Miami's Soul Scene: An Interview with Dennis Scholl

March 27, 2014   |   posted in Filmmakers


Dennis Scholl, Vice President/Arts of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and one of the team of directors who brought “Deep City: The Birth of the Miami Sound” to life, pays homage to Deep City Records, who was once the lifeblood of Miami’s soul scene.

CIFF: What inspired you to bring “Deep City” to the big screen?
DS: A friend sent me a re-issue of the Deep City music put out by Numero Records in Chicago. When I read the liner notes and found out that the music was all made in Miami, my home for the last 50 years, I was blown away. How could it be that something this extraordinary happened in my 305 and I knew nothing about it? So, with the partnership of two incredible African American filmmakers, we began to explore the legacy of [Miami Soul music].

CIFF: What were the first impressions of your main characters when you told them you wanted to share their story?
DS: The musicians were a bit reluctant at first, as their dreams and aspirations in the 1960s hadn’t been fully realized and they were not anxious to revisit that time in their lives. But my co-directors, Marlon Johnson and Chad Tingle, were relentless. They knew the Overtown and Liberty city community well, and they kept going back and letting the musicians know that the film was going to be an attempt to acknowledge and honor their contributions to American music. And little by little they came around, led by the irrepressible Willie Clarke, co-founder of Deep City, with Johnny Pearsall, who had passed away in 2000. Willie, Helene Smith and Clarence Reid signed on to the project and began to take us back to the 1960s in Miami, and the creation of the first black-owned record production company in Florida.

CIFF: What does it mean to you to have Deep City shown in Cleveland?
DS: To have the film shown at CIFF is a huge honor for the three of us. First and foremost, the festival is one of the most important independent film festivals in the world. Also, Cleveland, like Miami, had a scene like this led by Boddie Records, so I think audience members will respond to that.

CIFF: What important message would you like CIFF audiences to take away from the film?
DS: CIFF’s theme, “Home for Stories,” reminds us that we all have an internal narrative waiting to be expressed. Our neighborhoods are full of stories, and we want every single person to get a chance to tell their stories through the magic of filmmaking.

Interview by Amy Kersey

PDF  Download Related PDF [783.4 KB]

Related Screenings:
03/26/14 @ 5:10 PM – Deep City: The Birth of The Miami Sound and Who Shot Rock & Roll: The Film
03/27/14 @ 8:15 PM – Deep City: The Birth of The Miami Sound and Who Shot Rock & Roll: The Film
03/28/14 @ 11:15 AM – Deep City: The Birth of The Miami Sound and Who Shot Rock & Roll: The Film

Related Events:
03/20/15 @ 7:00 PM – Knight and Day in Akron

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