weslyan graduate who lives in New Orleans, and has produced features, shorts, and music videos. She is currently working on #ScarStory.
Interview with Writer/Director Yolonda Ross
Why did you make Breaking Night?
I made Breaking Night for several reasons; to create a character that I've never gotten the chance to play as an actress, to go through the process of making a film from its inception to the screen, and to make a film where music is part of the story.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
Great acting, great music & visuals, along with a story that will make you think and discuss after.
What led you to this story?
It started with the song. I wanted to tell a story within the time frame of the song "Blinded By The Light". So, I started with the images that would come to me whenever I listened to it, The kids leaving school, It taking place in the 70's and the Disco couple, which are the only characters that come from the lyrics of the song. From there, the story took shape and developed itself.
How has your work as an actor influenced your role as director?
I feel like that transition from actor to director is a natural one, especially if you are an actor that looks at it as a craft and not for the celebrity of it. Knowing how an actor goes about making their choices for a character, having worked on sets, many of them being Independent films, you really get to know a lot about the filmmaking process as production can be very 'hands on'.
You learn where NOT to waste, when and where to keep things moving and when to take time to get things right before you start rolling. I feel actor/directors have a verbal short hand with other actors when directing scenes, unlike what I've experienced with several first time directors, who over talked scenes, instead of letting the scene unfold.
It also carries over in our writing, since we dig into their psyche as actors, we tend to do the same in writing, at least I know I do. This is compared to many of the one - dimensional characters that come from people who are only looking at the surface.
Having worked with two actor turned directors, Denzel Washington and Angela Bassett, I would say we see things many times that other directors, just don't see and I enjoy and appreciate that.
Is BREAKING NIGHT a personal or universal story for you?
I feel it's a universal story that goes unheard a lot of times, or talked about behind closed doors in families. I feel it's a story that is being talked about on a bigger scale now. We just screened the film again in San Diego at "San Diego IndieFest" and woman came to me and said that was her story.
Not everyone gets that it's about abuse. Some think it's about race, because of the couple being different races and it taking place in the 70s. But, that's the interesting thing about the film - it's images and sound that tell the story, allowing the viewer to make up their own dialogue about what's going on, and bring their experiences in life to the film.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
It's gotten great feedback. I love the feedback of it being complex, that I captured that time period, my use of actors in parts viewers hadn't seen them in before.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
The feedback for the film overall has not been a surprise. It's been very positive and supportive. What became a surprise to me, was how one of my characters was being perceived by some. That started a discussion that I felt was very interesting and what art should do; make you think, debate, look at other's POV and question ourselves to see if we are doing the best we can, to not promote stereotyping people.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on this platform?
This platform is a great way to grow viewership of all kinds. As I am developing my first feature, having my film on this platform allows production companies, and investors of all sorts to see what it is I do. It will also make people aware that I am not just an actress, but also a writer/director with a distinct voice.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
"Breaking Night" has found its home on Vh1 Classics, but I am now open to the idea of showing it on other platforms, now that there are more opportunities out there.
What type of impact would you like this film to have?
Hopefully it will show that a powerful story can be told in an a unique way, without scaring off viewers and still be very entertaining. Unfortunately in our business, the people that finance films don't always understand or relate to stories, unless it's something they've already seen many times before or there is huge star attached to it, that they feel will automatically sell it.
This film shows that WOMEN, and PEOPLE OF COLOR, in front of and behind the camera make provocative work that people want to see.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
Is Clarke Peters' character a pimp? Actually, it wasn't so much a question but it was assumed that he was.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
To answer the previous question, No he is not a Pimp. During the later half of the film's run that topic came up more and more. It made me really start looking at, and discussing, the images of Black Men in the 70's that the media had put out there .
These images were loaded and very limited. There was the pimp, the drug dealer, the hard working black person from the South and a few characters in between. Never were any of these characters really fully formed.
I feel another contributing problem is how the unique fashions of the 70s are burned into viewers minds, and have turned into cliches & stereotypes, from those that didn't actually live through that time.
In this case, it makes you ask the question which came first, the Pimp or the Actor that played a pimp in "Superfly", which was a huge film, with the fashions that became "the look" for that time.
The look was created by a designer in Chicago. We all know that fashion trickles down to retail stores. So, do we then assume that every black man we see dressing how Ron O'Neal did in "Superfly" is a pimp?
Unfortunately many do feel this way. I was amazed that almost no viewers at some of our screenings thought Clarke's character could have possibly had something to do with the music business, seeing that my two fashion inspirations were Nick Ashford (Ashford and Simpson), and John Travolta (Saturday Night Fever) .
I'm happy to say that my new series "The Get Down" by Baz Luhrmann, does the 70s right. It's music, fashion and character's are on point.
What next for you? What films are you developing or directing?
I'm developing my first feature to direct. It deal with the fragility of Love, Art, and Race. I have a series I'm developing to star in and I'm recurring on "The Get Down", which is a new series by Baz Luhrmann on Netflix, airing in August.