Seattle-based prodco Vulcan Productions has partnered with One Story Up – the outfit helmed by Oscar- and Emmy Award-winning director Roger Ross Williams and Emmy Award-winning producer Geoff Martz – to produce the feature-length documentary Master of Light (working title).
Directed by Rosa Ruth Boesten (Unseen), the project will detail the story of George Anthony Morton (pictured), a realist painter who discovered his talent by studying the techniques of Rembrandt and other old masters while serving a 10-year sentence in federal prison.
Upon his release from prison, Morton became the first African-American graduate of the Florence Academy of Art and established Atlanta’s first workshop, Atelier South. The workshop is modeled after the seminars of Old Masters and “seeks to emphasize craft-oriented and skill-based art rooted in a solid classical tradition.”
Master of Light will capture Morton as he returns to his hometown of Kansas City, Missouri to paint childhood friends, family members and father figures from his stint in prison.
Each brush stroke on canvas will shed light on a portion of Morton’s history as he attempts to navigate his new lease on life and integrate back into society. By painting key figures of his turbulent years, Morton is forced to face the past in his quest to rewrite the script of his future, according to a release.
The film is currently in production and will include the impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis as well as the international movement against racial inequality.
Williams (Life Animated, The Apollo) will executive produce alongside Jody Allen, Ruth Johnston, Jannat Gargi, Rocky Collins and Geoff Martz. Williams, Anousha Nzume (Hello White People) and Ilja Roomans (American Jail) are producers.
“My films tend to be about underdogs: people who have been marginalized through circumstances beyond their control—but who ultimately overcome their obstacles and discover a way to triumph,” said Williams in a statement. “I’ve found a kindred spirit in Rosa Boesten, a talented young Dutch filmmaker who is bringing George Morton’s amazing and heart-breaking story of artistic journey to life. I’m so pleased to be bringing both of these new talents to the attention of the world.”
“George and I started working together on the idea for a film about three years ago and have developed a strong bond and understanding of each other,” explained Boesten. “The film shows George’s journey of fighting the odds and transcending the systemic forces against him. He paints the people most dear to him and through showing their beauty and dignity he shines a bright light on injustice that will resonate around the world.”
“The complex web of George Morton’s life plays out before us as he combines his paintbrush with his strong personality to give us an intimate view of a world many of us would never know – and a vision we could never imagine,” added Ruth Johnston, GM for Vulcan Productions. “George’s humanity and talent shine through as he takes us on a journey from prison to art school and beyond. Master of Light captures both the darkness and the light in an against the odds struggle against generational poverty and systemic racism.”
Master of Light marks one of the last films to come from the Vulcan Productions pipeline. The Seattle-based production company established by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen announced in May that it would be closing its doors at the start of 2021.
The prodco was behind such acclaimed documentaries as The Ivory Game, Body Team 12, Racing Extinction, Ghost Fleet, The Cold Blue, Oliver Sacks: His Own Life and Sundance audience award winner The Reason I Jump. Its first documentary project, Inspirations, was helmed by Michael Apted and featured artists from various disciplines, ranging from David Bowie to Roy Lichtenstein, discussing their creative processes.
Photo credit: Jurgen Lisse