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After a successful three city run of her award-winning, critically acclaimed play, “Hattie: What I Want You to Know,” Vickilyn Reynolds has found herself in the same position as many filmmakers attempting to produce films that stray from the typical Hollywood formula –searching for funding.
First in Denver, next New York, and finally in Los Angeles, the play, “Hattie: What I Want You to Know,” was met with standing ovations night after night. With a story both so well received by audiences and so little known by the masses, turning it into a film would be the logical next step – and Reynolds has set out to do just that. She along with writing partner Ron Main, completed both a feature film length screenplay of the story. They also created a made for TV version intended for HBO, but Reynolds has faced challenges trying to get the film made.
“When I was shopping it myself it was hard,” admitted the actress who has now turned the task over to her team, 348 Management. “Movie houses just want action…this is the story of a Black woman. Unless she’s a beauty queen, they’re not interested.”
But Hattie was in fact somewhat of a beauty queen in her day according to Reynolds.
“Hattie was a sex symbol of the time,” the actress explains, “her size was sexy then. It wasn’t until Twiggy came on the scene,” she chuckles, “that perceptions on beauty began to change.”
Reynolds, who is full figured herself, carries the same deep brown complexion and high cheek bones of Hattie, giving her a striking resemblance to the late star.
For years Reynolds’ older brother, actor Ron Richardson, as well as her close friend, actor Larry Riley, encouraged her to play Hattie. Riley going so far as to assert that if she were not approached with such a role, she should write and produce one herself. Reynolds, however, was starkly opposed to the idea. At the time, she, like many of Hattie’s peers in her day, considered McDaniel to be a sell out to her people for so often taking the roles of maids and mammies.
It wasn’t until the passing of both her brother and Riley that Reynolds began to reconsider their advice. Feeling the two men had left her the task for a reason, Reynolds began researching the life of the late actress.
Reynolds opinion of Hattie quickly changed once she began uncovering the truth of the actress’ life. In stark contrast to the idea of a ‘sellout’ Reynolds found that Hattie was actually far ahead of her time and a trailblazer in the industry for African Americans.
Slowly, but surely Reynolds began to recognize that the reason for her initial resistance to the Hattie comparisons stemmed from issues she faced of self-hatred as a heavy set dark skinned woman. Researching, writing and starring in the play helped Reynolds work through those issues of self-hatred and she hopes the telling of Hattie’s story will have a similar effect on audiences.
That hope, along with the unyielding support of her husband, helps to fuel Reynolds fire to keep Hattie’s story alive. Renyolds says she has her support team to thank for the courage to continue the journey, one important member being Reverend Shane B. Scott of Macedonia Baptist Church in Los Angeles.
There are many misconceptions about the late actress who bares two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (one for her work in radio, the other for her film work). McDaniel is known best for being the first African American to take home an Academy Award. Reynolds’ goal is to fill in the gaps in Hattie’s Legacy, to give audiences a full picture of who she was all the way around.
The play proved to do just that during its four runs (Colorado, New York, and twice in LA). Reynolds and her team have recently launched a web based fundraising campaign through the indiegogo website to gain funding for a nationwide tour of the show. The traction from that, they hope, can parlay into a movie deal.
Reynolds is looking to take the film the independent route, hoping it will “fall into the right hands” and find success similar to films such as The Help, and 42 which were both independent.
Though selling this kind of movie to big studios isn’t easy, Reynolds and her team remain optimistic.
“One is going to lead to the other,” says Rasheeda Garner of 348 Management, referring to the nationwide tour leading to the making of a film. “We’ve had so many great reviews. People are constantly asking when we’re going back on the road with the play…the scripts have already been written for the film, it’s really an exciting time. The Hattie story is about to explode!” Exclaims Garner.
For more information on the Hattie’s Story visit www.hattiewhatineedyoutoknow.com
To help contribute to the campaign visit: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/530591/emal/3873169