BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — 7 Eyewitness News Anchor Madison Carter spent months following the creation of director Addison Henderson’s first feature-length film.
We were on set for an hour during day 7 of filming in Buffalo.
“Is this my son?”
Dianna Henderson sits off to the side of her son’s movie set watching him from a monitor.
He’s rehearsing an office scene from his movie G.O.D., which stands for Givers of Death.
Dianna remembers the first time she heard he was returning home to work on a new project.
“He said ‘Mom, we’re doing this movie.’”
Like any mother… she only asked one question, “So, when are you coming in?”
37-year-old Addison Henderson grew up on the East Side of Buffalo.
He was an athlete at Turner-Carroll High School and went on to play football at Alfred State for two years before deciding to pursue acting and directing at Herbert Berghof (HB) Studio in New York City.
He has been away for nearly 15 years, living in Los Angeles and working on different projects.
“Just say the line,” Henderson directs an actor before jumping back on the couch to re-start the scene.
In a warehouse-turned-studio in Buffalo’s Black Rock neighborhood, Henderson serves multiple roles.
He switches from actor, to director, and back to actor in seconds.
It’s something he has gotten used to since the cameras started rolling on G.O.D. May 8th.
It is a film in which he wrote, is directing, and also happens to be the lead actor.
When it came time to make his first feature-length film, Henderson said he knew where he had to be. It had to be Buffalo.
“I want to leave something here that is long-standing,” he said. “I’ve been doing films here in Buffalo, but this time it’s the narrative side, which changes the game.”
G.O.D. is a film about a hitman named Phog, played by Henderson, who is searching for peace in the apocalypse.
“There’s something spiritual about what he has to say, but very comfortable.”
Producer Leah Cohen-Mays connected with Henderson through a mutual friend. She came all the way from L.A. to work on the film.
“I love his storytelling ability,” she said. “It’s very different and special.”
Cohen-Mays is one of a handful Henderson brought from L.A. to help with his Buffalo movie.
But most of the dozens of people working on set are Western New York natives.
“I love using new talent and undiscovered talent, too, that’s here,” said Henderson.
The majority of the actors, designers and producers on the film are local.
“That’s something I’m very proud of.”
It is the reason Mac Cappuccino, a producer on the film, decided to come on board.
“(Henderson was) both intent and sincere about making a movie here in The City,” he said. “That, to me, is very important. I’m a big ambassador for shooting in Western New York.”
Henderson says there’s a reason movie crews are starting to become a familiar sight in this area: Buffalo was made to be the perfect backdrop for movies.
“When I look around and I say, ‘Oh my God. If I can frame this like that, if I can use this drone to get this shot, this is gonna be epic. This is going to look like much more money than we actually have to spend.’”
Dianna Henderson gets up to hug her son after Addison sneaked in a fourth take on the office scene before breaking for lunch.
They swap seats in that same office minutes later so Dianna could get mic’d up for our interview.
Dianna: Since he’s been back and hearing him share his story…I said to his sister “I didn’t know your brother was so deep.”
Madison: (laughs) What do you mean? You’ve known him for 37 years.
Dianna: But, to hear the revelation of his heart, the true essence of him, and the creativeness… how he unfolds things in life…it’s like, “You go boy.”
“The toughest part about making a movie? Honestly? It’s getting the right people to make it with you.”
Producer Trent Boling walks through the warehouse during lunch break.
He’s thinking back to a year ago, when Addison first called with an idea.
“Addison trumped me cause he said, ‘I want to do a movie.’ I was talking about a TV show, and he said, ‘No, I want to do a movie.’”
He wrote the G.O.D. script in about two months and spent the next months revising it and raising the money to shoot his film.
“I’m just proud that we stuck to it, we didn’t give up — we could’ve,” said Boling. “We didn’t give up.”
Boling and the other producers on the film all praised Henderson’s leadership for how smoothly shooting has gone headed into week four.
“To have a first time director step in and not be the source of your problems is amazing,” said producer Mac Cappuccino. “And he’s been — on top of that — acting really well, too.”
Even when he’s frustrated, Henderson never loses his cool, said producer Cohen-Mays.
“There are moments on set when he’ll just close his eyes… and he breathes.”
Henderson leans down to let Cohen-Mays fix his hair.
She circles around him fluffing his curls. It is the first time since we arrived on set Henderson isn’t moving.
He looks at the ground, stealing a few moments to rest.
9 seconds later — she’s done.
Henderson blinks twice and comes back to life.
He looks at the camera, then to me, then back to the camera.
Henderson: I’m talking to you, right?
Madison: Who else is there to talk to?
He shakes his head.
We sat down for an interview two months before principal photography started at Marco’s Restaurant on Niagara street.
We spoke in March about the film he was getting ready to make.
“The goal is, by next year, a year since I started writing, we want to be premiering at Sundance.”
I asked whether anything had changed about the film since our last conversation.
Henderson paused for a moment.
“Two months ago, we didn’t have the money. But we still were going forward.”
What hasn’t changed is what emotions Henderson said he wants people to walk out of the the theater with after seeing his film.
“I want people to be questioning everything about life, questioning God, questioning their existence,” he said.
But above all he says he wants people to be inspired.
“To be like ‘Okay, well, I have a story I want to tell. I may not have the money for it, but I can go get it."
"As cliché as that sounds, that was my motto. I got nervous like, ‘Am I going to be able to get this money?' But, you know, you know…”
Henderson pauses, then breaks into a wide smile, shrugs his shoulders and chuckles.
“I got it.”
Lunch is almost over.
Addison sits with his mother for a few more moments, before it is time to get back to work.
With them is his sister Rachel, another producer on the film.
Dianna: I’ve always informed my children, “When you share the vision, make sure you have people around you who have a heart and passion for the vision.”
Madison: Are you proud of him?
Dianna: I’m very proud of him. I’m very pleased. I’m very honored and blessed to have a child — actually children, because both of them have their own gifting — that steps to the plate to make it become a reality. A dream is not a dream unless you’re willing to work to make it become a reality.
A lot of work and a lot of prayer are what she says finally brought G.O.D. to life.
“I know how to pray into the dream.”