Monday, January 04, 2010

Take 5 with "I AM A MAN: From Memphis, a Lesson in Life"

The 7th annual Oxford Film Festival is getting closer every day. Before we kick off another fun-packed festival, we thought we would take five with filmmakers and get to know them just a little better.

Co-Producer of  "I AM A MAN: From Memphis, A Lesson in Life," John Hubbell is familiar to Mississippians as he was a former managing editor of the Commercial Dispatch in Columbus and also was the writer behind the scenes of the new B.B. King Museum exhibits.

Hubbell's "$5 Cover Amplified" had an early screening at the Oxford Film Festival last year before airing nationally.

"I AM A MAN: From Memphis, A Lesson in Life is screening Friday, Feb. 5 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 7 at 3 p.m. Filmmakers are scheduled to attend.

OFF: In 10 words, describe your movie and why someone should see it.

A fresh, uplifting, postmodern take on the civil rights movement.

OFF: Biggest lesson learned in getting the film made? Best part in getting the film made?

JH: It's possible to back into much-told tales and find something new, break it from clich├ęs, let it breathe and make it relevant for a new generation. This project reaffirmed by belief that sucess in this business is always, relentlessly and incontrovertibly, about story and brokering an honest relationship with your subjects and with the audience. Respect their collective ability to go somewhere new. Never betray them.

Best part: Allowing the strong reception our film has received to wash over the men and women it features. They are nothing less than American heroes, the true backbone of an era soaked in shame and guilt. This film is starting to give them their due. The feeling of being part of that is extraordinary and a true privilege, maybe the highlight of my career.

OFF: Tell us about you. What is your movie making background?

JH: This is my first documentary short. Along with Alan Spearman, Andria Lisle and Eileen Meyer, I wrote and co-produced "$5 Cover Amplified," (, 12 visual portraits of the artists featured in the first season of MTV's "$5 Cover," which was shot in Memphis. Before I started Old Bridge Media, which gets attached to various multimedia storytelling projects, I was a newspaper reporter and editor for the Associated Press, San Francisco Chronicle. I also have a longstanding, weird and itinerant relationship with Missisippi: in the mid-90s, I was managing editor of the Commercial Dispatch in Columbus, and recently was the exhibit writer for the B.B. King Museum in Indianola.

OFF: What’s your dream distribution plan for the film?

JH: Our client, the Memphis Tourism Education Foundation, would love to see this film in every school in America, and accessible to all Memphians. Thanks to great festivals like Oxford letting us in, I think those goals are within reach.

What’s the future hold in store for your film and for you?

JH: For the film: More festivals through the spring, ending a full year's run. We hope to air nationally. In Memphis, the Foundation aspires for "I Am a Man" to be central to the conversation of race, class and character by ongoing public screenings and discussions for years to come.

For me: I remain devoted to maximizing opportunities for "I Am a Man." Meanwhile, I am producing an ongoing multimedia project with the Greater Memphis Chamber and the Memphis Symphony Orchestra ( and finishing a five-year collaboration with the great Memphis soul singer John Gary Williams, due out in 2011.

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