Happy Thursday Stage 32!
As you may recall, back in May we launched "The Making of We are Freestyle Love Supreme" blog series, written by producer, director, and Stage 32 educator, Andrew Fried. Throughout this three-part blog series, Andrew chronicles his epic filmmaking adventure that began in Scotland in 2005 videotaping Lin-Manuel Miranda's pre-'Hamilton' improv hip-hop group, Freestyle Love Supreme.
This amazing documentary is 15-years in the making and beautifully illustrates the passion and vigor that goes into all facets of storytelling. Andrew's story is effortlessly inspirational and is sure to fan the flame of any and all of your creative sparks.
At the end of 2018, I started preparing, as Tommy Kail had so simply put it, to finish our movie. There was to be a one-month run of Freestyle Love Supreme at the Greenwich House Theatre in the West Village. We would capture as many shows as we could, interview the cast and creative team, and in following the journey of their Off-Broadway run, attempt to look back and contextualize the importance of this group on the individuals who are a part of it.
I decided almost immediately that the movie we would make would not be THE history of Lin-Manuel Miranda or even THE history of Freestyle Love Supreme. It would very simply be my story of it. There were large spans of time that I was not filming with the guys. There would be large chunks of footage that would not be found in those old boxes of tapes. So not out of ego or creative vision per se, but rather out of creative necessity, we would try to contextualize and tell the story of the footage we did have. Lean into it. Don’t try to be overly ambitious. Tell the story you have, not the story you wish you had.
This simple idea was paramount to how we were ultimately able to edit the movie as well. We have to make our movie. When I think about how this film was actually created – there is a list of people who are incredibly important to the telling of this story. Brian Anton and Peter Curtis edited the film. They breathed life into something that only existed in my head as a vague idea. They made art from chaos. They are warriors and saints all at the same time.
Andrew Fried and Bryant Fisher
Bryant Fisher, our DP, is actually a character in this movie. From the time the rehearsals for the Off-Broadway run begin, the characters on camera are often performing for him and to him, up close, in the dressing room, on the rehearsal stage. Bryant is their audience and he brings out the very best in them while observing things in them that they often don’t realize they are showing. And the footage all just looks so great. The entire Boardwalk Pictures team in Santa Monica who supported us from 3000 miles away, always making us feel like they were just up the block. The list goes on.
But I made this movie with Tommy and Sarina. To try to put words to it only shrinks it. Tommy Kail in many ways willed this film into existence, and Sarina Roma just made everything happen. She is my partner in making this. She is a part of every frame of it and making it together was so rewarding and just so much fun. In the Fall of 2018, there was no movie. One year later we were racing against a deadline to try to get our movie into Sundance. I think without Sarina I would still be sitting in my office in LA trying to figure out what to do next.
Sarina Roma and Andrew Fried at Sundance
I’ve done a fair bit of research into this, and I’m pretty sure that I saw my first Freestyle show on July 14, 2005. Fifteen years as it turns out, to the very week that our film WE ARE FREESTYLE LOVE SUPREME was released on Hulu. What a ride and what a privilege for me to have been a part of this, and for it to be a part of me for so long. What a gift. What a blessing. What a thrill.
Although we had waited 15 years to finish our film and share this story, we ended up waiting another 5 weeks longer than we had planned. The film was set to release on Hulu June 5th. But when we all got on a Zoom call on Monday, June 1st, it just didn’t feel right. The Black Lives Matter protests around the country following the murder of George Floyd were at the very forefront of our minds and hearts. How could we ask for anyone’s attention towards anything else? We were not excited about our movie that week. Excitement was the furthest thing from our minds. We put our movie away for a while. We had waited 15 years, we could wait a little longer.
And so, we did. I would be lying to you if I pretended that I had not imagined a huge premiere in New York for when we would have released this movie. FLS on stage after the screening. Flashbulbs on the red carpet. My parents and friends in the audience. But that was not to be.
What replaced that was something beyond my imagination. I think what happened instead, is that we truly captured people’s attention. During a time when perhaps people needed to escape for 82 minutes, when people needed to see grown men hug (a lot) on camera, when people needed to see an audience full of people sitting really close to each other laughing, I think we are able to ask for their time and attention and give them something to care about and be entertained by for a little while.
As they say in every Freestyle Love Supreme show, a sentiment that I would echo to anyone who is clicking our title on Hulu and giving us a try: “Ladies and Gents, we want to thank you all for coming out this evening, ‘cause We Are Freestyle Love Supreme.”
One more thing, before I pass the mic and the spotlight to the next storyteller with a whole new story to tell. It’s not lost on me that so much of Lin, Tommy and Chris’ work revolves around the theme of who tells your story. It’s right there in the final songs of In the Heights and Hamilton. So, for me, as my mother told me to do so many years ago, it has been my distinct honor to be among the people telling theirs.
Andrew Fried is the founder and President of Boardwalk Pictures, producers of premium non-fiction content for multiple networks and distributors including Netflix, Showtime, Quibi, YouTube, and many others. A recipient of multiple awards and 3 Emmy nominations, Fried and Boardwalk strive to elevate and expand the idea of documentary television across an ever-growing unscripted landscape.
Boardwalk Pictures is best known for its award-winning Netflix series CHEF'S TABLE. Now entering its 7th season, CHEF'S TABLE has received 8 Emmy nominations, has won 3 James Beard Awards, and the IDA Award for Best Documentary Series.
Boardwalk’s other recent credits include the Netflix series CHEER, Gwyneth Paltrow's THE GOOP LAB, 7 DAYS OUT, STREET FOOD, and LAST CHANCE U (now in its 4th season), the Showtime series ACTION and YouTube’s BEST SHOT.
Andrew's feature-length directorial debut, WE ARE FREESTYLE LOVE SUPREME, is now streaming on Hulu!
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