Last summer The Tribune highlighted Kingwood’s Ray Mansfield and his growing career in Hollywood (July 17, 2017 “Ray Mansfield: From Kingwood to Hollywood”).
Since that time, he has continued to make his presence felt not only in Hollywood, but also at the 71st annual Cannes Film Festival in May. Mansfield was one of the lead producers of the film, “BlacKkKlansman,” which won the “Grand Prix” prize.
“BlacKkKlansman” was one of only two films from the United States to be accepted into the main competition at this year’s Cannes,” said Mansfield. “Films from every country in the world are submitted to be considered to play the festival. The main prize of the festival, the Palme d’Or, is generally considered the most prestigious prize in the world. Our film won the Grand Prix. It is the second-most prestigious prize ... It is awarded based on all merits of the film, similar to Best Picture at the Oscars … “BlacKkKlansman” is only the fourth film in cinema history from the United States to win the Grand Prix.”
The movie opened in theaters Aug. 10.
Mansfield said the movie is based on a true story set in the early ‘70s about the first African-American detective to serve in the Colorado Springs Police Department and who was a key participant in an undercover investigation of a lifetime.
“I was one of the lead producers on the film alongside my partner at QC Entertainment, Sean McKittrick,” said Mansfield. “We’ve been involved since first optioning Ron Stallworth’s autobiography, “Black Klansman,” which began in 2015. Throughout the course of development, we worked on several drafts of the screenplay with the original writers, Charlie Wachtel and David Rabinowitz. After getting to a script we were happy with, we began the packaging process.”
Mansfield said the packaging process is taking the idea and initial script for a movie through the entire process of finding producers, directors, financing the project, casting, and selecting the shooting locations to make the film.
“The first person we approached was Jordan Peele,” he said. “He instantly saw the potential in the project.”
He said that Peele wanted to be a fellow producer, alongside Mansfield and McKittrick, rather than director. They then submitted the project to Spike Lee to see if he was interested.
“Spike was our first submission and last,” said Mansfield. “Within a matter of just a couple of days, Spike signed on to direct, and he wanted to do his own pass on the script, which we wholeheartedly supported. Spike and his writing partner Kevin Wilmott then worked with us to give the project the extra punch it needed to stand out.”
Once the team was happy with the revised script, they took the project to Universal Pictures.
“They loved the project and felt it would be a great fit under their Focus Features label. We closed a deal with Focus Features very quickly and had our production start date quicker than any project I’ve ever worked on. We shot the movie primarily in and around Brooklyn, New York, and Ossining County, New York, with some exteriors in Colorado Springs, Colorado,” Mansfield said.
Following completion, Lee personally submitted the film to the head of the Cannes Film Festival, where he had shown four films in past festivals.
“The head of the festival watched the movie … and very quickly let us know that the film was going to be invited to premiere,”said Mansfield. “It was very exciting.”
Mansfield’s personal experience at the Cannes Festival in France was one he will never forget.
“I was there! Walking up the large staircase red carpet at the Palais des Festivals with a film in competition is the highlight of a career. You are nervous. You are excited. Very few people will ever have that life experience. It’s a thrill,” said Mansfield.
Since leaving Kingwood, Mansfield has built up more than 15 years of professional experience as an entertainment production and finance specialist. He has overseen various aspects of over 100 films and raised more than $150 million in production and distribution financing. He currently has another movie scheduled to be released in October called “The Oath,” starring Ike Barinholtz (“Blockers”) and Tiffany Haddish (“Girls Trip”).
Mansfield credits his teachers for their roles in encouraging his passion for entertainment and helping shape his future, particularly Ms. Mills, his theater arts teacher, and Ms. Hollis, speech and debate, at Kingwood High School, as well as Cynthia Calvert, then chair of the journalism and communications department at Lone Star College-Kingwood, and now the publisher and CEO of The Tribune.