While it’s true that the streaming service revolution has resulted in more movie distribution methods existing now than ever before, and that digital video technologies have opened the medium up vastly, actually getting a feature film made in today’s market is exceedingly difficult. We live in an era when blockbusters and microbudget indies rule the day, and a side effect of that is any production that carries a price tag that sits between those two poles will run into issues raising money.
That being said, nothing in Hollywood stops a door from closing quite like star power, especially in a producer’s role, and a great example of this can be found in the support that actors Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha brought to the table when it came to the making of the new romantic drama Sylvie’s Love.
In addition to playing the lead roles in director Eugene Ashe’s new film, the two stars are also both executive producers on the project, and both took an active role in getting the movie made. As I learned earlier this month while interviewing the actors during the release’s virtual press day, it was a role in the production that they were both proud to have, both because it was a vision that the supported, and because of what it meant to them personally. Said Tessa Thompson,
It's been a real focus of mine in the last couple years, and especially recently I have ambitions to produce beyond things that I'm in. I remember people saying years ago that you do these sort of big tent pole movies in the hopes that you can then get smaller movies made. And, you know, I come from independent cinema. Like I really love making movies for no money and making stories that people can say are niche. I think good stories, no matter the lens and the aperture, I think the more that we tell stories that are specific, the more universal they become.
And Sylvie’s Love is a great example. Very much a throwback film to the era in which its set, the new movie takes audiences back to Harlem in the 1950s and 1960s as talented up-and-coming musician Robert (Nnamdi Asomugha) takes a job at a local record store and winds up falling in love with his co-worker/the boss’ daughter, Sylvie (Tessa Thompson). The problem is that Sylvie is engaged to be married, and though they both have deep feelings for each other, they have to balance those feelings against what being together would mean for their respective futures.
As noted by the actress, the movie is a great smaller project for Tessa Thompson to go along with all of her blockbuster projects, including her adventures in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and in Westworld – but it was a bit of a different situation for Nnamdi Asomugha coming to Sylvie’s Love. A former NFL player who has been reinventing himself in the film world since his retirement from football, the actor/producer told me that a significant part of the reason why he’s been producing movies is because he recognizes the influence that comes with it and how it helps him achieve his other goals:
I come from a world that's completely different from this world. So I know that when I jumped into acting that it was going to be tough for people to take me seriously. So I then realized I had to become a producer. I have to make my own projects so that people can see that I can do it, and then start to start to open more doors for myself. So that's where the producing all started for me. It was really, it was really selfishly just wanting to act, and then I just fell in love with producing. And so now I produce things that I'm not even in because I love doing it.
Regardless of the reasoning, the support was something that writer/director Eugene Ashe was incredibly happy to have in the making of Sylvie’s Love. In a separate interview on the same day, I asked him what it meant to have the support of Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha as producers in the making of the movie, and he explained,
They have access that I don't have, and they were very, very generous to open up that access to me and get the movie made. They're both executive producers on it, and Nnamdi's company, Iam21, really, they had to take the lion's share. They were like, if we couldn't get more money, they were going to have to put it up. So fortunately we did, but that's what I'm saying. It was an independent film in every sense of the word, but having the clout of those two were really helped get other actors on board; it helped get people behind the scenes to want to work with us. And so, yeah, that's what they had other than the fact that they have spectacular chemistry with each other.
Sylvie’s Love really is a wonderful new film, and a great way to wrap up 2020 – and you can actually watch it right this minute. The beautiful romantic drama, which also co-stars Eva Longoria, Aja Naomi King, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Lance Reddick, John Magaro and Ron Funches, is now available to watch for all subscribers to the Amazon Prime streaming service