Art Imitates Life
The film features the directors wife and their twin children playing themselves. In fact, as the budget ran tight early in the production, with the arrival newborn twins, the scene in Chelsea Guitars is a hybrid of script and a documentation of Dan Courtney actually brokering the sale of the director's Gibson guitar. Several of the songs heard in the film had been written on that same Gibson.
Additionally, several established or emerging artist and figures bring their personal experience and musings to the film. Artist, muralist and gallery owner Kevin Darmanie's first scene in film was shot at his studio in Newark featuring his recently created body of art. Artist, educator and 2016 Leonore Annenberg Arts Fellow Nyugen Smith is seen reciting a poem inspired by his a trip to Tanzania. Brandon Schreck's monologue was delivered on the rooftop of his art studio in Brooklyn.
Magic and Loss
One of the wonders of film is it's ability to capture the ephemeral and hold onto it for a bit. During the course of making "Pearl of a Panther" several losses occurred. Both the "Warhol / Basquiat" and "Times Square VDAY kiss" murals by Kobra no longer exist. The "VDay kiss" mural plays a significant role as it's used as a reminder to SUNDAYREBEL to appreciate Vita Eterna. The nurse in the original photo and inspiration for the mural, Greta Zimmer Friedman, passed away while filming the final scenes of the movie. Oddly enough, the mural currently stands as nothing more than a large black wall along the High Line. In homage to the passing of David Bowie, Kobra's recently completed mural of him was added to the film. Additionally, while SUNDAYREBEL is seen planting his album in record stores, he places a copy directly behind a Prince album in Generation Records in Greenwich Village in homage to both Prince and the passing of record stores in general.
Basquiat Gives The Go Ahead.
In several ways the qhost of Jean Michel Basquiat seemed to hover over the production. While filming b-roll footage at the Brooklyn Museum, the banner for his show hung prominently in view. Artist, poet Nyugen Smith was wearing a shirt emblazoned with a work by Basquiat during his spoken word scene beneath the museum. The opening scenes of FIERCE and VITA ETERNA's video features a mural by artist Kobra that includes a double portrait of Andy Warhol and Basquiat in a dynamic rendering of an advertisement from their collaborative show. The footage in Nyugen's scene as well as KEDAR's "Mount St. Michel" monologue elliptically reference the rise and ultimate tragedy of Basquiat's journey through the art world. The camera crew embraced Jean Michel's approach to art making and made use of whatever cameras were available. These ranged from Canon Eos to ipad and iphones 4, 5 and 6 as well as a Vado flip. Footage from each was intermixed into the final edit. Given that he kept popping up, we felt he gave us his permission and encouragement to do so.
Escape From Paterson - Big Daddy's Caddy
Should your stand on a platform in Paterson wearing a mask of a 70's civil rights figure if you're an Italian woman? Fair question.
Imani Rodman's character FIERCE asks Beth's Wright's character VITA ETERNA that very question, tackling a touchy issue head on during a scene they share filmed near the Bunker Hill section of Paterson. Although filming started early in the cool of morning when street traffic was minimal, the shoot went unexpectedly long into the heat of day. To minimize disruptions and tensions passersby were simply added into the film as brief cameos including a local sound engineer named BLACK RAIN.
The strategy worked well until an Original Gansta rolled up into the shoot (driving on the wrong side of the road no less) forcibly insisting that what the movie needed was, "a Big Daddy in an Ol' School Caddy... CLASSIC". Equal parts highly inebriated, overheated and ever increasingly (understandably) infuriated at the Italian woman in the Angela Davis mask, "Big Daddy" was now threatening to turn the art film into a shoot 'em up western. Cornered with Big Daddy determined to summon his crew we were trapped. Thankfully, BLACK RAIN, excited to part of the production, negotiated our escape.
Having said that, Big Daddy was right. The shot where he slowly drove into view was stellar!
Hands on Fire
The story was inspired by a conversation between the artist, director Jesse Wright and musician Stephen Chopek (Charlie Hunter, John Mayer, Jesse Malin) as they discussed the quality of their recently completed album.
Talk turned to Bob Dylan’s response to someone who tried to comfort him following his embattled reception at the infamous Newport Folk Festival of July 25, 1965 when he departed from the unexpected, “I’d dance with you Maria, but my hands are on fire”.
There the seeds were planted for a music video/performance filmed in the NYC Chelsea gallery district centering around an uneasy romance between two rebels known for flipping expectations where Dylan's quote becomes a reality. With the short film "Pearl of a Panther", Wright wanted to explore the lives of the two rebels. Who were they and how did they end up wearing the Bob Dylan and Angela Davis box heads? He found the answer by modeling them after his own marriage to ceramic artist Beth Wright and their artist, musician and activist friends. To match the diverse beauty found in the gallery district, the filmmakers shot footage in the equally diverse areas of Paterson, Newark, Hackensack, NJ as well Brooklyn and Manhattan, NYC.