NFF: How did you meet Lemon, and what inspired you to turn his story into a documentary?
LAURA: I saw Lemon perform and had never seen anyone with as much raw talent. His voice was so unique and relatable even though Lemon was/is so different than me. I also recognized that he was in the midst of an unfolding story. When we first met he was in a tough place personally and professionally (living in the projects with thirteen family members) and he told me that he had a plan to change his life. He was going to write his life story and put it up on the New York stage. As crazy as the plan was, I believed that he just might do it. Beth [Levison] and I partnered up, and together we followed his journey for the next three tumultuous years.
NFF: What did you learn in the course of making this movie? And/or did you have ideas about who Lemon was that evolved over the course of this partnership?
LAURA: Beth and I couldn’t come from more different backgrounds than Lemon. I’m sure there were preconceived ideas on both sides. But over time, we earned each other’s respect and trust. Lemon’s main motivation in life is to bring his children a better life than what he was given. That is something that Beth and I can relate to and it is something that very much informed our story telling.
NFF: Lemon, how has exploring your work and life via film been different than the theatrical or live audience process?
LEMON: It was the first time where I wasn’t responsible for telling my story. I had to sit back and actually let someone else tell their version. The toughest part was when the film finally came out because now I had to share my family (something I’ve held private) with the public.
NFF: What do you both hope viewers will take away from this film? And/or what would you say to the student filmmakers involved with this year's festival?
LEMON: I hope people take away a better understanding of what the process is like to put up a new voice in American theater. With great effort and a strong belief in your project you can transcend to all audiences.
LAURA: We hope people walk away inspired by Lemon, the man, the father, the artist. But this film is not simply a love letter; it is an honest portrayal of a man struggling — warts and all. We hope that our honesty helps to make his struggle more universal. After all, Lemon is a portrait of an artist, but it is also about a generation of men struggling to do something more with their lives. We all have demons, we all have crosses to bear, we hope this film can speak to anyone who is struggling to improve their lot in life.