Inspired by their own upbringing in Atlanta, the Ebo sisters created Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. as both a love letter and critique of the Southern mega-church culture.
Nothing is off limits to being questioned and laughed at. Or, at least that’s how Adamma and Adanne Ebo see it to be.
By centering their film around a Southern Baptist church, the Ebo sisters knew it would get pushback. Nonetheless, they decided to make it anyway and their bold leap has paid off ever since in more ways than one.
Initially, Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul was a short film, which was backed by Issa Rae’s Short Film Sundays. Fast forward to three years and many rewrites later, their story went from being a Sundance hit to being acquired by Focus Features, Peacock, and Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions, as well as produced by Daniel Kaluuya’s 59% Productions — marking the Ebo sisters’ first feature film.
Starring Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown, the satirical comedy follows Trinitie, the first lady of a Southern Baptist megachurch, and Pastor Lee-Curtis Childs, who finds himself in a big scandal. Devoted to her husband, Trinitie supports Lee-Curtis in the tough mission to revitalize their church and congregation after being previously shut down.
Writer and director Adamma Ebo credits Kaluuya for taking the big step to bring her mockumentary to the big screen.
“It was probably around the time when Daniel [Kaluuya] was like, “I think this could be something,” she shared with Shadow and Act. “I think I was in a spot where it was written and I had shown it to people, but I was like I don’t know if it’s ready to be made. And Daniel was like, ‘Just do it.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, you’re right. We should.’”
Early on, Hall was a fan of the film’s writing, format, and the impact it could potentially have.
“I read the script and really just had a response to all of the characters, the world, the church, and point of view,” Hall said in a recent interview with Shadow and Act. “I always love something that feels a little scary and a little challenging, and it did. I loved the mix of drama and comedy but I loved the mockumentary feel of it. I thought that the way that it would be shot with good execution would be really just interesting.”
Support from the likes of Hall, Brown, and Kaluuya was only a glimpse of the team the Ebo sisters would build, which Adanne recognized was critical to have.
“The importance of picking the right people for your team,” the producer said off the bat of what she learned from her first feature film. “You’re going to be with one specific project for a very long time which means you’re going to be with the people on the team for the project for a very long time.”
She added: “I think making sure to have people who are truly supportive of you and your vision is key.”
In regard to a strong team, Hall and Brown were right on board not only as actors but producers. From first reading the script to being on set, they each believed in the sisters and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
The collaborative feel ultimately allowed for the two to have standout performances in the film.
“These two sisters were so dialed in,” Brown told us. “It didn’t seem like it was their first film at all whatsoever. They seemed incredibly comfortable in the roles they were occupying while we were doing this thing. They had a strong vision and they knew what they wanted to make. And it was such a joy to be in the hands of someone who wasn’t just fishing for stuff. We have something that we want to say.”
To get the film’s message across through the cast’s performances, Nicole Beharie was along for the ride. As Pastor Shakura Sumpter, the actress played a role in diving into the depiction of church leaders.
“The biggest thing that I take away from this is that anyone in a position of leadership is a human being,” Beharie said. “And there are a lot of complexities and levels in the responsibility, but also the facade that people put up for whatever reason. It seems impenetrable, but it’s thin sometimes.”
Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. opens in theaters and streams on Peacock on Sept.2.