It was not long after Amman Abbasi had been working as an editor on the Vice News series “Last Chance High” that he first started thinking about making a narrative film based on his experiences of working on the project about students at the at-risk high school Moses Montefiore Academy in Chicago. With the idea of young men and women who, already saddled with the tag of having behavioral issues, had little to look forward in life, other than perhaps joining a gang, Abbasi saw the seed for a coming-of-age story about someone transcending their circumstances.
“The next step for me was to explore this in a narrative world and aggregate a lot of the stories we heard on the street and push them into one singular narrative,” said Abbasi, who is raising funds for the project “Loudmouth” on Kickstarter before a July 4th deadline.
Although Abbasi was inspired by his time in the midwest, he will be bringing “Loudmouth” to where he grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas to tell the story of a 13-year-old named Marcus, a boy lured into the gang life when there are few others around to guide him through his upbringing in a violent neighborhood. If the evocative test footage Abbasi has already shot is reminiscent of the naturalism of early David Gordon Green films, that may be because he was once an assistant to the director and has since brought on his frequent casting directors Karmen Leech and John Williams, who have sought out non-actors to bring “Loudmouth” to life. With cinematographer Dustin Lane, Abbasi also intends to shoot a good deal of the movie using 35mm film to give “Loudmouth” a particular texture, one that removes the story from the aesthetic that typifies most that involve gang violence and will be enhanced further by the use of rural locales.
Since first getting serious about the production last fall, Abbasi has workshopped the film extensively. After writing the script, he pulled together a boot camp with teens who at one time had gang connections in order to, in his words, locate “subjects who are very close to the experience of the story and then find if they’re able to highlight that within their own voice.” Clearly, Abbasi has brought some of his experience of making documentaries into the mix for his first narrative film, but he’s also excited to draw on many of his other talents including music for an immersive experience.
“Film is really one of those very cool mediums where everything shapes it – the story, the visuals, the music,” says Abbasi. “So it’s nice to be able to create those building blocks early on and we’ve started tinkering with some of the music.”
Still, it is the opportunity to present the kinds of at-risk teens Abbasi got to know in Chicago in the way that he experienced them that the writer/director is most looking forward to. After hearing again and again that these teens were looking for societal acceptance, he is hoping that a film can help that cause and should the Kickstarter campaign be successful, he is planning to get “Loudmouth” in front of audiences some time next year after a late July shoot this year.
“I’m really excited to show a nuanced portrait of what it is to be a young kid at the cusp of falling prey to gang appeal,” says Abbasi. “It’s glossed over so much and it’s unrealized for many why people join gangs, but it’s an important story to be told, so we’re very sincere and responsible about how we’re going about telling it.”
To back this project and watch the filmmaker’s personal pitch video, click here.