The film will be one of the first Florida-based productions once COVID-19 ban is lifted.

Art by the Highwaymen

The true, untold story of how a group of young African Americans in segregated 1960s Florida elevated themselves from poverty to prominence will come to life in a powerful new feature film called The Highwaymen, with parts of the production being filmed in the Orlando region. The newest project by award-winning director Todd Thompson, known for the NASA/Star Trek doc and festival-favorite Woman In Motion, is slated to be one of the first Florida-based films in production once the Covid-19 ban is lifted and safety measures are in place on set and location.

The announcement of plans to move forward with the project in Orlando illustrates the region’s strength as a production hub, with the infrastructure and talent to support feature productions. Filming locations around Central Florida will include the Orlando Museum of Art, Central Florida Reception Center and Downtown Orlando districts like Washington Shores, Parramore and Holden Heights.

The film tells the largely unknown story of how a group of 25 young African American men and one African American woman who overcame the economic and social discrimination of the Jim Crow south by teaching themselves how to paint and creating a body of artwork that, 50 years later, would be identified as the “last great art movement of the 20th century.” 

“While our film’s story takes place during segregated times, it transcends racial divide and embodies the great, American dream,” said Thompson. “In the face of extreme obstacles, these artists captured Florida’s raw, natural beauty and created inspiration, meaning and purpose. I want the audience to experience their struggle but walk away feeling uplifted, enlightened and empowered.”

“The Highwaymen’s experience shows us that when we want to make a difference, there’s nothing greater than hard work, dedication and the power of the human spirit.” 

Todd Thompson , Director of The Highwaymen

After more than a decade of dedicated development, pre-production and casting is now underway on the project.

 “We are thrilled to see the treasured Florida story of the Highwaymen come to life for the big screen via production in our own backyard,” said Sheena Fowler, Orlando Economic Partnership vice president of innovation and Orlando Film Commissioner. “Producer/Director, Todd Thompson has been a valuable part of the Orlando film community for many years and we look forward to working together.”

The Highwaymen is written by Lucien Christian Adderley and Richard ‘Byrd’ Wilson, the South Florida writing duo currently in their second season writing for the critically-acclaimed OWN series David Makes Man, another Florida-set drama created by Academy Award winner Tarell Alvin McCraney.

“We’re excited to be part of this project because of our desire to tell Florida stories and take responsibility for getting them out there on a level that exposes the world to Black history in our home state,” said 89 Writers’ Adderley and Wilson. “We see similarities between the Highwaymen and ourselves as a team of artists who once traveled from town to town sharing our poetry.”

“The creative initiatives that make up The Highwaymen Project provide a strategic, global advantage for Florida, not only preserving an important part of our state’s history and heritage, but by also expanding awareness for the arts and providing both short- and long-term economic growth through the creation of jobs and an increase in incremental visitation and consumer spending in Florida,” Thompson said.

The Highwaymen will be directed and produced by Thompson who, with fellow Woman In Motion partner Tim Franta and producers Kathryn Kelly (It Doesn’t Take A Hero) and Joy Kigin (I am Frankie) under Thompson’s Stars North banner. Executive Producers Greg Galloway (Bobby Jones, Stroke of Genius), Benjamin Crump (Woman In Motion, Who Killed Tupac?), Lance Walker, Jr., Brigetta Crematta and Armando Crematta are also behind the film. Craig Fincannon and Lisa Mae Fincannon (The Walking Dead) are casting.

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