This Friday, Disney Channel will launch a new feel good TV movie, Lemonade Mouth about a tween band that comes together and motivates kids to stand up for themselves. The press material says: “As they learn about music and about life, the group must surmount obstacles including their own lack of confidence, a rivalry with the popular band Mudslide Crush and a school administration that just doesn’t understand them.”
The guiding force behind the film is Debra Martin Chase who has been creating TV and films that empower girls and women (The Cheetah Girls as well as The Princess Diaries.) What I love about Martin Chase is that she is not of the mindset that the best director is a dude which is especially heartening since she makes lots of films about girls and women. She doesn’t only hire women (Salim Akil is directing the remake of Sparkle that she is producing) but it is being written by Mara Brock Akil.
For this film Chase smartly turned to Patricia Riggen whose La Misma Luna is an unheralded gem. I am so glad that Riggen is back in the saddle. She does have a way with kids as was displayed in La Misma Luna.
I was able to get some questions answered by Chase (by email) about the film.
Women and Hollywood: How did this movie come to you and why were you interested in producing it?
Debra Martin Chase: Since I make a lot of movies in the young adult genre, the majority of the books in this area come to my office. So many are cookie cutter, not original. The moment I finished Lemonade Mouth I knew that it was something special, that it would make a great movie. I honestly had the same feeling that I had when I first read both the Princess Diaries and the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. The characters are rich and textured, the messages age appropriate but nonetheless mature, the drama universal and compelling. It has taken over 3 years to bring the book to the screen and we are all very pleased with the end result.
WaH: You are very pro-active at hiring women creatives especially women of color. Why is that so important to you and what advice can you give to encourage others to do so?
DMC: I always look for the best directors for my movies — filmmakers with vision, passion, creativity and skill. I also always try to include in the process women and people of color. Directors in both categories are often either overlooked or pigeonholed into very narrow creative slots. As a producer who is a woman of color, I understand this situation all too well. In the case of my last 3 movies, women of color were the absolute right filmmakers for the jobs. Patricia Riggen, who is Mexican, did an outstanding job on Lemonade Mouth. But to me, anyone seeing her award winning, record setting movie La Misma Luna and meeting her could see that she is special and gifted. Similarly, Sanaa Hamri, who is Moroccan, and who directed Just Wright and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 for me, is clearly a stylish and hugely talented director.
WaH: What’s the message of this film and should parents and children watch it together?
DMC: I like to make movies that can be enjoyed by audiences of all ages and I think that we accomplished this goal with Lemonade Mouth. While this movie is definitely for kids, I believe and have seen that parents enjoy it too. The movie’s themes of finding your own voice, standing up for and being proud of who you are, and embracing true friendship are relevant to young and old. We conducted a 3 month international talent search to find some of the most talented actors of their generation. Bridgit Mendler and Adam Hicks are already established Disney channel stars, but we gave them the opportunity to spread their wings and show the breadth of their talents. Newcomers Hayley Kiyoko, Naomi Scott, Blake Michael (who we hired off of a self made tape from Atlanta), Nick Roux and Chris Brochu are all enormously talented and it will be exciting to watch their careers evolve.
The film is written by April Blair and is based on the book by Mark Peter Hughes. It premieres Friday at 8pm on Disney Channel.
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