Listen: David McDonald, using a sense of place to create a film

David McDonald

The Enterprise — H. Rose Schneider
David McDonald, a filmmaker who lives in Hudson, has written a screenplay about Ella Fitzgerald’s early life. Her mother died when she was 15. The elegant Queen of Jazz, he says, was then abused by her mother’s boyfriend and ended up living on the streets of Harlem where she took a job as a lookout for a bordello. After her arrest, she suffered abuse at the Training School for Girls in Hudson and escaped back to Harlem, winning an Amateur Night competition at Harlem’s Apollo Theater, which launched her career. McDonald is drawing on local talent for a theatrical production of “Ella the Ungovernable” in Hudson. In this week’s podcast at AltamontEnterprise.com/podcasts, McDonald speaks passionately about having a sense of place and about the need for creativity in today’s America.

 

Transcript:

00:00 Hello. This is Melissa Hale-Spencer, the editor of the Altamont Enterprise here today with David McDonald who I'm finding out just a little chat is a fascinating person. What brought me to call him here was the release he put out on a script he's written on elephants. Gerald, so I think we'll start by just talking about that. You mentioned that you had found out about her little known early history from the Hudson prison public memory project. Just tell us what you read there, what that is and how you discovered that

00:43 Ella Fitzgerald. That's a sort of a fascinating backstory to Ella Fitzgerald's life that has recently been, um, uh, but become public. Um, like more people are aware of this now. I'm, there was this, I think a viral video that went out a few months ago about it, but I'm Ella Fitzgerald when she was young, uh, was part of the great northern migration. She originally, um, uh, grew up in, um, Virginia and came up to New York state with her mother in the late twenties, I believe. And her mother is settled in Yonkers, New York. And, um, but obviously a black woman who ended up with a Portuguese man, a lot of the details of the history of, of this time, uh, have sort of been lost cause it's, you know, a hundred years ago basically. Um, and, uh, the mother was working very, very hard. The, uh, Eh, anyway, the mom died. Uh, we know that the mother died when Ella was quite young, a car accident, right?

01:48 Yeah. And she, uh, Ella ended up with her step father and the stepfather was sort of considered to be a, you know, again, with a 100 year has gone by. No one knows for sure, but historians believe that the stepfather was abusing Ella and sexually abusing Allah. And so Ella ended up, uh, in the care of an aunt, I believe in Harlem. And, um, you know, um, but the aunt barely took care of Ella as well. So, and the Ella ended up living on the streets in Harlem and, uh, uh, supposedly got jobs as a lookout for a whorehouse and a gambling hall. And she was basically rudderless living on the streets by herself as a 15 year old or a 14 year old. Um, uh, excuse me, was a snapped up by the police. Um, originally sent to a, uh, like a juvenile home in Riverdale that didn't work out.

02:47 So she was sent upstate to Hudson and Hudson, uh, was, uh, the New York Strength Training School for girls. There's actually a prison there are now, which is a medium prison that's covered in razor wire. It's an old Victorian prison. Um, and, uh, it, um, you know, it doesn't look like it was a very nice place for her. And she was there for less than a year. And there was a, again, rumors of abuse at this prison. Uh, there were, uh, black kids, black girls and white girls who were kept separated. There was a white girl's choir, um, which, uh, apparently Elliot wasn't even allowed to sing with. Um, and Hudson during this period of time was like sin city. Uh, which is an interesting story in and of itself because Hudson, uh, was originally founded in the revolutionary war era when the whaling industry was being attacked out in the open seas by the redcoats.

03:50 So they chose Hudson as the second home of the whaling industry back in the 17 hundreds. And, um, the entire whaling industry had moved to Hudson and turned Hudson into sort of sin city on the Hudson. Um, but anyway, so, uh, this is in 1933, um, again, the details of what happened to LR very sketchy. Ella never refuse to talk about what had happened to her the rest of her life. Um, but, you know, rumors have it that there was a lot of abuse. And after less than a year, she escaped. And, um, two, two or three weeks after she escaped, she ended up being cajoled into singing for the first time ever publicly at the first ever amateur night at the Apollo Theater, um, which she won. And the orchestra leader, Chick Webb was sitting in there in the audience. And, uh, Ella was paroled by the state of New York to the chick Webb Orchestra.

04:52 Um, so that's sort of how it all ended up happening. And then like six months later, they had their first hit with the task at a task it, but like the rest of the world never knew really the awfulness of Ellis pre history before becoming a star. And Ella Fitzgerald was obviously a, a grand dom and very elegant woman. Um, and never talked badly about anything or anyone. She just refused to talk about it for the rest of her life. And there were times that she was actually invited up to Hudson and she just refused. She didn't want to go there. She didn't want to talk about it. It was very humiliating experience for her. Um, and I am a sort of a journalist, um, a little side trip here now and hear about your background. Um, well I, I'm beginning. Where are you from originally?

05:44 And I'm already, I'm originally from Brooklyn Heights, New York, which is a very literary, literary neighborhood. Um, I grew up, uh, the son of a lawyer. Uh, I went to good schools. Got It. Very good education. Um, when I was a kid, um, there are a lot of writers who lived in Brooklyn Heights, including Norman Mailer is seminar. I got to know Norman mailer. Yeah. I um, I ended up at a school called Saint Ann's, which a lot of people ended up going to a, in Brooklyn heights and as a senior at Saint Anne's, I got a job as the ticket taker for the Brooklyn Heights cinema. And school would end at three 45 in the afternoon and I would have to take, get to my job at four a, which was about a mile away. So I would run from school to the heights cinema. And often when I would get to the cinema for the four o'clock matinee, Norman mailer would be the only person standing there waiting to get in.

06:46 And you know, he would be twiddling his thumbs and I would be twiddling my thumbs. Sometimes there were 15 minutes, sometimes I would get there early, sometimes I would get there, you know, a minute beforehand. But he was often the only person there. And we all knew who he was. Anyone who lived in Brooklyn Heights, you know, and Norman mailer also had this reputation for, you know, stabbing people, getting drunk at parties and punching people out. And so I remember, um, you know, pretty soon after I met him, I went home, had dinner with my parents one night and said, uh, you know, guess who was standing at the height cinema waiting to get in today. And he said, Ooh. And I said, Norman mailer, they were like, be careful. And Norman, uh, you know, when he was sober was totally nice. Like maybe this was had to do with drinking or women.

07:34 Like I know he was supposedly, he's supposedly stabbed his wife Norris Church at one point. Uh, anyway, he was nice to me. We were both mets fans and so it was just baseball, you know, small talk. Like when we first started talking and then, you know, so cinema stuck with you, you, you were taking, I always want it to be a writer and um, uh, then, um, you know, so Norman ended up, Norman, I ended up becoming friends. He had parties. Like I've heard now as a grownup about these, this was the late seventies, and there was this one party where Norman was apparently at Max's Kansas City. And the Bob Dylan entourage showed up from rolling thunder and Norman invited them to one of his parties in Brooklyn Heights on his roof deck overlooking the promenade in Brooklyn Heights. And I'm just like, maybe that was the party I went to.

08:30 Maybe. I, you know, I, I, I remember going to one of his parties and I, you know, I'd left even before the sunset, but, uh, yeah, Norman was very nice and his son actually turned out to be at Saint Anne's as well. And then when I graduated at St Ends, I ended up going to Bennington college in the mid eighties. And, uh, I was in a writing class, a with Bret Easton Ellis and Donna Tartt and Jonathan Letham. And that was pretty interesting as well. So I've been around a lot of writers in my life. And, um, I originally had wanted to go to Bennington cause I want it to be a novelist. And there was a writer named Bernard Malibu who was teaching at Bennington, and I got to Bennington and I was informed that he had retired that year. So, uh, I was sort of disappointed and, um, you know, it's just, uh, uh, sort of, uh, interesting, you know, quirk of time and faith that all these writers ended up at that school at that same time.

09:27 And we had some really great writing teachers, one of whom was Joe Mcguinness, who wrote to the selling of the president. I, I believe in fatal, fatal vision. Um, and, um, so just been our, been around a lot of writers. So it was my intention growing up that I always wanted to be a novelist. Um, but, um, uh, you know, reality calls and my parents were always fixated on me getting a job that paid the bills. So when I, when I graduated from college, um, you know, I got a job at a trade magazine and in Manhattan and, uh, then I got a job as an editor with a American field service and fast. And I did that for about three or four years. Then I was dating a woman from Berlin and I decided to move with her to Berlin. So I lived in Berlin between 1990 and 95.

10:24 And while I was working, while I was living in Berlin, I got a job in the record business there. That's sort of a funny story too. And so I ended up, um, being like an American working in the record business of Berlin from 1990 to 95. And then I, my mom was sick, so I came back to the u s and I got a job with Electra entertainment and I ended up representing bands like the doors and the eagles in the late nineties. And then, um, in, uh, in around 2000 2001, uh, lost my job in the record business and moved upstate at, ended up in Woodstock. And then, um, oh, so my idea about becoming a writer, like, uh, a lot of writers can probably relate to this because, uh, I always felt like I was a storyteller and wanted to tell these deep stories. But one thing that I was never really interesting to me was expository writing or descriptive writing.

11:22 So I, you know, James Joyce can start a novel with 20 pages of just description. And it was never my interest. Like I, I would start for 10 years of my life, I would start and stop novels and I would just get to the point where, yeah, we get to a point, a section in the film and the novel where I would need to describe something and I would just lose my patients and abandoned it. So I wrote like five half novels and then I moved up to, uh, to Woodstock, New York and the, in the early two thousands and there was this new technology, three chip, uh, video cameras that was brand new, so you could actually buy a $3,000 camera and make a movie. And so that's what I ended up doing. Um, I, during that time, I was also writing a lot of screenplays.

12:11 So I wrote about five screenplays and realize that my love was dialogue and the interaction between human beings. So, uh, I ended up then, um, uh, you know, September 11th happened and I, um, wanted to make a statement about what I think had gone wrong in America that had precipitated all this crap that was going down across the world. And, uh, so I made this movie called a Woodstock, can't get there from here, um, which eventually became Woodstock revisited. And so that's a whole nother chapter of my life. But the thing about the elephants Gerald story or the Woodstock movie was basically, uh, my work has always been precipitated on being sorta poor and not having a lot of money to throw around and, um, you know, whatever technology is cheap and available at the time. Uh, and then being an avid fan of local history, um, you know, with the Woodstock thing, I was sort of curious to tell the story about how Woodstock had really come about. Like half the world doesn't know that Woodstock didn't happen.

13:17 I was part of that. I knew about that, but I was part of the world that didn't know until I saw the movie, which I really learned a lot from was that it wasn't some random place. It had this entire history that you trace of fostering artists, fostering creative people, and it kind of made a very fertile ground for that to emerge there. I what I loved about your documentary with the way you just layered in the different people from Woodstock, um, and their recollections so that by the time you're finished watching it, you feel almost like you're a member of the community. Like you, you know who these people are and what they're about. It was just, it was just lovely the way it did. And the way you're describing your life made me think of this one quote, the narrative voice, which is you said in that movie, nothing happens in a void. One thing moves to another. And I feel like that listening to your life, how things built when on the other and with Woodstock, you did that starting way back at the 19 hundreds. Just kind of tell people in a sort of a nutshell, that arc that you traced and Woodstock. Um,

14:34 um, you know, I'm an internet. I've been, I've lived a lot of my life overseas and I speak a lot of languages and I never really felt a 1000% like a, an American. I'm a citizen of the world. And so, you know, I went and lived in Berlin for five years and I was an international and the record business, and I speak French and German. So living, coming back to the u s was always just sort of like, I never felt like, I mean I'm an American, like I'm, I'm like a big frank capra fan if you're a movie buff, like that kind of American. Um, but, uh, I also have had enough distance to be able to observe my own culture and when, so, you know, I always felt like we weren't addressing the causes for things, uh, that, uh, you know, and we still haven't, and we ended up with, I don't want to get political here, but we ended up with Trump, which is a, another way of not addressing things.

15:31 Um, and so, uh, I would happen to be living in Woodstock and I was always felt like I had a big story in me and a September 11th happened and I felt sort of hopeless and helpless to do anything about it. And then the world went askew and you know, I would go to my local Deli and Saugerties and there'd be people standing in line going, we need to bomb those guys, we need to nuke, blah, blah, blah. And I thought, well, we're not really taking into account our own responsibility here. And when I moved to Woodstock, okay, so I worked in the record business in the 90s. So I'm a music person. And so I know like the band and Bob Dylan, like I'm a huge Bob Dylan fan and huge band fan. So when I was in the record business with all these wacky abusive people, cause it's a very crazy business or was I always thought, you know, well actually the genesis is one of the guys on my press list was a English journalist named Barney Hoskins who wrote for Mojo and uncut and all these music magazines in England.

16:45 And when we would have a concert, we have a concert at Madison Square Garden ACDC, and we have a dinner with the band afterwards, Stan and Chelsea. Hey Barney, you want to come down from Woodstock and be a part of the, the scene with us. So he would come down from Woodstock and we didn't know what Barney was doing up in Woodstock, but we, all, all of us, publicists, publicists at Electra wanted to know, tell us about Rick Danko. Tell us about, you know, what do you know about blah, blah, blah. What do you know about van Morrison's life up there? And he would regale us with stories. So this was in [inaudible] 96 [inaudible] 97 and I always thought if I ever lose my job and the record business, I want to go up to Woodstock. Plus I, you know, I had been like to concerts every night of my life for 10 years.

17:34 Like I had gone and seen Jeff Buckley. I had been, you know, had dinners with ACDC, so I didn't have much to prove. I had lived pretty large back during that era. So by the time I moved to Woodstock, I was ready to like explore my creativity to take a deep breath and really write that novel. Right. I've been putting on, I was too busy working as a publicist and the record business to write the novel. Plus I kept on abandoning the novels. So I get to Woodstock and then September 11th happens and it's like, oh dear. And also, so when I moved to Woodstock, Barney had left already. Turns Out Barney had written a book about the band while he was living there. He hadn't told us. But I would go to the bar in Woodstock and someone would say, don't sit in that chair that's Rick Danko was chair at, or that's Paul Butterfield's chair and I would buy, I was like, they're all gone. They're all dead. What happened in this town? Like the town of Woodstock had died. There was nothing going on and what stock except these memories.

18:42 But you have this great scene in the film near the end where the cemetery has all these artists and you can have that wonderful Kramer. Was that her name? Eileen? Yeah. And she's wishing she could have a cocktail up there. Cause that's where all her friends are and she's, she's looking and naming each of the people. It's a great end to your film because you've introduced them as live people. And here she is looking at their graves and sort of repopulating in her head these, that's so great.

19:12 Why are they actually watched it? Because, yeah, so I'm living in a town I is going on in the town, you know the, except all this nostalgia about the hippy days. And to me, you know, September 11th happened and I'm like, well the sixties didn't rework clearly, you know, it, something happened along the way. And so in my mind that all became, this started jumbling up. And so I wanted to tell the story about what had happened to the American counterculture and using the Woodstock and the name Woodstock and Woodstock festival as a metaphor. And then it just so happened that I was friendly with these older people and I had, oh, there's so many funny things that happened. Like I got the camera and I had always worshiped the work of a Elliot Landy, who's the photographer who took the famous pictures of the band and Bob Dylan and I would see Elliot at restaurants and I would say to him, I'm going to make a movie about Woodstock one day and I want you to be in it. Cause you know, you took all the great pictures and he be like, who are you? And I'm like, I really have an important story to tell really. I really do. And so, um, anyway, so, uh, yeah, I was like the guy who didn't, didn't know any better. I had the camera, I bought final cut pro, I bought a big Mac. I taught myself how to edit film and I just would sit in front of them.

20:38 You found this history and made it live. You've started with bird. Cliff was a called arts and crafts man did, I didn't even know existed. Then you have, you know, pictures of the people that founded it and then interspersed with the artwork and you layer in music so that you get this whole experience starting with that and moving through the century, um, the various creative people that have formed this fertile field. And that town historian, I don't know if that's his actual

21:10 rolling or Alpha Evers, but he's Evers was a hundred when I was filming him and he's all right. So here, it's funny because I'm going to move forward now to my life currently because I've just finished a series. I'm working on a TV pilot, I guess you could call it, you know, who knows what a TV is anymore these days called the mystery of creativity. And it's about the connections between creativity and spirituality. So now back 15 years when I made the Woodstock movie, I had no idea what I was doing. I had no idea of my own limitations. I had been a writer, a journalist for years, but uh, I had never picked up a camera before, never done sound, never filmed anyone, never cut film. And I just wanted to make this epic story and I just as a curious person, like I'm sitting with you sit down with these old folks in town and they'd be like, you have no idea.

22:05 Yeah. What the town was really like, you know, young, cocky, so called naughty. They use the word. Yeah, it's just great perspective of age. But what I wonder about, because you seem very invested talking about the whaling history of Hudson. It's the sense of place because that historian talks about each interval, individual places like a headwaters and we have in our selves from when we live in a place, something that the place gives to us. And that's what I feel is really kind of missing in America these days because there's such mobility and it seems like you captured this idea of a place that foster creativity through generations.

22:57 It's, wow, this is a great subject for me to talk about because I just happened to be someone. Okay, so I, I made this movie right? And I didn't have never made a movie before. And I, I think it's like an epic, it's like a, you know, I look back on it and I'm like, how did I do that? How the hell did I make that film? Like I didn't have anyone to tell me I could or couldn't do it. I just made a movie and I didn't have a sound person or a gaffer or audio technician or a lighting person. I would sit with the camera, the camera had a mic on top of the camera and I would put the camera on a table because of the sound. I didn't know anything about sound. And I would put a camera on the blanket and pointed up at someone's nostrils just cause we were in a loud place.

23:51 And it was like I knew that the sound was important that it couldn't. And so I made this thing and it was, it's like a mystery to me how I made it. It W it was a mystical experience. And uh, I channeled this movie. Like I had read little bits about Woodstock history, but primarily I found out about the history while I was filming these old people. And then I found out about bird cliff and I found out about maverick and this was part of their world. You know, these 70 year old or 80 year old lady maverick is, it was a festival itself, right? So people from all over in very kind of outrageous way to do plays and hear music. And Yeah, in the 19 teens, there were thousands of people coming up from New York City, from Greenwich village to come to this big field just outside of Woodstock.

24:53 Thousands of people would be getting hammered drunk and having sex in the woods and go skinny dipping. So the Woodstock thing had happened 50 years before, and it was part of the tradition of the town. So then in the middle sixties, in 1963, uh, started actually with Peter Paul and Mary Peter Yarrow. His family had a house in Woodstock. The second home, Peter, who was being managed by Albert Grossman Grossman came up to visit Peter Jaros House. Grossman took a shine to Woodstock. Grossman bought a big chunk of Bearsville and he became the bear and embarrassed bill. Albert Grossman was Bob Dylan's manager. You know, Bob Dylan was living in Greenwich village, being harassed. He was getting famous. Albert said, come on up to Woodstock. Bob went and lived upstairs from the Tinker Street cafe with the family that was taken care of the cafe and ended up writing the whole, another side of Bob Dylan record while living upstairs from the Khalfan Woodstock before he was superstar, before he was too famous to do it.

26:01 And so, um, anyone in the music world who was, uh, it was like Bob Dylan was the god even back then. So if you were a member of Frank Zappa's band or the blues Magoos or whoever, they all wanted to be sort of in Bob Dylan's energies field. So they, all these bands started moving up to Woodstock in the mid sixties, long before the Woodstock festival. So, you know, I was just like, I did not know that van Morrison was living up on Spencer road and sixties, say a seven or that Jimi Hendrix had a house in boy Ceville I, they all want it to be part of his world or his sphere. So all these bands were living in Woodstock. Yeah, well it started with Dylan, then the band, they were his backing band. Right. So he went on tour with them in [inaudible] 66 then he, uh, had his motorcycle accident, which, you know, is a great object of speculation. Did he really? Did he not, was he a drug addict? If he just needed to drop out for a while. So it was Bob and the guys in the band and they lived on a big pink, which is out its stall road. So for me, like I'm an, I'm sort of an empath, right? Like I mean at one point you described it, um, someone does in the film, but like the Paris,

27:28 a feeling of you can run into an artist anywhere. So if you're in a Paris,

27:33 listen, Abby was in 1940 so then one of the reasons Bob Dylan came up in 63 64 was he was tired. He wanted to be a painter. Yeah. And He, you know, George bellows and Yoshi and all these old artists have been living in and what stock, you know, famous mostly landscape painters, which was funny cause in the forties and fifties that became out of motion. Yeah. But a lot of the WIA landscape people were living in Woodstock or had second homes in Woodstock. So when Bob moved up to Woodstock in the 60s, he started training. He started studying under one of the painters. I forget him. And, um,

28:15 but so now you're doing this TV pilot on creativity.

28:19 All right. So ask me about the energy of places. Right. So I come to this town and like maybe the average person, you know, drives and drives out. Like, I, I get here, I just want to like walk up and down every street and look in every house and eat. Did every restaurant, like I'm hungry for life. And it, you know, the energy of being a creative person is a giving and taking energy. So anyway, I made this movie, right? And I, I had no reason to believe that I could make a movie. And the movie hasn't really been that great in my life. It's been the more problematic than good for a variety of reasons. Um, but, um, it was a absolutely mystical process. Like, I, I look back at that movie and I'm just like, how the hell did I do that? But it's been sort of like that with all my lists.

29:09 You do the similar thing. It looked to me and I wasn't able to see it. I, it was shown at the local library about a 1959 film that had been made. And then you talked apparently to the people in the town of Hudson where the movie was filmed and

29:26 did something with that. What was it? Uh, well that was odds against tomorrow. Right. And so, you know, I'm always working on bare bones, Amman, always working with cheap cameras, cheap microphones. Uh, but I'm also always trying to figure out a way to, uh, put a, uh, a bridge between my own intellectual life and the concept of the empowerment of my fellow human beings. And, um,

29:56 came with really big, big, big themes with your little little budget. Right? Because it seems like, and I was not familiar with that 1959 film at all. I have to go look it up on Wikipedia. But what, what I read about what you would done with it was you had drawn out of it themes about racial tension, about the McCarthy era, the sense of um, oppression in the country at that time and the salary that, you know, I live in a place that I'm like, I was like,

30:28 you must have imagined what it would be like to have been here 50 years ago. Yo, it's so happens that Harry Belafonte, uh, had his second home outside of Hudson and made this movie in 1959 called odds against tomorrow, which, um, Belafonte being a longtime liberal, a member of the civil rights movement, one of the actually big funders of the civil rights movement. Um, he was also best friends with Sidney Poitier and Poitier had made that movie with Tony Curtis where they both escaped from the prison and they're shackled together. I forget the name of that. Anyway, Belafonte makes this movie in 1959 with Robert Ryan where they play a black guy and a white guy who are both racists. Uh, both sort of ex cons. Who are recruited to rob a bank and Hudson New York. It's got a different name in the movie and the black guy in the white guy or boats, so full of anger at each other that they can't cooperate with each other.

31:32 And so the whole thing becomes a big cluster blank. And, and at the end of the movie, there's this big explosion and it's impossible to live in on Warren Street and Hudson, which I have for the last five years, you know, and watch this town gentrified in a such a spectacular manner so that I made a video for the New York Times eight years ago in which, uh, Melissa after my are from the basilica, Hudson is pontificating about turning the city into the next great home for artists in America. And she comes from Montreal and I lived in Montreal and we're going to turn Hudson into the next great artists city. And eight years later it's Maseratis and you know, Hummers and whatever parked on Warren Street. And there was a brief period where artists moved to Hudson. Yes. Most of them moved in and got priced out already.

32:31 So, you know, and Hudson has been a revitalized and turned into this gorgeous museum town for tourists now in eight years since I've lived there. And so I'm always thinking about what was Warren Street like back in the day? Well, and odds against tomorrow in 1959, Warren Street was a street that had, you know, a, a series on it and uh, several supermarkets and a music store. Uh, for the last five years there hasn't been a supermarket in downtown Hudson. You have to go out to the, well, antique stores have been priced. So now it's like west Broadway and Soho and people come to Hudson for these restaurants where you pay 100 bucks for a meal and they're like, there's an influx of hotels and Hudson. So I'm always trying to sort of use the work that I'm doing to make a statement about what I perceive to be.

33:30 You went and talked to some of the people that were extras in it? Yeah. The time. Yeah. They had an Aaron went ultimately though, like that, that project I won the New York Foundation of the arts, a individual artists award for 19, 2017 for that project. Um, a few things stopped me continuing to work on. That's why I sort of switched over to the ELA thing. Tell us what are the big themes in the ELA thing is you call it, um, I mean you mentioned in passing in this era of Trump, why is this story what, well, you know, I have this gift, right? And the gift hasn't necessarily translated into world Famor or money, but it's like at this amazing gift of creativity and it's a mystery to me that how I got it and how I developed it. And um, you know, it translates into making these movies, but for me it's like a movie's great.

34:35 It's a movie, it's fantastic and maybe that can change people, but I also want to do my work in tandem with my fellow human beings while I'm here on this planet. And the empowerment, you know, the work is all about race and consciousness and being somebody who, like all of us is watching what's going on in the world and is horrified by what's happened. And so I'm a warrior for the empowerment and the rise in consciousness because this is where we've come to. It's like we need to raise our consciousness as human beings or we're going to implode as humans. So, uh, how did I get to the Ella Fitzgerald Project? Well, it's me, one thing for me to do my writing and screenwriting in the privacy of my own room and come up with a good script, but I want to, I actually want to do, use the work to, to empower my, my fellow people and kids and turn them on.

35:38 So the Harry Belafonte thing, Harry's 90 or 91 or whatever, I wanted to have him come to Hudson and get the key to the city. I actually worked with the mayor to award him the key to the city. Um, we had an invitation ready. I was reaching out to him. I never got an answer back from the Belafonte people. That was one thing. And then the intern seen the politics and racial politics and Hudson, uh, are so ugly that I really didn't want to open up that Pandora's box. So there were a variety of reasons that I just thought, I don't want to do that to elephants. Gerald story is a story that instead of using that 1933 story as a sort of metaphor for where we are now, all, I mean that is the case because if you look at the Ella Fitzgerald Story and the history of African American incarceration in America, this is the perfect example.

36:35 Like a poor victim of a 15 year old girl who turns out to be the most elegant woman ever was imprisoned for basically being poor and being abused by her stepfather. Like she, it's Dickensian. So that's what appealed to me, but also the idea that like, all right, I'm going to use this story and evolve my town. And there are lots of young African American kids in my town and kids of color, but white kids, black kids, whatever, everybody can relate to this story and we'll do it here. This is where it happened. So it will become a theatrical production. Well, originally I was like, I'm just going to make a film for nothing. I'll make a zero budget film and get kid actors to play the roles and hopefully I'll find that kid who's supremely talented or whatever. And then I started gathering a team and somebody was like, why don't you just do it as a play first?

37:35 And I'm like, Duh. Of course. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And you know, they're like, one of the things I like about Hudson, um, sort of, uh, you know, a lot of these towns in upstate New York, Kingston, Hudson, Socrates, you know, they're full of x New Yorkers who are over talented dude don't have any work. You know, we come up here and we're like, I'm going to live upstate. There's no jobs. You know who's going to got a job for a set decorator, you know, in upstate New York. So I thought I'll get, I'll give people work. And that's another thing like as part of the grand plan, it's like the empowerment of my fellow human beings will give them jobs. We'll start a production and Hudson. So that's ultimately why I'm here today is like, um, the job is to take the art, which is metaphorical, right? You know, art is a way of portraying something and actually making it real well. So to that end,

38:36 we should have you tell what your, go fund me pages in case somebody is listening and wants to contribute to this project.

38:45 Well, um, again, it's like, do you want your kids to be out there doing things and learning about the world and participating and doing creative work. This is the project. This is like, you know, sometimes I, I have to do, I have to, I'm in competition for the buck that no one wants to give. And there's someone who does, um, you know, I don't want to dent denigrate other people's art, but there's work that, you know, it's a conceptual or, um, you know, I, I make art out of three hammers stuck together. Not Again, not to criticize other people's work, but this is real work that's meant to, uh, empower the community and to turn people on and turn people on to creativity because we're at that stage in human history where we're presented with a choice. We either are creative or were destructive. And, um, so, uh, I'm tooting the Horn of like everyone learned how to make something. Everyone learned how to do something, participate, be involved.

39:53 Bird class. Well that might be a good ending to have come full circle. We've used our time, but if you have any closing thoughts, sometimes I miss the most important thing to someone. I,

40:06 yeah. Well, um, the, the most, the thing for me is like, um, when I, when I made this Woodstock movie, I had no idea that I could do it right. And we as human beings are capable of 10 times more than we even know we are. And so you've got to learn how to open up those channels of your own creativity. And so, uh, a lot of it was accidental for me. You know, people have various ways of doing it. Some people take long. My thing is I take long walks. I, I get all my ideas while I'm hiking generally. But, um, uh, trying to help people, uh, open up the doors and gateways of their own creativity because ultimately, again, we're at a battle for human consciousness right now and it's a very dangerous time to be alive in the world. And, you know, we all know that terrible things can happen. But so it's this idea too that we're all responsible for our, our own piece of the pie, putting in our own creativity and optimizing what we can do as human beings. So the mystery of creativity that serious that I'm working on is about, uh, learning how to be a 100 times more than you think you can. Because that's really the, the secret, I think. And it's a repeated a lot by eastern philosophers. It's like, find out who you are and be the best you can be, and that's all we can do.

41:26 Thank you, David MacDonald. That's a great and inspirational and note.

 

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