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The Black Panther
1980, 93m, action, crime, thriller
Donald Neilson was an ex-soldier who was already screwed up when he joined the army, volunteering for everything regarding combat and survival skills, including urban and jungle warfare, where he spent a lot time living in the wild in Britain’s post-colonial wars. He saw combat and did a lot of killing and torture, a very dangerous killing machine. When discharged he never stopped playing soldiers and went on a crime and killing spree during his crimes. Night-time raids on post offices and banks, commando style, ending in kidnapping a hairless for ransom who died in the bungled attempt.
Produced by: Ian Merrick
Cast: Donald Sumpter, Debbie Farrington, and Marjorie Yates
The 3-week run for The Black Panther ended on May 15th, 2016. Thank you to all the fans that supported it!
10 questions with The Black Panther director, Ian Merrick at the half-way mark.
Wednesday, May 4th, 2016
1Hi Ian! Thanks again for being a part of our 2016 Spring Festival. First, what was the initial seed that made you want to make The Black Panther? I had to choose a strong and famous subject, but low budget, to make my mark as a first time director. So when a distributer suggested the subject, I put the two together and raised the funding.
2This film was banned in the UK in 1977 when the film was released. The film is very intense but not exceedingly violent (at least by today's standards) so why do you think your film was banned? The subject was very controversial because the press had bribed the police to give them the ransom exchange location. This was bungled and when the kidnapper discovered the press presence it obviously spooked him, which effectively sealed the kidnap victims death. Also after learning to make guerrilla films in New York, I went back to England to the biggest financial and social collapse of all time. The subject reflected what I saw, decay, which also annoyed the establishment because they saw me as an upstart with my New York confidence, which they hated and so fell in with the press and police to get the film banned.
3The film also doesn't portray the police in a positive light. Do you think that may have played a role in getting the film banned? Yes as per my previous note.
4The Black Panther was your first feature film. How did you know you were ready to make a feature film? What prepared you? I had studied still photography in London and went to America to get experience. This led me to being offered a photography position in a team of young cutting edge new wave guerrilla film makers, like John Avildsen. I was soon producing films with them and these two things together, added to my belief that going back to the UK to make my first direction, I would be a bigger fish in a smaller pond and so give me a better chance to get a film off the ground with my new New York guerrilla techniques.
5How did you feel once you found out your film was banned? What did you do? I was overwhelmed by the force and intensity of the outcry and rejection which took two years in all to play out. I was finished but I had to stay in the UK as the authorities including the UK equivalent of the IRS., told me not to leave the country until they had finished an investigation into my finances and bankrupt company. They tried everything to indict me but couldn't. When I was free of investigation I came back to the USA exhausted and broke but free.
6In 2012 the film was remastered and resurrected into the British Film Institutes Archives and Hall of Fame, as an important British film. How did it feel to have your film validated almost 35 years after the film was made? Happy to be reprieved and somewhat honored but also saddened, as I felt it proved my talent which somehow was never rewarded as it should have been at the time and which effected my career. I was not known in the USA and as there was no VHS, DVD or internet in those days. I could not screen my film as I didn't even have a print and even if I had, would not have been able to afford a screening of it at $200 a screening.
7You told me you moved to Hollywood after your film and you had some role in the making of E.T. Could you tell us a little about that story? I did not do well in Hollywood, being broke, staying with a friend without a car, unable to get around and find an agent. But I met Tom Luddy, of the now Telluride Film Festival and he got me to San Francisco and introduced me to the film makers at Francis Coppola's Zoetrope Studio's, where I got an office and sort of directors residency. He also somehow got a print of The Black Panther and showed it at the Pacific Film Archives and Coppola's Broadway house, to great reviews and interest The story editor there, a very encouraging lady, (Im not going to use names because of legal reasons) was very encouraging, so I started to write my ideas and share them with her. I was very interested in UFO's at the time and Roswell. I was also saddened at the way the scientists contained the aliens and even cut up one of their bodies, found dead at the crash sight, to find out how their anatomy worked. It was then that I came up with the idea that the only person who would protect and love a lost alien would be a child, a little boy. So I developed a story outline along those lines and shared it with my lady at Zoetrope and the rest is sub judicy. So have to leave it to your imagination..
8You've seen independent change over so much time. What are your thoughts on independent cinema? What's changed and what's exactly the same? In the early days there was a thriving independent landscape and market Now there are more independent film makers than ever chasing a release in a smaller but more major studio and independent structure. So it gets harder to find funds for films because a lot loose money and finance is more wary. So the only way for a new filmmaker is to make a film at any cost and get noticed at a film festival. There was only Cannes when I started but now there are hundreds. However there are two things that haven't changed. The cinema is still King for a successful film and career and there is still plenty of room for talent to somehow emerge if your young, have persistence and stamina and a good screenplay. But most of all you have to have luck, when your stars cross and you are noticed in the jungle of filmmaking.
9Where can people go to find out more about the incredible story of life of this film? On various sights like Vimeo and a newspaper story by John Patterson of the prestigious newspaper, The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/filmblog/2012/jun/06/the-black-panther-donald-neilson
10What's next? Ive developed a magical screenplay based on the famous true story about Findhorn, which is very spiritual and environmental. "The Garden of Angels." www.thegardenofangels.com Against all odds a destitute family, alone and living in a trailer on a desolate wasteland, grows a stunning garden in nothing but sand, that produces giant vegetables and flowers with help from extraterrestrials, i. e., E. T. 's in the garden" Otherwise known as "Angels" and "Nature Spirits". To do this I have developed a method whereby I can guarantee with an asset class the return of the investors funds, whether the film is a success or not at the box office. What comes around goes around.
About the Interviewer: Ben Hicks
Ben Hicks is a writer/director and co-founder of Fandependent Films. Ben is currently working on making Fandependent Films awesome and is finishing up his first feature film entitled Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time which was selected for the 2017 IFP Narrative Lab.
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