Larry Stanley channeled Alexander Hamilton in more ways than one for his recently released documentary.
A Midlothian-based filmmaker, Stanley has been in the industry for the better part of the last 23 years. Ever since he was 17, Stanley has acted in several television-produced movies and shows, including the 2013 TNT soap opera “Dallas.” Stanley founded APB Productions alongside high school friend, Andy Bowles, after returning home from an acting stint in Los Angeles in 2005.
“We didn’t know what the hell we were doing,” Stanley chuckled.
In his 30s, Stanley said he took a few filmmaking classes and decided to pursue directing. He first co-directed "An Innocent Hell," a drama about a sex offender released from prison who returns to the town that he wronged several years before.
He later directed "Decisions," a 2015 drama about a dysfunctional couple, and "Grey Agenda," a 2017 science-fiction film about aliens haunting a town.
“As I got older, I learned more about framing, setting up shots, and I’m finding myself wanting to be behind the camera more rather than in front of it,” Stanley said.
His most recent work, "Channeling Hamilton," is his first venture into documentary filmmaking and explores the life of founding father and treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton. The film was released Sept. 7 on Amazon Prime.
“I’ve had documentaries in the back of my mind for a long time,” Stanley said. “I just didn’t know what the subject was.”
While Stanley was brainstorming ideas for a documentary, a friend of his introduced him to “Hamilton,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical by playwright and songwriter, Lin-Manuel Miranda. Stanley was so taken aback by it that he couldn’t believe the historical portrayal in the musical.
“I listened to it, and I was like ‘There’s no way this guy did all this stuff that this play was saying. This was so embellished,’” Stanley recalled.
When he started researching more about Alexander Hamilton, Stanley said he was so blown away by his life that he decided Hamilton had to be the subject for his documentary.
“We need to know more about this guy, and not in a showmanship way,” he rationalized. “We really need to know about what this guy did and tell his story.”
According to the film’s press release, the production interviewed several people for the documentary, including University of Texas at Dallas professor Ben Wright, Iona College professor Nora Slonimsky and David Cowen, president of the Museum of American Finance.
One of the most enthralling episodes of Stanley’s interviews was when Cowen took him and his small crew into his office, where he had artifacts stored away from the public eye.
“He took us into his office after we got through filming, and he goes into his closet in his office, and he hands us a magazine-sized ledger handwritten by Alexander Hamilton,” Stanley recollected. “In 1792, he hand-wrote the budget of America, down to the penny. It just gives me chills talking about it.”
But one of the more spectacular interviews was when the production visited a New Jersey psychic medium named Laura Cifadeli.
“She knew nothing about what we were doing out there,” Stanley recalled. “I had nothing on my social media, so there’s no way she could have known what I was doing there.”
Stanley said Cifadeli started drawing out details of the infamous duel between Hamilton and then-U.S. Vice President Aaron Burr. Stanley said she drew out the duel date (July 11, 1804), a gun, an old man standing next to Stanley, whom he believes was Hamilton, and she asked if it was cold because the man was saying ‘brrr.’
“She has no clue about history either,” Stanley explained. “She nailed the duel within 10 minutes.”
The production took Cifadeli to the Weehawken dueling grounds, where she walked them through her vision at the site. Stanley later decided to combine her testimony with historians’ analysis to re-enact the duel as best he could.
However, Stanley plans to release her channeling and interview as a new series called “Channeling of Alexander Hamilton,” which Stanley is planning to release in October.
“I didn’t want to mix that with the Ph.D.s because you don’t want to discredit one or the other,” Stanley explained.
Stanley said he enjoyed learning about Alexander Hamilton’s life through filming "Channeling Hamilton," and he plans to take the experience he gained on that documentary into his next production.
“It was an incredible experience,” Stanley surmised.
David Dunn, @DavidDunnInTX