Calhoun Cornwell wants to retell a lost story through his latest film, "Taking a Stand."
The 27-year-old says he feels a sense of obligation to tell the story that's defined and stained the city of Orangeburg, S.C.
Cornwell graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design, majoring in dramatic writing.
"I'm from a very small town in South Carolina," he said, "In Orangeburg, there's not much to do. You go to school and come back home ... and that's it. "
He said he lived in a city where everything was a bit run-down and the recreational events were at a minimum.
Cornwell said he found refuge in literature and would often stay home.
"In the fourth grade, I discovered my passion for writing, and in the fifth grade, I began to dissect the craft of acting," he said. "By the seventh grade, I was intrigued by characters and plots."
He's glad his hometown was boring, he said, and that this allowed him to really hone his craft at such a young age.
"I wasn't outside running the streets; instead, I was running my finger down a dictionary and looking up words," Cornwell said.
"Taking a Stand" chronicles the events that took place on Feb. 8, 1968, a night that has become known as the "Orangeburg Massacre."
Cornwell said nearly 150 people gathered around a local bowling alley to fight against racial segregation and as a result, three African Americans died and 28 were injured.
In a small town, information can spread rather fast.
"When my hometown found out I was recreating the events in the Orangeburg Massacre, everyone supported me," he said.
Cornwell added that his professors at SCAD were also encouraging and pushing him to go beyond his limits in writing.
"I can remember some nights obsessing over small details," he said, "But it's those small details that can take your script from mediocre to great. SCAD encouraged this in me and helped me sharpen my skills."
The film is currently in production, but the trailer can be found at www.dacreatorproductions.com.
Cornwell's film has gotten support from the South Carolina Film Commission Office, South Carolina State University and the mayor of Orangeburg, motivational tweets from Gina Prince-Bythewood and Cedric the Entertainer, as well as awards from SCAD.
"Going back home and seeing all the support from everyone was truly reassuring," Cornwell said. "I know I'm doing something right. This film is close to me because it's where I grew up."
He said when the audience is watching his work, he wants them to be moved.
"I want them to feel the utter pain I'm conveying on the screen, or the joy through my lines," Cornwell said. "God has given me a gift to touch people with my words and I plan to keep unwrapping that gift."
With his goals of mustering profound material, speaking for those who are silenced and delivering an everlasting message, there's no mystery of why he chose such a raw and in-your-face story to rebirth.
"There's no better obstacle than to retell a story, and to retell a story with accuracy," he said.
Tackling such a huge event can be challenging for some, but for Cornwell, it's a matter of obligation.
"I have a duty. It's important that people know our history," he said.
This story has been in the making for five years, and took an extensive amount of research and interviews, Cornwell said.
"My cast actually spoke to the some of the remaining family members and got authentic stories and personality traits that made the character come to life," he said. "We used everything we could, from anecdotes to what they wore."
He said sticking to the most factual information for this film was a must and that he thinks he is representing the characters with dignity and pride.
Cornwell said his goals for this film are rather simple: Continue to create a buzz about the project, sell his script and tell this story right. He is hoping for a September release date for the film.
"I am borrowing information and a historical event," he said. "I must uphold its true form."