What would you do if you found a bag full of money? Take it or leave it? The chance of changing your life in an instant. I started writing Mahogany Sunrise 5 years ago based on the premise of the moral dilemma of someone finding a bag full of money. Jack Kerouac once said “What’s in store for me in the direction I don’t take?” Along these lines, I have always been fascinated by fate and chance and the idea of the path not taken.
Mahogany Sunrise Logline:
While on the run from hitmen, an IT guy becomes entangled with a femme fatale stripper and her gangbanger ex’s border town gang. Mahogany Sunrise is a romantic, action drama about a downhearted IT guy named Jackson who longs to be a musician. After being sent to a border town for work, Jackson stumbles upon a duffel bag full of money. Thinking he’s hit the jackpot, he takes the money. He later meets and falls for a charismatic burlesque dancer named Mercedes. But Jackson quickly learns that this new found fortune comes with a price as he finds himself on the run from her ex and his gangbanger crew along with two hitmen who want the money back.
Mahogany Sunrise is a hip, lovers on the run story with themes of greed, arrogance, chance encounters, finding love, taking chances and following your heart to do what you’re meant to in life. Jackson and Mercedes are two star-crossed strangers that happen to meet, inspire each other and fall in love. In the end, their love must survive greed and the relentless pursuit of those that want to kill them.
The Mexican Girl chapters of Jack Kerouac’s ‘On The Road’ were very inspirational in writing Mahogany Sunrise. In these chapters of the book, Sal Paradise meets a Mexican girl named Terry at a bus station in Los Angeles and for the next fifteen days they are “together for better or worse.” For those of you that have read ‘On The Road’ what if Sal had stayed with Terry and they made a life together? Either way their lives were forever changed as their souls collided in this all too big world.
I had read ‘On The Road’ years earlier while I traveled the world working as a Network Engineer namely in 2004 when I traveled to Bangkok, Beijing, Almaty (Kazakhstan) and Tashkent (Uzbekistan). Funny antidote from the last two places I traveled was I had to buy two bottles of vodka for the customs agents to leave Kazakhstan traveling to Uzbekistan because of a mix up with my passport. I kid you not that’s how things roll over there.
Jackson and Mercedes in Mahogany Sunrise are two people from very
different lives that happen to cross paths and they are forever changed by their individual self-discovery as a result of their meeting. Mercedes is able to realize a better life for her and her daughter and Jackson finally becomes the musician he’s always yearned to be after finding his muse in Mercedes. My other motivation for writing Mahogany Sunrise is wondering what inspires an artist or musician. I am a huge music nerd and have been since I was a teenager growing up in the 80’s. I love nearly all genres of music from Classical, Jazz, Heavy Metal, acoustic, Blues, Post Rock, Dance, and Punk Rock. I’m a huge music collector and have over 5,000 CDs. I, however, never learned to play music myself. I always wanted to be a part of a band and the experience of collectively creating music. So with the character of Jackson I really wanted to explore what inspires a musician. In his case, it’s a beautiful woman and the crazy adventure he goes on.
Other themes in Mahogany Sunrise are following your heart to do what
you’re meant to in life, taking chances and not being afraid of failure. The story begins with Jackson and his co-worker, John Morrison, sitting around the office complaining about the management at the IT firm they work for. Morrison presents an interesting theory that analogizes corporate America’s workers and management to ants and aphids.
“Seriously, this company, corporate America for that matter, can be best explained with an analogy of ants and aphids. It’s a mutualistic relationship, well sort of anyway. You see this office is the plant. We are the aphids. Aphids do the actual work of converting company resources, the leaves, into company product, the dew (aka the “sweet stuff”). Morrison introduces the term “leafhopper” explaining that “this is a special breed of aphid that has grown strong legs to help propel themselves off the plant. They are risk takers, full of life.”
Morrison’s commentary about leafhoppers becomes an underlying theme
throughout the story epitomizing taking chances and taking the leap whether it is Jackson running off with the stolen money, falling for Mercedes or pursuing his dream of being a musician.
They always say write what you know and I can really relate to Mahogany Sunrise’s protagonist Jackson who is also an IT guy. But his real passion is music as he is an aspiring singer songwriter and guitarist who feels like he’s stuck in a rut feeling as though his creativity is being stifled by working in the IT industry. Similarly, I long to direct films. Daily right brain, left brain battles rage within me. Don’t get me wrong a Network Engineer is definitely a necessary and noble profession but not the most creative or exciting line of work at least for me.
I have always found inspiration in film and have always been appreciative of how the medium can inspire and move us. This is a goal I strive to achieve with my films. Also, I’ve always been fascinated with film and how it can transport you into another state of mind and place. For as long as I can remember, I would dream up stories and store them in my mind and some would eventually find their way to paper. Particular moments and episodes throughout my life have always seemed to be like scenes from a film. It wasn’t until college when I really started to focus on career choices and life beyond a party that I decided I wanted to be a filmmaker. I took two courses in college that really changed the way I looked at movies and really opened my eyes to film as a moving art form. French and Italian Cinema were the courses and I was introduced to the films of Fellini ( 8 ½ & Nights of Cabiria), Antonioni (Eclipse & Blow Up), Godard (Breathless, Band of Outsiders & Alphaville), Lina Wertmueller (Love and Anarchy), Bertolluci (The Conformist) and Jean Renoir (Grand Illusion). I realized the full potential of film as an art form beyond pop culture. Don’t get me wrong I love the classic Hollywood movies but these French and Italian films really expanded my love for film.
Perseverance. I suppose all indie filmmakers need to possess this trait but I could have easily given up on a film career years ago. I started out after graduating from The University of Texas at Austin working in TV news. A few years later I made a short film called ‘Last Night I Fell Again’. The film is a dreamlike take on an alternative relationship in which two seemingly strangers meet and spend the day together. As the story unfolds, it is revealed that these two know each other and that they are in the midst of a role playing game that the woman has concocted to spice up their relationship. The film was shot on 16 mm film which I insisted upon doing. It was expensive and really, in hindsight, I wish I would have chosen HD over film.
Unfortunately, the short film never aired at a film festival but was praised for its interesting take on a relationship and its visual style. Afterwards, I was left with a huge debt of 10 credit cards in self-funding the film (they were handing out Credit Card applications everywhere back then). So I had to get out of the high stress low pay TV news production field. I transitioned into Information Technology (IT) and later became a Network Engineer to support my growing family responsibilities. People always ask what is a Network Engineer? I just tell them I work with devices to connect computers together.
I’ve been working for the past 13 years in the IT field working with routers and switches, designing networks and data centers, but my passion for film has always remained and I keep writing. We only go around in this life once and I’ve always felt like making films is what I needed to do with my life.
I’ve tried many different routes to get Mahogany Sunrise funded. I’ve sent the script to name actors and producers, entered the script into screenwriting contests and even tried placing it on InkTip.com. Everyone pretty much said “sounds like a great story get back to us once you have the money!” Mahogany Sunrise has always been a grassroots effort and in this spirit I have placed the film on Kickstarter, taking it to the masses and taking my own ‘leap’ aka being a ‘leafhopper’. Last August we were able to shoot proof of concept trailers with the help of funding from a successful smaller Kickstarter campaign and personal funds. We were able to show off these trailers at last year’s American Film Market (AFM) and were pleased to hear great things from film execs and distributors from around the world praising our work and wanting to see more. So please join us on our Kickstarter campaign and support indie film!
Scott Leisk, the Writer / Director / Producer of Mahogany Sunrise grew up in Houston, Texas. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a BS in Radio, TV, Film (RTF). While attending college he was fascinated and inspired to become filmmaker by the great French and Italian filmmakers of 1960’s.
Scott currently works as a Network Engineer / Information Assurance Officer but his real passion is film. He has written multiple screenplays that are in various stages of development and investment. His interests span multiple genres to include coming of age, film-noir, thriller, action, historical and romance.
Scott wrote and directed the dramatic short film entitled Last Night I Fell Again. The film garnered enthusiastic reviews for its interesting take on a relationship and praise for its visual style. Mahogany Sunrise, a tale of greed, taking chances, love and betrayal will be his first feature film.