Brooklyn Dante Crichlow Eden Duncan-Smith main-slider-feature Michael J. Fox Morehouse Netflix NYU See You Yesterday Spike Lee Stefon Bristol

Stefon Bristol’s See You Yesterday Melds Time Travel and the Harsh Realities of African-American Life Seamlessly

Stefon Bristol’s See You Yesterday is full of surprises.

Produced by Spike Lee, Bristol’s film takes a whimsical premise—a pair of science geek highschool students from East Flatbush invent a time machine—and sends it in a boldly sudden path. Bronx Science classmates CJ (Eden Duncan-Smith) and Sebastian (Dante Crichlow) are considering of nothing extra critical than their brilliant futures at MIT and past, when the typically harsh realities of African-American life intercede. CJ’s older brother, Calvin (Astro), is shot and killed by the police, and the grief-stricken teenagers spend the the rest of the film trying to use their gadget—and their wits—to proper that flawed.

The movie’s tonal shifts can be challenging for even the most experienced filmmaker to handle, however Bristol, making his function debut, manages to stability a shifting coming-of-age drama about racial injustice with an enticing city fantasy involving time travel.

Eden Duncan-Smith (L) and Danté Crichlow (R) in See You Yesterday. Photograph by Linda Kallerüs

Josh Ralske, MovieMaker Journal (MM): How did you first develop into fascinated with filmmaking? Was there a specific movie or filmmaker that inspired you?

Stefon Bristol (SB): No [laughs]. I imply, of course. Once I was a kid I watched Jurassic Park, Again to the Future… so I had an inkling. It was in me but I didn’t know what it was till I was about 18, ready to go to school, once I noticed Do the Right Thing for the first time. I used to be from Brooklyn and grew up on Lengthy Island, so once I noticed it Do the Proper Thing, I assumed, “That’s me. That’s my childhood.” I needed to precise myself like that. I knew that film; I knew what I needed to do. I by no means imagined I’d work with the director of that film until now [laughs].

MM: You went to Morehouse for undergrad and then you definitely ended up going to NYU Movie Faculty?

SB: Sure, I went to Suffolk County Group School, graduated from there and transferred my credit to Morehouse. After which NYU Graduate Movie Faculty. See You Yesterday started as a thesis film at NYU grad faculty. My mom gave me some money by refinancing her house, and then Spike Lee came together with the Spike Lee Production Grant. He knew the script since its inception. He learn the first draft of the brief.  He stated I’ve by no means seen anything like this before, and he supported me doing the brief. And then the brief obtained successful by means of profitable at the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Pageant HBO Brief Film Competitors and was a finalist in the HBO Brief Film Competitors at the American Black Film Pageant.  He knew it was gold, and I knew it was gold. He hit me up a pair of nights earlier than Christmas to say, “Stefon, if you want me to be your producer I’d be happy to. Think about it.” I was like, “There’s nothing to think about. Let’s go.”

MM: So that you envisioned it as a function movie right from the beginning?

SB: Sure, however Spike and different professors at NYU believed I wanted to make the brief first. As a result of different movies I made by way of NYU weren’t something substantial I might increase the cash off to make the function. And I’m very joyful I did that. I discovered find out how to write better. I do know my voice as a filmmaker, and I know how to direct actors a lot better. And I’m nonetheless learning. However that was constructing my craft. I felt extra assured doing the function.

MM: And at what point was it bought to Netflix?

SB: Spike pitched it to Ted Sarandos, out of the blue, and the following Christmas, he stated, “Stefan, you’ve got a deal with Netflix. Congratulations.”

MM: You didn’t know that he was doing that?

SB: I knew that he was going round to the studios, pitching it, and then letting me know, once he was ready to let me know. And I used to be stunned. I used to be like, “Oh shit”. So I flew out to L.A. to satisfy Ian Bricke and Wayne Horton at Netflix, to debate the movie and get script notes. And their notes have been nice.

MM: Really?

SB: Yes. As a first-time filmmaker, you are available with a script that’s very thin, like 85-88 pages, since you need to make it as low-budget as potential. Show them your expertise with a low price range. They usually stated I can do more. So it went from 88 pages to 110.

MM: In order that they gave you a much bigger price range than you have been anticipating?

SB: Rather a lot greater [laughs]. It’s nonetheless a low-budget function, however not low finances like a scholar movie.

Eden Duncan-Smith in a scene from See You Yesterday. Photograph by Linda Kallerüs

MM: What was it like capturing in your previous neighborhood?

SB: I grew up in Brooklyn and Lengthy Island, so it’s bizarre. Once I got here back, I needed to relearn the neighborhood I grew up in [East Flatbush]. I didn’t know anybody anymore. I reside in Crown Heights now, which can also be a Caribbean neighborhood. From the very first yr at NYU, I just knew I needed to shoot in that neighborhood. I just didn’t know what story to put in it. I was researching, going to the neighborhood. Buying at VIM, purchasing at Jimmy Jazz, getting curry hen, roti, curry goat, black pudding, oxtail—all I wanted to get my island repair. So by the time I assumed of doing the function, I already knew this neighborhood. I assumed, this is the applicable place to set it. And we’ve by no means seen the black immigrant experience earlier than on film.

MM: And there was never any considered capturing it elsewhere, perhaps to economize?

SB: Nah. It’s straightforward for me in New York, as a result of 1) I do know it, and 2) I’m not far from it, so if there’s anything we have to change, I’ve a location supervisor who is aware of the neighborhood as properly, in order that was straightforward.

MM: Can you speak about casting the movie? You have these two young actors, Eden Duncan-Smith and Dante Crichlow.

SB: I had a casting director, Winter Coleman, for my brief. She worked free of charge. She’s the daughter of Kim Coleman, Spike’s common casting director. She’s a superb good friend of mine. I just wanted assist, and I knew she had the expertise, underneath her mother. She knew these two young actors already, and their auditions have been completely superb. They knew how one can feed off each other as a result of they knew one another since infancy, since they have been little infants coming out the womb.

MM: That comes throughout.

SB: Exactly, so once they completed their audition, I stated, [calm voice] “Thank you very much; good to see you; have a nice day.” As soon as they depart, I say, “Yo Winter, I have to have them.” However to convey them to the function was scary. Spike already agreed to deliver them to the function, however we weren’t positive what Netflix needed. However Spike stated, “No no no, we’re gonna get them.“

MM: I used to be stunned at how dark the movie received. It opens type of peppy and mild with a time journey dialogue. It’s very fun, but then it gets so grim. Did Netflix or anyone recommend that perhaps it shouldn’t be so dark?

SB: No, they have been onboard with it. That was by design. My co-writer, Fredrica Bailey, and I needed to ensure we expressed that for young black individuals—once they’re making an attempt to have a terrific life, just making an attempt to be successful, be passionate and be mild—there’s all the time some variety of darkness coming that interrupts. That’s what police brutality is. It interrupts, abruptly, and will devastate an entire household. I would like the viewers to feel that. Their life was interrupted. So that was by design. But to have the tone shift all through concerned quite a bit of trial and error, on-set and in the edit room as nicely.

MM: It’s just very fascinating to me the way you subvert the viewer’s expectations for this type of movie, about youngsters inventing a time machine, and where it goes.

SB: I don’t need to make films just for jollies. I like danger. That’s why I respect what Assault the Block did. It was fun, but you might feel the hazard. It opens your eyes a bit more, and makes you extra conscious of what the filmmaker’s making an attempt to say. That makes it extra partaking than like a superhero movie the place you don’t take anything away; you just depart.

Danté Crichlow (L) and Eden Duncan-Smith (R) in See You Yesterday. Courtesy of Netflix

MM: How did you shoot the film?

SB: We shot it on a RED Gemini. My go-to digital camera is all the time the RED, as a result of they’re durable and fast as an alternative of the ARRI, which are very cumbersome. I wish to go, as a result of we never have time. I don’t wish to linger, regardless that I did on some elements of this film. The shoot was 25 days with 9 months of submit.

MM: Was it an enormous crew? Did you rent individuals that you simply knew from faculty?

SB: No, the only individual I might deliver from faculty, and from the brief, was Felipe Vara de Rey, the cinematographer. I needed to struggle for him to be on the movie.

We surrounded ourselves with heavyweight business professionals. [Costume designer] Charlese Antoinette Jones did Shaka King’s Newlyweeds. Charlese just lately did Elevating Dion. She got here in beneath price range, and she designed the film superbly. We also had Jimena Azula, the manufacturing designer. [Producers] Matthew Myers and Jason Sokoloff—they’re execs and also from NYU. I knew Jason already however had never worked with him. And he brought in Matthew Myers. They taught me every part—from how one can speak to the union, what’s in the finances, and some ways to help the filmmaking. That they had great notes. I didn’t take all of them [laughs] but without them and their look after this movie, it by no means would have been as profitable. I give my entire group credit score greater than myself, because I’m very much a collaborator. I permit them to only do their thing. Come again to me, let me know what you’ve received, and ensure that we’re making the similar story. And that was dangerous, as a result of typically I felt like extra of a supervisor than a director [laughs].

MM: Was Spike Lee on the set in any respect?

SB: He was on set the first day, to yell at me for being late. And it wasn’t our fault. There was trash on the flooring, and that ruins continuity, so we needed to wait. However he gave us properly needs. Truly he ruined our shot [laughs]. His automotive was driving into the shot. Oh, my God. I was like, “Thanks, Spike.” However no, he was capturing She’s Gotta Have It, season two, but even when he was completed with that, he nonetheless didn’t come because he needed me to do my very own factor. And I recognize that. MM

See You Yesterday is accessible now to stream on Netflix. Featured picture photograph of Stefon Bristol by Cara Howe. All photographs courtesy of Netflix.