Interview with Filmmaker Stephen Isaacs Wilson by Picasso Moore
Let's talk about loneliness. If you're here surfing The Tenth’s page, it’s more than likely because you're black and queer (if not, OFF MY LAWN! Or at least be respectful of this space and learn something and then post-read, run off and do your part to get your people together); in which case, you already know about feeling lonely (not to be confused with being alone). We’re rarely alone anymore. Right?
SIW — “The conversations about safe spaces need to be moved forward. I wanted to illustrate that these clubs that we go to are really cool, but we don't get to know the people who inhabit them that much. It was important to me to shoot him in his room because it’s kind of the safe space. It was also important for me to film him during the day. That’s something I feel is never really done with the majority of queer stories. They're told at night time within the club setting. So when Kareem (the subject) was in that dress, he got people staring at him… I just thought that was one of the reasons why we just needed to do it.”Stephen Isaacs Wilson is a black queer filmmaker/owner of a British accent who is making us all feel less alone. Everything he says sounds academic and mystical. It could be my Americanness showing but when he speaks I feel pulled in, and the same can be said for his work. It's a poetic sort of journalism. His latest is a piece titled “Daydream,” a short film featured in The Tate’s queer art exhibition. Days ago I had the chance to get pulled in. I spoke with him and even though we had a bad Skype connection and the Atlantic ocean between us, I felt less alone.
SIW — “Everyone who was asked to do a film was asked to profile someone who was a portrait of the modern LGBT(QIA+) lifestyle and everyone else picked someone famous. I wanted to pick one of my peers. So many black artist are forgotten in history and this was an opportunity to be like: ‘I’m here right in this moment, do you all see me?’ We get microaggressions all the time and friends ask me “why didn't you say anything?” I feel I should have but I don't always. My work is a way to express what I’m feeling without having to walk people through it… I pitched the idea over the phone and made the point that every film about black queer people came back with vogueing. Every single thing is about night life. That’s not what I was going through. I was going through this period of feeling emotionally drained and not going out, and I just felt isolated. I wanted a film that explores that.”Why are we never our own heroes and muses? Chicken and the egg debates are exhausting and often distract from the matter at hand: We got some chicken and some eggs… now what we ‘gon make? True intimacy between black queers is elusive. Sexual or otherwise it can be scary and strenuous to develop but dynamic in the end. Stephen’s film does the work of capturing the process not the product. It’s rare to see media that is comfortable being in a moment. A film that doesn't exist to further itself. Daydream is brilliant in that it doesn't so much dissect or analyze, it more meditates. It’s conjures feelings using a mix of intriguing sonics, warm fairy tale visuals, and honesty.
SIW — Kareem and I met in nightlife and although I was already friendly with him the film was a chance for me to get to know him better. I needed to have that two and a half hour conversation with my friend. To get to know him on a deeper level. The film could be way more than four minutes long… When I was younger I read a lot of fashion magazines. It’s a very easy way to kind of reimagine yourself in a different word. After university I was I was at the BBC’s Graduate Training Program. I was very much going down the route of becoming a more standard type journalist but that life for me felt a bit too rigid. I blended the elements of documentary with more fantasy stuff. Which is why I dressed Kareem in that kind of Cinderella Molly Goodard dress. I was always really interested in telling stories. I was always really interested in fantasy setups and when I realized that I could combine the two it was a joyous moment for me.The achievement of the film aside the filmmaker seems game for this cyclical cultural push toward “you”. A millennial remaining of the 1980’s. Less “greed is good” and more “self care… take care of yourself fam”.
SIW — “So, the film is called “Daydream” and the idea is just to trust. I find myself doing it so often, I'm just literally floating into space. I’m having constant battles with myself like ‘oh, should I be doing something during this time?’ and it’s like no! Sometimes you need that time to just think and do nothing… I think I’m quite selfish. I think I make work for myself. People get things from it but I basically use it more as a form of therapy… It’s kind of like what do I want to do? I want to have time to think about what I want to do. I want to be a filmmaker I definitely want to keep doing what I’m doing right now. I like telling stories, I like watching things, reading, I like to chill, I like to not feel triggered.
It’s fitting that the film is called Daydream. It’s arguably the original form of self care and the first form of art that anyone masters. It can be a way to exercise agency or just escapism which is essential to anyone marginalized by systems or structures bigger than them. It’s it’s own form or resistance. Just sitting in yourself and being where you're at without judgement or pressure from outside or within can be the difference between order and chaos. You have to let yourself spin out instead of spinning out of control. Pieces like Daydream let us know we're not alone.
SIW — There are definitely people who are having conversations and there are people who are doing the work but I suppose sometimes It does feel like you're showing into an echo chamber. But being an actual activist is hard work. It’s taxing emotionally to speak with people who just, would rather that you didn't exist. I don't want to belittle the work that people are doing but sometimes it’s like “how much change is actually happening?” … You do what you can. This film has been in The Tate from April and it plays on loop throughout the whole day. If five percent of people who watch it take something away thats cool. Thats progress in a way…The best thing about moonlight is that all the difficult conversations which are necessary to have can start from this art piece. Someone's done the hard work for you. You know I say I’m selfish, this work is really affirming. That's the consensus with all my black queer contemporaries. It’s all making us feel better about our standing in the world. It’s about making us feel we have the power to do what we want to do.
Loneliness can be a state or a feeling, it can be shaped by the circumstances or the headspace you're in, but all those ways in can also be your way out. Watching a film like Daydream, seeing the creativity and honesty of a black queer director and his friend could be your way out. Seeing a fellow chocolate rainbow talk shit with a friend while having a cigarette in their bedroom is, believe it or not, something that this “journalist” has done many times but never seen on film before. As I said chicken or the egg debates are gross but if we're talking about what we want to make let's decide on more of this. More films like Daydream, more boys in dresses getting stares, more girls we meet at the club that we see again in the day, more two hour heart to hearts in sun drenched bedrooms, and more convos across the ocean where we pull each other in. Let's make each other a little less lonely. That sounds delicious right?