Branch Out Productions, a Michigan-based, African American female-owned film maker, has begun preproduction for “Block Party,” a comedy filmed in Detroit and Grand Rapids.
Launched in 2019, the production company already has one film under its belt, “Mighty Oak,” which was distributed by Paramount and streams on Hulu and Epix. Branch Out also recently finished filming action thriller “The Ray,” which was shot in New Mexico and is expected to have a theater release in October.
An ensemble comedy, “Block Party” follows recent Harvard graduate Keke McQueen, who is excited to leave her hometown of Grand Rapids for a career in Atlanta. But after she learns of her grandmother’s dementia, she puts her life on pause to help her grandma and save the neighborhood block party.
“’Block Party’ is a heartfelt, socially relevant comedy in the vein of films like ‘Barbershop,’ ‘Best Man Christmas.’ and ‘Soul Food’ backed by an all-star cast and directing team,” says Lisa Mathis, president of Branch Out.
Branch Out is currently scouting locations and local production talent for the Michigan shoots.
Matt R. Allen, Krista Suh, and Mathis wrote the original script for the comedy. Greg Coolidge and Kirk Ward — a pair best known for creating and writing the comedy “Ride Along,” which starred Ice Cube and Kevin Hart — signed on to provide further development for the script while mentoring younger talent throughout the production of the film.
Coolidge says the ability to work on a major comedy while also getting to support a new generation of filmmakers attracted him to the project. “I love Branch Out’s mission of mentoring emerging talent, and I’m excited to be a part of it,” he says.
“Because we all have a shared commitment to diversity, we encourage our department heads to mentor young people of color and train them in the craft of filmmaking,” adds Mathis. “It is our hope that eventually the mentees will become the mentors.”
Filming is set to start in Grand Rapids in August 2021. Casting is currently underway.
More information on “Mighty Oak” is available here.