Heidi Miami Marshall (Director) is from Charlottesville, Virginia. She grew up poor, yet white and educated. Where she lived, race and class divides were unspoken but real. She lived off a rural dirt road with poverty all around, down the hill from her an old slave cabin still stood that poor black families still lived in. Latinos migrated to work in the orchards, leaving each night again. When she graduated high school, she was accepted into Carnegie Mellon University, one of the nation's most prestigious universities. She moved away and left her small town world behind. Heidi now lives in N.Y.C. During the 2017 Charlottesville race riots, she was horrified but not surprised.
Johnny Sánchez (Writer/Producer) is originally from Brooklyn. His parents were lower class, undocumented Latino immigrants who came to America for a better life. But when they arrived, they landed in the middle of a war zone. Back then, Brooklyn housed over 70% of N.Y.C.'s street-gangs. From a young age, Johnny felt walls everywhere. The divides of gender, race, class, language, etc.. were glaringly everywhere. Nothing was subversive where he grew up. With the American Dream eluding them, his community did whatever to survive in America, including crime. Johnny's older cousin joined a gang, and was murdered on the streets of NY. Many of his young childhood friends also became "gangsters". One friend showed Johnny a stack of 15 guns. Johnny asked: "Why do you have guns?" He replied: "I sell them to make money". Johnny got quiet, his friend added.. "I'm not gonna make it outta this neighborhood. But, Johnny, you got a chance with this acting thing." They were both 14 years old.
When Heidi and Johnny read the novel, 'That White Girl', that the film AMBER is inspired by, they knew they had to make it. This story reflects what they'd each individually witnessed and experienced in their personal communities growing up. It was a blend of both worlds. Amber is a white girl from small town Middle America who joins a gang. It reflects an “urban” experience in America’s “heartland”. This is a crossover story blending race, class, gender; and where worlds clash and collide.
Millions of young people face themselves in a world riddle with social issues. Just turn on the news, youth are mobilizing and are protesting the conditions of the world they've inherited. What compels us to make AMBER is the complex nature of HerStory that confronts many important issues.
A white girl joining a black gang conjures up polarizing ideas. But people who read the script and want to pick sides, by the end realize they don't get to stay on the side they thought they were on. This is not about some white girl innocently caught up in “thug life”, wanting to be cool. Instead, Amber is a young girl coming-of-age in an impoverished environment wedged in-between race, class, gender, and crime. Her story captures what many kids (of all backgrounds) still grow up with today... trying to make their way in a divided world. And just like the gang-members she befriends, Amber is a fighter who wants to change the world around her, but doesn't know how; and, thus, she keeps bumping up against the walls around her.
To be clear, AMBER is set in a gang world but that doesn't make it only a black or white story! We're depicting the multifaceted nature in which privilege exists. Race is many colors. Yes, more than just black and white. We mention this because in the U.S.A. diversity has, sadly, been defined as a two-color street, Black and White. But a two-color prism shortchanges, constrains and puts shackles on diversity.
That is why this story, inspired by real people and events, also dives into class, gender and criminal justice issues. For diversity to be real, more than one issue must be addressed. Otherwise, without a multifaceted approach, it stops being diversity.
AMBER asks, in a society that shuts many people out... can we make a right from wrongs?
For the Creative Vision, please visit the Vision page.
- Heidi Miami Marshall, Director
- Johnny Sánchez, Writer/Producer
AMBER, a feature film. Join the movement!