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NC Black Film Festival award winner Chris Everett talks "Wilmington on Fire" and its forthcoming sequel

Christopher Everett produced the documentary film Wilmington on Fire in 2015. It's the story of the only successful coup d'état in American history.
Christopher Everett produced the documentary film Wilmington on Fire in 2015. It's the story of the only successful coup d'état in American history.

This week, WHQR arts reporter Demia Avery interviewed Chris Everett — who’s currently working on a sequel to his documentary “Wilmington on Fire,” about the 1898 massacre and coup. This year he was awarded the Trailblazer Award at the North Carolina Black Film Festival, being held this week in Wilmington.

*This project was supported by the North Carolina Arts Council, a Division for the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources

The North Carolina Black Film Festival runs from Thursday, May 16 to Sunday, May 19, with events around Wilmington. Find details here.

Chris Everett's bio from the North Carolina Black Film Festivalpage:

Christopher Everett, hailing from Laurinburg, North Carolina, embarked on a remarkable filmmaking journey after a brief stint in Atlanta. His debut documentary, Wilmington on Fire garnered acclaim for its exploration of the 1898 Wilmington Massacre.

Since then, Christopher has continued to amplify underrepresented voices through producing projects like Black Beach / White Beach: A Tale of Two Beaches and The Black Baptism.

As Artistic Director of the Southern Documentary Fund, he's facilitated over $250k in grants to Southern filmmakers and revitalized the Southern Documentary Convening.

Leading Speller Street Films and co-founding BLK Docs, Christopher's commitment to storytelling and cultural representation shines. His latest endeavor, the annual 3 Chambers Fest, celebrates diverse cultural intersections of hip-hop, martial arts, and anime. He's currently in post-production on his next two documentaries, Wilmington on Fire: Chapter II and Grandmaster: The Vic Moore Story.

Listen to Demia Avery's full interview with Chris Everett.

You can also find the interview on Demia Avery's podcast series Whatchu' Doin’ North Carolina.

Demia Avery: We have one of our local favorites here in the house today. He is an independent film director, producer, curator, founder and president of Speller Street Films. His debut documentary “Wilmington on Fire” was released back in 2015. Please welcome this year's North Carolina Black Film Festival’s award recipient, Christopher Everett.

Chris Everett: Hey, thank you for having me on. I appreciate it.

DA: So, you’ve been kinda busy, huh!

CE: Oh yeah, nonstop.

DA: So how has life changed for you since the first documentary — so, I know things have changed for you tremendously.

CE: Yeah, you know, next year will be 10 years. Next years it will be ten years since we debuted the documentary at the Cucalorus Film Festival in November of 2015. Since then, it's been nonstop, even for that film. You know, even though the film is going on 10 years, it still has energy, it still has life. People still, you know, engage with it in community screen screenings and events and stuff like that, you know, I'm also finishing up to two to three other film projects as well. Plus, I'm the artistic director of the Southern Documentary Fund. So I'm always constantly working on you know, stuff with filmmakers, and just the organization in general. And so there's a lot you know, I do a lot but I'm having fun while I'm doing it.

DA: For those who still may not know what was “Wilmington on Fire” about because I want them to know kind of how you got your, your legacy for referral right now.

CE: Right. “Wilmington on Fire” really chronicles the history of the 1898 Wilmington massacre that happened in Wilmington on November 10, 1898, and documents the whole lead up to that, really shows what Wilmington was like back then, it was a thriving black middle class that was here a strong Black community that was making a lot of waves, not only in Wilmington, but throughout North Carolina. We're business owners, we're into politics, you know, the whole nine. And Wilmington really was kind of looking like how Atlanta is now, you know, we're Black people really doing a thing and thriving. But it was all changed with this whole White supremacy movement back then, that pretty much reversed all of that progress. And really not only set up Wilmington, for Jim Crow segregation, but the rest of the state as well. And you know, to me, the city has never really fully recovered from that event. So that's why we wanted to do the documentary. That's why I wanted to do it.

DA: Now, it has evolved since then, because there's a “Wilmington on Fire 2,” right?

CE: Well, “Wilmington on Fire” chapter two, we're about 80% done. We're in post production right now, you know finishing up with editing and all that good stuff, making it look right and tight. It's really it's a whole new approach — it’s a two year look into Wilmington today. So we document Wilmington, and all the stuff that was happening in the town 2020 to 2022. We're capturing what was going on during the pandemic, the murder of George Floyd, all different type of initiatives that was happening. And I wanted to do a different than keep talking about history all the time, like yo, with the first film we talk about the history. Now what are we going to do? We're living in 2020 and 2021, what are we going to do to really go ahead and reverse these effects of the 1898 massacre. And so I want to document, you know, several individuals that were doing some amazing things in the community, whether it's through entrepreneurship, grassroots activism, education, politics, all of that.

DA: So listen, you guys, we want to thank Chris Everett for joining us today. He's a busy man. We're gonna let him get back to his job.

CE: Thank you. Thank you for the support. I really appreciate it.

DA: This is Demia Avery with WHQR.

Demia has over 20 years of entertainment experience. She has worked in almost every facet of the entertainment industry, from radio promotions to talent coordinator, publicist, podcasting, and now to journalism.

In addition, Demia is co-founder of The Avery Agency, a SAG franchised talent agency located in Atlanta, GA, alongside her partner/sister, Gerra Avery.

Demia is the author of two motivational eBooks entitled, "The Roadblock is You," and"Meditations For the Right Now", as well as a twice being a nominee for the Delaware Black Awards and recently a Wilmington Chamber of Commerce Minority Excellence in Business Award nominee.

Lastly, Demia is CEO/Host of the local podcast Whatchu’Doin NC (formerly Whatchu Doin Wilmington).