First Time Director Noel Calloway Opens Up To Sergio About His Feature 'Life, Love, Soul'
Photo Credit: S & A

First Time Director Noel Calloway Opens Up To Sergio About His Feature 'Life, Love, Soul'


No surprise

that over the years I’ve done a lot of interviews with filmmakers. But one

thing that I’ve rarely done, is interview a first time filmmaker. The opportunities

don’t come around that often, which is one of the many things that makes Noel Calloway

so interesting.


has written and directed his moving feature film Life, Love, Soul which comes out

on DVD and VOD next Tuesday, Aug.27th, through RBC Film Group.


Chad Coleman (Tyreese on The Walking Dead), Jamie Hector, Robbie Tate-Brickle,

Egypt Sherrod, Terri J. Vaughn and Valerie Simpson, Calloway’s film is about a

17-year-old honor student struggling to cope with the sudden death of his

mother in a car accident. As a result, he

is forced to reconnect with an estranged father who’s been absent for most of

his life.  Though his father tries, in his

own awkward way, to make amends for his past

mistakes, new problems arise to rock, even further, the tumultuous father-son

relationship, creating new challenges for the young student.


just this week, I talked to the very interesting Noel Calloway about his film, its long journey, which stated just after high school, how he wound up

directing the film, when, originally, he wanted someone else to direct it, and why

he thinks films have a greater purpose.


I have no choice but to start off with the most obvious question. Is Life, Love, Soul autobiographical or based on someone you know? You know what they always

say to beginning filmmakers – write what you know.


actually based on a lot of people I know and I guess that was my reality

growing up in terms of just people in my school, people in my community, just

people all around me. It’s a collage of a lot of peoples’ stories and I thought

it needed to be told in a real honest and candid way.

The father, played by Chad Coleman in your film, is a very angry frustrated guy; from people you know from your experience, is that common? That these absent

fathers are that bitter and angry?

To be frank, I don’t know if that’s common. That is a side

of the story that I use as a dramatic tool because when you talk about a father

not being in the home talking from my experience anyway, we always get the

mother’s perspective and the children’s perspective. Usually the father is mum on

the subject. In my experience you never even hear the father’s side. So that

part in my film was sort of a “what if?” What would a man, who has supported his

children financially and in his eyes, hasn’t been allowed to be in their lives,

how would he feel? And I think the anger was more grief and misplaced emotions.

And I can speak for myself as men, our knee jerk reaction to sadness is anger, as

opposed to the vulnerability and weakness that is perceived when you’re sad and

hurting. So I thought that was his coping mechanism as opposed to him being just

outright mad.


leads me to ask, and I hate to put you into the shoes of a sociologist, why is

this situation practically the norm nowadays? To not age myself, but when I was

a kid growing up you rarely saw black kids being raised by single mothers unless

the parents were divorced or the father was dead. Now granted you had parents who

didn’t like each other and had a hard time being together, but they somehow

stuck it out and worked through it. Now it’s: “You

left the cap off the toothpaste. Bye I’m gone!”

Yup, yup. And that’s the most disheartening thing about

it, is that it’s so often, and not to take the position of a sociologist, it’s

that attitude that it’s so much easier to walk out, or on the other side, I can

do that alone. Because when I grew up, that was the norm, and that’s what

prompted me to write this script. At my high school graduation I looked out and

I saw mainly mothers and grandmothers, but fathers sprinkled in here and there, but not prevalent, and that image just stuck in my head. So I wrote the script

the summer after high school. It was that image I had: “Where are all the dads? Why are

they gone?”


wait you wrote this script right after high school? Was it first a short story or originally as a screenplay?

I wrote it as a script in 1997 and of course I’ve

rewritten it countless times because as a 17 year old I don’t know how good a

writer I was, but this is what I wanted to do. So I went to Clark University in Atlanta as a Radio/TV/Film major and

when I came back home to Mew York, I jumped full in and went back into these

scripts that I had written…


this point Calloway excuses himself for a few minutes to take care of his young



see you’re leading by example. Good for you! (laughs)

Yes absolutely! (laughs) So as I was saying I had written

all these scripts, but this one just resonated with me and it was the first one

I had written so it was near and dear to my heart. It just seemed important. If

I was going to dive into this insanity of independent filmmaking and if I only

had one shot, because you never know, then it should be a film that made a statement

along with being a good, entertaining film. And this is the one I thought that

could do that. It took us a while to get it out, but now it’s more important

than ever with the national conversation that’s going on in terms of this epidemic

of homes without fathers.


the way I’m glad you talked about your past and the long journey that it’s

been. I always try to tell people who are interested in becoming filmmakers

that’s a long hard struggle. It takes years of dedication and really hard work.

But why the path of being a filmmaker for you? Why not become a painter or a

writer some other way to express yourself?

Early on I just loved movies. Before I knew what quote/unquote filmmaking was I loved

movies and I wanted to write them. I didn’t know I wanted to direct them. I didn’t

know that I wanted to produce them. I just wanted to write them. I originally

had no intention of directing this film, but when I started talking to

directors about the script no one fully understood the vision. So

actually I was pushed into directing the film myself by the producers of the


At first I was like “Wait I don’t really know how to do that.

But they would hear what I was saying to the other directors we were

interviewing and they said: “No you need to direct this because you have

a very clear vision of what you want this film to be and that is what directing

is; although I had go to school for it and sort of learn the technical

side. And for a young man growing up in Harlem, I’ve never known a movie director

before. The first set I was ever on was as the director of my film. I didn’t

know until then that I had this skill set and the acumen to do it.

But midway through the first day of shooting, as I was

interacting with the cast, I felt very very comfortable. That I can convey a

message and to me that’s what being a directing is. Being able to communicate a

message to the cast, the crew everyone, and to translate your vision to the

screen, and I think that I’ve really found my sweet spot.


are directors born or are they made?

I think they’re born. I absolutely think they’re born.

Before, I was a director of teen programs for the YMCA and I’ve created summer

camps. I’ve been in lead positions and have brought all kinds of people

together and value the importance of a team and their collective work. And I

think good directors are born because it’s not about ego, it’s about that

collective work.

If, for example, an actor has a notion to go into a

certain direction my only instruction would be to tell him go 100%. If this is

the choice you’re going to make, then commit to it 100% and my job is to get

you to 100%. It’s not my choice to make your choices for you. And what I heard

from the actors was that, that was sort of refreshing and I think it made for a

better project because it allows everyone’s voice to be heard. And I don’t care

how smart you are, one person is not smarter than ten together.


in regards to the cast, how were you able to get Chad Coleman? Timing is

everything and now with his role in The Walking Dead, which will be more

prominent when the new season starts in October, it adds an extra level on

interest to your film?

Perfect timing. Just like you said it takes years and time

and patience, but it seems that this film has really been blessed. Everything

seems to be breaking at just the right time. We cast Chad before The Walking Dead. We cast Tami Roman before Basketball Wives. We didn’t know these things were going to happen.

Chad came on board as a result of Jamie Hector being on board. I met Jamie at a

screening for his film Blackout that he did with Jeffrey Wright and Zoe

Saldana and I had been a fan of his since The Wire. It wasn’t until I

started speaking with him did I realize that he was far removed from the character

Marlo. He’s from Brooklyn, New York and he’s a community guy. We had a lot in common

and especially in what we felt about our role in the community, in helping young

people and helping men. So I told him I have a script that I think you’ll like.

With no expectations I didn’t expect an actor of that stature would want to

sign on to a project of mine and his first out the gate.

He and his manager got back to me and said that they loved

it and he said he didn’t care about the money, he just wanted to be involved.

He just wanted to do it and I was overwhelmed. And from that his manager contacted


Sherrod and sent her in for an audition. And then Jamie contacted Chad and

then Chad reached out to Dedra Tate, one of

our main producers and she’s had a long relationship with Chad. He called her

and said Jamie told me you had this great script that you’re producing, and I’ll

like to take a look at it. So he read it and really responded to it the way

that Jamie did and told us he wanted to be involved.

And it just started to snowball, a word of mouth sort of

thing. Then Terry Vaughn gets

involved and then everyone heard about it from a peer or someone else, and they felt

that the content of the script was something that was necessary right now, and

they could be proud of being a part of. Because, and this is not something that

was actually said to me, I get the sense that they don’t feel that these roles

are out there for them. So when they come along, they want to grab on to them by

any means necessary. And for that reason, that’s why I think they stuck with me

for four years as I tried to get the film made.


then you believe that films have a greater propose than to just entertaining?

Absolutely. I mean I grew up looking up to filmmakers

like Spike Lee. He dealt with subjects that weren’t always the easiest to talk

about, but he gave us a platform to discuss them. So when you talk about a

film like say Jungle Fever dealing

with mixed relationships, you can talk about the characters in the film and

what’s going on, on the screen. But you’re in fact talking about things you feel in

your own life which is separating yourself from it, so you can have a more

honest conversation. 

I think good films do that and can still be entertaining, and

the teaching comes from the audience interacting with each other. Because you

can watch a film and walk out and that’s that. But with this film, at every

screening, the Q & A and dialogue

after the film goes on so long, because people are talking about their own

stories, and it relates to what they see on the screen and how they want to do

things differently.

Here’s the trailer for the film: