Photo: 1874 Portrait of Fisk Jubilee Singers commissioned by Queen Victoria
Entertainment veteran, Stephen Ashley Blake is the founder and CEO of Realm Pictures International. He is currently casting for the film, “Steal Away.” Based on Andrew Ward’s critically acclaimed “Dark Midnight When I Rise,” Steal Away” tells the story of The Fisk Jubilee Singers, a sensational choir of young formal slaves fighting the KKK’s reign of terror against their schools, the fledgling HBCUs, not with bullets or bombs but sensational songs of faith and freedom.
Steal Away follows the choir’s titanic rise from the darkness of slavery to the glittering ballrooms of Europe as they conquer the world and their own demons. The Fisk Jubilee Singers not only saved hundreds of schools from supremacist destruction but continue to electrify the world 150 years later.
“Steal Away is Gone with the Wind from the African-American perspective, yet it is a universal human story,” said forty-year entertainment industry veteran Stephen Ashley Blake, founder, and CEO of Realm Pictures International. “The era is the same, but it depicts a nation at a profound crossroads as the story’s protagonists, both white and Black, together fight the forces of supremacist rage that would re-enslave four million emancipated African Americans in the name of their God. A breathtaking epic now in development, Steal Away will feature a diverse international cast with a strong female lead, a soundtrack by multi-Grammy-winning composer Billy Childs, and a universal story of hope, redemption, and race reconciliation that will inspire audiences across the world. Blake will serve as the director of the film.
Stephen Blake’s credits span over two hundred motion pictures, television, commercial,s and music video productions, including productions for Universal, Paramount, Warner Brothers, Sony, HBO, and USA Network. As Director, Producer, and/or Cinematographer he has shot iconic music videos for artists including Bono, Wu-Tang, Tupac, Snoop Dogg, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Digital Underground, and Chris Rock for Geffen, Motown, Interscope, Def Jam, Virgin, Capitol, Columbia, MCA, RCA, Atlantic, Elektra, Epic, Island and Arista.
Blake was inspired to tell the story of the Fisk Jubilee Singers after purchasing a print of the group for his home. He said, my wife and I had a print of a painting over our fireplace. It was a print of a young African American choir. They were former slaves dressed in Victorian Garb. We bought the painting as décor but as we were looking at it, we kept thinking, what is their story? I wound up purchasing the book, Dark Midnight When I Rise, which tells their story, and I was stunned. It is a stunning story. It is a universal story. at I believe will captivate people, especially the story of Ella Shepard.
Blake is also using social media in an innovative way, using the platforms to cast performers, and inviting audiences into the pre-production process with script reviews and live readings. He says it is about equity, leveling the playing field, and allowing undiscovered talent and opportunity to showcase their skills.
“We know that some of the best artists are undiscovered. We are going to be breaking dozens of amazing new faces onto the screen with respect to this. We are leveling the playing field and giving actors equal opportunity. He continued, no one in no role will be cast with any preference whatsoever to someone’s star meter, or how famous they are how much money they can bring in the box office. We think that is going to electrify the people. We are already seeing some extraordinary auditions from artists that are not represented. We want to reshape the way films are made.”
Realm’s vision for Steal Away extends to its philanthropy. According to Blake, “Realm is passionate about forging pathways of opportunity for young people facing severe economic challenge, and we believe the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities are critical gateways. But though teeming with brilliant young minds, the HBCUs are drastically underfunded, with several at the brink of bankruptcy.” Joining their crusade to build meaningful futures for hundreds of thousands of gifted students, Realm pledges to financially endow the HBCUs with 10% of Steal Away’s assignable net profits from the movie’s theatrical release. “Meanwhile,” Blake goes on, “in the production of our motion pictures, we will tirelessly draw upon the outstanding literary, performing arts, and technical talent emerging from these dynamic campuses, breaking promising young adults into the $2.3 trillion global media industry.”
Realm has launched a $34.7 million campaign to raise both corporate sponsorships and investment financing to produce Steal Away. The for-profit company, which has partnered with Fractured Atlas, is currently engaging corporate sponsors and investors. “This is the cost-driven, philanthropically-centered future of epic entertainment,” says Blake.
For more information on the Steal Away film, visit their website www.realmpictures.co.