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Cinematographer and film director Stephen Blake is a big idea kinda guy. Throughout his 40-plus years in the entertainment industry, he’s been apart of various blockbusters and now he’s on a mission to craft his own with Steal Away.
The Black Wall Street Times spoke with Blake about his upcoming historical fiction film and how he conceived of such an epic idea.
Citing epics like Gladiator, Cleopatra, Braveheart, and Godfather, Blake states that white films have always had a place throughout cinematic history, and that’s where he wants to fill in the gap. After working on mainstream film, music, and television projects since the late 80s, recently Blake decided to pivot towards “theatrical motion pictures that would feature stories coming from us, epic stories.”
Ever since working with artists like Tupac Shakur and several others who lost their lives during their creative primes, Blake “in faith walked away and prayed that God would rebuild everything.” Little did he know, his faith would soon be rewarded.
Steal Away isn’t just a movie – it’s a movement
Inspired by a “God-appointed” portrait above his home’s fireplace, Blake, with the support of his wife, decided to bring it to life. Steal Away tells the post-Civil War tale of a “sensational choir of young former slaves fighting the KKK’s reign of the terror against HBCUs – not with bullets and bombs – but with incredible songs of faith and freedom.”
Based on Andrew Ward’s epic “Dark Midnight When I Rise,” and without giving too much of the plot away, Blake explained that the cast of characters are reflective of the international audiences who will go to experience the film in theaters.
Blake states that not only does the the film include in-depth characters from varied racial backgrounds, but it will also star a Black female lead – the first of its kind in Epic cinematic history.
“It’s my passion to bring this story to the world,” says Blake.
Driven to create a cinematic masterpiece, Blake’s passion has become his life’s purpose. He explains, “My workday starts at 2 a.m. and I can’t wait to get out of bed.”
More than solely creating a film, Blake wants to create a ecosystem of Blackness that invests and reinvests in our stories. “The key is to catalyze and mobilize our people,” he explains. “We are building an entire industry around HBCUs. We as Black filmmakers have to mine our own stories. We can’t wait for them to tell our stories.”
Blake knows the array of talent on HBCU campuses and wants to assist aspiring “actors, screenwriters, producers, cinematographers, costume and production designers from Black colleges,” which he also states 10% of the profits from Steal Away will also be reinvested back into after its release.
While an avid reader and respectful of traditions of the past, Blake looks to re-invent the wheel of how our movies are funded, inviting Black business owners with an opportunity to invest, “taking our seat at the table of the greatest financial opportunities to Black businesses so that we – not Wall Street – benefit from our own stories. We’re centering this whole effort around the Black community.”
The projected release for the film is Christmas 2023.