The film has been an official selection of several high profile film festivals including the Sarasota Film Festival and has been the recipient of several awards including Audience Choice Award for Best Feature Film at the Gwinnett Center International Film Festival, Linny and Beall Fowler Audience Award for Best Feature Film at the SouthSide Film Festival and Espeut is the first documentary filmmaker to win the Indie Auteur of the Year Award in the 15-year history of the Bare Bones International Film & Music Festival.
Espeut was born and raised in Lawrenceville, Georgia, and had discovered his passion for directing motion pictures while he was attending Collins Hill High School in Suwanee, Georgia. He received six AECT International Student Media Festival awards by his senior year and a media internship position with ZDF, one of Europe’s largest broadcast television networks located in Mainz, Germany. In 2009, he became a Cum Laude graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film and Television.
Espeut met Joey Thurmond, the subject of GREASEPAINT, when he was hired to make a promotional video for Nojoe’s Circus, an independent clown act that travels the fair and festival circuit on the east coast. Thurmond was a former Atlanta area police officer, who followed his childhood dream of becoming a performer and had created a show with his wife Jamie and son Tyler. Espeut was fascinated by Thurmond’s passion for the art and knowledge of clowning. With Espeut’s second profession being a mobile DJ and MC, it amazed him how many similarities he saw in Thurmond’s profession. The two performers decided it was time to make a film that shows the everyday life of a performing clown, in and out of makeup. This would be the essential element to humanize the clown.
Espeut was interested in creating a piece of cinema that would help dispel the myth of “scary clowns.”
GREASEPAINT follows the Thurmond’s for an entire season as they struggle to build a family business in a tough economy. Although a professional wrestler with World Championship Wrestling in an earlier part of his life, Thurmond and his family learn that clowning around is no easy business. Without a hereditary claim to clowning—many circus performers learn the business from their parents—Joey and his family must work harder to market the show and develop the content in a way that connects with the audience so they return for more. In the course of the film, Thurmond is faced with mounting bills, the constant pressure to put on a spectacle, and the challenges of raising a teenaged son.
Says Espeut, “Before I started this film, my perspective on clowns was that most people feared them. In making the film I learned so much. Not only about the rich history and culture of clowning since the P.T. Barnum and Ringling Brothers’ days to modern day hobby clowning. But, also how to tell a story, with the Thurmond family as the focal point, that helps to make clowns accessible and hence more lovable. The heritage of clowning in the US is fascinating, deep and rich. After all, one of the most recognizable international brand icons is a clown (Ronald McDonald).” To make the film, Espeut and his team filmed at several locations including the John and Mable Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida and the International Clown Hall of Fame and Research in Baraboo, Wisconsin.