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Producer/Director Phillip Andrew Morton Talks White Flight in New Film Spanish Lake

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Phillip Andrew Morton educates us on "cultural and societal issues that people are afraid to confront." Through his films, Phillip brings awareness and understanding to the general population, who may not even know such issues exist. Twitter: @PhillipAMorton , Website: http://www.phillipandrewmorton.com
Photo Credit: PAM

Phillip Andrew Morton's latest project, Spanish Lake, takes a serious look at the former, predominantly white-inhabited suburb of St. Louis -- an unincorporated township, whose residents favored no government -- after an influx of Section 8 housing and African Americans that began in the 1970's, led to an extreme example of what has since been dubbed by social scientists as "white flight."

You're the Producer and Director of the film Spanish Lake which is due to premiere on June 13th with a limited release. How are limited releases arranged? How do you go about finding theaters to show the film?

We're self-releasing Spanish Lake via Tugg. Tugg is newer company that helps indie filmmakers host screenings in towns via an on-demand platform. Audiences buy tickets online in advance and if enough people sign up, then the screening is guaranteed. Although in St. Louis, we're renting out a theatre. I'm working closely with our publicist who is promoting the film in multiple cities.

You worked on the 2012 film Battleship as Coordinator. What exactly does a Coordinator do and how did you get the job?

For Battleship, I oversaw the production of 180+ visual effects shots over a period of four months. Director Peter Berg gave me notes which I then passed on to a team of 40 visual effects artists. Towards the end it was a 100 hour work week; I've never worked so hard in my life. During the few hours I had off, I was working on Spanish Lake.

Who's Pam from your photo credit?

PAM is an acronym for my initials. I was teased in grade school about it, but I own it now.

You used to live in Spanish Lake. Was your family part of the "white flight?" How old were you when you moved?

My family moved from Spanish Lake when I was 18. They were getting divorced and I had just graduated high school. This was at the height of the "white flight", but that was not the motivation as to why they sold the house. Had they not gotten divorced, I'm not sure if they would have stayed.

What is your attraction to political and cultural topics? What peaks your interest?

I choose my film projects based on the cultural and societal issues that people are afraid to confront. I'm also attracted to true life personal struggles, usually on the darker side of human nature. My goal is to create insight into those topics and provide a reference point for people that can identify. Cinematic therapy basically.

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Did you ever have braces, Mr. Perfect Smile?

My smile came from braces. I think they made my lips bigger.

You're one of the few people that actually got a job in the field you studied in college. How did you stay focused on that goal without going broke?

I was very fortunate to land a job as an assistant editor at mOcean, shortly after I moved to Los Angeles. I learned the fundamentals of storytelling from editing movie trailers and those skills helped me land bigger jobs. I'm currently editing the trailer for Spanish Lake, so it's never far behind. I've had to be very thrifty with money, especially now, as I'm pretty much broke after spending so much time on this project.

What happened on May 12th when you went to Washington, DC to screen Spanish Lake and met with Congress and members of H.U.D.?

On May 12th, I met with H.U.D. and screened the film for their staff, including a web feed for their field offices, which was over 10,000 people. Afterwards I answered their questions about Section 8 housing and the racism presented in the film. Their initial inquiry into the film was suspicious as I think they saw it as potential personal attack, but I think their nerves were calmed after the screening. They asked me for suggestions on better Section 8 planning and how to prevent "white flight" from occurring in communities. Our discussions were intense and fruitful.

What tech do you use?

I'm an Apple everything kinda guy. That said, I try to disconnect from technology whenever possible. Friends get frustrated with me because I'm very much delinquent with texting and email replies.

Anything else you'd like to say?

I'd like to give a shout out to my parents, who taught me the values of working hard and staying true to yourself. Spanish Lake is as much a product of them as it is myself. I love you both!