No joke. The Austin community is the location for a film currently in production. The film, My Phamily BBQ2, began production at the Columbus Park Refectory (Jackson Blvd. & Central) on July 19 and will wrap Sunday, Aug. 7.My Phamily BBQ2 is produced and written by Austinite William Pierce. Pierce produced My Phamily BBQ1 back in 2002, and now he and his partner Neil Luspo have undertaken this venture right in the heart of the West Side. My Phamily BBQ2 stars Clifton Davis of the sitcom Amen and BerNadette Stanis of the sitcom Good Times.
Neil Luspo, executive producer said, “We’re with a production company called 23 Hues Production. I’ve been more of an independent investor in some of [Pierce’s] films. In the last year we actually joined forces and combined with the company Urban Multi-Media Inc. We sort of merged together and created this partnership. William Pierce is the president of Urban Multi-Media, and I’m the CEO and since Urban owns 23 Hues, we’re also the owners and partners. Our offices are in Chicago.
“We’ve worked together with the State Treasurer’s office, Judy Baar Topinka. They actually have a program that’s really assisted in the funding of this movie. A $300,000 loan was provided to us by the state that allowed us to shoot this film, as well as additional investors and additional funding that the company had. We picked this spot because it is a beautiful area. Commissioner Barbara McGowan is great. Her staff is great and we see that there is a lot of activity that goes on here. And because the story of this film is a wedding with a Jewish American and African American, it’s a perfect setting. Because this is a banquet hall, beautiful surroundings, the park district looks great, I wouldn’t have any other place than to have this here.”
Luspo said the film is about “an African-American lady named Mia and a Jewish individual named David. What happens is we’re bringing both families together at a wedding rehearsal atmosphere. Now you have two different cultures coming together as one and there are a lot of differences. The African Americans want traditional Baptist and Jewish want their tradition.
“We’ll be finishing up all post-production by the end of August. Our premiere is going to roll out probably in September or first week of October. An actual release date, we’re looking at January or February. The premiere will be right here in Chicago.”Austin Weekly talked with BerNadette Stanis and Clifton Davis during their lunch breaks. Both actors have had successful careers from movies, TV, record albums, sitcoms, variety shows, and writing as well as national commercials. Davis is well known for his role as Rev. Reuben Gregory on the popular television series, Amen. Davis was born in Chicago and is the son of an evangelist. He made his Broadway debut in 1968 with How to Steal an Election. He also wrote the song, “Never Can Say Goodbye,” which was a big hit for the Jackson 5.
Stanis is well known for her role as the daughter Thelma on Good Times. After graduating with honors from high school, Stanis was accepted to The Juilliard School of Music where she received her B.A. degree in drama.
“I started acting in high school,” Stanis said. “I was in Miss Black America, and I won for that and that led me to a manager who told me about Good Times.
“I loved school. Actually I wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to be a psychologist and all of a sudden I got Juilliard and Good Times. I write a lot, and I like to give advice, not that I know the answer to everything. I find that I have a lot of young women that will talk to me about certain things, and I will give them advice. I really like to do that.
“I’ve done a lot of plays on the road. I’ve produced plays off-Broadway and on, and in The Village in New York. I did a play that I produced and starred in, and I’ve been writing. I wrote a book called Situations 101, and it will be coming out in the next couple of months. And I also wrote two books of poetry that will be coming out. Situations 101 is about relationships”it’s based on life experiences.”
Stanis is married and has two children, daughters Dior Ravel and Whitney Rose Cole.
In the film, she said, “I’m the mother to Mia. My daughter is getting married to a Jewish guy, and we’ve accepted it. But the Jewish people don’t know that we are black. He told his mother that Mia was Jewish, so now he has to confront this.”
Clifton Davis said, “My part is Joseph Clark, and I am the uncle of the bride. The movie is really about a young interracial couple struggling to get married, to cross over cultural boundries and the difficulties that they have in trying to do that and honor the child they already had out of wedlock. So I’m one of the side characters. I’m the uncle who has an issue because I’m a minister but I ‘sip’ a little bit. I get a little tipsy and make a fool out of myself. But you have to come to see the film in order to appreciate it.
Davis also has a real-life role as a minister and appears on cable.
“I have a show called Gospel Superfest Backstage Pass. It’s a mixture of variety and talk. We interview some of the celebrities who appear in Gospel Superfest. This year we’re doing it in New York for the second year in a row. We then edited it down and created a half-hour series called Backstage Pass. That’s on the Trinity Broacasting Network.
“Then I have another series on the Inspiration Networks. That show is called Christian Artist Talent Search which is CATS. This is our fourth season coming up, and we just filmed a whole season worth of shows in Charlotte a week ago. I host Praise The Lord on TBN. That’s their number one Christian show in all the world, high rating, big numbers, lot of satelites, global viewers, and I’m proud to be used to the Lord in that way.”
Next, he says, “I do another film called The Taste of Us. I’m heading up a foundation that is going to be feeding the hungry in Brazil and in Africa. I start work on that mid-September. Then I’m also supposed to be doing another film around that time, first of October, called A Priest Named Irving, but I don’t know if they’re going to have their funding, but they asked me to do it.”
Does he ever hear from cast members of Amen?
“Thelma [actress Anna Maria Horsford] and I are very close. We talk all the time. She’s a very good friend of mine, and through her I’m in touch with other cast members, except Sherman [Hemsley]. Sherman moved, I think, to New Mexico and not a whole lot of people have been in touch with him. But he’s a wonderful person.”
William Pierce, who grew up on the West Side, traced the origin of the current film.
“About three years ago we wrote a movie called My Phamily BBQ”me and Fred Spivey. It was a movie based on family, and I had never been to a family reunion before, so I went with what I thought it should be. Fred and I wrote a script. It was one location, really cheap to do, on location and one wardrobe, because it’s one day at a family reunion. It took us two weeks to shoot it, and I sold it to a distributing company called Maverick Entertainment. They put it out, it was at Blockbuster, Wal-Mart. It was everywhere. Blockbuster said it was one of most rented urban independent movies that they had. So because of the success of that movie, Phamily BBQ2 came about.
“I didn’t attend Austin High, but my brother did. Robert Townsend also attended Austin High and my mother [Oak Park resident Joie Pierce] gave him his acting debut. She did a play, and he was around 13 years old and he acted in it.”
After this film, he said, “I’m not sure. We’re still debating what we’re doing next. It’s either going to be a movie called Jump Out Boys or The Forest, which is like a horror movie and Jump Out Boys is more of an urban action movie about Chicago police officers.”
Pierce gives credit to his mom for inspiring him to write.
“My mother showed me how to type at age 8, and I’ve been typing ever since. I had a wild imagination. I saw a movie called Star Wars in 1977, and it just blew my mind. So from there on I was like always imagining and coming up with concepts and coming up with stories.
“Every project I do will be in Chicago”unless Hollywood takes me, unless Hollywood makes me do it somewhere else. But if it’s my prerogative, I will always shoot here.”
• Thanks to Casting Director Kenyatta Mootrie and Commissioner Barbara McGowan for keeping Austin Weekly News informed.