“Wolf” director Ya’Ke Smith is the recipient of the DGA’s Student Film Award, the HBO Short Film Award and a Black Reel Award; his films have played at over 80 film festivals. His latest short, “Katrina’s Son” was eligible for the 2012 Oscar.
Smith says he was a weird kid, “While others were watching cartoons, I was sneaking into the VHS collection watching ‘The Color Purple,’ ‘Do The Right Thing,’ ‘Boyz N The Hood’ and everything else a ten year old shouldn’t have ever laid eyes on.” At fifteen, he realized “average” people outside of the Hollywood system could make movies, and has been making them ever since. He is a graduate of the University of Texas – Austin and is a film professor at the University of Texas – Arlington.
What it’s about: A family is shaken to the core when they discover their son has been molested. As they struggle to deal with the betrayal, their son heads towards a total mental collapse because of his love for his abuser, while his abuser attempts to exorcise his own past demons.
Ya’Ke says: Writing this film was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. I’m not one to shy away from hot topics, but this one is such a sensitive, and very timely issue that I wanted to make sure that I approached it with grace, not judgment. This film is neither meant to criticize all churches, nor is it meant to dismiss Christianity as some faux religion where all people are preyed upon (I am a Christian). My hope for the film is that it will shed light on the vicious cycle of sexual abuse, so that victims can understand that they’re not alone and step out of the shadows of silence that have kept them bound.
What challenges did you face making the film? Money Money Money Money…MONEY….in my best OJAY’s voice I can muster up! On a serious note, being an independent filmmaker is always challenging and since this is my debut feature it’s not like we had investors beating the door down to help us out. But with the help of the city and a few other people we got through it. The interesting thing about not having as much money as we’d hoped for was that it forced us to do things very viscerally and forced us to think outside the box. When we sat down to plan this out we approached it like we’ve approached the short films we produced, figuring out how to cut as many corner as we could and rally a team that would work for cheap, but still bring their A game. All in all it turned out great, because of the phenomenal cast and crew that we were able to assemble.
What’s next? I’m working on a six-screen interactive video art piece for Luminaria San Antonio, which is an arts festival held every year in the city. I’m also working on my next screenplay, which is part dance film (“PINA”) and part gritty drama (“City of God”).
Indiewire invited SXSW Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2012 festival.
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