I first met Dick for his roast at the Friars Club in New York City in 2011. The legendary booking agent, Irvin Arthur introduced us. He also represented the stand-up comedian and political satirist, Professor Irwin Corey about whom I was making a film called, “Irwin & Fran”. I was sat in between these two legends. It turns out that in 1960 while performing at The Playboy Club in Chicago for a week Irwin was asked to work on a Sunday and it being the seventh day in a row Irwin said no so Hefner hired Dick. It was the first time a black comedian performed to a white audience. The world changed. Irvin suggested that Dick be in the film discussing Irwin’s contribution to the world not only comically but also in historical and political context. Dick agreed and suggested I arrive the night before the filming in Washington DC because he was performing at a club and that I should attend. I did, of course. The show was great. The next day we filmed Dick talking for two hours in a recording studio. Halfway through the filming I realized I had enough material to make a film about Dick. He covered all the topics I wanted to hear about without any prompting. Even when we cut camera, he carried on for another half an hour. When someone watches and listens to Dick Gregory they feel and sense an unforgettable impact that he is able to share in his own unique style which is both animated and physical. His energy and eloquence are infectious, and his presence is brilliant and what one learns from his knowledge, experience and activism should be shared. I immediately felt Dick’s impact.
I decided to turn my incisive lens toward making another intimate and real time talk this time with Dick and other voices that were touched and affected by his impact. These included actor/activist Jane Fonda, actor Clarke Peters and director Ernest Dickerson.
IMPACT examines Dick Gregory as he holds the audience captive with some of his truer moments, thoughts and statements over a life and career that spanned decades.
“After spending quality time with Dick, I knew vividly that I wanted to make this film One of the subtexts of the film is that, as a culture we’ve wanted to forget and move past that time, but this film will pull you right back in.
As a filmmaker, what really interests me is how the past can help us to make sense of the present when told accurately and intimately."
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