The "PREACHER'S KID" story

Hello everyone, as the January 29th 2010 premiere of my directorial debut “Preacher’s Kid” approaches I can only reflect with amazement, appreciation, and excitement. When I consider the journey in retrospect, “unlikely” is the single word that comes to mind. And we all know that God reveals himself even more in unlikely scenarios. A few years ago I was stressing out while waiting for another studio to green light a script that they’d bought from me. The frustration became so unbearable that to get my mind off of waiting for the phone would ring, I simply started writing something new (Preacher’s Kid). I got the idea initially when I walked into a Radio Shack in Santa Monica, California and on one of the many televisions that played in the store, was Fantasia Barrino on American Idol singing “Summertime”.

I had never seen the show before and was just blown away by her talent. I wanted to get in touch with her to attach her to the project but didn’t want to go the traditional agency route. I found out that she was from High Point, NC and so I went on the internet and tried to identify African American churches in that area. Then I proceeded to go down the list and call each one of them hoping that it was a small enough town that someone at one of those churches I called would know her. Sure enough, I found myself on the phone with her aunt, who in turn connected me with her brother (Fantasia’s father). He and I had a great conversation and he phoned Fantasia on a three-way conference. Unfortunately, he got her voicemail and left a message, but he trusted me enough to even give me her phone number. For the next few weeks I called her but she was so busy recording her new CD that I never caught up with her. I figured I’d just give it some time.

I called a friend of mine (Richard) who happened to be an acting coach to see if he would coach Fantasia in the event that I eventually tracked her down. He asked me what the script was about and when I told him, he said that sounds a lot like this girl that he’d recently coached in the movie “Dreamgirls”. She was a newcomer named Jennifer Hudson. I said thanks, but no thanks. I had my mind set on Fantasia. Then I watched the BET awards and saw Jamie Fox kissing Fantasia on stage. I called another friend (Dave Brown) who was tight with Jamie. Dave knows everyone in “Black Hollywood”. I asked if he could reach out to Fantasia for me. He also asked about the script and said that he knew someone else who would be perfect for the role. They had just worked on “Dreamgirls”… He was referring to Jennifer Hudson. I was like, “this girl must really be amazing”. Dave said that she was already getting Oscar buzz.

That night I went to visit my longtime friends (Angela Bassett & Courtney Vance) to discuss a different project and their nanny told me that she too was from North Carolina and knew Fantasia’s family quite well. When I told her about my script she said that there was another girl on American Idol with Fantasia that would be just as perfect. Yep, she too was talking about Jennifer Hudson. I just couldn’t get away from this girl. I called Dave the next day to see if he could get Jennifer on the phone and he did. She was so sweet and humble that it blew my mind. I asked for her email address to send her the script and ironically her email name was identical to her character in the script. I’m thinking, “This must be fate”. Jennifer called me the next day and said how much she loved the script. She told me that her agent was always sending her scripts to read and she hated reading them, but she’d already read mine four times. She was now my new choice for the role. We talked, emailed & texted quite a bit until the Oscar whirlwind began. Her life was about to change dramatically as Hollywood came to realize what a wonderful job she’d done in “Dreamgirls”.

To her credit, Jennifer was more than gracious in explaining to me that she would no longer be available to be in “Preacher’s Kid”. I totally understood, and we often text and exchange emails to this day. I even used her hit song “Spotlight” in my film. Now I had to actually SELL the film. Fox and Universal both loved the script but we couldn’t make a deal. So now I found myself having to try to sell my movie on my own (without an agent or manager) and with no talent attached. My friend Chris set up a meeting for me at Warner Bros. because he knew the executive there. I was warned that they weren’t looking for anything “faith-based” so I went there intending to pitch some other ideas until the studio executive asked me if I had anything in the “Tyler Perry genre”. Out comes my broad grin and Preacher’s Kid script. They loved the script and with the help of Steve & Matt at Gener8xion Entertainment, I even had a theatrical distributor ready to step in.

Once the movie was greenlit, there were some essential elements that needed to be put in place. I hired the talented Tim Miner to do my music after meeting him at church, Dave Perkel, a brilliant Cinematographer from the show Entourage, and Richard Nord, an Oscar nominated editor. Now we were on to the casting process. Phaedra Harris was my 1st 2nd & 3rd choice for a Casting Director. There was a very strong internal nudging for me to cast newcomer Syesha Mercado (also from American Idol). I was resistant at first, but then I saw her audition tape. She was amazing. She was beautiful with an incredible singing voice, and genuine acting chops. I’d finally found my “Angie”. Now I could focus on the other roles. The role of “Devlin” (my male lead and the films primary antagonist) was not an easy cast. I needed someone who the guys wanted to be and the ladies just wanted. He had to be able to sing. He had to be able to act. But most importantly, he had to have plenty of SWAG.

Of all the actors and singers that auditioned I couldn’t find anyone that had all three. People had told me about this singer named Tank. I’d never heard of him but after he’d missed two prior appointments I had no desire to even read him. I later found out that his manager had scheduled the appointments without realizing that Tank was out on the road doing tour dates. But that still wasn’t enough to convince me. Phaedra and I went to dinner at the Warner Bros. commissary convinced that I would cast another actor. While eating, her cell phone rings and it’s Tank on the line. I told her to tell him that we’d already moved on. Since I wouldn’t get on the phone, she put him on speakerphone. After he apologized for the mix-up, he went on to say that I would be doing my film a disservice if I didn’t at least meet him. Now that got my attention. That was the swag that I was looking for in Devlin. He raced over (and I do mean RACED… in an Audi R8) immediately and sure enough the guy had this charming, likable, almost disarming quality. He came back to read lines the next day and was really good. I’d found Devlin.

Next to audition was a singer named Letoya Luckett. I didn’t know that she had been in Destiny’s Child. In fact, I almost didn’t even give her an audition because I had her confused with Letoya London from American Idol. I had nothing against Ms London (also extremely talented) but I was like, “enough with the American Idols”. Letoya auditioned for the role of Desiree, who happened to be the arrogant, diva character in the film. I was a bit tough on her in the audition and she started to cry. She said she was crying because she was actually more like Angie than Desiree. I never forgot those words. I reluctantly gave her the role of Desiree but never felt quite right about it. She didn’t seem to possess the “worldliness” that I’d written the character to have.

Well, sure enough three days before we started shooting, Syesha was forced to drop out of the film and we were in deep trouble. There was talk of cancelling the film altogether. People suggested getting the script to some other “name” singers who hadn’t even auditioned for me. I wasn’t about to do that. Remembering Letoya’s words at her audition I insisted on moving her into the lead role even though she’d never read for Angie. I just had a feeling. I didn’t have a lot of immediate support, but because we were in a pinch nobody strongly objected either. One of the best moves that I’d made the week prior was to hire an amazing acting coach (Troy Rowland) who’d come highly recommended from Rich. Troy also saw in Letoya what I had, and the result was an amazing performance. Man, this girl can act.

I am so proud of the hard work of my two leads who had never done a film before. Letoya is a perfectionist, and Tank (AKA Gate Checker) is a natural. Both were like sponges when it came to learning and trusting me enough to accept direction. There are so many others that made this film special. GregAlan Williams (the anchor of my film), Sharif Atkins, (one of the finest actors I know) Tammy Townsend (a rare quadruple threat) Ella Joyce, (the consummate professional)… I could go on and on… Just know that my cast was outstanding. My crew was phenomenal. My studio was extremely supportive. And my God was in control of it all.

Please support our wonderful film on opening weekend. That is so crucial for African American films, because we may not get a second week if we don’t make a splash the first week. This is a film for everyone. Religious or atheist. Men or women. Young or old. But no one will ever find out without your support. This is a positive film that entertains while reinforcing some of life’s hard lessons. You will laugh, cry, sing along, and jubilantly rejoice. Please leave your thoughts on my message board to let me know what you thought of Preacher’s Kid. If you can’t find it playing at a theater near you, drop me an email and we will do our best to get it there. Also, keep an eye out for my new stage play “Daddy Can I Come Back Home?” that tours the country starting in January 2010. I recommend that you check out the movie AND the play to see the clever connection between the two. Please forward this email to your friends, family, and acquaintances and watch the difference we can make.

Much love and gratitude,

Stan Foster
“Preacher's Kid”

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Feel free to email me as often as you'd like. I will try to keep my laptop on the set with me and return emails during my down time. If your questions are general, you may even find the answers posted on my message board. Very often many of you will have the exact same questions. If there's a delay in my response please bear with me. I'm doing the best I can to answer each of them myself rather than having an assistant respond. Also, I send you an email blast to keep you up to date on everything going on, casting opportunities, and release schedules.
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