that over the years I’ve done a lot of interviews with filmmakers. But one
thing that I’ve rarely done, is interview a first time filmmaker. The opportunities
don’t come around that often, which is one of the many things that makes Noel Calloway
has written and directed his moving feature film Life, Love, Soul which comes out
on DVD and VOD next Tuesday, Aug.27th, through RBC Film Group.
Chad Coleman (Tyreese on The Walking Dead), Jamie Hector, Robbie Tate-Brickle,
Egypt Sherrod, Terri J. Vaughn and Valerie Simpson, Calloway’s film is about a
17-year-old honor student struggling to cope with the sudden death of his
mother in a car accident. As a result, he
is forced to reconnect with an estranged father who’s been absent for most of
his life. Though his father tries, in his
own awkward way, to make amends for his past
mistakes, new problems arise to rock, even further, the tumultuous father-son
relationship, creating new challenges for the young student.
just this week, I talked to the very interesting Noel Calloway about his film, its long journey, which stated just after high school, how he wound up
directing the film, when, originally, he wanted someone else to direct it, and why
he thinks films have a greater purpose.
I have no choice but to start off with the most obvious question. Is Life, Love, Soul autobiographical or based on someone you know? You know what they always
say to beginning filmmakers – write what you know.
actually based on a lot of people I know and I guess that was my reality
growing up in terms of just people in my school, people in my community, just
people all around me. It’s a collage of a lot of peoples’ stories and I thought
it needed to be told in a real honest and candid way.
The father, played by Chad Coleman in your film, is a very angry frustrated guy; from people you know from your experience, is that common? That these absent
fathers are that bitter and angry?
To be frank, I don’t know if that’s common. That is a side
of the story that I use as a dramatic tool because when you talk about a father
not being in the home talking from my experience anyway, we always get the
mother’s perspective and the children’s perspective. Usually the father is mum on
the subject. In my experience you never even hear the father’s side. So that
part in my film was sort of a “what if?” What would a man, who has supported his
children financially and in his eyes, hasn’t been allowed to be in their lives,
how would he feel? And I think the anger was more grief and misplaced emotions.
And I can speak for myself as men, our knee jerk reaction to sadness is anger, as
opposed to the vulnerability and weakness that is perceived when you’re sad and
hurting. So I thought that was his coping mechanism as opposed to him being just
leads me to ask, and I hate to put you into the shoes of a sociologist, why is
this situation practically the norm nowadays? To not age myself, but when I was
a kid growing up you rarely saw black kids being raised by single mothers unless
the parents were divorced or the father was dead. Now granted you had parents who
didn’t like each other and had a hard time being together, but they somehow
stuck it out and worked through it. Now it’s: “You
left the cap off the toothpaste. Bye I’m gone!”
Yup, yup. And that’s the most disheartening thing about
it, is that it’s so often, and not to take the position of a sociologist, it’s
that attitude that it’s so much easier to walk out, or on the other side, I can
do that alone. Because when I grew up, that was the norm, and that’s what
prompted me to write this script. At my high school graduation I looked out and
I saw mainly mothers and grandmothers, but fathers sprinkled in here and there, but not prevalent, and that image just stuck in my head. So I wrote the script
the summer after high school. It was that image I had: “Where are all the dads? Why are
wait you wrote this script right after high school? Was it first a short story or originally as a screenplay?
I wrote it as a script in 1997 and of course I’ve
rewritten it countless times because as a 17 year old I don’t know how good a
writer I was, but this is what I wanted to do. So I went to Clark University in Atlanta as a Radio/TV/Film major and
when I came back home to Mew York, I jumped full in and went back into these
scripts that I had written…
this point Calloway excuses himself for a few minutes to take care of his young
see you’re leading by example. Good for you! (laughs)
Yes absolutely! (laughs) So as I was saying I had written
all these scripts, but this one just resonated with me and it was the first one
I had written so it was near and dear to my heart. It just seemed important. If
I was going to dive into this insanity of independent filmmaking and if I only
had one shot, because you never know, then it should be a film that made a statement
along with being a good, entertaining film. And this is the one I thought that
could do that. It took us a while to get it out, but now it’s more important
than ever with the national conversation that’s going on in terms of this epidemic
of homes without fathers.
the way I’m glad you talked about your past and the long journey that it’s
been. I always try to tell people who are interested in becoming filmmakers
that’s a long hard struggle. It takes years of dedication and really hard work.
But why the path of being a filmmaker for you? Why not become a painter or a
writer some other way to express yourself?
Early on I just loved movies. Before I knew what quote/unquote filmmaking was I loved
movies and I wanted to write them. I didn’t know I wanted to direct them. I didn’t
know that I wanted to produce them. I just wanted to write them. I originally
had no intention of directing this film, but when I started talking to
directors about the script no one fully understood the vision. So
actually I was pushed into directing the film myself by the producers of the
At first I was like “Wait I don’t really know how to do that.”
But they would hear what I was saying to the other directors we were
interviewing and they said: “No you need to direct this because you have
a very clear vision of what you want this film to be and that is what directing
is;” although I had go to school for it and sort of learn the technical
side. And for a young man growing up in Harlem, I’ve never known a movie director
before. The first set I was ever on was as the director of my film. I didn’t
know until then that I had this skill set and the acumen to do it.
But midway through the first day of shooting, as I was
interacting with the cast, I felt very very comfortable. That I can convey a
message and to me that’s what being a directing is. Being able to communicate a
message to the cast, the crew everyone, and to translate your vision to the
screen, and I think that I’ve really found my sweet spot.
are directors born or are they made?
I think they’re born. I absolutely think they’re born.
Before, I was a director of teen programs for the YMCA and I’ve created summer
camps. I’ve been in lead positions and have brought all kinds of people
together and value the importance of a team and their collective work. And I
think good directors are born because it’s not about ego, it’s about that
If, for example, an actor has a notion to go into a
certain direction my only instruction would be to tell him go 100%. If this is
the choice you’re going to make, then commit to it 100% and my job is to get
you to 100%. It’s not my choice to make your choices for you. And what I heard
from the actors was that, that was sort of refreshing and I think it made for a
better project because it allows everyone’s voice to be heard. And I don’t care
how smart you are, one person is not smarter than ten together.
in regards to the cast, how were you able to get Chad Coleman? Timing is
everything and now with his role in The Walking Dead, which will be more
prominent when the new season starts in October, it adds an extra level on
interest to your film?
Perfect timing. Just like you said it takes years and time
and patience, but it seems that this film has really been blessed. Everything
seems to be breaking at just the right time. We cast Chad before The Walking Dead. We cast Tami Roman before Basketball Wives. We didn’t know these things were going to happen.
Chad came on board as a result of Jamie Hector being on board. I met Jamie at a
screening for his film Blackout that he did with Jeffrey Wright and Zoe
Saldana and I had been a fan of his since The Wire. It wasn’t until I
started speaking with him did I realize that he was far removed from the character
Marlo. He’s from Brooklyn, New York and he’s a community guy. We had a lot in common
and especially in what we felt about our role in the community, in helping young
people and helping men. So I told him I have a script that I think you’ll like.
With no expectations I didn’t expect an actor of that stature would want to
sign on to a project of mine and his first out the gate.
He and his manager got back to me and said that they loved
it and he said he didn’t care about the money, he just wanted to be involved.
He just wanted to do it and I was overwhelmed. And from that his manager contacted
Sherrod and sent her in for an audition. And then Jamie contacted Chad and
then Chad reached out to Dedra Tate, one of
our main producers and she’s had a long relationship with Chad. He called her
and said Jamie told me you had this great script that you’re producing, and I’ll
like to take a look at it. So he read it and really responded to it the way
that Jamie did and told us he wanted to be involved.
And it just started to snowball, a word of mouth sort of
thing. Then Terry Vaughn gets
involved and then everyone heard about it from a peer or someone else, and they felt
that the content of the script was something that was necessary right now, and
they could be proud of being a part of. Because, and this is not something that
was actually said to me, I get the sense that they don’t feel that these roles
are out there for them. So when they come along, they want to grab on to them by
any means necessary. And for that reason, that’s why I think they stuck with me
for four years as I tried to get the film made.
then you believe that films have a greater propose than to just entertaining?
Absolutely. I mean I grew up looking up to filmmakers
like Spike Lee. He dealt with subjects that weren’t always the easiest to talk
about, but he gave us a platform to discuss them. So when you talk about a
film like say Jungle Fever dealing
with mixed relationships, you can talk about the characters in the film and
what’s going on, on the screen. But you’re in fact talking about things you feel in
your own life which is separating yourself from it, so you can have a more
I think good films do that and can still be entertaining, and
the teaching comes from the audience interacting with each other. Because you
can watch a film and walk out and that’s that. But with this film, at every
screening, the Q & A and dialogue
after the film goes on so long, because people are talking about their own
stories, and it relates to what they see on the screen and how they want to do
Here’s the trailer for the film: