Conversations | Andre Joseph’s “The Saxophonist”
“I saw the NYFA Fiscal Sponsorship program as an opportunity to give this film a level of prestige and provide a strong support system to assist me in my fundraising and marketing efforts.”
The Saxophonist is a short film written, directed, and produced by Andre Joseph. It follows the story of Lonnie Johnson, a New York City saxophone player who is approaching a major crossroads in his life. Joseph originally started the project 12 years ago when he was a film student writing a screenplay. The Saxophonist premiered at Brooklyn Fete in May 2018, and in the upcoming weeks will screen at three film festivals: Nišville Movie Summit, New York Jazz Film Festival, and the Newark International Film Festival.
Read on to learn more about Joseph’s journey throughout the production of The Saxophonist.
What: The Saxophonist Screening
Where: Nišville Movie Summit
When: August 11, 2018
Where: New York Jazz Film Festival
When: August 26, 2018
Where: Newark International Film Festival
When: September 6-9, 2018
NYFA: When did you decide to expand your screenplay into a short film?
Andre Joseph: I began writing the screenplay because I was influenced by my late stepdad who was a jazz aficionado, as well as taking a college course about the history of jazz. My early drafts primarily focused on the young love angle of the story between a music student and a dancer. In recent years, however, I experienced the struggles of being a working artist in New York City. Such difficult times made me return to the script two years ago when I realized that injecting more of that aspect of reality into the story would make it more attractive to produce it as a timely short film.
NYFA: Since you juggled the director, producer, and editor roles, what was the most challenging moment you faced during the production of The Saxophonist?
AJ: The most challenging moment by far was the second day of shooting the jazz bar scenes. The location we used had rehearsal rooms for rent which were active during the daytime, so as we were trying to film the key dialogue and jazz performance scenes, we had to deal with the lack of soundproof walls that caused noises from the other rooms to interfere with the audio. Fortunately, I had a proactive assistant director who managed the set well enough to take the pressure off my back and we got enough good takes of our shots to work with for the edit.
NYFA: Lonnie Johnson (played by Beavin Lawrence) is the star character of The Saxophonist. Not only does Lonnie showcase the beauty and craft of live jazz performances, but also his journey through heartbreak, love, and tough decisions. What do you hope viewers can learn from Lonnie’s character?
AJ: I hope viewers learn that success and happiness are not defined by money and fame. The pursuit of a dream will oftentimes involve making difficult choices that only add to our personal growth. I believe that true love comes from those times when two people can find happiness through encouraging one another to go after their dreams.
NYFA: Congratulations on your acceptance in Nišville Movie Summit and New York Jazz Film Festival! What is your strategy for connecting with audiences and making sure the film is seen in the world?
AJ: I am determined to get as many eyes as possible to see this film, without being limited to the film festival circuit. Our goal is to visit college campuses, churches, and community centers across the country and abroad. We not only want to screen the film, but we also want the public to see Beavin’s magical jazz performances live. Our hope is to inspire the next generation of filmmakers and musicians through this relevant tale and the jazz music which defines it.
NYFA: Why did you choose NYFA Fiscal Sponsorship?
AJ: Previously, I worked on a number of projects out of my own pocket with very little help on the production management side. I saw the NYFA Fiscal Sponsorship program as an opportunity to give this film a level of prestige and provide a strong support system to assist me in my fundraising and marketing efforts. I am eternally grateful for everything that NYFA has done in making this dream project into a reality.
– Interview conducted by Eleysha Sajous, Fiscal Sponsorship Intern
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Images from the top: Jazz performance scene from The Saxophonist, 2018, Photo Credit: MAGNUS PRODUCTIONS; Rehearsal session with Beavin Lawrence, Nadya Encarnacion, and Andre Joseph, 2018, Photo Credit: MAGNUS PRODUCTIONS; The Saxophonist pitch video shoot with Beavin Lawrence (Sax), Eric Wheeler (Bass), and Mark Johnson (Drums).