Orlando, FL, based independent film production company Stars North has announced its post-coronavirus production for The Highwaymen, written by David Makes Man writing duo Lucien Christian Adderley and Richard ‘Byrd’ Wilson (who are collectively known as writing team 89 Writers). The film will be directed and produced by Woman In Motion director Todd Thompson, who calls The Highwaymen a passion project. Adderley received an S&A Rising Award from Shadow and Act in 2019 for his work on David Makes Man.
The Highwaymen will talk about the Black men and women who became part of one of the culture shifts in the art world.
According to the official description: The Highwaymen tells the largely unknown story of how a group of 25 young African American men and one African American woman, barely out of high school, overcame the economic and social discrimination of the Jim Crow south by teaching themselves how to paint and creating a body of artwork that, 50 years later, would be identified as the “last great art movement of the 20th century.”
The group, led by nineteen-year-old Alfred Hair, were seeking to escape hard labor in citrus groves fields and packinghouses. They crafted their works from left-over construction material and house paint, creating a distinctive, colorful style that captured the stormy clouds, windy waves, quiet marshes and deserted beaches of an undeveloped Florida that no longer exists. Traveling up and down Central Florida’s highways, they would hawk their paintings from the backs of cars for as little as $20 each, selling to motels, banks, doctor’s offices and tourists, eventually producing over 200,000 works. Due to their “outsider” status, they never received the recognition and respect they deserved, always yearning to be called “artists.”
But in the early 1990s, a curator and art journalist discovered their work in flea markets, antique shops and garage sales. Upon learning how their art was originally produced and sold, he named them “The Highwaymen.” Highwaymen art now adorns the walls of museums, governor mansions –even the White House.
The film has spent more than a decade in development, and now, pre-production and casting are in progress. The film’s official production will begin after Florida’s coronavirus ban is lifted and safety measures for sets and locations are put in place. The film will be one of the first Florida-based films to go into production after the pandemic.
“While our film’s story takes place during segregated times, it transcends racial divide and embodies the great, American dream,” said Thompson in a statement. “In the face of extreme obstacles, these artists captured Florida’s raw, natural beauty and created inspiration, meaning and purpose. I want the audience to experience their struggle but walk away feeling uplifted, enlightened and empowered. The Highwaymen’s experience shows us that when we want to make a difference, there’s nothing greater than hard work, dedication and the power of the human spirit.”
“We’re excited to be part of this project because of our desire to tell Florida stories and take responsibility for getting them out there on a level that exposes the world to Black history in our home state,” said Adderley and Wilson in a statement. “We see similarities between the Highwaymen and ourselves as a team of artists who once traveled from town to town sharing our poetry.”
(L-R) Richard ‘Byrd’ Wilson and Lucien Christian Adderley. Photo credit: Stars North