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Interview – Kevin Wilson Jr – ‘My Nephew Emmett’ – A Feature Film


Posted January 14, 2018 by

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Interview – Kevin Wilson Jr

Kevin Wilson’s haunting film My Nephew Emmett shares the horrific tale of the young African American Emmett Till, who in 1955 was savagely murdered by two white men whilst visiting his uncle in Mississippi.  The tale is told from his uncle’s point of view and has notched up some impressive awards, including the Student Academy Award. Now this visually ravishing film has been selected for the Academy’s Live Action Short Film shortlist and joins the Oscar race.

In 1955, a 64 year-old Mississippi preacher tries to keep two racist killers from abducting his 14 year-old nephew, Emmett Till.  Based on a true story.

The film stars Jasmine Guy (The Vampire Diaries), Dane Rhodes (The Magnificent 7) and L.B. Williams (Law and Order) who was suffering from Cancer during filming and sadly died not long after My Nephew Emmett was completed.

Kevin Wilson, Jr.  is an Award Winning filmmaker and an MFA Candidate in New York University’s Graduate Film Program.  Wilson first emerged as a rising talent in 2009 when he directed multiple sold out performances of his debut play The Emmett Till Story, a brutal depiction of the 1955 murder of Emmett Till.

My Nephew Emmett has been selected to screen at several Oscar Qualifying Film Festivals and won the GOLD MEDAL at the 44th Student Academy Awards in the Narrative Domestic Category.  That same year, the film won the Director’s Guild of America Student Film Award and was selected to screen at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s 55th New York Film Festival.

Interview - Kevin Wilson Jr


To being with, tell us about your latest film, ‘My Nephew Emmett’…

“My Nephew Emmett” is a 20-minute short film that takes place on the night 14 year-old Emmett Till was abducted, tortured and murdered in Mississippi. The film is based on a true story that took place in the summer of 1955. Emmett was an African American Chicago native unaware of the unwritten laws of the Jim Crow South. It was a tragic story that was the spark that ignited the flame to the American Civil Rights Movement. I made this film as a 2nd Year Pre-Thesis project at NYU Graduate Film School where I am currently enrolled.

How about the cast, who is starring in the film?

The film stars Jasmine Guy who is most famously known for her role as Whitley Gilbert in “A Different World”, L.B. Williams (Juice, Clockers, Law & Order), and Dane Rhodes (Magnificent 7, Django Unchained). Emmett’s story is so iconic and an important part of history that I was fortunate to attract some amazing talent for this project.

How did you get involved with the film, do you have a particular interest in this type of horror/crime cinema?

I’m a 3rd Year student at New York University’s Graduate Film Program. At NYU we are required to make a number of short films before we finish the program. In the 2nd Year, I was required to make a short film under a certain set of limitations and guidelines. I knew that I wanted to tell this particular story because it is a story that has resonated with me since I was a child. I wouldn’t necessarily categorize this film as horror/crime cinema. It’s a drama. Unfortunately however, yes the incidents that took place are certainly horrific. I enjoy watching and making films that are filled with tension whether that be a horror or some other genre.

Kevin Wilson Jr

When and where can we expect to see ‘My Nephew Emmett’?

Right now we are shortlisted for the 90th Academy Awards, so if we are fortunate enough to be nominated for the Oscar, Shorts International will release a compilation of all the nominated Live Action Short Films in theatres and on various digital platforms. If we aren’t nominated, we’ll be releasing on digital platforms. We’ll find that out around the end of January.

What are your influences as a filmmaker?

I have a number of influences. Life in general, my mother’s strength, the work of Spike Lee, the work of Krzysztof Kieslowski, the work of Yasujiro Ozu. I think the movie “The Wages of Fear” is one of the best films to watch to learn how to build tension. I love what Ava DuVernay is doing, Kasi Lemmons, Bradford Young, Donald Glover/Childish Gambino. Usually when I write I listen to a lot of music, John Coltrane especially. Everyday something new inspires me so I just try to keep my eyes and ears open every second of the day. 

What advice would you give any up-and-coming filmmakers, trying to crack the industry?

I think filmmaking at the core is very spiritual. I think it is a life-long exploration of one’s self, a quest to find one’s self and since we are always growing and evolving, I think one has to be content with being on a constant spiritual exploration. I think one has to be dedicated to finding their voice and figuring out the way they see the world and how that will inform the way they tell a story, where they place a camera, or what color palette that they choose for a certain film. In my opinion, all of these things work together to create something that will ultimately exist in the world long after we are gone. I think Cinema is one of the most powerful mediums in the world and so we have to be very careful about what we’re creating. I’m very concerned with legacy, so my goal is to always create something that 50 years from now I can look back and be proud of it.

Kevin Wilson Jr interviewed

What is the next step for you? Do you have any other films or projects in production?

I’m currently developing my first feature film, which I plan to shoot in the summer of 2018. My focus is on that project and developing the feature films I’ll make afterwards. I want to be creating at all times so I’m writing all day everyday: Plays, Commercials, TV Pilots, and Feature Films. My goal is to spend everyday of my life creating.


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