Writer/Director, Deon Taylor (Fatale, Black & Blue) is directing the upcoming film Freedom Ride,which will be produced by The Hideaway Entertainment’s Matthew Rhodes (Cherry), INDE Companies’ Kim Leadford (The Butler), Mark R. Harris (Crash) and Hidden Empire Film Group’s Roxanne Avent Taylor (Fatale).
The script is based on first-person accounts by a dozen of the original Freedom Riders, including the late Civil Rights icon John Lewis.
Deon Taylor and his Hidden Empire Film Group partner Robert F. Smith will Executive Produce, along with Civil Rights attorney Benjamin Crump and his company, Brooklyn Media.
Written by Steven Vosburgh, Dusdi Fissette, and Deon Taylor, the film is set in 1961 and details the actions of a multiracial group of young activists, led by twenty-year-old John Lewis, as they decide to take matters into their own hands in the fight against racial discrimination and hate.
After signing their own last wills and testaments, these determined Freedom Riders journeyed by bus into the deep segregated South where mob violence and police brutality against Black Americans run rampant. Even with federal law on their side, they are brutally beaten, arrested, and firebombed, all the while remaining nonviolent in the face of violence.
In the end, their refusal to back down forces the government to finally take action and desegregate all the buses, trains, public places and facilities used in interstate travel.
Never before, with the exception of war, have young Americans been willing to die en masse for the cause of justice. Never before have young Americans changed the hearts and minds of the world in the name of equality.
“John Lewis once said, ‘You are a light. You are the light! Never let anyone—any person or any force—dampen, dim or diminish your light…Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won.’ His words not only resonate with me as human, but inspire me to tell his amazing story,” said filmmaker Deon Taylor.
“Working with our great partners at The Hideaway Entertainment, INDE Companies and the legendary Benjamin Crump is such a blessing. We are going to create an amazing film and really do John Lewis proud, I promise you!”
Screenwriter, documentarian & Executive Producer, Steven Vosburgh credits Congressman John Lewis as providing the project’s initial spark in 2005 when he first began traveling the country recording and compiling the oral histories of over a dozen living Freedom Riders for a documentary.
Lewis encouraged him to dramatize the story in order to reach a wider audience and share the dangers the activists took. Vosburgh would also work extensively with journalist and political figure John Seigenthaler who was a key player in Robert Kennedy’s justice department, and one of the key protagonists in the script.
“Deon Taylor is the perfect filmmaker for this story,” said Civil Rights attorney Benjamin Crump. “He has a resonance with the culture that rings authentic for this film. His commitment to getting the vote out via his Be Woke.Vote organization and his organization of peaceful marches for social justice in the name of George Floyd & Breonna Taylor, pay great respect to the legacy of John Lewis. I am proud to call him a friend.”
“We are very excited to have Deon Taylor join this Ride,” said producer Matthew Rhodes. “Deon is a fearless and passionate filmmaker that brings an emotional depth, complexity, and a fresh vision to all his work. He is an artistic activist who will tell this monumental story from history with the contemporary relevance it still has today.”
Charles Bonan and Daniel McCarney will Executive Produce, along with The Hideaway’s Jonathan Gray and Kristy Grisham and Ryan Cassells will Co-Produce.
The film is targeting summer 2021 to begin production with plans to shoot in Atlanta, Georgia and Birmingham, Alabama.
Deon Taylor and Benjamin Crump are represented by UTA and the Artistry Collective.
The deal was negotiated by Christian Simonds of Reed Smith, LLP on behalf of The Hideaway Entertainment.