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Posts Tagged ‘DVD’

I hadn’t heard of Melissa Haizlip or SOUL! until a friend shared the Kickstarter project for Mr. SOUL! And I am so glad he did. Thanks Airrion! First, a little background on this amazing woman and then we jump right in!

MELISSA HAIZLIP (Producer/Director) first collaborated with her uncle Ellis Haizlip on Three by Three for Great Performances: Dance In America. After a 25-year career as a professional Broadway stage performer and film and television actor, Melissa began focusing her talents behind the camera. Her film “40,” for which she was the Casting Director, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival 2010, the Osaka European Film Festival 2010 and received special jury mention at the Palm Springs International Film Festival 2011. Melissa is a Film Independent Project Involve Fellow, Class of 2012-2013, and a Firelight Media Producers’ Lab Fellow.


What are your memories of SOUL! growing up?

I was a little girl when Uncle Ellis moved into our Upper West Side home in New York City, around the time SOUL! was born. I remember eating oatmeal at midnight with my uncle and the guest stars he would bring home after taping the show. I would bask in the glow of all these intelligent, glamorous black people, mesmerized by my uncle’s coterie of magical friends. It would be years before I would learn that it was James Earl Jones who had pinched my cheek, or the orphaned children of Malcolm X, whom Uncle Ellis was babysitting and brought over for a play date.

Why do you feel it is important to tell this story?

Mr. SOUL! is an exploration of the birth of diversity in cultural expression and its very existence on national television programming. Ellis Haizlip’s story continues to be relevant, as the battle for black and diverse representation and ownership in media remains a hotly contested topic.

What do you hope those who are new to SOUL! will get from the movie? What do you hope those familiar with SOUL! will get?

Our specific goals for this project are to bridge the history gap for our African-American youth, start a dialogue, and encourage people to understand SOUL!’s contemporary relevance. The state of the media today is homogenous at best. The film will dialogue around how things are today. How did we get here? SOUL! the series was a powerful tool for creating social change.

“More than 40 years after the Soul! experiment, national media still fail to capture the rich, textured, diverse, and racially distinct elements of American life,” says adviser Melissa Harris-Perry, professor of political science at Tulane University. “Haizlip believed that liberation required cultural representation. Given that such representation is still lagging, we are forced to wonder about the state of racial liberation and American equality. This [Mr. SOUL!] film is part of the work necessary to think both about how far we have come and how far we have yet to travel in the struggle to achieve American fairness.”

Ellis Haizlip (Left) interviews Amiri Baraka on SOUL! – photo courtesy of the Haizlip Family

Our hopes for the impact for this project land squarely in education. We have met with two educational distributors: Filmmakers Library and California Newsreel. Both distributors have suggested that the film’s social and political themes are relevant and important to the academic community. We also believe it is ideally suited for college courses in Broadcast Journalism and Communications.

“We consider [the Mr. SOUL!] film’s theme, the struggle for recognition of African-Americans on broadcast television, to be extremely important to the academic community which we serve,” says Linda Gottesman, Co-President of Filmmakers Library. “We anticipate that the film will have great relevance as an educational tool in universities and college libraries, and could be used in the syllabi of college courses ranging from Media Studies, to African-American Studies, to American History.”

What’s it been like working on this film?

Exhilarating and exhausting, with a very steep learning curve. Though every day is a challenge and an adventure, basically I never get to sleep anymore.

What, if anything, has surprised you the most?

Finding a photographer named Alex Harsley, a supremely talented artist who was assigned to cover SOUL! in 1971, who also took pictures of Ellis with his family. That series happened to capture beloved images of my family and me in our apartment in New York circa 1970-71. I’ve been looking for the person who took those photos for over 40 years. At last we were reunited after 41 years on Facebook, and he still has his gallery in the East Village of New York, with all the original pictures! We plan to collaborate on the film, with his spectacular images from SOUL!, as well as from the period.

Do you feel that there is, so to speak, a SOUL!-shaped hole in modern media?

We haven’t had a show like SOUL! on television since it went off the air. SOUL! emerged during a time of turbulence and intense social upheaval in America. The 60s were stimulated by a surge of Black national and cultural consciousness, buoyed by a movement steeped in social empowerment and cultural upliftment. SOUL! would become an artistic and political conduit for Blacks to transition out of Jim Crow, and beyond Civil Rights. Amiri Baraka once described SOUL! as “a national Afro-American media institution created by the conscious determination of the Afro-American struggle.” Without an easily defined or overt struggle or movement, coupled by today’s climate of censorship tied to television ad sales and marketing, one can readily imagine why a controversial series such as SOUL! has not existed since.

Ellis Haizlip (Right) interviews Al Green on SOUL! – photo courtesy of NY Daily News Archives

Is there any show currently offering what SOUL! once did?

Much like the Nikki Giovanni/James Baldwin interviews on SOUL!, the show “Iconoclasts” takes a page out of the SOUL! playbook, with iconic guest artists interviewing fellow artists. If a modern-day SOUL! existed today, it would look like nothing else on television: bold, daring and original. Who would guest-host a show like that? I could imagine multi-hyphenate producer artist/entrepreneur Will.I.Am hosting a contemporary version of SOUL! Contemporary guests might be British novelist Zadie Smith, author/screenwriter Barry Michael Cooper, performers Esperanza Spalding and Corinne Bailey Rae, rapper Whiz Khalifa, composer/trumpet player Terence Blanchard, journalist Toure, or the new director of the Schomburg Center, Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad to name a few.

What are your hopes for the movie?

Once completed, the film will be offered to PBS. Distribution plans for all territories include a semi-theatrical release, film festival circuit, television, educational, DVD, online and VOD.

In terms of the “take-away,” I hope Mr. SOUL! will create a dialogue and engage the community. This film will be a useful cinematic and academic tool that helps people think more clearly about the value and necessity of self-affirming media in our lives. I’d like for folks to revel in the beauty and truth of our own history represented by this cultural time capsule and goldmine of powerful images and messages. I want our African-American youth to come away from the film feeling knowledgeable of, empowered by and connected to their past, and perhaps even inspired to become the next Ellis Haizlip.

What do you need at this stage, how can people help?

We have launched a fundraising campaign on Kickstarter.com to raise money for production, so that we can keep shooting our interviews. We have until October 24 to meet our goal. Please watch the link, then post, tweet, text, share, or email it to five friends, so more folks can see the trailer and become backers. Also, please follow us on Facebook and Twitter @mrsoulthemovie. We’re also on Tumblr and Pinterest, and our website is mrsoulmovie.com. Thanks so much for your support and spreading the word about Mr. SOUL!

If you could be one piece of furniture what would it be and why?

Anything that’s mid-century modern — in terms of that era I absolutely love that design aesthetic.


I can’t thank Melissa Haizlip enough for taking time out of her busy schedule to share her thoughts with Some Kind Of Muffin. Now spread the word!!! Useful links below!

Here’s the Kickstarter link: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mrsoul/mr-soul-the-movie

Mr. SOUL! launch party:
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
6:00pm – 8:00pm
Hollywood Casting and Film
6900 Santa Monica Boulevard
Hollywood, CA 90038

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For those not in the know Zappa Plays Zappa (ZPZ) is a tribute act that plays the music of Frank Zappa and is led by his son Dweezil Zappa. A DVD titled Son of Roxy & Elsewhere of ZPZ will be released at some point, though I cannot for the life of me find out when. I am looking forward to it and have recently added the previous ZPZ DVD to my Netflix queue. I am not a Zappa fanatic, but I did get into him a little in high school and really dig it. Because I am a Zappa dabbler, or Zapbler (patent pending) I didn’t realize that there is a wee bit of controversy about the ZPZ Son of Roxy DVD. Apparently the Zapparistas (that one’s up for grabs) are up in arms that there isn’t a Roxy & Elsewhere DVD featuring Frank, though the CD is available. Either way I present you with the Son of Roxy & Elsewhere preview and a studio tour with Dweezil.

Son of Roxy & Elsewhere – DVD Preview

In the Studio with… Dweezil Zappa

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