MISSISSIPPI SCHOLAR is a story about personal growth through painful struggles. James Wilson is an overachiever; a young scholar living in a dark world surrounded by human obstacles. Finding himself fighting within his inner circle causes him to sometimes destroy his advancement. Brian Keating, James’ educator, pries his eyes open to see the possibilities for his future. Does his rebellious actions derail his promise?
MISSISSIPPI SCHOLAR was conceived to showcase the obstacles a young boy must face to become a man. With Mahdi Hemingway's blessing, the film was derived from his commencement speech given when he graduated with a master's degree on May 23, 2017, from Johns Hopkins University's Carey Business School. Raised in the Booker T. Washington housing site in Jersey City, NJ, life for Mahdi wasn't always an enjoyable experience.
Mahdi Hemingways's commencement speech:
Asked by many why Mississippi was chosen as the background for our upcoming production MISSISSIPPI SCHOLAR, producer PJ Leonard stated, “Itawamba Community College aka ICC, Producer Morgan Cutturini & Co-Producer Clark Richey.”
Itawamba Community College, Producers Morgan Cutturini & Clark Richey, are the three core reasons it was decided Mississippi Scholar would film in Itawamba and Lee counties of Mississippi. Ms. Cutturini has devised a program that introduces the ICC students to the creation of motion pictures. Morgan’s inspiration and ambition to edify her students instilled in us the confidence that we can mix seasoned professionals and interns amongst our crew which enables us to curtail the budget. Clark Richey lends his film experience and knowledge of the area which mirrors a Hollywood Sound Stage. The Mississippi Motion Picture Incentive Program also provides the production a rebate on eligible expenditures and payroll. So, with the assistance of the City of Tupelo, City of Fulton, City of Baldwyn, Itawamba Community College along with countless other individuals, we will be filming in May of 2019.
With the diversity of locations, we found more panoramic settings throughout this area than we ever imagined. Principal photography will take place in the cities of Tupelo, Fulton and Baldwyn. Additional photography will occur in the surrounding region. “Since working with the ICC Film program, I have been entranced by the raw beauty of this state. There is a sense of visual drama here that would excite any filmmaker,” said PJ Leonard. “The initial inspiration for this film came to me after watching my good friend Mahdi Hemingway’s May 23rd, 2017 Commencement Speech from Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.” Mahdi’s life experiences belie his youth. Being born into a life of poverty didn’t stop Mahdi from accomplishing what many fortunate individuals never achieve. That is the same path our main character James Wilson has set his sights on in MISSISSIPPI SCHOLAR.