Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Interview: Bill Haney of ‘American Violet’

posted by Nell Minow

“American Violet,” the fine new film about the real-life woman who took on corrupt and racist law enforcement officials in 2000, was written by Bill Haney. It was a very great pleasure to get to talk to him about the film.

Tell me a little about your background and about what made you want to write this story.

I grew up in a Benedictine monastery in Rhode Island. My dad was a teacher there and I went to school there and left to go to college. It was there I got the general idea that the goal of life isn’t to get something from the world but to give something to the world. The purpose of storytelling is to illuminate and express something useful about the human condition, sometimes joyful, sometimes distracting, but in an ideal world, constructive. I like stories about an ordinary person called upon to do something extraordinary. I heard Wade Goodman on NPR talking about this case in Texas. His storytelling was classic NPR expositional context so that I felt compelled and moved, and that was what launched the journey to find the people and write the story.

It seems to me to be a essentially American story — an underdog seeking justice.

It is a systemically frustrating view of American justice, and the way they fought to get justice. We’ve been doing these word-of-mouth screenings with really interesting discussions. One woman said she was really pleased to see the message that we can get change through the system, that if we are educated and stand up it can work.

I am often of critical of films that set the lighting for the white characters and do not to justice to black skin tones but this film lights the black characters beautifully.

That was important to us, too. It is challenging to make sure the visual beauty is equally spread.

What has happened to the real-life woman who is called Dee in the movie?

In a lot of ways she is doing great. At one level this has been a marathon experience for her. She stayed in the community until four weeks ago. She’s gone through a lot of struggles including some serious health problems. She’s still there and he’s still there so it hasn’t ended, but it has been cathartic for her to get this experience out there. She’s a bright, charismatic woman. But her community is blighted. In the local high school, 169 entered as freshmen, but only three graduated and none went to college. There are these inherent limitations and she pierced right through that. She’s out giving talks, finding a voice and a place in society. Her children have found this process hugely validating and inspiring. Telling her story this way helped them respect and admire her. She is articulate and persuasive. It has left some marks on her but she is stronger and a person with a bigger voice in her world as a result.

What are some of the movies you saw when you were young that inspired you to want to make films?

At the all boys school we had no television but we had these screenings on Saturday nights. I saw “Guns of Navarone” and was completely smitten. I love Peter Weir movies, especially “The Year of Living Dangerously” — a magical story for me.

What are you working on next?

I’ve outlined three movies and a documentary about endangered species. Half my work is connected to something around the environment and food will be at the core of the next movie. Food is a great subject because it is about love, health, appreciation, beauty, soulfulness, and humor.

What makes you laugh?

PG Wodehouse. My wife has me on a Wodehouse allocation. She will only let me read for like 15 minutes at a time. I love dry humor, fish out of water stories. My own three kids make me laugh — kids know how to surf your waves. If you’re not laughing at them you’re laughing with them. I love Abbott and Costello and Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” and Jim Jarmusch’s “Night on Earth.”



  • http://www.derenwhalen.com Deren Whalen

    I watched American Violet just last evening, and I absolutely loved it!!!! I have just gotten a my novel published, titled: “What is the Color of Hate?” and I feel it would make an excellent movie. I wanted to find a way to get in touch with Mr. Bill Haney or Ms. Nicole Beharie, but have had no luck. My book deals with racially motivated events, and covers moral issues such as anger/hate/love/forgiveness. Right along the lines of this movie; I feel as if my book would make an excellent drama which would educate, and demand people reflect upon life in general, but more appropriately, their own life.
    So, I would love to be able to get contact with Nicole Beharie or Bill Haney if anyone knows how this can be done. This movie was excellent, and I am going to buy it for my own collection. I recommend everyone to watch this movie and be educated on what is really going on in the world in 2009! Nicole had an excellent performance, and deserves recognition for her role as Dee.

Previous Posts

Interview: Joseph Nasser of "Amber Alert: Terror on the Highway"
Reserve Police Officer Joseph Nasser produced Amber Alert: Terror on the Highway to help raise awareness of the Amber Alert system. It stars Tom Berenger as a man on the edge, making a dead rush for Mexico and kidnapping two young girls along the way. He is hotly pursued by police chief Martha Geig

posted 8:00:33am Jul. 28, 2014 | read full post »

"Guardian of the Galaxy's" Awesome Mixtape
One of the many pleasures of "Guardians of the Galaxy," opening this week, is the soundtrack featuring some 70's classics from an "Awesome Mixtape" played by Peter "Star Lord" Quill (Chris Pratt).  Here are some of the highlights. "Hooked on a Feeling" by Blue Swede [youtube]http://www.youtub

posted 8:00:21am Jul. 27, 2014 | read full post »

Comic-Con 2014: Day 2
Day 2 of Comic-Con included: an interview with "Sharknado" and "Sharknado 2" screenwriter Thunder Levin, a buggy lunch with Boxtrolls, press events with the directors and casts of four films, and appearing on the Rotten Tomatoes panel, where each attendee was given a paddle with a ripe tomato on on

posted 10:04:47pm Jul. 26, 2014 | read full post »

Thank You! This Site is 19 Years Old This Week!
It seems like yesterday, but it was 19 years ago this week that I first began writing reviews online as The Movie Mom®.  Anyone remember Prodigy?  The first appearance of my website was via the Sears-owned online service, so long ago it does not even turn up in Wayback searches.  At the time, we

posted 3:59:49pm Jul. 26, 2014 | read full post »

Interview: Dan Cohen of "Alive Inside"
Dan Cohen is the gifted and passionately committed man who transforms the lives of people with dementia and other severely debilitating diseases.  He is featured in the documentary "Alive Inside." He is the founder of Music and Memory, which provides resources to help bring these programs to peopl

posted 8:00:36am Jul. 26, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.