A Documentary Treatment
St.Clair Bourne
My proposed documentary THE WORLD ACCORDING TO WALTER MOSLEY will take a look at Walter Mosley – novelist, screenwriter, and political activist. The film will explore his creative process, his personal history, his travels and his take on contemporary America. Though the subject is serious, the film will be laced with Mosley’s trademark humor as we follow him reflecting on his past, present and future work and on the state of the world he is trying so hard to change.

Walter has agreed to grant me access to his professional and personal life as well as personal background materials. His friends range from neighborhood buddies that he’s known from childhood as well as “celebrity” figures (Danny Glover, Lawrence Fishburne…and yes, Bill Clinton who jumped-started Mosley’s career by declaring him his “favorite mystery writer”)

With additional research and development, we will develop and capture narrative situations within the following arenas as a major part of the film’s narrative line.

1) As an individual, his background gives him a unique perspective. Mosley was born in Los Angeles in 1952, the only child of interracial parents, a Jewish mother, who proudly shows up at his book signings, and an African American father, who died in 1993. Mosley credits his Southern-born father, Leroy, an avid storyteller, with passing along his gift and imbues his novels’ main characters with some of his father's strengths.

2) As an artist, Mosley uses his characters and plots to make comments about social conditions. We will hear (through actors’ voices-overs) and see (using clips from his films, DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS and HBO’s ALWAYS OUTGUNNED) the “voices” in Mosley’s head that end up on the page and screen. Mosley is representative of a new breed of crime writers and fiction writers because he is prolific on many fronts. For a successful mystery writer to shatter the boundaries his faithful readers and publishers have imposed is considered risky, but Mosley theorizes that the success of many types of books actually diversifies and therefore extends his career as a writer. Whatever the genre, Mosley's heroes find ways to become self-sufficient despite the odds; a point that Mosley says is critical. Independence and economic survival are important themes throughout his work.

3) As a working writer, his presence has helped change the publishing industry. In addition to his huge commercial success, Mosley gave a novel to Black Classic Press publisher, a small black publishing house in Baltimore, because he felt it was important “to create a model that other writers, black or not, can look at to see that it’s possible to publish a book successfully outside mainstream publishing in New York.” Mosley also served on the board of directors of the National Book Awards, and presently serves on the boards of The Poetry Society of America and is past-president of the Mystery Writers of America.

4) As an involved citizen, he has found creative ways to contribute to society. Mosley created with The City College a new publishing degree program aimed at young urban residents, the only such program in the country. . He addresses his intense interest in impoverished African nations as a board member of Trans Africa Forum, a Non-Governmental Organization. Mosley also serves on the board of the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival and this year he was honored by Robert Redford's Sundance Institute with a "Risktaker Award" for both his creative and activist efforts.

5) As an African-American, Mosley is not afraid to speak about issues sensitive to that community. He teamed up again with Black Classic Press in February 2003 to publish What Next, part political essay, part handbook for community action that examines the kinds of contributions and African Americans can add to any approach towards world peace. Much of his take on race relations can be found through the words and actions of the characters of his novels as well as his talks at personal appearances.

Walter Mosley is an immensely popular and commercially successful writer. He is the author of nineteen critically acclaimed books and his work has been translated into twenty-one languages. His popular mysteries featuring Easy Rawlins began with Devil in a Blue Dress in 1990. Others in the series include A Red Death, White Butterfly, Black Betty and A Little Yellow Dog (both of which were New York Times bestsellers), Bad Boy Brawley Brown, Six Easy Pieces and Fear Itself, the follow-up of Fearless Jones, Mosley’s mystery series featuring second-hand bookseller Paris Minton and his friend Fearless Jones was published July 2003 by Little Brown. The Man in My Basement, a novel of ideas set in contemporary time in a Long Island community, was published in January 2004 and Little Scarlet, an Easy Rawlins novel set five days after the 1965 Watts riots, has been recently published this month to glowing reviews. In 2005, Mosley will publish his first book for young adult readers, 47, an ingenious mix of history, science fiction, and adventure.

Mosley has also written three works of literary fiction (RL’s Dream, Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned, and Walkin’ the Dog), two works of science fiction (Blue Light and Futureland), and two works of nonfiction, (Workin’ on the Chain Gang and What Next). Two movies have been made from his work including the 1995 TriStar release of “Devil in A Blue Dress,” produced by Jonathan Demme, directed by Carl Franklin, and starring Denzel Washington and Jennifer Beals. “Always Outnumbered,” was produced by HBO/NYC and Palomar Pictures film, directed by Michael Apted and starred Laurence Fishburne, Natalie Cole, Cicely Tyson and Bill Cobbs.

For more than fifteen years, Mosley’s mystery novels have depicted a unique African-American portrait of his native Los Angeles and overall, his writings have tackled race relations, foreign policy and personal morality and civic responsibility.Mosley’s book signing and reading public appearances combine charm and humor with the call-and-response energy of a Black church service. His characters are like old friends to the audience and he answers intimate questions about them with self-revealing insights and political analysis. His extra-curricular activities demonstrate his point of view and self-defined role in the worlds in which he lives.

THE WORLD ACCORDING TO WALTER MOSLEY will combine several film techniques - the narrative film, the film essay, the artist portrait and the music video – and will utilize the intelligence, insight and street humor that has characterized Mosley’s literary career and his many crusades to produce an entertaining documentary that engages the audience even as it challenges them.