Lead title: Dionne Audain plays Marie Laveau, granddaughter of her namesake, who is trying to live up to her legendary lineage.
Logline: In this supernatural drama, a spider-web of lives come clashing together as Old New Orleans is plagued by mysterious deaths.
Length: 99 minutes
Director: Kevin Good
Producer: Jenna St. John, Kevin Good
Writer: Jenna St. John
Kevin Good is known for the web-series Weapons of Mass Production, which made learning about filmmaking irreverent and engaging. Dinner with the Alchemist is Kevin’s feature film-directorial debut.
Jenna St. John has been a prolific writer since childhood. As a young actress, she grew tired of one-dimensional roles, so she shifted her focus from prose to screenwriting.
Key cast: Dan Istrate as Jacques St. Germaine — The Alchemist, Dionne Audain as Marie Laveau, Megan Graves as Mary.
Looking for: Sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists.
Made in association with: Crisis Lab, LLC
Release date: Premieres June 3rd, 2016, wider release TBD.
Where can I watch it at Dances With Films or in the next month?
The world premiere will be taking place on Friday, June 3rd, at the Chinese 6 Theatre in Hollywood as part of Dances With Films.
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
It was a case of fact being stranger-than fiction. Jenna (writer) was vacationing in the French Quarter and heard an extraordinary story about a young prostitute and a string of murders. Did it happen, or was it a fable told to tourists?
At the New Orleans library, Jenna pored over microfiche copies of historical records until she found the clue she sought: a police report. Dinner with the Alchemist features a cast of characters pulled from that long-forgotten microfiche, and brings them back to life.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
You should watch this film if you’re interested in New Orleans mythology. You should watch this film if you enjoy an intense and complex movie. You should watch this movie if you’re looking for something that is different from most festival fare. I try to make a movie that’s as layered as possible.
I love the sorts of films that feel fully entertaining while you’re watching them— you scarf down popcorn and you’re enthralled in the moment and time flies by— but then a couple days later it’s still under your skin and you’re thinking about it and asking “what did she mean by <that>?”
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
Dinner with the Alchemist features an ensemble cast of characters from all walks of life, and deals with their inter-connectedness. How much do we determine our own destinies? And how much do we shape the lives of others? How do our journeys impact those around us?
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and production?
I’m proud that this is a gender balanced and diverse film whereas many period pieces wouldn’t be, or African Americans would play subjugated characters. A lot of this came later in the process. For example, the role of Pete was not scripted to be an African American role.
We needed more diversity in good, strong roles but it was hard to rewire how we saw the character in our imaginations from the script. We’re programed to view white actors in roles based on what we’re used to seeing, and we were in danger of falling into that same trap. That didn’t feel true to New Orleans and it didn’t feel true to the world we wanted to create. So we made an active effort as the project evolved to rethink our bias and our world was better for it.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
Our focus groups described it as “True Blood meets Downton Abbey.” If that sounds like your style, this could be the movie for you. We’ve had audience members say at the end, “This is a love story” and ultimately it is, I like that it’s an afterthought though, something that hits you once the mystery and supernatural suspense has dissolved.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
Hollywood does do some things right, and one of those things is focus grouping their work. It’s incredibly important to test a film with an audience. We learn so much. We’re not making movies so we can watch them, we’re making movies to connect to an audience and share a story. We changed our movie immensely based on feedback from test audiences— trimming, trimming some more, adding shots here and there, emphasizing one storyline, dropping this other distraction. It’s an entirely different movie than our first cut.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
I think Dinner with the Alchemist is a very enjoyable film, and it’s a great showcase of talented folks. The goal now is to get as large an audience as possible for this amazing story.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
Right now we’re looking for buyers, distributors, festivals, and journalists; really anyone that can help us get as many eyeballs as possible on it. While the movie doesn’t have any name actors in it per se, New Orleans, Marie Laveau, Jacques St. Germaine: these are legendary. I think there’s a huge audience out there that would love the movie. We need help connecting with them.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
If people walked away having enjoyed themselves then we’re successful. If a week later they’re talking to their friends about then even better.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
In historic 1905 New Orleans we created a story that was gender balanced and ethnically diverse. No part of our story suffered for making those decisions, in fact our audience is bigger for it. Why shouldn’t this be the case in 90% of movies we see? Most stories don’t have gender requirements and especially race requirements, so why do we accept sexist and racist movies as a status quo? Why do we continue to allow ourselves to be brainwashed?
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
We’re developing a TV series based on New Orleans mythology, there is an endless well of stories out there and we’ve been researching it for half a decade at this point. We’re also in development for our next indie feature, as well as a TV series about sexuality, told from a female point of view.