Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Upcoming Web Series, Conjure Explores 3 Generations Of Black Women & The Supernatural


Conjure is a brand new, up and coming web series written and produced by Brooklyn-based artist Tira Adams. "The show takes place in a magical version of New York and centers on a family of sorcerers, the McMillian's, who come under attack as a territorial war breaks out and the family is caught in the middle." Conjure is "one part family drama in the vein of Soul Food. One part Supernatural with a sprinkle of The Sopranos" refining the images found in "True Blood, the third season of American Horror Story, and Penny Dreadful."

In 13 episodes, three generations of McMillian women are explored as independent and bound by their family name and the rich, mysterious, and mystical history that surrounds it. Adams' voodoo-punk approach is guaranteed to elevate the story, expanding popular perceptions of the relationship between non-Christian spiritual systems and Black women. "Voodoo-punk refers to way of fusing African-American style, music and folklore about magic, angels, ghosts and demons and placing them in a modern urban setting. It's about taking a mainstream idea of what a witch is, and turning it just a bit, to include other ethnicities, adding each flavor to the...eh, cauldron."

With this project still in its early stages, I was eager to discuss Conjure more with Tira as well as some of her own personal musings on horror and why the genre speaks to her.

You’ve described fantasy and sci-fi as a way to channel your own inner-strength in a sense, as a road map for heroism (for whatever that means for each of us) but additionally, what is it about the aesthetic and the use of the fantastic that draws you towards these genres?

I’ve was always drawn to the fantastical. I think a childhood spent on the move not only gave me the ability to pick up and start fresh but also, let me indulge in my imagination. Daydreaming is a gift you can take with you anywhere. I think, I learned early on that my mind was the one thing that was mine and mine alone. So, regardless of what was happening around me or what the adults in charge were doing, I could go on adventure. It’s why I named my company Producto Imaginarium, meaning to produce through the imagination. An Imaginarium is a place devoted to the imagination towards scientific, artistic and spiritual needs. I want the projects that I work on to play with reality, experiment and just allow things to get weird.

Does horror play a particular role in your “geek” interests? How so?

As much as I love the weird and silly. I find that when I actually sit down to create things it tends to get dark. And, I’m not quite sure why. But, if being geeky is equal to saving the day and overcoming obstacles, then, horror would be about facing demons and living in the mess. I once read somewhere that occult horror speaks to the part of us that can’t comprehend that as great as the human race is, there are things beyond our control. That there are things that go bump in the night. And, even though you may have faith in an afterlife, no one knows 100% for sure what happens after you die and what do you do if the dead come back? It’s a mess! And, horror makes you deal with that.

You describe Conjure under the umbrella of many television series. Were you an avid watcher of all of them? Were they a direct influence and/or an easy way to describe your objectives for the series?

Definitely. When I was younger, I was shy, smart, and I was asthmatic. So I spent a lot of time inside. I would watch TV like it was my job. Every Saturday from 3pm to 10pm at night, find something else to do because Tira has the TV. For me those shows that came on in the late 90's and the 2000's had a huge influence on me as a storyteller. Not only with what is possible but, also with how things look, the music and this is important; how can I get my ideas across to my audience in order to tell my story. We all need to speak the same language in order to have a conversation. For example, how can I explain how the power structure works in Conjure? Well, even if you've never seen The Godfather, you’ve seen some movie or TV show with mob themes. So in Conjure, the audience can see that each tribe has a territory, there is a hierarchy and when a person steps out line there are consequences.

I love the fact that Conjure will be explored through three generations of Black women. Obviously without giving too much away, how would you describe Corrine, Troi, and Zora and their dispositions on their family history? Where are they when the series begins?

When we come into the story, the McMillian family is at the bottom of the power totem pole. In the past they were the ruling magical family of New York. I often say the name McMillian once meant to New York what the name Laveau meant to New Orleans. And, Corrine, Troi and Zora have really different opinions as to what that means!

Corrine is all about retribution. She was a young girl when her family was at its height and saw its tragic fall. She wants all of that back and will do what it takes to get there.

Troi’s story is about redemption. She’s the black sheep of the family and is something of a disappointment to her parents. (Troi has super strength but, isn’t a spell caster.) She’s has done some terrible things including neglecting her daughter Zora. Troi would like to make good in Zora’s eyes, but could care less about any family legacy.

Zora’s story is one of responsibility. The bar, Bayou, where most of the story takes place is Zora’s. It’s a magical speakeasy and is neutral territory or at least she tries to keep it neutral. Zora is the last of the McMillian's, so she does have a sense of duty to her family and its legacy but has no clue what that means for herself.

All of them in are such disparate places when all breaks loose among the tribes in the city and they have to make some difficult choices. I’m currently working on a ten minute short for the series. It will serve as a prequel to the events in the pilot and is from the point of view of a new character, Bailey McMillian, Corrine’s brother.

How were you challenged as a writer to make Conjure standout from variety of television shows, web series, and films to center around themes of magic and spirituality?

I didn’t find it hard to make Conjure its own thing. That’s not out of any sort of arrogance but, one of the first things I did was turn off the TV because, I found that an actor’s characterization or dialog would bleed through and I didn’t want that. It’s a carryover from acting. The cool thing is that when I would take a break from writing and binge on shows, that the for the most part it worked. But then I would see something like BeyoncĂ©’s "Formation" which shares a modern southern gothic aesthetic and think, “Man! If only I could have gotten there first.” For those interested in helping Conjure get made, I can point to "Formation" and describe the show along the same lines. The real challenge is standing by my own point of view, especially when no one else is doing it.


Say hello to Tira & check Producto Imaginarium for updates!
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