Photos Courtesy of SAR Productions
Stephen Lloyd Jackson earned accolades from critics and audiences alike for his movie “DAVID IS DYING” the first in his trio of “sex and race” thrillers. “SABLE FABLE,” Jackson’s latest entry, hopes that lightening will strike again. The story explores the complex psychology of love, sex and race amongst four very different couples whose lives intertwine with one another through a series of unfortunate events.
“SABLE FABLE” took approximately 18 months to complete and thus far has been well received by audiences among the film festival circuit. This past summer the film won two Grand Jury prizes at the 17th Annual American Black Film Fest. Jackson was presented with the Best Director and Best Narrative Film by legendary filmmakers Spike Lee and Robert Townsend.
There are plans to screen “SABLE FABLE” in Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Washington DC. The film will have its Chicago
premiere at the 49th Chicago International Film Festival on Friday October 18, Sunday October 20 and Wednesday October 23 at AMC River East 21. Jackson chatted with PrideIndex about this independently produced gem.
PRIDEINDEX (PI): The last time PrideIndex talked to you your movie “DAVID IS DYING” had earned critical acclaim from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. What should audiences expect to see this time around with “SABLE FABLE?”
STEPHEN LLYOD JACKSON (SLJ): Audiences should expect to be dazzled and emotionally moved by “SABLE FABLE.” It will also surprise them with its audacious twists and daring narrative.
PI: Relationships and race are recurrent themes in “SABLE?” What else do you cover?
SLJ: The film also covers incest, suicide and murder. Although “SABLE“ is somewhat of a social drama, the film sometimes taps into the thriller genre too.
PI: Briefly describe your filmmaking journey to bring this film to the market place.
SLJ: “SABLE FABLE” was an idea that I had in treatment form for over five years. I was apprehensive about scripting it earlier, as I doubted my adeptness as a storyteller to afford it the justice and honesty that I thought it deserved. Moreover, to put it into a film format, I believed at the time that it would be inconceivable. I had no idea whether to approach it as a documentary or movie.
However, after I started my production company in 2010 and the inception of “DAVID IS DYING.” I was sure that “SABLE FABLE” would be the second movie in the ‘sex and race’ trilogy. You see, “DAVID IS DYING” paved the way for my new style of filmmaking. It gave me the confidence to shoot features in a documentary fashion, but still staying true to an authentic film narrative. And as a matter of fact, after the relative success of “DAVID…” I had the audacity to really delve into some crazy filmmaking ideas that I picked up over the years. I mean I really studied the way in which the human eye works with light and human movement. So I packaged and documented it as a blueprint to shoot “SABLE…” The brief that I gave to my cinematographer, Magdalena Kowalczyk was to shoot it in an erratic manner. Just as the brief that was given to Charlie Emseis, the editor was to cut the film almost like an action video game. They both did a great job.
All of my lead actors were also great too. James Williams who plays ‘Dark Mark’ was a gift from the film gods. In his audition, James reminded me of a young Sidney Poitier. He added a new dimension to ‘Dark Mark’. Sheila Nortley, who plays Mark’s girlfriend ‘Vanessa’, was beautiful, elegant and powerful in her performance, but all props going out to her because this was her debut-acting role. She was originally brought on board as one of the associate producers, before displaying her hidden talents while rehearsing with actors for the ‘Dark Mark’ role. Also, Frida Munting who plays Zara did a brilliant job. She captured the essence of ‘Zara’ to a ‘T’. Daniel Bailey who plays ‘Darren’ delivered the goods as usual. He did a small part in ‘David Is Dying’ and I told him that he would be working with me in my next movie. Nicole Hartley who plays ‘Chloe’ was great in her debut feature film role too. I was very lucky to have such an abundance of talent around me. And those names mentioned were just half of the cast.
In addition to that, I only had a five person crew to shoot “SABLE..,” which I found challenging at times, but as a whole, I thought this was like painting a master piece.
PI: What is the significance of the name “SABLE FABLE?” Where did find your muse for this film?
SLJ: The significance of the name “SABLE FABLE” is “dark story.”
PI: How long did it take to complete this film from start to finish?
SLJ: In total it took approximately 18 months to complete the film, excluding the writing process. Nine months pre-production, about a month for the principal photography-including pick-up shots and about another seven months to cut and grade the film.
PI: “SABLE ..” has recently won two Grand Jury prizes at the 17th Annual American Black Film Fest; you were presented with an award by legendary filmmakers Spike Lee and Robert Townsend. What was that experience like?
SLJ: As they say in America – it was awesome! Both filmmakers, Spike Lee and Robert Townsend are pioneers in the film industry and I have a lot of respect for them and their work.
At the 17th American Black Film Festival awards ceremony, while Robert Townsend was reading out the nominees for ‘Best Director’, he invited all the nominated directors on stage. There were about five of us standing there, as Robert was about to say whom the winning director was. But as is typical of all comedy geniuses, Robert turned that tense moment into a very funny gag. He convinced us directors and the audience to think that someone called him on his mobile phone. So imagine this, “…And the winner is… (Phone rings) Hello – Um yeah, yeah…” and so on. It was a great moment of laughter and intense anxiety.
Spike Lee was also cool. As he presented me with the Grand Jury Prize of Best Narrative Film, we had a little joke on stage about the London premier football team, sorry, ‘soccer’ team Arsenal. Spike’s a big fan of them and so am I. It was an honor sharing a platform, albeit for a brief moment, with two giants of the film industry and to receive an award from each of them.
PI: If you had the chance to work with any only one African American actor who would you choose? Why?
SLJ: Wow! You’re kidding me? I refuse to answer that question and will have to take the fifth. No, but seriously, there’s just so much talent in that area and also, it would depend on the role, movie genre, male or female artist, etc.
Incidentally, you asked me this question two years ago, after I completed “DAVID IS DYING” and I said Denzel Washington. So because of that, when I approached other ‘A’ list African American actors for a recent project, they asked me, what happened to Denzel? So I’ve learned a lesson: THEY’RE ALL-GREAT AND I’D LOVE TO WORK WITH THEM ALL!
PI: “SABLE FABLE” is movie number two of you’re ‘trilogy of sex and race films,” would you like to give us the scoop on your third film?
SLJ: “DAVID…” was my first-born in the ‘sex and race’ trilogy and exceeded all my expectations. It really did. “SABLE” is my middle child and I brought everything I learnt from “DAVID…” and quadrupled it in the delivery of SABLE FABLE – a true independent endeavor, if you don’t mind me saying so. By choice, I had a crew of just five people on set, a feast of great actors and I think it’s safe to say that their talent (cast & crew) and hard work was phenomenal, as you’ll see.
As for my last ‘child’ or film in the ‘sex and race’ trilogy, I’ll be entering into the world of mental illness. A very serious subject matter, that can and may affect us all. However, hopefully I’ll be delivering a dark, but rather sardonic tragic piece. I’ve already completed the treatment and will be working on the script shortly.
PI: Do you have plans to attend the Chicago premiere of the film on October 18? If not it had better be for a good reason. (Smiles)
SLJ: Definitely! I try to attend all my film’s premieres. I see it as going to see my child’s first school play or football, sorry, ‘soccer’ game. But seriously, I love the city of Chicago – the food, people and architecture. As for the 49th Chicago International Film Festival, it’s a great festival and I believe it’s one of the oldest film festivals in the world. They really look after and appreciate independent filmmakers, as do a lot of the other film festivals I’ve been fortunate to have my film screened at in the USA.
PI: Where else do you plan on showing this film?
SLJ: We’re in talks to screen in Los Angeles, Atlanta and Washington DC. There are also discussions of a return to New York this December. We’re also in the process of planning a London premiere screening in the early part of 2014.