It’s not every day a first-time director ends up getting into the highly competitive Sundance Film Festival, but that’s exactly what’s happened to Twin Cities filmmaker E.G. Bailey.
Later this month, Bailey and his wife, Sha Cage, who co-produced and stars in “New Neighbors,” will be heading to Park City, Utah, for the festival. They’ll screen the film in a number of venues, visit schools, participate in international sessions with other filmmakers, and, hopefully, get a distribution deal.
Taking on themes of motherhood, racialized violence, and the relationship between police and communities of color, “New Neighbors” comes at a timely moment.
“In this day and age where we have a man that is about to be our president that is a fascist, that is not for the people, and cities that feel that they are not our home, people have an immediate need for a sense of place and belonging,” says Cage.
Over 9,000 people submitted short films to be a part of Sundance this year; only 68 films were selected. “I think they were shocked with how many applications they got,” says Bailey.
With less than one percent chance of getting selected, Bailey and Sha defied incredible odds. While it’s Bailey’s debut feature, he’s hardly a filmmaking novice. In fact, making movies is something he’s been striving for his whole life. Since he moved to the United States from Liberia at around eight years old, he’s been building a copious amount of skills needed.
“I always call film my final destination,” Bailey says.
Cage and Bailey met at a cast party at Pangea World Theater in the late 1990s, and became friends and artistic collaborators before they were a couple. Through the years, they’ve collaborated on many projects, whether that be music, theater, or film. Early in their relationship, they took courses at MCTC in filmmaking, and were part of the public access channel MTN.
“When we started out making films, we were shooting on old video cameras or 16 mm and editing by cutting film itself and taping it together,” Bailey says.
Around that same time, they started the Minnesota Spoken Word Association, and eventually their own record label. MSWA took off, and over the years Bailey found he spent less and less time working on his dream of filmmaking. In 2006, they shot a feature film, but never finished editing it, in part because of time and also because he didn’t have the editing skills needed to complete it. By that time the couple had two kids, which also required their attention.
But in 2009, Bailey saw an ad for the Edit Center in New York, an intensive program where he’d be able to learn how to edit films in Final Cut Pro and work with filmmakers from all over the country. It was through that program that he connected with filmmaker Micah McGee, who asked him to help her edit her feature film Petting Zoo.
With his new editing skills and experience, Bailey was ready to take the step of directing his first film. “I got so inspired I literally came back and wrote a nine page script and expanded it to 25 pages,” he says.
It wasn’t always easy. They had a snowstorm on their first day of shooting. “It was the only day we could do this shoot,” says Cage. “‘New Neighbors’ is the little team that could. There’s a lot of heart that went into this work.”
Following Sundance, the couple are already on to their next project, a web series, helped in part by a Jerome grant that Bailey received as an emerging filmmaker.
Meanwhile, Bailey and Cage are raising funds to travel to Sundance to be there for the festival. Help them out by donating to their indiegogo campaign.