“We didn’t want it to be kitschy or an actor in drag,” he said. “We wanted it to all be done theatrically.”
Wiley said he was drawn to the story of Emmett Till because the boy was killed while still in his youth.
“He just whistled at a woman who seemed to be lonely,” he said.
The film was made on virtually no budget, said Larry Gardner, the film’s visual effects editor.
He said Wiley constituted the entire cast; crew members were volunteers, and there were no special effects.
“We made this strictly for love,” he said.
Gardner also said he knew the film was highly ambitious and entirely unconventional.
“We wanted to keep it a serious drama, not a novelty,” he said. “We’re not using those Hollywood green screens.”
The story of Emmett Till was kept in the public conscience by his mother, Mamie Till, Wiley said.
She took the trial of her son’s killers to the NAACP to increase awareness of the racism that still pervaded the nation.
“She was a living, walking, wailing wall, and carried that mantle until her death,” Wiley said.
Wiley said the story of the film is close to many people’s hearts. Photos of Till’s open casket in an edition of Jet magazine that appeared shortly after his murder stuck with many people.
“People would come up to me after shows and say ‘my mother kept that magazine, so we would never forget,’” he said.
Rob Underhill, the film’s director, said the movie transports the audience back to historical moral outrage.
“This is an important story because it shows you things that can happen when you and others let these results happen,” he said.
“We hope this is a way to connect with a new profound generation.”
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