Developing A Film & Friendship
The seed for "Crossroads" was planted in probably one of the most likely of places a movie theater. Producer Ann Carli and one of her best friends, screenwriter Shonda
Rhimes, were watching a film, and though the name of the movie they saw eludes them, the two women definitely remember a very important conversation they had.
"I said to Shonda, 'I think Britney Spears has the same thing that Will Smith has," recalls
Carli, 'I think she's more than a singer and can be a really good actress, someone the public will fall in love with. What do you think about writing a script for her?"
Rhimes, who wrote the Emmy-winning teleplay "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge," admits she was intrigued, adding that she "trusted Carli's instincts about up and—coming talent."
Carli then wrote a detailed proposal and took it to Jive Records, Spears' record company, and where Carli worked for 11 years as a senior vice president of artist development. The next thing she knew, she was on a plane to New York to meet with Larry Rudolph, one of Spears' managers, and Clive Calder, the head of the Zomba Group, which owns Jive.
"I was expecting to have to pitch the project, but based on my proposal, Clive gave me the green light," Carli remembers. "In fact, Clive said that he and Larry had been discussing how to take Britney's career to a new level, and a movie was the next logical step. The timing was just amazing."
From the start, Carli says that Rhimes was her first choice to write "Crossroads" because she felt that the screenwriter had the sensitivity to create the kind of movie both
Spears and she envisioned. But first Carli wanted Rhimes to get to know the person behind the pop icon, so she sent Rhimes to meet Spears at her concert in Chicago.
"We sat in the front row, and at one point, I turned around and saw thousands of screaming teenagers and their parents," Rhimes says. "There was just so much love there it was amazing. I mean, those kids respect Britney. They want to be just like her. And when
I met her backstage, I found out that even though the persona she projects on stage is very powerful, what's
reallly powerful is Britney herself. She's a very real, very natural, normal girl."
It was then time to finalize a director, and Carli knew she wanted Tamra Davis. Not only had Davis directed the critically-acclaimed "Guncrazy" with Drew Barrymore and the hit comedy "Billy Madison" with Adam
Sandler, but she'd also worked on a number of music videos.
"I felt Tamra had an affinity for the material," Carli says, "and unlike some directors, she wouldn't have a stigma about doing a film with someone from the music world. In fact, her husband is Mike D of The Beastie Boys and she's got a very young attitude. She can communicate with young actors, and I felt that Britney would be comfortable working with her."
Davis admits that she had always been fascinated by Britney Spears' energy and she also believed in Ann's ability to spot talent. She then read
Rhimes' script and loved the material.
"I have the greatest respect for both Ann and Shonda," Davis says. "And after reading Shonda's screenplay, I could see that all three of us shared the same vision for the film. We wanted a piece that depicted real life. We wanted to show not just the joys of teenage life, but also the trials young people are handling today."
Since Carli was working on a film in Japan, she flew the director to meet Spears in person at the Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas. After only a brief period with the
down—to—earth superstar, Davis was fully on board, discovering quickly that Spears is just the kind of young woman who could make her film debut a rousing success.
"We met in a fancy hotel
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