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The Believers

Here is a film that I'm excited about. It's about the drama surrounding a girl trained in classical music that joins a rock band. Being somewhat of a musician myself I can relate to this theme. So I am very anxious to see their treatment of the subject.

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"Nadia Jones stars as Melanie, a gifted but troubled cellist discovering life outside of the regimented world of classical music training."

Conceived  and written by David Quillin and Leatta Beighley.  The movie, being produced by Green Eyes Productions, is heavily into using North Carolina locations, cast, and crew. Julie Alley on behalf of Green Eyed Productions had this to say about the recent loss of film incentives: "We wanted to do a film with all North Carolina cast/crew to send a message that filmmakers are here to stay and start up conversation so we can help steer voters and bring back the incentives." That's the spirit!

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Who wrote the screenplay?

Julie Alley  David & Leatta are the co-writers.

What is The Believers about? 

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Ira David Wood III  To me ... it's about finding the courage to be who you really are ... the courage to begin the true search for Self and all of the creative rewards that come from such a quest & discovery.

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Nadia Jones  In my opinion, The Believers is about finding yourself and finding something to care about in life and also knowing the meaning of being human.

How is this accomplished? 

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David Quillin  I completely agree with Ira and Nadia. I think they nailed it. However, I also think that other factors and themes enter into the equation, as well.

Specifically, the film examines how people can admire, even love each other, but still manage to cause each other pain. The film's main character is on a quest of self-discovery.  However, the person she looks to for help is on a quest of self-destruction. The characters in this film mean a great deal to me.  As silly as it may sound, I consider them real people. And like real people, they have flaws. Some manage to overcome those flaws, others are consumed by them.

Julie Alley  And music is the viaduct these two characters collide

David Quillin  Yes. Exactly.  Music is a bridge between them.  Music is an art, and art is unique in its ability to connect otherwise disparate people. People are different. They're born in different places, they speak different languages, they worship different gods, they practice different ideologies.

Human behavior is divisive.  It creates barriers and it separates people. Music brings them together
And through music, two people who otherwise never would have met become inextricably linked. of them is trying to discover her identity, the other is trying to run away from it.

Julie Alley  In a tag line world, we've been playing with: "A gifted cellist shuns the classical musical world and joins a rock band."

David Quillin  At the beginning of the movie, the main character is all structure and no substance. She's only ever done what she was told to do. For a lot of people, that's not a very fulfilling way to go through life. I'm always afraid that I sound ridiculous when I talk about this but I really believe it.  No pun intended.  (laughs)

So the movie is about a lot of things. Trying to discover yourself, pushing boundaries, trying to escape... Falling in love and experiencing heartbreak. Once I start talking about this I never stop. The funny thing is, I sometimes think that the best person to analyze and discuss a piece of art is not the artist who created it.

I had an idea for a story.  Leatta and I discussed it and wrote it out.  Now, I kinda feel like we're not the best people to interpret it. Kinda like a Rorschach test.  You tell me what it all means.

Tell us more about the story.

David Quillin  Alright. The film takes place in 1997. Melanie, the main character, is a talented but severely sheltered cello student who takes lessons at the behest of her upscale family.
She's been taking lessons with the same teacher for over 10 years. One day, he simply can't take anymore of her seemingly robotic and apathetic personality, so he abruptly discharges her as a student

Against all odds, Melanie then meets Eve, whose brash personality and no-holds-barred wit make her Melanie's perfect counter point. Melanie realizes that she's never had the chance to discover who she is. Simultaneously, Eve believes that Melanie's musical talent could help propel the rock band that Eve wants to start.

Thus, the two girls agree to start a grunge rock band called "The Believers," and are soon joined by Eve's childhood friend Pumpkin and Ezra, a recovering addict looking for some stability and joy in his life.

The film mixes these people up in a jar and sees how it all blows up. And it does indeed blow up. Melanie Hoon is the main character. She's played by Nadia Jones, a young actress from Fuquay Varina. Most of her work has been related to school theater. 

Evelyn (Eve) Perske is the charismatic but troubled and volatile rock singer who becomes Melanie's best friend and mentor. She is played by Leatta Beighley, who helped me write the screenplay. Most of Leatta's credentials are in indie short films in and around North Carolina.

Steve "Pumpkin" Darrell is Eve's best friend from childhood and he is also the drummer for the band. Pumpkin is loyal to Eve but he is increasingly aware and uncomfortable with some of the things she does, which strains their friendship. Pumpkin is played by Jason Damico, who is an award-winning musician who splits his time between North Carolina and New York while touring. He's released several albums and won the 2015 CMA Award for Male Rock Artist of the year.

Ezra Nowell is a talented musician who has recently left rehab for heroin addiction. He is determined to make something of himself so he finds a job and quickly joins a rock band, looking for new friends. He and Eve strike up an extremely tumultuous relationship, leading him towards a relapse. Ezra is played by Ira David Wood IV, a very accomplished stage and screen actor in the Raleigh

If this is of interest, Ira's father (Ira III) is a legendary, Tony-running stage actor who will be playing Melanie's cello teacher. People say this stuff but I mean it. I couldn't have hope for a better cast

That does sound like an incredible cast. Why did you take on this subject? Was it something you saw?

David Quillin  After finishing my first film, I spent a long time trying to figure out what film I wanted to make next. When you're making films on such modest budgets, you have to find something you feel passionate about as well as something you can achieve logistically. That can be a hard combination to find.

I spent several months thinking that I was going to make a very different film. I liked the concept but trying to develop it was a very arduous task. I just couldn't force the story to come together. Then one day in September, I was driving to lunch and the song Molly by Sponge began playing on the radio. I remember when that song came out back in 1995. I loved it and I hadn't heard it in years and years
Not kidding. By the time the song stopped playing, I knew what my next film was gonna be.

It was gonna take place in the 90s and it was gonna be about a small time grunge/alt rock band with four members. The main character was gonna be a shy and sheltered person who falls in love with the outrageous and wild lead singer.

I also knew that each member of the band would be named after a popular 90s rock band.
I started talking to Leatta about it immediately and she loved it as much as I did. Next came the character bios and then the plot treatments, all of which poured forth with almost no effort. I swear it's like the story wrote itself. And that's how we chose the project.

You mentioned you started talking to Leatta about it right away. Why Leatta? What's the relationship there?

David Quillin  Leatta played one the main characters in my first film. I met her through a mutual friend, Cameron Jetton, who played the film's main character. I had such a great time working with both of them that I knew I wanted them to be involved in my next film. In the interim, Leatta had expressed a major interest in the non-acting aspects of film production, especially screenwriting, so I reached out to her first.

I see. Tell me about Julie Alley.

David Quillin  I found Julie through LinkedIn, believe it or not. I knew we would need an actress to play the main character's mother. I didn't really know where or how go look, so I went to LinkedIn and ran a search for "actress" in North Carolina. Julie's account popped up, so I sent an her an email to introduce myself and show her a then current draft of the screenplay to see if she'd be interested. That's how if all started.

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What got you interested in filmmaking David? Any formal training?

David Quillin  
(laughs) I dot know how "formal" my training was and I'm definitely still learning. I studied film in college but most of the courses focused on film history. As students, we did get involved in production but I always wanted more of it

Since I didn't go to grad school, I sort of put myself in a position wherein if I wanted to continue making productions and honing my skills, I pretty much had to do it on my own.

The genesis of my interest in film came when I was a kid. Films were my form of escapism. I definitely lived in my imagination, and my imagination was largely populated by what I saw in movies. I certainly try to learn from films I've seen. I have a very long list of favorites and I have no idea how to prioritize them. The Usual Suspects, Jaws, Casablanca, The Empire Strikes Back, The Godfather, Raiders of the Lost Ark...the list is inexhaustible.

You can teach fundamentals and procedures. I don't know if you can teach creativity. What do you think?

David Quillin  That's one for the philosophers. If I had to answer, I'd say that it probably can't be taught. It only really works if you find your own voice. However, I think that there are people who can teach you to do that. For my money, they're the best teachers out there because they have the hardest, most intangible lesson of all to teach.

Julie, what do you bring to this production?

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Julie Alley  I'm producing the film and my production company is assisting in the financial side. Firstly I signed on as an actress, playing the mother of Melanie (gifted cellist) and as conversations w David progressed there was a strong need to have role filled. 

The strongest factor leading to Green Eyes Productions jumping in was our deep concern about the loss of tax incentives by the hands of elected officials tanking the film/tv biz in the state. We wanted to do a film with all North Carolina cast/crew to send a message that filmmakers are here to stay and start up conversation so we can help steer voters and bring back the incentives. 

Another factor I was personally attracted to was the writers, David in particular, writing two great roles for young woman to play, which is rare in our business and certainly casting Nadia was bold and exciting for matters of diversity. In the year of all the heat on the Oscars and lack of casting of African Americans I felt our film really addressed that head have female leads, diverse casting is why I'm extremely proud to produce this film.

From there when I found Ira was on board I KNEW I would move mountains and give all I can to see this film get into theaters. A real North Carolina acting treasure and as I grew up in Raleigh but I left for grad school to Los Angeles I remembered seeing on the stage and it empowered me to move forward in my own career, first acting then screenwriting. 
A film I love is Whiplash, since Whip I've been jonesing to work on a film with the love of music at its core and along came The Believers.

What I'm working on in the producing end is funding, fundraising, adding crew members, negotiating venues and working on budgets, press and publicity, festival admissions, general council, Union / Sag negotiations, and cheerleading the team. Green Eyes Productions is a financial contributor of the film and we have several employees in key crew positions.

Nadia, tell me about your character.

Nadia Jones  Melanie is a sheltered biracial upperclass young woman who is mentally controlled by her father's desire to be accepted into the upperclass society. She mechanically flows through life without feeling emotion.

What stage of devopment is the film currently at?

David Quillin  Production has started. We're focusing on logistically simpler scenes first. We are filming and fundraising contemporaneously, which is kind of a unique position to be in.

Julie Alley  We will resume filming in June. We also are teachers and were approached by North Carolina School of the Arts to have two interns on the summer portion of filming on the shoot. We have two students learning Director of Photography and Assistant Director who will share those positions. I'm extremely excited or this part of our shoot especially.

How are you raising funds?

Julie Alley  We've only made one attempt at fundraising thru Indiegogo and in that process we learned a lot about what we did right and wrong, having said that we only spread word through the the immediate cast and some crew so the net wasn't cast very wide. We will revamp our fundraising campaign and relaunch in May. 

As for film funding we just added a line producer/Steve Landon and we will cast in the usual ponds/ international film finance, producer's guild and other indie outlets. Sadly we were denied funding by the North Carolina Film Commission largely because we are not spending back enough money into the state but our relationship w them/Guy Gaster is very strong and we have received advice/guidance. It's a constant and daily struggle. David has financed out of pocket and when it's all said and done he will have provided 70% of the budget with the remains coming from Green Eyes Productions and various fundraising/funding efforts.

Looking forward to seeing this movie and we wish you the best of luck with it.

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