1. When it comes to storytelling, where do you get your inspiration from?
Usually from my own imagination. I like to do a lot of walking and just live in the dark spaces of my mind and dream of stories. I like to listen to music while I take my long walks. I like to just be in my imagination.
2. In 2017 producing “See you yesterday” (short) did you already have in mind what you will want to include in the feature one day or did you focus on just the short film and expanded the story after production was done?
I wrote two drafts of the feature first before I made it to a short. The plan was to always make it into a feature film. But, my professors at NYU told me that I was not ready to make a feature because I didn’t have a strong short to show to investors or producers. The best plan was to have the short made as a proof-of-concept for the feature.
The short film was well received in over 35 film festivals around the world, it’s currently licensed through HBO and it is now on online on HBO and Cinemax streaming platforms. So the short as a thesis film is a blessing, because I get to have studio money back my feature film.
3. You’ve just released your directorial feature debut. How important is this to you, personally, and to your career?
It’s like finally! [laughs]. This is the reason why I want to be a filmmaker. I can’t go on forever making shorts. I started film school because I needed to know how to make a feature film. I have dreams. And I need to start my career. So… finally! [laughs]
4. Having a mentor like Spike Lee in your disposal how has that foster your growth?
He hated a film I did while I was at NYU. He yelled at me about it. It was a short film about a kid trying to get his friend to rob a bodega so he can help his father get rid of really bad debt. The film just showed people of color in another negative light and said that these kinds of film will leave our people stagnant. It help me go deeper into myself to remember the reason why I went into film school. I wanted to show a different side of Black America. And I wanted to do Sci-fi, not another quintessential hood film. Therefore, See You Yesterday was born.
5. Tell us about being vulnerable in your work? Do you think there’s a line?
You have to be open to being honest with yourself and with others. Filmmakers are trained to be lie detectors. Not in an overt or mischievous way, but it just comes with the training. You have to learn how to elevate the subtext when making a film. And that takes honesty. The best films comes from those who are vulnerable. Because it’s through truth that people can relate to your stories and through your work.
6. When did you realize you wanted to be a Filmmaker? Was there an exact moment, or was it more gradual?
I was 18 when I saw Do the Right Thing for the first time. Right then and there I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. When I told my mom I wanted to study filmmaking in college, she wasn’t having it! [laughs] But, at Morehouse and at NYU I worked my ass off to get successful. Now I’m here.
7. What would you say is your unique responsibility as a filmmaker?
For me, it remembering that every filmmaker is different and every film has its own unique voice. There will always be an audience for you and your films. Don’t try to copy or pigeon hole yourself into something that you are not. Find your voice and you’ll be fine.
8. What’s next for you?
More Black sci-fi content. As well as Action-Adventure with Black actors in leading roles.
How can others reach out to you and/or stay informed about your upcoming projects?
I can be reached on Instagram @stefonbristol.