On Saturday, April 9th I got to interview on the Atlanta Film Festival Red Carpet writer/director Chad Hartigan about his film “Morris from America.”
“Morris from America” is a unique coming of age film about a 13-year-old boy named Morris (Markees Christmas) and his single father, Curtis (Craig Robinson) while they live in a town in Germany. Morris is a “fish out of water” and only wants to write rap lyrics in his room until he meets an older teen girl, Katrin (Lina Keller), someone who is way out of his league but Morris is going to fall in love with regardless.
Hi Chad, welcome to the Atlanta Film Festival!
Chad Hartigan: Thanks, glad to be here.
You wrote and directed this film. What was the inspiration for the movie?
Chad: It started from an autobiographical place. A lot of it was based on my coming of age experiences. I grew up in Europe, in a country called Cyprus. I felt there were some great stories there that would make great scenes in a movie. So I just started to think about the movie and how could I make it different from my own life. I didn’t want just to make an autobiographical film, but I wanted to use those elements to tell someone else story.
Talk about your cast, especially the two leads of Craig Robinson and Markees Christmas.
Chad: Markees was an exciting discovery. We found him on Youtube. He’s not an actor. He was in some skit videos that his big brother would make for fun. Craig is a talented and funny guy. This is something different from what he usually plays. It was a challenge for me as a director because I didn’t know right away if he was the right guy for the part and he didn’t know if it was the right role for him. We both took a leap of faith on each other and luckily, it worked out great! I got to meet him, and we talked about it. Craig felt it was something he could do and was excited about the project. Both Markees and Craig have been getting great reviews.
They have great chemistry on screen together. It makes the movie flow incredibly well because they work so well together. Did you do any rehearsals before shooting?
Chad: We didn’t get the chance to do any sort of rehearsals. They got to meet each other very briefly in L.A. The problem was, we were already shooting for three weeks in Germany before Craig could make it out there. We shot all of Crag’s scenes toward the end of the production, so we didn’t have the time to rehearse. We just got incredibly lucky that they had that natural chemistry and that they hit it off right from the start of their scenes together.
Music is extremely important to the film because that’s a way that Craig’s character bonds and connects with his son.
Chad: Exactly. The music was something that I felt was important because any kid that age is going to have music in their life. I loved the idea of a single parent using music as a way to try and show your son what is important in life. Use it as a way to give life lessons. It started from there and then I started figuring out a way to incorporate the local music there in Germany. Showing the clash of what Morris is about and what the local kids were into.
Thank you for talking to me, and I wish you much success with the film.
“Morris from America” won two prizes at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award and a Special Jury Acting Award for Craig Robinson. After it’s winning performance at Sundance, the distribution rights were bought by A24 which plans on distributing the film to theaters later this year.
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