When Rudy Langlais left his hometown of Basseterre as a small child, no one could have predicted that he would return, decades later, as an accomplished film producer.
During the first week of December, Langlais visited Nevis to research an upcoming feature film, which would tell the story of Alexander Hamilton, U.S. founding father, who was born on Nevis.
“The experience he takes from here shaped his mind, shaped his ideas, his philosophy,” Langlais says. “Those years defined who he would become.”
Langlais toured Nevis guided by Evelyn Henville, executive director of the Nevis Historical and Conservation Society. “We’ll be at his beck and call in terms of researching all the needs he will have,” Henville says. “That is the role that we will play, to help with all the formulation of the background stuff that he will need.”
Filming could begin as early as December 2014. “I never say when because there’s a notion that God acts while man plans, so I’m not going to challenge that,” Langlais says. “But I would say certainly our hope would be that this is within the next year.”
Film buffs may know some of Langlais’ works. He produced “The Hurricane,” featuring an Oscar-winning performance by Denzel Washington, and “Sugar Hill,” starring Wesley Snipes.
Langlais hopes “Young Hamilton,” as he’s calling his forthcoming Nevis work, will carry similar star power. He says Oscar-winners Kate Winslett and Nicole Kidman have expressed interest in the role of Hamilton’s mother, who was an important person in the statesman’s development.
Her name was Rachel Fawcett Buck, and she fled from a broken marriage in St. Croix. She came to Nevis where she met Hamilton’s father, whom she would never marry. “This woman had an important role to play, as much about who she was, about her role, her spirit not to be broken by difficult circumstances,” Langlais says. “[Hamilton] was the illegitimate child of a loving mother, and that more defined who he would become than anything else.”
While Buck is a more mysterious figure than Hamilton, Langlais says he’s not worried about telling her story. “At a certain point, as in any film about a historical figure, drama takes over,” he says “You have to create a dramatic story, and in creating a dramatic story, you move from the factual to the arena of art and drama.”
He adds: The filmmakers will do plenty of historical research, possibly drawing from Hamilton’s writings.
Of course, Langlais will cast far more characters than Hamilton and his mother. His team will need to recreate Nevis circa 1760. “We are going to have a fairly large cast, and we will use actors – I’ve met some here in the community,” he says “We will find roles for them to play in the film.”
Ideally, the film will provide jobs for many Nevisians. In addition to actors, Langlais will hire crew members. “We ask of our crew, the ones who are the most seasoned professionals, that they actually devote some time to going out and conducting programs to teach,” he says. “It’s an important part of what I do, that we train others to do this as well, and we leave behind that kind of training as part of our having been present.”
He says initiatives such as the National Film Academy, which seeks to train Kittitians and Nevisians to operate cameras and create their own films, could prove helpful to “Young Hamilton.”
“What we always look for is what’s available there that we can hire that we don’t have to bring,” he says. “If I have to bring a cameraman, I have to put him up. I have to pay for his meals while he’s abroad. I have to bring his family from time to time to visit. I would rather hire a cameraman here.”
Representatives from Sewanee: The University of the South will be on the island during the second week of December to discuss plans for the NFA, which could launch as early as January 2014. They’ve formed a partnership with the academy and plan to help establish the curriculum.
Langlais hopes the training program will provide its students with up-to-date equipment and information. “Any filmmaking experience is important,” he says. “Becoming educated in the use of the technologies that are the world’s standard, that’s important. It’s important to pay attention to: How are movies being made everywhere else? And then set up that kind of training program.”
The film production will create jobs and generate spending in Nevis, Langlais continues. “We bring the company here, and we put them up in hotels and people’s homes that are rented, and they live,” he says. “The film is likely going to be 50-something days, and you double that for the preparation of the film, so you’re talking about 100 or more days of preparation and shooting. “
Henville hopes the film will create tourism revenue. “We are looking at heritage tourism: What better than something like this to develop heritage tourism for Nevis?.” she says. “It’s an awesome bonding and relationship that can only be good for Nevis.”
Langlais says his particular connection to the West Indies inspires him to make films here. He’s also working on a project called “Unburnable,” based on Marie-Elena John’s novel of the same name, which tells the story of three generations of Dominiacan women. Langlais plans to shoot that film on Dominica.