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Son of a Preacher Man

Director's Statement

Son of a Preacher Man has been inside me for decades. However, writing one’s own story isn’t always as simple as just taking the time to do so. All our personal histories are filled with emotional baggage that we have yet to deal with or even know is there. Self-reflection brings up all sorts of things. And telling truths about our lives is one of the most vulnerable things any of us can do. This script is no exception.

It’s a normal thing for people to ask where you come from. Yet, I often find those questions to be awkward to answer. And sometimes unintentionally intrusive. Because no matter how I answered basic questions about my childhood, it would always pique interest in people to ask more questions and soon I would hear the same unanimous statement: “you should write this!” And I agreed. I just didn’t know how to go about it. How would the story end? I’m still living it! But mostly, how can I be that vulnerable? That exposed?

Finally, I found the courage and acceptance needed to get the story out of me in a way I feel is truthful, entertaining and I hope meaningful to a wider audience. This story tackles a lot of subjects: the relationships between fathers and sons, family dynamics, childhood male friendships before the cruelty of the knowledge of heteronormativity and after, religious community dynamics, zealotry, finding one’s own self-worth and the sacrifices that are necessary to stand in one’s own truth.

Looking back at the 1980’s – listening to the music, looking at the styles and language, the national psyche, pop culture, the ways things were for us Gen X kids – was a very nostalgic experience for me. And I have brought that nostalgia into the film as a way for an audience to connect to the story aesthetics and vibe. This film is dreamlike in the sense that memories are not concrete – they are elusive, subjective. And that is how this story is presented. This film tells human truths that everyone can recognize and connect to.

The look of the film is naturalistic. Characters are stripped down and human, relatable, accessible to the audience. All these characters live well below the middle class. The main characters struggle with poverty, even if they attempt to hide it. This is reflected in the places they dwell, work, worship, and party. We can feel the warmth of the sun, smell the grasses, the lakes, the forests, the gasoline from engines, the smoke from cigarettes – the sounds of cassette tape players, breezes in trees, the soft pat of paws on dirt, creeks babbling, the birds and insects, the roar of motorcycles and the wind in our ears. Every design in the film is there to transport us to this place, to connect us viscerally to the film, the characters and to the emotion in the story.

This is a film about freedom to love. And be loved. A film about how one boy experienced growing up. Told in a way for everyone to connect with. People want to remember. And to be remembered. This coming-of-age story is meant to help us all have that.

- P.J. Palmer | writer / director "Son of a Preacher Man"

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