Endowed Fellowships: Rodney Evans

During his seven-week residency in April 2007, Brooklyn-based filmmaker Rodney Evans armed himself with biographies, novels, oral history interviews and music to continue research for his feature film project, “Daydream,” a surreal drama about two very different legends of jazz, Billy Strayhorn and Buddy Bolden.

Jointly funded by former VCCA Board member Jackie Bradley, and her husband, Ralph, and Tanya and Jim Egan, and a CSG Fellowship, Rodney’s residency allowed him the time to delve into the jazz culture of the 1940s.

“I needed to immerse myself very deeply in a specific cultural and historical milieu,” says Rodney, whose work explores the intersection of race, class, sexuality and history in the lives of African-Americans, requiring extensive amounts of research. “The VCCA provided me with an oasis away from the distractions of everyday life where this could happen.”

During his most recent stay at Mt. San Angelo, Rodney wrote 70 pages of the script for “Daydream.” Without the sponsored fellowship, he maintains it would not have been possible to take such a lengthy period of time to focus solely on the research and writing phase of the project.

“I think all artists need the time to create work in an environment where you feel unfettered and free to explore new ideas and challenges and also embrace risk,” says Rodney, whose first screenplay, “Brother to Brother,” was also written at the VCCA. The film premiered at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Special Jury Prize in Drama, and aired nationally on PBS.

Post-residency, Rodney continues working towards completion of “Daydream.” He will submit the screenplay to the Sundance Filmmakers Lab in early September, the first step in moving the project from script to screen. He targets shooting to begin in the fall of 2008.

“From the experience of writing my first screenplay at VCCA in 2000, and the current one, I’ve found the work completed in Virginia really provides the base from which the rest of the screenplay is built. The post-residency writing I do has more direction and focus because of the amazing amount of work I accomplish during a residency.”