Creating the Soundtrack for ‘My Father The Queen’
The following is a contributed piece from film writer, director, and producer Lisa N. Alexander, and gives an inside look at how music and film come together to create multi-dimensional art.
My Father The Queen is my first feature film.
It’s Kelly’s story—a black daughter growing up with her closeted gay father and how that experience affects her personal and professional relationships. In addition to what many call “daddy issues,” the story examines the intricacies of generational trauma and the journey toward healing.
We see our main character’s father make the “choice” to remain closeted because of external and societal pressures. This decision impacts his mental health and twists his family dynamics into something toxic. Instead of treating his daughter as a “daddy’s girl” as he once had, he turns angry and cold, leaving Kelly feeling abandoned.
To do these characters justice, I labored over this script. I rewrote the rewrites.
And writing and formatting this script was hard! I imagine it’s like learning where middle C is one day and then being expected to give an hour-long concert the next.
But with each iteration, the dialogue grew more realistic, the action lines were more descriptive yet succinct, and the movie tropes and cliches were removed.
Not only did I need to learn how to write in this new language, but I also had to be mindful of the film’s intricacies. Like the thoughtful placement of music throughout the film.
Music, the Black Church, and My Father The Queen
I grew up in the Black Church and one of the greatest gifts to come out of the institution is its music. Throughout my school-age years, my family spent time in both the Baptist and Pentecostal faith traditions. While the doctrines were quite different, much of the music crossed over.
‘Give Me A Clean Heart’ penned by my mother’s former choir director, Margaret J. Douroux—a devout Baptist—was a favorite of my husband’s equally devoted Apostolic father.
Because the Black Church and gospel music were and still are important to so many families, I had to get this right.
I knew certain songs had to be paired with certain scenes.
Some will watch key scenes, hear the music, and understand why a certain song was selected. The song, seemingly contrary to the emotion being expressed is a prophetic declaration for better times. Because if gospel music is anything, it is a message of hope and expectation that “we’ll understand it better by and by.”
It Cost How Much to License Those Songs?
When writing the early drafts of the script, I had a pretty good idea of which songs I wanted and reached out to publishing houses to inquire about their cost. The email I received left me breathless for a few seconds. I was at $10,000 for two songs and that was for limited internet distribution. Ten grand is a lot of money for an indie filmmaker making a low-budget film!
I didn’t know where that would leave the other equally important scenes that needed amazing music to intensify the drama or sweeten the moment. Teena Marie’s “Portuguese Love” and Anita Baker’s “Sweet Love” were definitely out of my budget.
My music team told me not to worry. Music to fit moods and scenes can always be created. You would think that’s when being married to a musician would prove beneficial.
My husband Elgin, a brilliant keyboard player has given me tons of excuses to find someone else. He says he’s rusty. Well, I don’t want someone else. I want the man I used to listen to who would practice for hours in our loft.
And when your husband comes from a musical family, I am not opposed to calling in favors. Especially when his cousin Brad just released an album.
I’m extremely grateful for all the amazing people who’ve said yes. A Chicago-based choir is not only providing tracks from their album but choir robes and choir members. This saves money on wardrobe and extras!
So many people believe in this project and are doing what they can to make it happen.
We have to get the music right.
The story is too important not to.
“My Father The Queen” has won two best script awards and is currently in preproduction. We are crowdfunding, taking meetings, and building out an amazing team of cast and crew members. Connect with us on FB and IG!