Crown Royal is shining a light on Marjorie Eliot, a Harlem, NY legend who has been hosting jazz concerts in her living room every Sunday as a tribute to her late son Phillip and his shared love for music.
A 12-minute documentary, Sundays at the Triple Nickel, made with Stept Studios and directed by Jess Colquhoun, is part of Crown Royal’s push to inspire generosity. It shows how Eliot, after the tragic loss of her son in 1992, arranged a memorial concert, which turned into a weekly apartment concert every Sunday, without fail, for over 25 years and is still going strong.
The film, slightly surreal and grainy, also shows the strength of Eliot to persevere through her losses and continue making music in the Sugar Hill neighborhood in Harlem, in the Triple Nickel building that used to house some jazz legends.
Director Colquhoun discovered Eliot’s story through a story in the New York Times several years ago. She was so captivated that when she returned to New York, she attended the house concert.
“I couldn’t believe the show. It was just incredibly magical. I was engrossed in the concert,” Colquhoun told The Drum. “As soon you get to the apartment, you kind of get taken under this spell for a couple of hours. I was so intrigued by her, the people that were showing up, and her story, her son. I knew there was some kind of film in her story. There had been a couple of news pieces, but nothing told that was really filmic and poetic.”
Colquhoun kept coming back over the next few years, seeing the concert four or five more times. She introduced herself and got to know Eliot and her son Rudy, and built a relationship before filming them.
“They’re incredible creatives themselves, they’re really interested in the creative process and were on board from the beginning and were excited to tell their story in a unique way. So, it was really a collaborative process,” said Colquhoun, who added that the film was shot over three days in Harlem and was produced with a heightened documentary style, stylistic and surreal, that captured what she calls the “other-worldly presence” of her concert and the building itself.
“The tenants who live there are a huge range of different creatives, from fashion designers to musicians. You walk the corridors and you can hear a saxophone coming from one door, and someone’s playing the piano from another, and the whole building’s just buzzing, it feels so alive. So I wanted to weave that into the narrative, as well as how Marjorie is a huge heartbeat of that building,” she said.
Colquhoun and Stept Studios were inspired by a recent Crown Royal campaign, ‘The Guy Whose Got It All’, directed by Spike Lee and starring Anthony Ramos. They reached out to the brand to help collaborate on Sundays at the Triple Nickel.
The brand, owned by Diageo, stated that it “looks to inspire generosity in all forms, so it was only natural for Crown Royal to collaborate on its first-ever documentary… to shine a light on the exceptional generosity of Marjorie Eliot. This project is an example of Diageo’s continued commitment to supporting talented creatives who seek to tell meaningful and powerful stories.”
The film will be promoted through Crown Royal’s social channels and will have a screening in Harlem to celebrate its release. The brand is taking a year-round grassroots approach to spreading the word about this film, which will include film festival submissions and a series of assets to complement the film that are more brand focused.
“With Marjorie’s story, they’ve been incredible at keeping integrity and authenticity to her story, really just championing who she is. They’ve been a huge part of helping the film come to life,” said Colquhoun, who urges those who see the film to attend one of Eliot’s intimate concerts.