How ‘Wilmington on Fire’ director Christopher Everett’s hardship fueled his film
I sat down with Christopher Everett to talk about why he wanted to direct a documentary that puts a microscope on the 1898 massacre of African Americans by an armed white mob in Wilmington, North Carolina.
I was surprised to find out the Laurinburg, North Carolina native was so passionate about telling this seldom told story he sacrificed relationships and was homeless during the bulk of filming.
Everett came up with the film’s concept in 2010, but having to work for a living and a layoff brought filming to a halt. He picked back up with shooting late 2012.
The research was expensive.
“95% of my check at the time went towards the film,” Everett said. “I just sacrificed.”
Travel costs, archival material, production costs and photos ranging from $10-$1000 came out of his pocket and left him with little funds for anything else.
“I stayed where I could stay at,” he said. “Slept on a floor, a couch.”
This was a first for the independent filmmaker. He spent the early part of his movie career in front of the camera. Appearing in short films and a commercial with Kate Moss, the documentary is his first feature.
Homelessness wasn’t going to stop him.
“I didn’t really look at it as being homeless,” he said. “In a way it kind of is, you don’t have your own but you’re staying at someone's house, or you might sleep in your car but I just never looked at it as homeless.”
At the end of the day he says he had some type of roof over his head, be it a friend’s house or a vehicle. Everette soon moved back to Laurinburg to finish the film.
“I’m a simple person, I’d rather invest in my dream, building my film company.”
With the help of a private donor Everett’s film company Speller Street Films launched the film at the 2015 Cucalorus Film Festival in Wilmington.
After a few months on tour with the film Everett comes back to Wilmington June 18 for two screenings at Williston Middle School. *As a way to give back and support the community bring can food items to donate to Wilmington’s community food bank.
By popular demand Everett will soon begin filming “Wilmington on Fire 2” and “Wilmington on Fire 3” he is also working on a few unrelated films he wouldn’t let me write about yet.
“Those are the type of things I try to put money into…Investing in my dreams and goals,” he said.
“Because I saw what my ancestors did. They sacrificed.”