*The film “Jumping the Broom” is a testament to faith, both in one’s work and in a higher power. From concept to the big screen it has taken over 10 years to get everything lined up and ready to go.
It tells the age old story of an “uptown” girl and a “downtown” boy that wish to live happily ever after. Unfortunately, their families don’t quite see things the same way. The film stars Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine, Paula Patton, Laz Alonso, Mike Epps, and Meagan Good. It’s directed by Salim Akil, and is already getting major love at screenings.
Recently EURweb’s Lee Bailey spoke with the creative forces behind “Jumping the Broom,” screenwriter/producer Elizabeth Hunter and producer Glendon Palmer about the movie’s ins and outs. Here, Hunter tells why film’s setting is based in Martha’s Vineyard.
“That community has been there since the beginning of Martha’s Vineyard and they’re very serious about their presence there,” said Hunter of the African American community on the island. “They’re mostly in Oak Bluff, but there are different areas and they were very welcoming to us when we filmed there. I would like to think that the reason why the movie studios were so open to this is President Obama. He kind of raised awareness of this kind of community existing. They are a very proud community that has probably been there since before the Kennedys.”
By now some of our readership that may be somewhat familiar with the film know that it was a long time coming. Hunter told us that this, like most ideas, started with a conversation.
“It was 10 years ago and I was at the NAACP Awards,” she explained. “I was there on behalf of “E.R.” and I had invited a very smart man to be my date, Glendon Palmer. The two of us were sitting there and talking about the types of movies that we would like to see on the big screen.”
“We wanted to see images of black men who loved black women and of black women who loved black men, as Angela Basset’s character says in the movie, no matter what,” she continued. “Plus, love of community and love of family. From those grandiose ideas I came up with the story, and came up with the treatment and we pitched it around town. We kept getting rejected I think in part because people weren’t aware that there was this kind of community that existed in Martha’s Vineyard 10 years ago or there was the African American super rich.”
The term “jumping the broom” is as integral to the mosiac of the experiences of African Americans as any symbol that this writer can think of. Elizabeth explains a little history behind the film’s title.
“Well, there’s a little discrepancy because there are some that say jumping the broom began in Africa, but most African American history before the Emancipation was oral history and we can’t be certain,” she explained. “For my purposes, slaves could not be married. They just legally could not get married so the only way that they could show their union was to jump the broom.”
(Editor’s note: Jumping the broom is also practice by Romani, also known as Gypsies, in Wales.)
In addition to having the considerable industry might of Producer Tracey Edmonds behind it, “Jumping the Broom” also has the blessings of Bishop T.D. Jakes, who appears in the film as Reverend James. Here, Hunter talks about the movie’s religious undertones.
“The reason why there was such a good marriage, so to speak, between us and Bishop T.D. Jakes is that in a marriage there are certain things that are inherently religious in terms of the scriptures and in terms of what we’re going to be reading in the wedding,” said Hunter. “Also, it helped us flesh out a couple of the characters. Like, it’s very difficult for audiences to get behind someone who is trying to break up a wedding and the fact that we cast Loretta Devine in the role makes it easier because she’s so loveable. On top of that, her religious conviction helped make her character more sympathetic.”
As far as we can tell, “Jumping the Broom” is doing its best to linger in that goldilocks zone of black filmmaking in that it doesn’t bring you to buffoonish highs, nor gangster violence induced lows. It’s trying to be as close to “real life” as it can.
“These are just average people that struggle with average problems. There’s nothing that is very extreme. If you sat at my family dinner table that’s exactly the type of conversation we would be having. Everything is not always the white man’s fault. The idea is that hopefully this is a movie that will play well in the African American community, then play well outside.”
Glendon Palmer, the film’s co-creator and “smart date” of which Elizabeth Hunter spoke, may not have had a hand in creating the actual screenplay/script, but he had a significant role in the logistics of it all.
“Tracey Edmonds wanted to make a black wedding movie and was having trouble finding one,” said Palmer. “So I told her about the idea that Elizabeth and I had done and showed her the first draft. She read it, she loved it and she decided we wanted to move forward.”
This was in the early part of the decade. So did this dynamic duo come up with a great idea, then stuff in the back of some kitchen drawer? Not exactly. Palmer explains.
“It’s not that it sat around, but from time to time, when people were looking for a story, we would shop it around,” said Glendon. “Treatments are very hard to sell in Hollywood. A lot of people would express interest in the treatment, but then something would happen and they would go away. Producers would say they have money and wanted to develop the script. They really didn’t have money and they went away. When writer Arlene Gibbs came on to flesh it out that’s what put the ball in motion.”
“(Tracey Edmonds) loved it and we looked into attaching a filmmaker, talent,” he continued. “And at the same time to get other people’s point of view. I spoke to DeVon Franklin, who is a good friend of mine and a VP at Sony Pictures, and he read the script, he had some notes, then he calls me back a month later and said ‘I have a deal with Bishop Jakes, I want to find a film for them. This could be that film.’ The Bishop’s team read the script, they loved it, and a year later we were shooting the film.”
“It may have seemed as if it took a long time,” interjected Hunter. “But from draft to production it took only 2 years. So, in Hollywood that’s pretty amazing.”
“Jumping the Broom,” from Tristar/Sony Pictures, opens in theaters nationwide on May 6th. It stars Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine, Paula Patton, Laz Alonso, and Mike Epps.