Somebody e-mailed Arlene Gibbs a photo of a New York City bus recently. Gibbs, who grew up in Verona, lives in Rome now, but the photo wasn’t sent to help her over any homesickness. It was meant to be a victory cry: The bus carried an ad for a movie that Gibbs wrote, a major Hollywood movie that opens in theaters across the U.S. on Friday, May 6, “Jumping The Broom”.
To understand how much of an accomplishment this is, you have to understand the odds of any idea ever making it to the big screen. At any one time, there are thousands of people working on thousands of script ideas. Most are doing their work “on spec”, meaning that they don’t have a commitment from anyone to pay them anything when the script is completed. Most spec scripts are never bought and most of those that are then languish on a producer’s desk and never, ever are dangled in front of Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Harrison Ford or Will Smith. That’s a reality that Gibbs knows all too well: She had written a bunch of spec scripts before she left Hollywood.
That was three years ago. Gibbs had just finished working as the senior producer on Don Cheadle’s terrorist thriller “Traitor” and decided that her 10-year stay in Tinseltown was over. With just five pieces of luggage in hand, she jumped over half the planet to start a new life, again. Gibbs had moved to Verona with her parents from the Caribbean island of Saint Martin when she was in fourth grade. After Laning, HBW, and VHS (where she says she was fortunate enough to have Kenneth Luks as an English teacher), she went to Syracuse University and majored in international relations. She worked in Washington for Sen. Bill Bradley and then on Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign. And it was in Washington that she first heard of the upper-class black community that vacations on Martha’s Vineyard. “Someone asked me, ‘Where do you summer’,” Gibbs recalls. “It cracked me up that people would use ‘summer’ as a verb.”
The class differences in black America are the backdrop for “Jumping the Broom”, which stars Angela Bassett, Paula Patton, Loretta Devine, Laz Alonzo and Mike Epps. But Gibbs stresses that the theme is universal. “This is about family,” she says. “I love doing stories about family because you pick your friends, not your family.”
Rome, the place she picked for her new life, is definitely not Hollywood. “Nobody here schedules dinner or drinks three weeks in advance like we had to in L.A.,” she wrote recently in her blog. “I tried to do that when I first arrived. That habit died quickly. When you ask people how are they are, they tell you. They don’t say, ‘busy’, then run through a list of all their work projects to prove they are busier than you because they are a more important producer, exec, whatever.”
She has also discovered that Rome is where she was meant to be. “I wrote ‘Jumping The Broom’ when I was in Rome,” she notes. “It was produced while I was in Rome. This is a sign that I made the right decision.”
“Jumping The Broom” opens May 6. The movie is playing at the AMC Loews theaters in Wayne and East Hanover. For showtimes, click here.
Congratulations Arlene! You’ve done Ken Luks proud! (What a fantastic teacher). Not only is Alrene an excellent writer, but she also used to be (and maybe still is) a great saxophonist/band member at VHS!
I’m proud of my fellow Verona High School sax player.
Thanks Beth and Joe!! I can’t believe you remember that I used to play sax.
Sadly, I haven’t played since graduating from VHS. I could kick myself for not keep up with it.
Didn’t know you played the sax, Arlene! I play the flute…we’ll have to tear it up when I head up to Rome ;) So so so happy for you; every single bit of success and happiness is so richly deserved xoxo
Michelle, my dear sister also played the Flute! :)
Ken Luks for the win. He was the best.
Congratulations Arlene! Plan on seeing it soon.
Great trailer Arlene! And I second the great saxophonist… remember those band days well! So proud of your accoplishments!