“ON YOUR RADAR” IS A WEEKLY GRAD FILM NEWS SEGMENT THAT FEATURES A STUDENT PICKED AT RANDOM.
KEVIN WILSON IS CURRENTLY A 2ND YEAR STUDENT AT GRAD FILM. WE ASKED HIM A FEW QUESTIONS AND HERE’S WHAT HE HAD TO SAY:
Where do you consider home and what is it like there?
I was born and raised in Durham, North Carolina, home of North Carolina Central University and the world renowned Duke University Medical Center. I'm proud of my southern roots. My mother and father were both raised in New York, but moved to North Carolina just before I was born in the late '80s. Durham is a town rich with black heritage, diverse culture, art, and religion. Durham, or "The Bull City" is known for medicine, education, and historically, tobacco. Durham which once housed one of the largest tobacco factories in the country was once a major stop for trains carrying tobacco. That train line has now been converted into a biking trail called 'The American Tobacco Trail'. In the 90's when the factory was still running, on the way home my mother and I would pass by and smell the leaves being cooked inside; I thought they were baking raisins. In my childhood, my mother worked full time and attended North Carolina Central University where she received her Bachelors and Masters Degrees so I spent a lot of time on the campus of a Historically Black College & University (HBCU). This naturally shaped my outlook on education and the black experience. My stepfather who is an electrician works as the Electrical Supervisor, also on NC Central's campus. My father is a musician and would at times take me on tour with him when they'd play domestically. This gave me the opportunity to see the country through the lens of artists. I was able to watch talented men joke and relax on a tour bus and suddenly walk onto a stage in a stadium and entertain thousands of fans. I was able to watch my father practice his guitar or work in a recording studio until 3:00 AM. As a child, I didn't know it, but in retrospect, this is where I developed my own work ethic as an artist. Being raised in so many rich environments obviously shaped how I approach the relationship with my wife, how I raise my handsome sons, and how I tell a story cinematically.
What or who is inspiring you right now and why?
I find inspiration in so many places. I'm inspired by the architecture of Norman Foster, the still relevant poetry of Countee Cullen, the careers of Ryan Coogler and Ava DuVernay, the writings of John Grisham and W.E.B. Du Bois, the photography of Steve McCurry, the films of Steve McQueen and one of my favorite directors, Krzysztof Kieslowski. I've always admired his use of semiotics in his work, especially in "The Decalog" and the "Three Colors" Trilogy. More than anything though, I am inspired by the experience of going to a movie theater, smelling the popcorn, walking into the theater with that popcorn and a cup of Sprite, sitting in the theater and bracing myself as the house lights go down and the projector sends images to that large silver screen. I am inspired by sharing a cinematic experience with strangers. In those couple of hours, we are experiencing something together and through being entertained by the movie on the screen, forgetting about all of the pressures and realities of the real world outside of those walls. I hope to provide that experience for someone one day. I never want to forget that my ultimate goal is to put a movie on the screen that a family or a couple on their first date can watch and enjoy. Having my film studied in a film program or admired by critics is very low on my list of priorities as an artist.
What has been your most rewarding experience at NYU Tisch Grad Film so far?
I knew I wanted to attend NYU's Graduate Film Program when I read Spike Lee's journal entries he wrote while making 'She's Gotta Have It'. He spoke highly of the program and I knew that if I wanted to be a successful filmmaker, I needed to study in the same place masters of the craft have studied. Finally getting accepted into the program was a dream come true, but actually spending time getting to know my classmates and experiencing their artistic voices has truly been rewarding. I've gotten to know a few of my classmates very personally and am humbled that I will likely share a lifetime communing with them outside of making films. Being able to meet with and receive advice from filmmakers like Kasi Lemmons, Spike Lee, and Alex Rockwell changed how I approached my work. These filmmakers/professors are hard on me and have challenged me to look deeper into what I'm trying to say and to make engaging, truthful films. Finally, having a Chair that cares so genuinely about what I have to say as a person of color is heartwarming. Barbara Schock has taken so much time to read my scripts, listen to my stories, and listen to ways I think the program can better address diversity. Not only does she listen, but she's actually made pretty immediate changes. It feels so good to be in a place where I feel valued by the person who leads it. My experiences at Tisch so far have exceeded my expectations. I hope this continues going forward.