Director & Executive Producer of Whirlwind explain his venture in high end Major Taylor documentary.
Cyrille Vincent was Interviewed by Monica Sager (email@example.com)
How did you get into the topic of Major Taylor for this documentary?
I started working on the documentary in 2020 right around the time that COVID hit. I was actually working on a different project on Woodstock 1969. One of the things that happens in my creative process is research. It’s a big part of what I do. So I went to the Worcester Public Library to grab some books, and I found out that a statue outside the library is a sculpture of Major Taylor. I had a chance to read a little bit about his title, right there. I heard about him from Major Taylor Boulevard – I live a short drive from it – but I thought he sounded like a war veteran or something. It never really caught my attention for real until I found out about the sculpture. And I put one in one together. So from there, I started doing my personal research. As you know, I got intrigued with the story and I ended up loving the story so much that I decided to make a documentary about it.
Cyrille Vincent & Woody Adams on the set of ''Whirlwind''/ Photo by : Emma Helstrom
You’ve directed other documentaries in the past. How does this one differ?
The documentary I made on Woodstock, which has not really been officially published, is what I consider like my film school. For most projects I have done in the past, I pretty much did everything myself. This project is different in the sense where first there is a team behind the project. I found actors that we are using for the reenactment part of the documentary. There are advisors as well. Everything in the narration, the scenes that we are reenacting, even the look of the film in terms of the costumes, the props that we use the bicycle – everything needs to be accurate. I have really learned a lot. I have found a voice, I believe.
Cyrille Vincent , Luke Zvara (DP) and Jed Burdick (Co Executive Producer ) on Whirlwind film set .
Do you like working with a team more than when you were alone?
Yes, I think I do like it. It's a little harder, in a sense, we have some people in different time zones. We are virtual on some part. So there's that challenge. But apart from that, I think working with people is good. Each person brings in things that I can’t do and I would probably never be able to achieve. If I want to grow in what I'm doing, I need to surround myself with people who care about what they do and hopefully care about the stories and the project that I'm working on.
How do you take from “this is Major Taylor’s story” to “this is how I’m going to tell it?”
I start talking to people, most likely scholars who may have written on the story. I tried to reach out to people who know about the story, who are connected with the story in some ways. I figured out, “okay, what's going on here?” One big question I like to ask is if there is any film they recommend or body of work I should read. The response that I got very early on was that unfortunately, we don't know any documentary of any movie about Major Taylor. So the fact that there wasn't anything as a documentary, like on many other athletes such as Muhammad Ali or Jackie Robinson, that means something needed to be done. Major Taylor’s story needs to be told and brough on screen.
Mike Daniel Aka Major Taylor on ''Whirlwind'' film set / Photo by Emma Helstrom
Why do you think that is? Why don’t many people know about Major Taylor?
I think there are many reasons why people don't know about him. And I guess the first one is that bicycling is not as popular anymore. It’s not like the bigger attraction that it used to be. Bicycle races used to be like Nascar or football today. It was the biggest attraction of the time and the sport has died down a lot. Owning a bicycle was like owning the fanciest computer. But it’s not like that anymore. I just don’t think people understand the scope of Major Taylor’s story.
Mike Daniel Aka Major Taylor on Whirlwind film set / Photo by Emma Helstrom
Why is it so important for people to know about Major Taylor?
I'm not gonna compare a story or make direct parallels with stories of Black athletes that expressed themselves and fought for change. I think, though, it is important to hear about the story, because this is history. It is American history. Black and white were supposed to be considered equal, but there was still a system of oppression. They used the law to deny service to people, like Major Taylor, because of their skin color. There's a lot that goes into that story. You can’t just forget the history and focus on this man’s accomplishments. I’ve found so many things that are tied with Major Taylor being an athlete and the world around him. Even just as an athlete he’s someone people should know because he was a world champion. No matter the color of his skin, that's important. But he fought to be where he was. There were many times where he was attacked in the midst of a race. He got pretty much choked out on the bike by a rider behind him. It's a sad story to tell, but the next day he was on his way somewhere else like nothing happened. He never complained about that. He just kept going and winning. And you know, most of these prizes that he won early on, he gave them to his mentors, to his mom, to people that he cherished in his life; he even took care of his sister by moving her in his house when she contracted a chronic disease.
What does Major Taylor represent to you?
I look at what this man has accomplished in the midst of all of these adversities, without complaining, and I see that he was focused to prove through his riding that he could accomplish things other white riders were accomplishing and even more. His character has really gotten to the point where it inspires me in my own life. Sometimes it’s hard. I’ve realized that I’m privileged in some ways to even be making this documentary and to tell his life story. I’m learning about him and what he has done and it ties into my everyday life as an inspiration.
Do you have a favorite part or most interesting thing you’ve learned about Major Taylor so far?
The most interesting thing about him that I think really stuck with me, apart from his character, is his sportsmanship and work ethic. There's so many exceptional things about Major Taylor but the fact that he didn't keep prizes from early in his career for himself is something. He has some really awesome human qualities.
To watch the Trailer concept of the film documentary please visit : https://www.worcesterwhirlwind.com/watch-the-trailer-pay-it-forward