This Time

This Time

Recording artist Pat Hodges as seen in THIS TIME, a documentary by Victor Mignatti. Photo credit: John Skaliski. All rights reserved.

This Time

Photography Director:
Original Musical Score:
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Production Company:

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This Time (2012)

Opened: 08/10/2012 Limited

Quad Cinema/NYC08/10/2012 - 08/16/20127 days

Trailer: Click for trailer

Websites: Home, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube

Genre: Music Documentary

Rated: Unrated


Every dream has a soundtrack. THIS TIME follows six diverse recording artists on the verge of their next moment in the spotlight. They've sung back-up up for Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick and Jimi Hendrix, been homeless while their songs were on the charts, struggled to fill tiny cabarets and fight against the odds of the music industry -- all while holding tight to their dignity and dreams. With a soaring soundtrack of extraordinary music, THIS TIME takes you from the streets of South Central Los Angeles to New York's Park Avenue on a unique musical journey in this uplifting story of the transformative power of creativity.

The musicians are legendary recording artists The Sweet Inspirations (best known as back-up singers for Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin and Dusty Springfield), New York cabaret sensation Bobby Belfry, soul diva Pat Hodges (Hodges, James & Smith) and composer-producer Peitor Angell. As they battle self-sabotage and the brutality of the music industry, THIS TIME celebrates their widely ranging gifts and experiences in this inspiring story of hope, persistence and faith.

Also featuring original Sweet Inspiration and gospel music star Cissy Houston.

Director's Statement

How do we define success? Why do certain gifted artists "make it" while others languish in frustrated obscurity? Why are artists often their own worst enemies? I had been haunted by these questions for a very long time as I tried to grapple with my own daily frustrations of a career in film and television.

THIS TIME is a film that found me. For many years I had been intrigued by the world of New York cabaret and the artists who attempt to launch their music careers via those tiny stages. I'd also been fixated on female R&B vocalists of the late 60's and 70's, just before the disco beat took over, when dozens of gifted R&B artists were signed to major record labels, given the opportunity to record a few marvelous albums only to be neglected and forgotten by the same labels. Tax write-offs for the labels, in many cases.

When my friend Peitor Angell phoned to tell me he was producing the legendary Sweet Inspirations' first album in 23 years and Pat Hodges' first album in 25 years, I had a feeling there was a film to be made. Peitor gave me limited access to film some of the recording sessions, photo shoots and other working sessions. The Sweets had been through over 40 years of career ups and downs, losses, betrayals and successes. Their voices were in the background of countless hit songs that were, effectively, the sound track of my life (and possibly yours). Pat Hodges, who had tasted brief fame with the group Hodges James and Smith in the late '70s, was now homeless in South Central Los Angeles while having a hit on the club charts. These "women of a certain age" embodied the definition of survivor, pure artists that lived to open their mouths and fearlessly make their art. Peitor was also one of those fearless people. He had created a recording studio in his bedroom and was determined to "keep alive the magic of records," by selffinancing all of his recordings. At the same time, I discovered Bobby Belfry and his deeply personal, spirit-filled songs. Bobby's work and struggle for success, creative fulfillment and spiritual certainty mirrored those of Peitor, The Sweets and Pat Hodges. I quickly became committed to telling the story of these artists' process by focusing on their present careers and their determination to "keep on keeping on" despite the often illogical and cruel dictates of the music industry and the ever present need for daily bread.

I shot the film as a one-man crew over a period of four and a half years. The film was edited to unfold gradually and almost episodically, supported and carried along by the music. Like the artists in THIS TIME, so many of us harbor long-buried dreams. Many of us unwittingly self-sabotage our lives by avoiding happiness, fearing success and failing to live in the promise of our potential. By illustrating the creative process, struggles, triumphs and deep faith of these gifted artists, I hope that THIS TIME will not only entertain but help awaken the faith and long buried dreams in our audience.

--Victor Mignatti


The Sweet Inspirations

If there was a soundtrack album of your life, the unique blend of The Sweet Inspirations may very well be the background vocals. Somewhere in the world, The Sweet Inspirations are being played on the radio at this very moment. The Sweets were background session singers on dozens and dozens of hit records and albums, including among others: "A Natural Woman", "Spanish Harlem", "Chain Of Fools", "Don't Play That Song" (Aretha Franklin), "Moondance" (Van Morrison), "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?", "I'll Never Fall in Love Again", "Alfie", "I Say a Little Prayer", "Don't Make Me Over" (Dionne Warwick), "Son Of A Preacher Man" (Dusty Springfield), as well as singing with Jimi Hendrix, Nina Simone, The Drifters, Wilson Pickett, Luther Vandross and backing-up Elvis Presley in concert and recordings throughout the last eight years of his life. Perhaps the most famous back-up group in history, The Sweet Inspirations were also solo artists with seven albums on Atlantic, Stax and RSO Records from 1967 -- 79.

Originally from Newark, New Jersey and members of the New Hope Baptist Church, Cissy Houston (mother of Whitney Houston, and aunt of Dee Dee Warwick and Dionne Warwick) was the first member of The Sweets. Houston had been a member of the gospel group The Drinkard Singers before forming a back-up session group with Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick and Doris Troy in the early sixties. Soon, however, Dionne and Dee Dee began having success as solo artists and left the group. Sylvia Shemwell then joined the group and the girls quickly found their way onto records with the likes of Wilson Pickett, Garnet Mimms and Aretha Franklin, who was then struggling to make a name at Columbia Records. In 1965, Myrna Smith (also from New Hope Baptist Church) and Estelle Brown (from Harlem) came in to form the line-up most remembered today.

The group, known informally in the New York recording community simply as "the girls", recorded an enormous amount of material as back-up singers for Atlantic Records. In an attempt to keep them in-house and always available to back-up their artists, Atlantic president Jerry Wexler signed "the girls" to make records by themselves and were soon named, The Sweet Inspirations. At first, in order to save money, the label would have The Sweets record their solo vocals over instrumental tracks that were intended for, and discarded by, other artists. As a result, they were often working in keys and with arrangements that were not always best suited to them, but using their inventive musicality, they always managed to make it work.

In the summer of 1967 the Sweet Inspirations recorded versions of "Why (Am I Treated So Bad)," and "Let It Be Me," which reached number 57 and number 94 on the pop charts respectively. On the R&B charts, moreover, the songs reached number 36 and number 13, establishing the girls as major recording artists. A stunning version of Aretha Franklin's "Do Right Woman-Do Right Man" was next up, but it failed to chart so closely after it predecessor. By now, the Sweets had recorded enough songs to make their first album, and the title track, "Sweet Inspiration," became their biggest hit yet. It peaked at number 18 on the pop charts and made it all the way to the Top 5 on the R&B charts. The group went on to record four more albums on Atlantic, often featuring cover versions of older songs including, The Bee Gee's "To Love Somebody", the Righteous Brothers' "Unchained Melody," and Dionne Warwick's "What The World Needs Now Is Love".

In late 1969 the group underwent some radical changes. Cissy Houston left the group in order to pursue a solo career. The group's fifth album on Atlantic, SWEET SWEET SOUL, was completed by the remaining three Sweet Inspirations and Ann Williams, a friend of Estelle Brown. Throughout this time, the group had been touring the United States but were showcasing more frequently on what was known as the "chitlin circuit", driving themselves from gig to gig. Tired from the grind, danger and low pay of the road, they jumped at the opportunity for stability when Elvis Presley called and proposed blending their unique gospel vocals and a full orchestra with his rock and roll. For the next eight years they would sing back-up in his concerts and recordings, often opening the show for Elvis.

During this time, they continued recording on Stax Records. After the death of Elvis, The Sweet Inspirations recorded one more album on the RSO label in 1979, then retiring for a period before re-emerging in 1994 to perform worldwide in Elvis Presley tribute concerts including "Elvis - The Concert". In 1996, Portia Griffin joined the group as lead singer and in 2002 they began recording a new album, IN THE RIGHT PLACE, with producer / composer Peitor Angell on Frixion Records, as documented in THIS TIME. Their first single off the album, "Celebration" reached #32 on the Billboard Club Chart.

Pat Hodges

Los Angeles native Pat Hodges recorded her first record, the single "Playgirl" at age 15 for Keymen Records owner/producer Fred Smith. A few years later, in 1967, she had her first taste of local fame when she recorded "What's Happening" with South Central LA's legendary FIRST WATTS 103RD STREET BAND. After finishing high school, where she sang in the choir and played clarinet in the band, she attended Cal State Los Angeles receiving a BA in Theater Arts and Music. Hodges' recording career took off in the early 1970's after signing, along with Denita James and Jessica Smith, to form the group HODGES, JAMES & SMITH.

HODGES, JAMES & SMITH (HJS) was the brainchild of William "Micky" Stevenson who had a vision to create a nightclub act more spectacular than that of the Supremes. Stevenson had been Motown's director of A&R during the glory years under Berry Gordy. He modeled his training and development of HJS on the time-honored Motown system of "wood shedding"; teaching the girls everything from vocal technique to what is now known as "media training" and grooming them to play the top posh clubs. In 1975 alone, they played the legendary nightspots Copacabana, Hi Chaparral, Twenty Grand, The Roxy, Disco 9000 and The Troubadour as well as singing back-up and opening for Ann-Margret in Las Vegas.

Although much of the history of HJS has been lost to memory, their first single was 'Nobody' on Stevenson's Mpingo label. He then signed HJS to 20th Century Records recording the album INCREDIBLE in 1973 and, in 1975, POWER IN YOUR LOVE. In 1976, they signed with London Records recording the albums WHAT'S ON YOUR MIND and WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR LOVE. Although the last two albums received much promotion, including a stint on SOUL TRAIN, the timing of the act, with it stylishly sophisticated harmonies and grand orchestrations, was not in sync with the direction the music industry was heading at the time -- the emergence of beat-heavy disco -- and was not embraced by the record-buying public.

The lack of record sales, though, did not entirely douse the HJS flame as they continued traveling, with much success as a live act in Japan, Italy and the UK. They also sang back-up for many other acts including Bobby Womack and Sylvester. But after a few more years of career frustrations and internal discord, Pat Hodges left the group and the trio disbanded.

On her own, Hodges recorded a number of songs under her own name, including "Love At First Bite" from the movie FLY BY NIGHT for Casablanca Records. She sang on cruise ships and began to work as an actress appearing on LA LAW, BAYWATCH, EQUAL JUSTICE, COP ROCK, THE PRACTICE, and the Showtime Original Movie, THE RIOT starring Mario Van Peebles and Cicely Tyson. She has also appeared on stage in many plays and musicals including her portrayal of Bessie Smith in SANG SISTA SANG, the BLUES BROTHERS SHOW at Universal Studios Hollywood and her recent one woman show, BESSIE AND FRIENDS.

In 1997, Pat Hodges began recording with producer/composer Peitor Angell on Frixion Records. Together they created three top ten singles on the Billboard Club Chart: "You Make Me Feel G-O-O-D", "Love Revolution" and "Saving My Love" which stayed at #3 on the Billboard Club Chart for two straight weeks.

Bobby Belfry

A native of Long Island, Bobby Belfry is an award winning singer/songwriter, whose latest album, LIVE: IN THE HEART OF THE UNIVERSE has recently been released to great response. The live CD/DVD combination, features songs written and performed by Belfry and his band the last several years on the New York club scene. "LIVE" is garnering airplay on Free FM in New York and around the USA along with Belfry's debut album IMPERFECT RHYMES. Chuck Taylor of Billboard Magazine wrote: "Bobby Belfry is one to savor, embrace and lend the hand of fame to...smooth jazz outlets will have a ball with this shrewd offering." Two cuts from IMPERFECT RHYMES have been included on a popular jazz compilation, IN LOVE WITH JAZZ, released in Poland and Korea in 2009.

In the mid-1980's, Belfry was lead singer of the rock band TELL which played New York City area clubs including The Cat Club, China Club and CBGB's. He worked briefly as an actor in musical theater, eventually leading him to Brandy's piano bar on the Upper East Side where he has worked as a singing bartender for 15 years, belting out everything from Springsteen to Gershwin. Belfry returned to writing his own songs in 1999 and has since brought his unique brand of emotion driven rock-cabaret to Feinstein's at the Regency, The Metropolitan Room, Lincoln Center, Town Hall, The Russian Tea Room, The Rainbow Room, Smoke, The Fairmont Hotel in Dallas, The New Jersey Performing Arts Center, The Kennedy Center, and The Cinegrill in Hollywood.

Belfry has appeared on national television on "The Morning Blend", a news/talk show on MSNBC, and is a frequent guest on WOR Radio's The Joey Reynolds Show, whose theme song, penned by Belfry, is played for an audience of 5 million listeners, nightly.

Belfry is the recipient of the Back Stage Bistro Award for Outstanding Vocalist. IMPERFECT RHYMES and "So What", a cut off the album, were 2nd and 3rd place finalists for the Just Plain Folks Independent Music Awards, in a field of 10,000 submissions. He has also received the MAC Award for outstanding Pop/R&B Vocalist and several Critics Choice Vocalist Awards.

He is currently recording a new CD entitled "One Lucky Day" with The David Budway Trio.

Peitor Angell

Peitor Angell has been writing, arranging and producing music for records, film and television for over twenty years. Born in Iowa, he began his formal training on piano at age six. At age nine he moved with his family to Italy where he continued his studies with Arturo Rubenstein protege Josephine Brandt in Florence.

Angell has the unique ability to embrace multiple genres and styles with a knowing affection, freshness and attention to detail rarely seen. Primarily self-trained in both classical and contemporary music, he considers himself fundamentally a conceptualist. Angell explains, "I love the adventure of searching for and discovering an intriguing combination of elements for whatever I am working on. I enjoy creating music that is delightfully unexpected."

Nowhere is this more evident than in his two unique Summer 2010 releases for alter-ego Monte Carlo & His Orchestra, the first of which features an original soundtrack composed for a 1960's motion picture which has never been made, KISS YESTERDAY GOODBYE. Even though the movie does not exist, Angell assures his listeners, "The film's beautiful story inspired me to compose a score which ensures that everyone will be able to see the movie in their imagination as they listen to the music." The second CD continues his work in the 60's Pacific Coast Jazz genre fused with a European flavor. THE INTERNATIONAL SET features Kristi Rose on vocals in French, Italian, German and English.

For film, Angell scored Columbia/Tri Stars' THE VELOCITY OF GARY (starring Salma Hayek, Ethan Hawke & Vincent D'Onofrio), Sony Picture Classic's FACADE (starring Eric Roberts) and Fox/Searchlight's MAN OF THE YEAR. His songs are featured in numerous films including, the United Artists Release, IT'S MY PARTY (starring Eric Roberts and Gregory Harrison) and Fox/Searchlight's THE CLEARING (starring Robert Redford and Helen Mirren).

For television, he has written for many shows including ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT, AMERICAN MOVIE CLASSICS, MISS TEEN U.S.A., MISS U.S.A. as well as MISS UNIVERSE, ORDINARY EXTRAORDINARY, INTIMATE PORTRAITS, The Sci-Fi Channel, Montel Williams, and The History Channel just to name a few.

For live performance, he wrote the theme and finale music for the Olympic Ice Skaters at Madison Square Garden, "Angels On Ice", directed jazz standards for Pat Hodges at the Beverly Hills Four Seasons, and programmed drum & bass tracks for "The Main Event" in TIMELESS, Barbra Streisand's Millineum New Years' Eve concert in Las Vegas.

Peitor Angell began working in New York City in the 1980's, writing, arranging and/or producing for recording artists including THE IDOLLS, SHANGHIA EXPRESS and NOCERA whose "Let's Go!" went to #7 on the Billboard Dance Chart.

In 2000, he started indie label Frixion Records in Los Angeles. In addition to Frixion artists Pat Hodges and The Sweet Inspirations who appear in THIS TIME, Angell has recently written, produced and/or remixed for artists including Thelma Houston (the Shoutfactory release A WOMAN'S TOUCH), Charo's latest Top 20 Billboard Hit, "Espana Cani", MCA's, Chante Moore, and Res. As seen in THIS TIME, the songs he's written and produced for Pat Hodges include"You Make Me Feel Good" (Top 20 Billboard Club Chart for 6 weeks), "Love Revolution" (#9 on the Billboard Club Chart) and "Saving My Love" (2 weeks at #3 on the Billboard Club Chart). He also produced IN THE RIGHT PLACE, the entirely new CD for label mate The Sweet Inspirations, with its lead-off Top 20 Billboard Hit single, "Celebration".

Victor Mignatti (Director/Producer)

Film director Victor Mignatti specializes in comedy with a strong heartfelt emotional hook as well as documentary work notable for a sensitive and honest cinema-verite style coupled with moving, intimate and revealing interviews. Mignatti has directed everything from singing gangsta's in the 'hood and Sondheim-obsessed college grads in Greenwich Village to what is perhaps the most famous pimple cream commercial ever made. He occasionally works in reality television as a producer/director.

His feature film work includes the Award-Winning romantic comedy BROADWAY DAMAGE which critic Rex Reed called, "One of the best American Independent films in years." Mignatti was nominated for a Grammy Award as director of the pop-culture phenomenon R. Kelly's TRAPPED IN THE CLOSET 13-22 distributed by IFC. This outrageous "hip-hopera" was the Billboard #1 platinum music video DVD in sales 5 weeks in a row, inspired countless blogs and two major articles in the New York Times, which called it "extraordinarily entertaining." TRAPPED is one of the most viewed music videos in Internet history.

He brings to his work a solid postproduction background as an editor and multi-faceted directing experience in a variety of disciplines including feature film, television, commercial, music video, documentary and internet content. Having studied film at New York University and acting at Circle in the Square, Mignatti believes that the filmmaking process thrives on a collaborative and harmonious set, at the service of the script and the needs of show-runners, talent, ad agency and clients. He often edits his own work as well as working as an editor only.

In addition to THIS TIME, his other documentary work includes the award winning films ACLU: 75th ANNIVERSARY, celebrating the 75th year of the American Civil Liberties Union and GMHC: A PORTRAIT, a sobering look at the fabled AIDS service agency.

Recent commercial work includes spots for clients such as Macy's, Estee Lauder, Bloomberg, People's Choice Awards, History Channel, Major League Soccer, Kirshenbaum Bond and DraftFCB. In the realm of "real people" programming, he directed the People's Choice Award nominated MTV's THE REAL WORLD NEW ORLEANS and other reality programs, specials and pilots. In 2009, he produced and directed the hit season of MTV's THE REAL WORLD BROOKLYN.

Mignatti majored in film production at New York University then launched his career in the sound department of Du-Art Film Labs where he enjoyed the opportunity to study the dailies of Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen and the Maysles Brothers. Later, at Jupiter Films, he met TV commercial impresario Mason Boyd who encouraged him to edit by assigning him director's cuts of commercials. He has edited for such clients as CBS News, ABC News, Cyndi Lauper, Pink Floyd, Anne Klein, Ralph Lauren, Elizabeth Arden and Showtime. Gradually some of his editing clients gave him a shot at directing commercials. Since then he has become known for his tongue-in-cheek point of view, directing spots for such clients as Macy's, Sega Genesis, Lifesavers, Cablevision, PBS, Major League Soccer and Dreyfus Financial, his favorite being the notorious Clearasil "Pizza Face" spot that ran for years on MTV.

Mignatti has also directed many award-winning public service announcements and image films. His work is in the permanent collections of the UCLA Film and Television Archive, The Paley Center for Media, the Museum of the City of New York and the Clinton Presidential Archives.

Mark Bower (Producer)

Mark Bower was born and raised in Baltimore and attended Emory University, in Atlanta, where he majored in philosophy and economics with a minor in history. For almost a decade, he has worked in the financial industry in New York City, focusing his efforts on international investments, with an emphasis on the developing world. Bower has traveled to five continents and almost forty countries while evaluating potential investments. A long time fan of movies and the movie business, Bower has been following with great interest the evolution of the independent film industry and the growth of new methods of distribution. "This Time" is his first feature film production. Bower also serves as a director and consultant to Life & Soul Pictures, a production company based in London focused on family and faith based films. He speaks Portuguese , French and Italian and currently resides in Brooklyn.

Production / Technical Notes

THIS TIME was filmed over a period of 4 ! years in Los Angeles, New York City, Atlanta, Boston, Las Vegas, Nyack and Long Island.

Photography and sound recordings were made simultaneously by Victor Mignatti, as a crew of one, filming nearly 300 hours of footage. The only time there was an assistant or additional crew was during scenes that involved large crowds such as nightclubs, casinos, bars and public spaces when large numbers of appearance releases needed to be signed. In those instances there were Release Coordinators / Production Assistants.

The film was imaged in the Pal DVCAM format using a Sony PD-150 shooting in the 16X9 anamorphic mode. Except for a handful of interview sequences, the film was shot direct-cinema / cinema verite style entirely in available light, on rare occasions pushing the gain to +12db. During the first six months of filming, audio was recorded using only the camera microphone, then a single wireless body microphone was added. As the budget increased, 3 Sennheiser Evolution G2 wireless mics and a Sound Devices mixer were added, mixing to one track of the PD-150 with a Sennheiser camera mounted shotgun feeding the other track. Certain live performance and recording studio scenes were simultaneously recording stereo board-feeds to a Sony HD-Mini Disc recorder in the PCM mode or to the house CD burner or DAT recorder.

The film was edited by Mignatti on Final Cut Pro, using LaCie fire-wire 800 hard drives and output as a single strand sequence in reels to DV-CAM tape, except for graphics and FX sequences which were output in separate strands. Digital Intermediate, conforming and compositing were performed by Goldcrest Post in New York. Extensive colorcorrection and scene painting was performed by master colorist John J. Dowdell, III on a Quantel IQ in the Goldcrest DI Theater. Still photographs were re-animated in the Quantel. Motion graphics were created in Live-Type and After Effects. The film is mastered in High Definition SR and is prepped for film out.

Sound editing and mixing were also performed at Goldcrest by supervising sound editor Michael Suarez and re-recording mixer Peter Waggoner in Goldcrest's Theater A in 5.1 Surround.

Film Completion Date: January 2011

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