Producer Daryl Sledge Returning Home to Chicago with His Next Feature ‘Why?’

Daryl Sledge is bringing his next project back home. The Chicago native and Brooklyn resident is currently in pre-production on the feature film Why?. Why? is the award-winning debut novel by fellow Chicago native D.A. Rhodes, with the screenplay adaptation written by Sybil Azur. Sledge tells SCREEN he plans to shoot the film on location in Chicago, and is targeting a Spring 2024 start date. The award-winning film, television and theatre producer stopped by SCREEN to share his thoughts on the project.

This film means a great deal to me as a producer,” Daryl said in an exclusive interview with SCREEN. “It allows me to tackle a very troubling subject matter, add my two cents, and offer a form of hope while being entertaining.

WHY? follows the Boxx Family who, like many African American families in the 1940s and 1950s, migrated from the South to the North in search of freedom, better work, and increased security. With them came a family evil and destruction in the form of child sexual abuse, as experienced by protagonist Ella Boxx. Questions arise as to whether the family can break free from the vicious cycle of abuse or if the suffering will continue to be perpetuated from one generation to the next.

“Child sexual abuse has affected many communities in our country,” Daryl declared to SCREEN. “With this, many can relate and possibly see themselves or another in this particular circumstance. However, what we’re championing is the outcome, how the central character overcomes and eventually lives a safe existence.”

Chicago Natives Collaborate

The prolific Daryl Sledge has worked on over 100 projects in film and television. Producing credits include 2nd Life (HBO Best Short Film); un·bind (winner, New York Cinematography Awards); and Rain Pryor projects, the documentary That Daughter’s Crazy (Saatchi & Saatchi Achievement in Film Award), and the critically acclaimed Off-Broadway one-woman-show Fried Chicken and Latkes.

Fellow Chicago native D.A. Rhodes is a multifaceted literary and broadcast creative. Why? marks the debut novel for Rhodes and won the Outstanding Achievement Award in Literary Fiction from the African American Arts Alliance of Chicago. An alumna of Columbia College Chicago’s journalism program, Rhodes currently lives in Northwest Indiana with her husband Rob Pettigrew.

As for how Sledge connected with this author, “Actually, DA Rhodes and I went to high school together,” Daryl shared with SCREEN. “We both attended Percy L. Julian High School on the South Side. It was just five years ago that she and I reunited, and she mentioned her novel. I offered to read it and after completion, I moved on my instinct to option the rights.”

Looking Ahead

Sledge intends to begin physical production on Why? in Spring of 2024. As for where specifically Daryl plans to be filming, “Chicago is the setting in the novel. It is my desire to be authentic with this project, so filming in Chicago is the goal, and preferably in the historic South Side,” Sledge shared with SCREEN.

Be sure to check back here at SCREEN Magazine as this feature film forges ahead into production. You can also click right here to subscribe to our weekly email newsletter.

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