Cord Jefferson is revealing the advice his “hero” Spike Lee gave him after screening Oscar-nominated film “American Fiction.”
During Turner Classic Movies’ “Talking Pictures: A Movie Memories Podcast,” hosted by Ben Mankiewicz, Jefferson shared that Lee advised him to make his second film as “quickly as possible” on the heels of Jefferson’s debut feature success.
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“I showed [‘American Fiction’ to] Spike Lee’s graduate school class at NYU and talked to some of his students and talked to Spike. And afterward, he came up to me, and he said, ‘Make the next one as quickly as possible. Get out there and make the next one as quickly as possible,'” Jefferson said.
The filmmaker called Lee “one of my heroes,” saying, “I’ve loved his work since I was a boy,” citing “Do the Right Thing” as his “most memorable movie-watching experience.” Lee was honored with a tribute award at TIFF 2023, where “American Fiction” had its world premiere and won the People’s Choice award. We also honored Jefferson with the Breakthrough Award at IndieWire Honors in December.
However, Lee’s advice contradicted what other filmmakers told Jefferson.
“I look at other filmmakers and try to study other people’s career decisions and the moves that they made in order to see what seems appealing to me,” Jefferson said. “On the one hand, there is a school of thought that’s like, ‘You should strike while the iron is hot and try to make your next movie as quickly as possible.’ And then I’ve talked to other people who said [to] actually sort of be methodical, slow down, like, you’re going to be allowed to make a second film, so sit with it and really decide what you want the second one to be.”
“American Fiction” is nominated in the Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture Academy Award categories, along with Best Actor for Jeffrey Wright and Best Supporting Actor for Sterling K. Brown.
Jefferson, who has written for TV series such as “Succession,” added, “I’m in the middle of deciding what I want to do right now. Fortunately […] I’m in an overall deal at for television at Warner Brothers right now. I’m contractually obligated to them for at least, I believe, another year and a half or two years. It is unlikely that they will let me go and make another movie in that time. I think, fortunately, I have time, so I can bide my time.”
He continued, “I’m writing three different scripts right now, and hopefully, I can get those scripts done in the next year and a half and get them to a place that when my deal expires, I can just leap right into pre-production on one of those and get started again. I mean, look, if I can sit down and finish one of these scripts in the next couple of months and it’s to a place that I really, really love, then I’m all for directing another movie quickly if Warner Brothers will allow me. But until it’s really there, I don’t want to try to rush something just to get something out there, because I feel like I need to strike while the iron is hot. Hopefully, there’s somebody out there who believes that I can do this, even if I do it slowly.”
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