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Racially polarizing thriller ‘The Red Effect’ will wreak havoc on your mind at SF Black Film Festival

June 6, 2017

by The People’s Minister of Information JR

In “The Red Effect,” a film inspired by the murder of Trayvon Martin and made prior to Ferguson and the many rebellions that followed, actor Pierre Walters plays Glenn Johnson, head of a second-chance program that the 19-year-old victim had just graduated from. Johnson delivers an epic, on-camera rant standing up for his students that makes him the voice his community desperately needs after decades of racial injustice. In this scene, photographer Thomas Huggins films Tracy Allyn, playing a reporter interviewing Johnson.

One of my favorite movies in the San Francisco Black Film Festival is a racially polarizing thriller named the “The Red Effect.” Although the plot is about a fictitious murder of a Black man by a white supremacist, while watching you can feel the real spirits of Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Sandra Bland and countless other Black people who made national news because they were murdered by racist vigilantes or police.

Politically, I did not dig some of the main characters’ choices, but creatively I give Pierre Walters and his crew a salute because predictability is boring and safe. In being unpredictable, the writers of “The Red Effect” exhibited intellect, wit, courage and cunning with the many ups and downs in the story.

Pierre Walters, lead actor and an original creator of “The Red Effect,” sat down to do an exclusive interview with me about his flick. Check him out in his own words.

M.O.I. JR: Where did you get the idea for this film from?

Pierre Walters: The idea for “The Red Effect” came from our country’s collective reaction to the murder of Trayvon Martin and subsequent racially motivated killings of people of color – specifically children. We wanted to explore the effects of these events on their local communities and how communities can come together to react and improve based on these events.

M.O.I. JR: The film has a lot of interesting twist and turns. Where and how did you learn to tell stories like that?

Wanting a diverse crew to make a film that encourages people to help each other instead of pointing blame and to expose the hypocrisy of “post-racial America,” director-producer Jordan Miller cast a white woman, Tracy Allyn, as the reporter who wouldn’t let even her editor give up on covering the case of a young Black man murdered by a white man.

Pierre Walters: This film is a reflection of the collective experience and perspective of the director, writers, producers and everyone who helped us shape this story on paper before anyone ever called “action.” Life itself is full of twists and turns. Issues are hardly ever just straight-forward or “black and white.”

With each of our films, we seek to not only tell compelling stories, but to tell them from a very real place. To be able to capture that relatable, complex energy within this film and have it translate so well with the viewers is a great honor.

M.O.I. JR: What do you think about all of the vigilante whites killing Blacks in Trump’s America? Without giving away the plot, why did you make this film controversial in dealing with this issue?

Pierre Walters: The film isn’t controversial because we set out to make it so. Rather, the issue itself is controversial and it needs to be something that we can all be in dialogue about together. It’s all too easy to point the finger and say, “You, you are the bad guy” or “You people are doing this to yourselves,” but the truth is so much more nuanced, systematic and even internal.

M.O.I. JR: How did you name “The Red Effect”? What does the name mean?

Pierre Walters: Red is a very emotionally intense color. Typically, it is associated with war, energy, aggression and determination while also being associated with passion, desire and love.

Any situation where we act from an emotionally intense place – especially without considering the circumstances, context or consequences – will result in a potent effect not just on yourself, but on the others around you as well. The question is, what kind of effect do you want to have?

M.O.I. JR: How long did it take for you to complete “The Red Effect” from pre-production to post-production?

Pierre Walters: It took about two years to complete the film.

M.O.I. JR: Where else have you screened “The Red Effect”?

Pierre Walters: The film was shown at a private screening for the cast, crew and their families at the DC Arts Center in Washington, D.C. It also was shown for its world premiere in March 2017 at the Queens World Film Festival in Queens, New York.

M.O.I. JR: How have Black audiences responded to this film? White audiences?

Pierre Walters: We’ve had a variety of responses from all sorts of people about the film. People have said they felt conflicted about the decisions that our main character made or that they would have made other decisions in certain situations.

It was producer Myles Franklin, along with actor Pierre Walters, who came up with the concept for “The Red Effect.” It is Franklin’s third film.

The most common question we’ve gotten is what exactly are we trying to say? Whose side are we on?

To hear these questions being asked to us is a great thing because it shows us that we have presented these issues in a way that leaves people just a little bit uncomfortable. But they are TALKING!

They are trying to understand. Even if they don’t necessarily agree with all of the characters or their choices, there is still something that they can relate to and that makes it a much more interesting conversation.

M.O.I. JR: What is the main message that you are trying to convey with this film?

Pierre Walters: The main thing we wanted to accomplish with this film was to bring a more personal awareness to the issues that haunt our communities every day. No one wants to feel as though their lives don’t matter or that they are the villain simply from the color of their skin, and yet it happens much more often than most would like.

What can we do about this as a nation? What part can we play to begin to shift the emotional intensity into well thought out action?

M.O.I. JR: Your film looks very good. Can you talk a little bit about the cinematography, the post production and the equipment used?

Pierre Walters: Thank you! Our directory of photography, Thomas Huggins, is an extremely talented guy. We’re very thankful to have such a team of talented folks from the music artists who were drawn to work with us because of the content of the film to the amazing motion graphics artists and editors.

M.O.I. JR: How does it feel to be selected to screen in the SF Black Film Festival?

Pierre Walters: We are deeply honored to have been selected for the SF Black Film Festival and we hope that as part of the festival others can enjoy our film.

M.O.I. JR: How do people keep up with you?

Pierre Walters: To stay in touch and follow the latest news for “The Red Effect” or any other films that we are working on, visit www.facebook.com/theredeffectfilm.

The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey, journalist, author and filmmaker, can be reached at blockreportradio@gmail.com or on Facebook. And tune in to BlockReportRadio.com.

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