Spirit Awards Thu 1.22.2015

SPIRIT AWARD SPOTLIGHT: Dear White People Director Justin Simien Tells Us What First-Time Filmmakers Need to Hear

In our excitement for the upcoming Film Independent Spirit Awards, we’ve reached out to all of the filmmakers nominated for Best First Feature and asked them all kinds of things about their experience as filmmakers and what it’s like to be up for the indie world’s greatest accolade. Here, writer-director Justin Simien, also nominated for Best First Screenplay for his college campus race relations comedy Dear White People, shares his most important lesson from making his debut and confesses that he has planned neither an outfit nor an acceptance speech for the big day.

What’s the most exciting thing about being nominated for a Film Independent Spirit Award?
Getting to sit amongst people I’ve been a fan of for sometime and call them my peers.

Have you started sweating an acceptance speech yet?
I have not. If it happens, I plan to nervously stammer.

What’s your strategy for selecting an outfit for the ceremony?
Think about how important it is that I pick it out in advance periodically, only to wait until the day before to panic-purchase something that works okay.

Was there a moment when you considered throwing in the towel on making this film, and what stopped you?
Many, many times. As hard as it was to face the possibility of failure, it was much harder to face a reality where the film did not get made.

Did you ever have one of those magical moments on set when all the stars aligned and things turned out even better than you’d ever imagined?
On the last day of shooting, just as we were shooting the end of the film’s climax it began to rain. It was horrible for myself and the crew, but the shot looked absolutely stunning.

What’s the most important thing you learned while making this film?
Identify the important battles early, and don’t delay them until its too late to do anything about them. Also that intention and perseverance really do pay off.

What do they never tell first-time filmmakers, but should?
Make your first film for yourself.

Mary Sollosi / Film Independent Blogger