Updated: Mar 2, 2020
Stefon Bristol is one of cinemas’ most exciting new visionaries. Writer and Director of the Netflix breakout feature “See You Yes- terday”, The Brooklyn, NY native has the added distinction of being co-signed by Film Titans such as his Mentor the Legend- ary Spike Lee. SAPIO Magazine spoke with Bristol
about how he plans to change the game and redefine Blackness on the silver (and small) screen.
On a sunny day in Brooklyn, Bristol takes a break from writing to chat with me about the impact his film,
“See You Yesterday” has had on him as a Creator and where the momentum will take him next. A Sci-fi Action drama that takes on Police brutality, “See You Yesterday” is Bristol’s theatrical debut (it received a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes upon its release and was critically acclaimed by audiences for its political commentary and realism, receiving nominations at sev- eral film festivals prior to landing on Netflix), yet Bristol has the calm and confidence of a tenured filmmaker when speaking about his recent success. When asked what was the impetus for “See You Yesterday” Bristol laughs and slyly replies “When I was at NYU, and had to make my thesis film. I wanted to do a feature film about a kid who builds a time machine to stop a friend from being killed in a drunk driving accident. The driver was the protagonist’s grandfather. But it was the summer of 2014, and the murders of Eric Garner and Mike Brown bled into my script. So with the help of a NYU professor, I decided to make the film about police brutality.”
A wise decision that allowed Bristol to use time travel as a vehicle to illustrate the hopelessness many Black and Brown people feel in being able to combat and correct the overwhelming loss of life in communities that have been historically harmed more than helped by Law Enforcement.
That feeling of exasperation is expertly weaved through the narrative of “See You Yesterday” and Bristol isn’t ignorant of the fact many critics would have liked the characters to have had another outcome. He explains:
“I struggled 5 years making this movie, and I fought for the ending the way it is. Because I want this film to be more of a call to action, than it being a full circle movie. People are frustrated with the ending. GOOD! Now you have a small taste of what it means to be black in America... Having to choose the final image of CJ running towards the camera is basically CJ asking you, the audience to help. Please get up from your couch, and do something about it.” Bristol, who recieved his undergrad degree from Morehouse and is of Guyanese heritage, understands the necessity of not shying away from the complexities of Blackness on film. He explains how his mentorship from Spike Lee challenged him to observe his own beliefs about character and archetypes:
“I made a hood film, and Spike did not appreciate that. It was about these two teenagers who tried to rob a bodega so one of their fathers would no longer be in a dangerous debt. Spike was not feeling me making another hood film and show- ing Black and Latino folks in a very stereotypical fashion. It’s not original. He wanted me to do better...So my focus became making sure I represent people of color against those stereotypes.”
When he asked where he gets his inspiration Bristol exclaims playfully:
“I love to watch a lot of movies! As a filmmaker, I have to constantly be able to replenish my well. Gotta watch movies... I’m
in love with the action/adventure and sci-fi genres.”
It’s this love that informs Bristols’ motivation to make his mark on film; “I want to continue to make films in [those] genres that
center on people of color as leads and have some kind of social or political undertones within the films...I want to make the biggest blockbusters people on this Earth have ever seen and I’m want them to know who’s responsible.”
Bristol says that he would tell any aspiring filmmakers to start small; “Start off making a small short film, and then from there you work your way up...everything you do work your hardest and when you’ve networked and done film festivals and have a really strong body of work, then you go into making a feature. DO NOT try to make a tv show on off the top, and if you’re going to do a web series...do something different.”
To stay abreast of all of Bristol lastest projects and next feature, follow him on social media @stefonbristol or online at www.stefonbristol.com.