*Brian White co-stars alongside Teyonah Parris (“Chi-Raq“), Leon Robinson and Macy Gray in “Where Children Play,” an indie drama about a young woman who is forced to nurse the father ho abused her after her mother’s death. Directed by Leila Djansi, the film released December 1 on DVD and digital, and is Djansi’s 5th feature film since 2009 (both in the USA and in Ghana).
EUR chatted with Brian White about the project and Leila’s “unique voice” as an African storyteller. As Shadow and Act notes, “there aren’t many black women filmmakers directing feature films at an almost annual pace,” and White told us this is one of the reasons he signed on to work with her (again), “her point of view as an African is very unique and inspirational,” he said.
Were you sold on the your character the moment it was pitched to you, or did you sign on after you read the script?
Brian: I worked with Leila Djansi before. I was introduced to her by my manager. I fell in love with her voice as an African woman. I’ve had the honor of working with so many male and female incredible storytellers from all over the world, but I’ve never had the opportunity to work with anyone of African decent as a director. Her point of view as an African is very unique and inspirational. When she called me up to say ‘I want to work with you again, here’s the pitch of the story,’ I said yes right away and she told me I wasn’t allowed to say yes until I read the script. So I read the script and two hours later I called her back and said yes ten more times because I really liked what the character had to say.
White plays Jeremy Spencer, the friend and love interest of Belle (Parris), a young woman who never found a bright future because she was too busy running away from a heartbreaking past. Only when she finds the strength to confront her family’s shameful history does she learn that forgiveness has the power to heal the scars of a broken childhood and unlock her heart to the possibility of love.
There are moments where it felt like both Jeremy and Belle were using each other to fill an emotional void.
Brian: He’s looking for a wife and she’s looking for her first love, and those are two very different places. She’s just trying to find out how to love herself, and I think through her journey with him, that’s his gift to her and her gift to him is friendship. They nourish each other and I think he realizes that this is somebody he wants to be around but (also) somebody he needs to be cautious with.
“Where Children Play,” the title suggests this is the ‘happy place’ where kids go to escape the abuse and trauma at home.
Brian: Leila tells very personal stories, so a lot of elements, a lot of scenarios from this story happened to Leila, and at intimate moments throughout production, she would choose to share things with us to shade or color our performance. Where Children Play to me is, everybody’s emotional censor comes from that happy place at childhood, and if you don’t have one, that shapes your character as well. In this movie, Teyonah’s character gets to re-enter that childhood place where she used to play, to adjust her point of view that’s effecting her entire life. I think the simplification of this story is to open yourself up to that childhood place, deal with it and come out the other side feeling better and a more well-adjusted person.
There’s an important message in this movie that may be missed by its target audience because it’s not backed by a major studio for a nationwide theatrical release. Why the decision to release VOD?
Brian: The film is distributed by Bob Johnson and (he) decided rather than go to theaters, which cost millions of dollars to promote and seldom works out well for independent films that don’t have George Clooney in them, he decided to go this way and on this date where Teyonah has everyone checking for her anyway (with “Chi-Raq”). Laila’s goal is to have an impact. There’s commercial success and then there’s films that have an impact. Sometimes less is more.
Check out the trailer for “Where Children Play” below.