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Oscar Winner Cord Jefferson: On Life, The Film Industry, and The Future.


Milan Chakaborty in conversation with Cord Jefferson during the Ampersand Festival in Williamsburg.

The Ampersand International Arts Festival was held in Williamsburg, Virginia from March 18th through March 24th. The Ampersand International Arts Festival is known to feature incredible author talks, live performances, film and special guests. This year did not disappoint, as the festival welcomed one of William & Mary's loyal son's back home to their tight knit community, Oscar Winner, Cord Jefferson!


Mr. Cord Jefferson is popular for his feature writing and directorial debut for American Fiction, but he is far from being a new kid on the block. He is a celebrated award-winning writer and journalist whose credits include but are not limited to: "Watchmen," Master of None, Survivor's Remorse, and more! His intimate conversation, moderated by fellow William & Mary alum and colleague, Mr. Milan Chakaborty, revealed insights on his life, the film industry, and the future.






"Being an artist is a life-long pursuit, and it's a thing you're going to get better at...it is something that gets better as you get older. Cord speaks on the challenges for young artists to focus and appreciate their work and who they are becoming, while constantly comparing themselves to what they see on social media, when they should only be comparing themselves against themselves. After decades of hard work and dedication, he was able to direct his first movie at the age of 42, and inspires others to stay focused and continue to work on their craft.



Cord speaks on the importance of keeping the marriage scene in American Fiction, despite the fact that it did not move the plot forward. The fact that the scene featured and amplified roles that are usually not seen in movies made the scene more important. It, like the family scenes in the film, are the only scenes where there are only Black people present. "These people deserve to have their stories told as much as anyone else."


This parallels life in a Black family, as the times spent with family and the importance of family is at the core the culture.



Cord Jefferson breaks down the Math of the film industry.



"If you had a good 2020, get out of here!"

Cord speaks on his motivation for American Fiction. While looking for a book to read while he and friends were planning to visit a cabin, and he was reading a review for Interior Chinatown, and came across the book Erasure, by Percival Everett. The more he read it, the more he discovered parallels between the book and his life that allowed him to connect to the text. Eventually, he began to visualize Jeffrey Wright as a character and began working on the script.


Cord shared an interesting quote from his therapist, "Beneath anger is either pain or fear." This can be seen reflected in the development of Jeffrey Wright's character throughout the film as he appears angry at the surface but is only masking his pain and fear.


Fun fact: It's interesting to know, that Cord initially planned to title American Fiction - the "F" word, but thankfully his producers put an end to that!


What's next for Cord Jefferson? He's currently working on a contemporary western about two Black brothers on a quest to look for their long-lost third brother, who they eventually find in Nevada. "I want to show Black people living their lives, not just race and racism. I'm Black every day, but I don't think about it all of the time, I just go through life in the world." ~Cord Jefferson.



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