Daniel Kaluuya, Producer Of 'Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul,' Wants To Help Black Filmmakers Take Up Space Under 59% Productions
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Film , Interviews

Daniel Kaluuya, Producer Of 'Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul,' Wants To Help Black Filmmakers Take Up Space Under 59% Productions

When Daniel Kaluuya first sat down with Adamma and Adanne Ebo, he knew that he wanted to be a part of bringing Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. to the masses. Captured by how the film blends the worlds of Southern Baptist megachurch culture and satirical comedy, it was clear to the actor that this was something viewers haven’t seen before. The twins took a risk with their story, and the fearless actor is all about pushing the envelope to spearhead conversations.

Set in Atlanta, Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. is a satirical comedy that follows the first lady of a Southern Baptist megachurch Trinitie Childs (Regina Hall) and Pastor Lee-Curtis Childs (Sterling K. Brown), who finds himself in a big scandal. In order to bounce back from being in the headlines, the two find themselves on a mission to restore their church and congregation.

Back in 2019, Kaluuya’s 59% Productions inked a first-look deal with Paramount Players.

Launched as a way to back storytelling that is “honest, reflective, inclusive and authored,” being a producer for "Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul." was a no-brainer for Kaluuya.

The film is inspired by the Ebo sisters’ upbringing in the South, but the overarching themes resonated with Kaluuya’s own English background. Growing up in the church and attending Catholic school, he was exposed early on to the parallels found within a church community — similar to the critique within the film.

Fascinated by how the two filmmakers dived into something so specific yet also universal, Kaluuya felt it was perfect to explore.

“It’s about you being the sharpest that you can possibly be in storytelling. You choose a risky tone in order to get the intent, subject matter, and scenario in the sharpest as humanly possible. The fact [Adamma and Adanne Ebo] wanted to do that was exciting,” Kaluuya shared in a recent interview with Shadow and Act. “I met them and I just knew that they had each other’s back and it was like a perfect team. And I was like, oh, this is enough steam to kind of get something to fruition. I believed in them as filmmakers and I believed in what they were talking about, their knowledge, the hours, the touchstones, and the kind of stuff that they said they watched. These people have really studied and done the work, so I was excited to get involved and support their vision.”

Being able to champion Black women filmmakers like Adamma and Adanne is a part of his intent behind starting 59%. The mission is to wave in more of those who are considered underrepresented in the industry.

At the heart of 59% is getting the next generation of filmmakers into the door and then, the opportunity to shine at their brightest.

“I just don’t see the underrepresented groups as less than. It’s not a pity or charity…People would say that I’m a part of the underrepresented and I don’t believe that,” he said. “I take as much space as I require. And that’s what I want for all the filmmakers and all the stories that 59% is going to align and support. It’s about we’re here to take up space and our stories are as valid as any other stories.”

Many aspiring filmmakers have compelling stories, but lack access to the support to bring them to life. With 59%, Kaluuya hopes to help in bridging this gap by taking a chance on more rising talent — just as he did for Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.

It’s only the beginning of what he envisions for how his company will make an impact in the industry.

“I know that it’s just like once you have the support and you build an infrastructure around them to make it work, it happens. Yeah, it will be anxiety-driven because first-time film is anxiety-driven, but I feel like you always make something really distinct and fresh compared to the other stuff that’s out there because you’re just figuring it out. And what I feel at 59%, you’re creating an infrastructure and an environment for them to be themselves. We’re giving you space to say something and say it in the way that you want to say it to meanwhile adhere into the rules and the kind of traditions, narrative, and structure, but also reinventing those when necessary.”

Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. opens in theaters and streams on Peacock on Sept.2.

Shadow and Act is a website dedicated to cinema, television and web content of Africa and its global Diaspora. With daily news, interviews, in-depth investigations into the audiovisual industry, and more, Shadow and Act promotes content created by and about people of African descent throughout the world.

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