Ann Arbor has a special place in the hearts of both David Hines Jr., a Detroit and L.A.-based film producer, and J.B. Armstrong, a writer/director. Not only was UM the stomping ground where David went to Engineering School and J.B. to the School of Art & Design, but it is also the literal stomping ground of the Michigan Marching Band, where the two first met.
“We were in the band together,” says Armstrong, who graduated in 2015, “and I reached out to David in hopes of getting some critique on marching and becoming a Drum Major.”
The two developed a friendship with a common interest in movie-making. Hines was particularly inspired by a short film J.B. made.
“There was a seriousness to his creative work,” says Hines, who graduated in 2011. “J.B.’s short had no words or dialogue – it was silent – but I understood what he was trying to convey. It was well-shot, and I could see his natural talent. I was very excited to be able to discover that in someone who was so young and still in school, honestly.”
The two met for a meal at Pizza House and decided to join forces. Not long thereafter, the idea for their current project, the Detroit-based independent feature film Solomon was born.
The (other) story of Solomon
Solomon tells the story of Dominic — a young, white writer struggling after the death of his child and subsequent failed marriage, who stumbles across Solomon, a retired, black psychiatrist who sees his potential, but must uncover the darkness that lies buried inside of Dominic’s past and crumbling present.
“I was coming from a place, where I was dealing with a lot of father-abandonment issues – not knowing my father,” Armstrong says. “Solomon stemmed from all the things I dealt with as a young man, trying to find myself in a world that was very complex. It’s also about the idea of meeting new people every day and not knowing how they can influence your life. And then I think what helps bring that drastic contrast out is just the fact that the two lead characters, Solomon and Dominic, are from different races.”
This story about a young, white writer and his friendship with an elderly black psychiatrist is “extremely relevant in our growing society of racial divisiveness,” says Hines.
Diversity, creativity and the spirit of Detroit
Rather than make the film in Los Angeles, where Armstrong currently lives, or Atlanta, where Hines grew up, they’re keeping the production in Detroit.
“Detroit is home. There’s nothing more beautiful than writing and directing your first film – creating your first film – where your roots are,” says Hines. “But also, speaking to the spirit and growth of Detroit, it just felt right to make the film there, as Solomon and Detroit are one and the same.”
“The truth,” he adds, “ is there are a lot of interesting relationships developing in the city of Detroit right now because of the melting pot that is happening — a lot of different races moving in, some moving out, and interesting relationships developing across the lines of race as never before. I feel that’s important for us to talk about.”
Bringing it together via Seed&Spark crowdfunding
How do Hines and Armstrong expect to raise the funds and make their film in Michigan, now that the film incentives—and much of the incentive-inspired industry— have packed up and left?
The two independent filmmakers have turned to a crowdfunding and distribution platform Seed&Spark — a career-building tool for filmmakers to grow sustainable careers — to raise the final funds needed to greenlight their ($11,000) micro-budget film project.
In order to qualify for support from Seed&Spark, Hines and Armstrong had to go through a tough vetting process and demonstrate a proof-of-concept short. Once Seed&Spark adopted the project, the two were able to announce a three-week shooting schedule beginning in mid-September.
From Ann Arbor to Detroit, and back again
How does this all trace back to Ann Arbor, where Armstrong and Hines met that fateful day on Elbel Field during marching band practice?
“We launched our crowdfunding project in Royal Oak in June. We have 45 days online to spread the word about ‘Solomon’ via Seed&Spark,” says producer Hines. “We want to end our film where it all started for us as filmmakers – in Ann Arbor.”
Hines and Armstrong are holding a promotional and networking event to build interest in the film back at the same place where they first met to talk about making movies – Pizza House on Church Street – on Sunday, August 13th, from 3 – 4:30pm. Actors, crew and indie film supporters interested in getting involved are invited to attend. Please RSVP by August 9th to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Readers can check out their project and find out more about the Solomon Indie Film Networking event at