The Writing of SoTru, a biopic of social relevance today

Formerly known as “I Am Sojourner Truth” screenplay by Angela Terga and Lateef Calloway.

First the visionary structure. On October of 2016, you saw me fly across the Atlantic to attend Linda Aronson’s non linear script writing master class at Ealing Studios in London. The workshop added confidence to how we, the writers, chose to structure SoTru, the screenplay I’ve been working on since the summer of 2015 with Lateef Calloway, the young independent producer and director whose mission is to bring forth the ultimate icon of feminism and equality through the life and works of Sojourner Truth. The nature and relevance of her teachings are just as pertinent or more today than ever. More than a year later, at the beginning of 2017, Lateef and I plan to meet for several days when we will scrutinize the screenplay, compare it to the Treatment, take notes and then polish the diamond of a well crafted first draft.  SoTru, the script, must not only pass the ten page test, it must receive a first class production fund.

During out first meeting in 2015, Lateef and I crafted the structure of the biopic. Starting somewhere near the middle where her life appeared most exciting and then flashing back to her nativity for a tour of enduring heartache and pain with dignity and grace until the end. Once the journey’s vision was set, I proceeded to research, read, write and get into the spirit during my month-long visit to Battle Creek where I stayed at six generation descendant of the historical figure, Thomas McCliechy’s home. Thomas and I talked about “grandma” every day all day when he was around.  I would often ask him how he thought Sojourner would want me to write-in this or that occurrence stated in her Narrative’s editions.  I can see Thomas’ goatee moving up and down as he’d say, “tell the truth, that’s what she would have said. That’s what she stood for, and that’s why she changed her name to Sojourner Truth.”  In honoring that manifesto as a writer, I have encountered many forks on the road of writing SoTru. My greatest endeavor and hope is to show what the avenues present while not inflicting judgment on the path traveled. For truth, in my own definition, lacks judgment. Therefore, exposing the facts should be all one needs to come to a conclusion.  For instance, when Sojourner took it upon herself to travel the northeastern countryside instilling prudence and warning the hordes of wretched souls seeking enlightenment against the pitfalls of fanaticism, she exposed the truth before her, not just by her words but because those poor souls saw it and felt it in their hearts. Even the preachers urging them to extremism and delusion agreed with her common sensical arguments and so will audiences worldwide when they see and hear her coming to life on the screen. Is it not relevant today to warn our brothers and sisters of the perils of dogma?

The Writer’s responsibility. Besides sticking to the telling (showing) of the truth and nothing but the truth, so help us God, writers of figures such as Sojourner Truth have the delicate task of transforming historical speeches and events into everyday life AND keep you at the edge of your seat every minute of film’s hour.  I can just hear the critics say, “we were on the edge of our seats every step of SoTru’s way,” instead of “the dialogue was ridden with

self-importance.” Critiques apart, being able to convey feeling to the general public is the writer’s purest aspiration.  Will the audience cry and laugh and wonder and sing along and fear and cheer with our dearest hero? Only then, will our soul rest.  How do we best bring a character to life in the public’s heart and eye, for present and future generations? That’s our quest and you’re the judge of our success. So delicate a matter it is that we must exercise the most caution and care in the construction of every scene for no one set is irrelevant.

Words such as conflict, suspense, intrigue, fear, elation, sorrow, despair, grief, pain, sickness, delusion, courage, inspiration, revelation, endurance, hope, love, forgiveness, desire, determination, agitation, declaration, mobility, encouragement, count among some of the exciting circumstances surrounding the life of one of the most dynamic inspirational lecturers of all times on topics such as freedom and equality, Sojourner Truth. Her legacy is in our hands to inspire new generations to achieve a higher standing in the world through education and organization. In her own words, “agitate, agitate and get in the mix while it’s still stirring.” A legend in her own time, SoTru brings us a breath of fresh air in the form of hope and accomplishment while entertaining us with our hero’s wit and song.  So keep in mind the title “SoTru” soon to hit the box.

Relevance and Purpose. What makes this film relevant today is not just that talent shines no matter what and God has always and will always use some of us to create great waves of change, nor that this woman born Isabella Baumfree accomplished almost all her goals by mere faith and determination, self-reliance instead of fear using common sense, nor that she attained Buddhahood. What makes this film relevant today is that she showed us how we must find a way to love even our enemies so we can see truth for it is “on the shoulders of the black man that the civilization of the white man rests.”  I interpret this statement to mean that the black man civilizes the white. But what civilization is has different meaning to different people. To me it means the evolution of the species.  Evolving means peace, harmony, prosperity, health, water, resources, knowledge, justice, fairness, brotherhood, tolerance in the world towards one another.

SoTru was the first to win a court battle against a powerful white man and get her son out of slavery in the deep south. Nonetheless, she lost him to the festered social arena and mass incarceration of black youth in the city of New York soon after slaves were freed in 1828. In response, she changed her name and filled her heart with love, vowing to profess Truth on her Sojourn. Thereafter referring to herself as Sojourner Truth, councillor to her people and advisor to Presidents, pressing the issue of women’s rights, equal pay for equal work, equal education and penal reform. The same voices are being heard today across the world. Join us in acclaiming justice and equality from sea to shining sea. SoTru.

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