For the film THE HAMMER (aka Heart, Baby!)
that I wrote, directed, and produced in New Orleans
we hired a diverse cast of over 250 people with 59
speaking parts with over 50% of them
being people of color.
The film is the TRUE STORY of prison boxer
George Lee Martin, known as The Hammer.
We are now working on getting George
pardoned so that he can vote and get a loan
to start a boxing gym to help at risk kids
While in New Orleans myself,
my husband, and producer,
Kim Barnard, took one of
my favorite actors,
out to dinner.
At dinner we had a philosophical discussion about racism and how everyone has prejudices based on their experiences that we all have to unravel.
That is one of the many reasons why I do the work I do, including my documentary in 2001 (shared below).
My husband was a Chinese Studies major and we have the discussion all the time about how to change minds and hearts through art and conversations.
Kim shared a story about how her neighbors had all been murdered by a black man. She had held a dying body and shared how she then had to unravel the thoughts and fears in her afterwards.
Right before the blackout on Tuesday June 2, 2020 I read a post Shaun had shared on his social media about his awful experiences with racism. I commented that I was so sorry to hear about his experiences and that is one of the many reasons we made The Hammer, to hopefully open more minds and hearts.
Shaun responded to my comment that he had a post coming out about me soon. I had no idea what he was talking about. I private messaged him asking if he was okay and told him to feel free to call me.
He called me right away and I was floored to hear him say that I was a racist.
He had taken our dinner conversation much differently than it was intended and I was mortified.
As an expert in trauma and recovery, I said I was not going to spend any time defending the intention behind the conversation and instead be a safe place for him to share his pain and ask what I could do to help him.
When he said I could look at my own racism, I asked if he had seen what I\’d been doing for the past 20+ years. He said he thought I was just getting on the bandwagon.
Again, instead of spending anytime talking about myself or my work, I heard and felt his pain. That was not time nor place to defend myself. I just listened.
We spoke at length and I believe it ended fairly well considering.
I texted him thanking him for telling me and I was going to tell Kim and my husband about it.
A week later he posted a very different version than what we had spoken about:
AFTER we had this dinner and this discussion on racism in New Orleans, Shaun recorded his actor interview where he shares how I wrote complex black characters, something Hollywood needs right now and how I was a very nurturing director.
I felt that with him. He and I worked extremely well together. I loved working with him and I believe I did help pull an outstanding performance out of him.
I\’m so happy that he got to portray this wonderful real life character in this beautiful true story.
Here\’s what he has to say about me AFTER our dinner:
This is yet another reason I was completely floored with his accusation. Baffled, dumbfounded, mortified more like it and why it came out of nowhere.
The real Andy and George called me after they read it and urged me not to respond. Along with most of the black cast members who called me, they said let it go and don\’t get into the conversation since there was no way any of us could ever say the right thing.
There is no right thing to say.
This is about trauma and pain.
I focus on the healing aspect, that\’s what I do in my life, that\’s the core of all my projects.
I had posted with a comment similar to what I said above about how that was not the intention of the conversation at all. I took it down when Shaun responded saying I didn\’t remember getting in his face and saying I hated black people. WHAT?! That is so far from anything I would ever say that I took Andy and George\’s advice and removed my comment and just let it be.
Andy and George sent me this video after they read the post and the comments:
Violence Against Women
The issue is that Shaun\’s social media post incited violence against women.
Myself and Kim began to get hate messages. People showed up at Kim\’s house.
When I got hateful messages on my daughter\’s pictures on social media. I quickly shut down all of her accounts and made mine private.
Trying to help others open their minds is not worth my daughter being hurt, even if it\’s idle threats, because you never know who is mentally unstable enough to take irrational action.
The police were alerted and are aware of the post and have been watching people commenting and are on alert if anyone comes into town looking for me.
Kim was kicked off of a movie she was about to begin. A movie about mental health!
People began sharing his post and defaming her around her community so much that she and her husband had to leave town to protect themselves and their sanity.
Kim is much easier to find than I am.
I never wanted this info to be public, but based on the messages I received I feel it is important to state that I am armed, I have a conceal to carry license and I am a very good shot (with my left eye).
That is NOT what I even want to have to say or ever take action on.
This total misunderstanding got grossly out of hand and potentially dangerous and to be honest, extremely frightening.
A social post about the pain of racism lead to violence against women.
I\’m not okay with that, especially if it\’s against my child.
That said, based on the work I\’ve done for 20+ years in my life I am about the HEALING of all these things.
I am truly horrified that anything I would have said would be taken in any way painful way.
Kim Barnard was a fantastic AD and she did
a tremendous amount of work as producer.
She has not allowed this attack on her to halt
her progress forward, even though she and
her husband had to leave town.
In fact she and I have been working on a film
about another true story about a
Vietnamese family escaping communism.
As far as that awful N word goes –
I was adamant that
THE HAMMER aka HEART, BABY!
be 100% accurate.
Every single thing
down to the music cues
and every piece of clothing
was true to the times of the period.
This is a TRUE STORY.
I directed it to respect that story
and put the the audience THERE
as if they were getting to see
this story unfold in real time.
We even throw you
straight into a
boxing match to begin the film.
You can\’t even tell you\’re in prison.
You have no idea who is the lead.
I did that for a reason. I wrote and directed EVERY single tiny detail, even down to the color theme, which follows a SUNRISE – so that subconsciously you have an awakening by the end of the experience.
When Shaun was doing the scene he refers to where in the script I had the n word, the real Andy Dixon who was a consultant on set, pulled me over to discuss it.
The scene called for a line of the BONES gang AND the ANs (Aryan Nation), who made up the \”Booty Bandits.\” Sadly the second AD had screwed up and sent the background home and all we had were white guys.
Was I pissed about that? YES. Absolutely. But on an indie film you have to roll with the punches and still get the shot.
At that time in 1984, Bug (the character Shaun played) would not have used that word to white guys. Andy said it would not have happened that way, ever, so we edited that out and did another take.
I am a bit of a workaholic and a perfectionist. I\’ll admit it.
All of my work is service work and all of my projects are sermons in disguise. Most of the time, I\’m preaching to myself.
My work began very early.
I grew up in less than ideal circumstances from child sexual abuse, divorce, domestic violence, the foster care system and poverty. I was told I’d never amount to anything.
Inspired to work hard from a very young age; I was even a mime at the mall, I\’ve re-created and re-written my own life story to have a happy ending.
My goal with my work is to speak for those who have no voice and inspire you to live happily ever after, no matter what happened to you.
I heard from many actors and crew about that post.
Those who know me well called me to say they loved me and just don\’t get into the hate,
keep coming from love.
Some said that they had to step away from me
because they had to protect themselves in this cancel culture.
It was dangerous to be anyway associated
with someone accused of racism so they cut me out.
I guess I get that.
Fear, doubt, worry and anxiety are rampant!
I am not afraid.
I love people.
I love my work.
This is in no way stopping me.
In fact, it lights a bigger fire
in my soul to help more.
So, thanks to Shaun and everyone
I\’m happy you shared your pain.
I pray more of us, including myself,
find healing and deeper connections
and more profound conversations.
I will continue to do what I do,
including building the campaign
we\’ve been working on throughout this
to get the real George pardoned.
Oh the irony.
I understand there is a lot of pain in this world,
that is why I do the work I do.
I pray for more healing of hearts and minds.
Like I said above,
I do what I do to
inspire people to heal and
live happily ever after,
no matter what has happened to you.
I hope you do too.
Here’s what more people have to say:
GO FUCK YOURSELF and stupid people go play in traffic.