The Ebo Twins were able to speak with me about their new film, ‘Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul’. Based on their proof-of-concept short film, it’s a faux documentary focussing on the wife of a self-obsessed priest, played by Regina Hall and Sterling K Brown respectively. After Sterling’s character is besmirched by being involved in a sex scandal, the couple are determined to revive their church and bring back their members from their rivals.
This conversation took place during the Sundance London Film Festival in June 2022.
Carrie: Well, absolute honour to meet both of you. I watched the film yesterday and it was a riot in the cinema.
Adamma: Yes. We haven’t seen it with a live audience yet because Sundance Utah didn’t happen live. It went virtual at the last minute. While I like that it reached more people that way, I think specifically with comedy, there’s nothing like being in a room full of people, [and] seeing how people respond.
Carrie: So there was originally a short film for Honk for Jesus. How did the decision to expand it into a feature-length film come about?
Adamma: It was intentional.
Adamma: It was intentional. And it was actually a feature that turned into a short that got redone as a feature again.
Carrie: So like a proof of concept?
Adamma: Yes, the short I made as my thesis, film at film school, and also as a proof of concept for the feature.
Carrie: That’s amazing. And there was a huge backing for this film, like Daniel Kaluuya producing it, as well as your stars Regina Hall and Sterling K Brown. What do you think it was about this film that compelled so many to back this story?
Adamma: I think it was the tone. Unfortunately, the subject matter is pretty common, but I don’t think that it’s ever been approached in a tone like this and probably not as black as this. And I think that [is] probably a draw for them.
Carrie: I was going to say, it touches the fine line on the dark underbelly of organised religion. But also not making it into like this drama happens to be funny. It’s still a satire. How was it to tread that line? What was the intention coming into it?
Adanne: It’s pretty natural for us. It’s a type of stuff that we’d like to consume as well. Like we’re big dark comedy satire people. And so I think, unintentionally probably, but in hindsight, we’d have always been studying that form. And so I think when it was time to write it, it just came very naturally.
Adamma: And I also think that we bring our own personal relationship to the church and our faith. That honestly is kind of like a tonal balance in itself. So bringing our real-life tonally balanced experience to the actual filmmaking, I think helped us ride that tonal line.
Carrie: So how was it like the church experience growing up?
Adamma: It was simultaneously wonderful. And painfully frustrating.
Carrie: In what sense?
Adamma: In the sense that there is so much about it where I feel something being connected to this… I think specifically gospel music. It makes me feel very connected and spiritual. But there was so much specifically about how people approach the folks in power, where they pretty much go unchecked.
Adanne: The inability to ask questions –
Adamma: Yeah this rejection of questioning that made me very extremely upset and uncomfortable.
Adanne: Especially for us, who our parents raised us to question everything. And so we took that quite literally –
Adamma: To be in a setting where people would be like, ‘don’t ask these questions’, ‘I think’, or shame you for [questioning]. I remember vividly one time in Sunday school, they were preaching abstinence. So, no sex before marriage. I raised my hand and asked, ‘Well, what counts as sex?’ Because if I’m going to promise this to God, I want to make sure that I have all that –
Adanne: You got the fine print right.
Adamma: I got the fine print right, and I got in trouble for asking the question and I’m like I’m trying to –
Adanne: I’m just trying to do what y’all want me to do.
Adamma: Right I’m just trying to do it right, you know, but the inability to ask questions was incredibly hard for us to deal with.
Carrie: I wanted to talk about Regina and Sterling. They felt like they were made to be a pairing in this film. Their chemistry was out of this world. How was it figuring out that dynamic between the two of them? Or was that already there?
Adanne: There was no real figuring out, to be honest. I mean, [the] chemistry was instantaneous.
Adamma: It was. They got on a zoom together before we got to set and they had never met before. They’d never worked together before. And you would think they knew each other, like dated in high school or something like that. It was instantaneous. And then the first time meeting in person was at the table reading at Atlanta, a couple of days before we started shooting and it was more of the same. And so there wasn’t really much work to do and getting them to that place
Adanne: Not with the chemistry –
Adamma: Not with the chemistry, it was spot on from the beginning.
Carrie: That’s amazing. I really love that. And I was going to say, the camera work, I felt like it brilliantly communicated the bits that were not part of the documentary, and then [the] bits with the saturation made it part of the documentary. How was that working that [out] with Alan Gwizdowski and figuring out how the structure within the film, using camerawork?
Adamma: Gwiz and I, we call him Gwiz for short, we talked a lot about how to balance the faux-documentary and the more narrative parts. Colour was a big part of that and making sure that felt like they were part of the same hole. But also I think what was key was making sure that this was, like [Gwiz] kept saying, this is not a mockumentary. It’s a faux documentary, which I wholly agree with. Because I think like in mockumentaries, like with The Office or Parks and Recreation, the camera’s often in on the joke or winking at the audience.
Adanne: And that’s great for that type of storytelling –
Adamma: And that’s great for that type of storytelling but we wanted this to feel more like you were experiencing a real documentary. And so Gwiz was very intentional about this being mostly observational. And I think riding that line was very key and he did amazingly.
Adanne: He did a bang-up job.
Carrie: Amazing. Well, I wanted my last question to be: I am the youngest with three other siblings, but it can be difficult to agree on a birthday card, let alone an executive decision on making a feature film. So I was interested in whether you leave family history at the door. [Or] you bring that [to] set? What is your working dynamic like?
Adamma: It’s the same as our regular relationship.
Adanne: Legitimately our relationship. Our personal relationship and our working relationship… there is no line, honestly.
Carrie: No boundaries!
Adamma: No boundaries.
Adanne: We’ve been a partnership since –
Adanne: Conception, honestly. And it’s how we prefer to live. So our working partnership came naturally.
Adamma: Yes, it works really well. Quite frankly, we don’t have any other siblings, so it’s bringing other people in that causes –
Adanne: If we could just make decisions together. That would be perfect.
Adamma: It’d be easy.
Carrie: Do you find it goes into family gatherings? Like, you just start talking about work and then…
Adanne: Oh, yeah. There’s no line! I think [for] both of our partners it’s frustrating for them. They’re like, ‘At some point, it has to not be about this. It has to not work all the time.’
Carrie: Amazing. Well, thank you so much for chatting with me.
Both: Thank you!
Reportedly, Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul will release in cinemas in the US on the 2nd of September this year, with a UK release date TBD.