Earlier this month, some other Trinity students and I had the opportunity to meet Justin Simien, writer and director of the 2014 drama â€œDear White People.â€ Student Programming Board put on a screening of the film last year and re-screened it in anticipation of Simienâ€™s visit. He came to Northrup 314 for a question-and-answer session, and the next day a few other students and I had lunch with the director.
Simien talked at length about the different aspects of â€œDear White People.â€ It was his first wide-release film, an indie movie opening to 500 screens nationwide. His film highlights the persistence of institutional racism and the complexities of reconciling racial identity as a college student. Simien talked about difficulties of producing, writing and distributing a movie, which was fascinating and made my time in Mass Media feel well spent.
Simien is a young director at just 32, and he was open about his inspirations for the film, which came from his own college experience at Chapman University. He explained that each of the four main characters in â€œDear White Peopleâ€ helped to express a different part of his larger views on racial identity in contemporary America. He was also very knowledgeable of the financial and logistical realities of creating, producing and monetizing an independent film, which instantly made him seem more well-rounded than just an up-and-coming indie darling director.
I had never met a Filmmaker with a capital â€œFâ€ prior Â to this visit, so I was not sure what to expect â€” would he be dismissive, arrogant, abrasive? Luckily he was none of these things, and the conversations turned out to be educational, enlightening and honestly pretty amusing. As a up-and-coming director, he was happy with how the film was received critically but as an artist he was very willing to critique his own work. He was frank about his choice to have multiple protagonists and the problems that choice caused â€” namely, the difficulty of having four different plots going while at the same time developing four distinct characters.
While many of our questions concerned Simienâ€™s creative process and his works, the directorâ€™s excitement about current media and general enthusiasm for film and television made the topics of conversation fluid and fun â€” discussions ranged from film school snobbery to the new season of â€œRick and Morty.â€
I, for one, canâ€™t wait to see what he creates next. Justin Simien may be a new name in the film industry, but his name is one to look out for in the near future.