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In the News > Aurora native completes first feature film

4 Apr 2007

Aurora native completes first feature film Jill Stone | by daily-journal.com. All rights reserved. 4.04 | 5:40 AURORA, Ill. (AP) -- It's one thing to have a dream, and another thing entirely to go after that dream with everything you have. Stacie Hawkins is going after her dream -- she's moving from her hometown of Aurora to California to pursue a filmmaking career. And she's bringing along her first finished feature, a movie called "The Rise and Fall of Miss Thang." The 33-year-old Hawkins wrote, directed and produced "Miss Thang," the story of a rebellious young woman's return to her childhood love of tap dancing. It's been a labor of love for more than a year, and she hopes it will be her calling card as she navigates the movie industry. But this is what Hawkins wants to do with her life. It was either law school or film school, she said, and she picked film -- she has a master's degree from Chapman University in Orange County, Calif., and two short movies under her belt. And now, "Miss Thang." Described by Hawkins as an "urban dance drama," the movie follows Dee Miller, a Chicago woman who works in her mother's hair salon by day, and parties by night. By chance, she falls in with a troupe of tap dancers, and over the course of the film, Miller finds happiness, love and her own sense of purpose. It's a film about discovering your dream, and working to make it happen. And watching it, it leaves no doubt that Hawkins has discovered hers. So how does one make a feature film with no money, no crew and little else but a script and a camera? With a little help from your friends. Hawkins says it was a team effort from the start. It was shot in two weeks, with a few extra days here and there for cleanup, and everyone worked for free. Hawkins sunk her own money into it -- "I lost track, I have no idea how much," she said -- and shot the film in locations owned by friends and collaborators. The film contains a number of elaborate dance sequences, and Hawkins needed to find people who could both act and tap. She scored a coup, she says, when she cast Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards in the lead role. Sumbry-Edwards was the first female performer in Savion Glover's "Bring in Da'Noise, Bring in Da'Funk," and she appeared in Gregory Hines' famous film "Tap." "She saw my short film and enjoyed it," Hawkins said. "I didn't know she could act, but she taped a little audition, and got the part. " There was one problem, though -- Sumbry-Edwards lives in New York, and the filming had to coincide with her trips to Chicago. Luckily, she was in several Chicago productions last summer, and Hawkins convinced her to film during the day, before performing at night. Martin "Tre" Dumas III, was cast as the male. Dumas and his partner, Bril Barrett, run M.A.D.D. Rhythms, a Chicago-based tap dancing troupe, and they choreographed the movie. "M.A.D.D. Rhythms was very involved," Hawkins said. "They helped me find everybody, they got in contact with all the dancers." But the emotional core of the movie can be found in the interaction between Dee Miller and her mother, Josephine. For that part, Hawkins found Dori King, a Chicago-area theater actress who has appeared in several television productions. To hear Hawkins tell it, the shooting days were chaotic, but fun. "We did so much rewriting and improvising," she said. "By the time we stopped shooting one day, I was figuring out what we needed for the next day, and who needed to show up. I was e-mailing people at 10 p.m. " But in the end, it all got done. Read more on by daily-journal.com. All rights reserved. Keywords: Sumbry Edwards, Miss Thang, Dee Miller

Jill Stone