As part of Shadow And Act's latest Locked Down With ___ live Q&A on Facebook, Love & Basketball and The Old Guard director Gina Prince-Bythewood talked about how discouraging it is to see Black people still be treated inhumanely, even after the death of Trayvon Martin. In fact, the tragedy of Martin's death led to Prince-Bythewood to create the FOX miniseries Shots Fired.
“It was really about Trayvon and the effect that his murder had on my boys and our family and really wanting to speak to that and that lack of humanity that [George] Zimmerman showed Trayvon. How do we address this? The level of racism in this country goes so deep--how do we fix it? How do we change it?" she said. "So for us, we always believed that art can change the world and we wanted to go in and do something to save our boys. That was just trying to put a face to what is happening so people who don't deal with it every day like we do can understand what we go through."
“The fact that it's still happening is soul-crushing, but we feel we've gotta keep putting work out there like that that we hope can reach somebody and change somebody," she said.
Another project she hopes will uplift audiences, An Untamed State, based on the 2014 novel by Roxane Gay, which had prior Prince-Bythwood collaborator Gugu Mbatha-Raw attached in 2016. Prince-Bythewood talked about where the project is now.
"It's been tough," she said. "...We had it set up at Searchlight [Pictures] and Roxane and I co-wrote the script...but I think Searchlight got scared of it, which is unfortunate because they know what they were buying going in."
However, the discouragement isn't stopping Prince-Bythewood, who also talked about how she overcame “no" early in her career when she was still in college at UCLA.
“I applied to film school for my junior year [of UCLA]...and I got a rejection letter in the mail," she said. “They did not accept me and it was soul-crushing. It was one of the worst nights of my life because I felt like my dream was just crushed, I didn't know what to do."
She appealed the decision to her counselor, but, she said, "He just said, 'No, you can't do that, we don't allow that. You didn't get in, sorry.' No smile, he was just like, 'No, you can't do that.'"
“So I ended up writing a letter to the head of the film school, a woman named Ruth Schwartz...and it was just an impassioned letter telling why I felt they made a mistake. Two days later, I got a call from Ruth Schwartz, who said, 'I got your letter, and you're in the film school,'" she said. "That changed the whole trajectory of my life and it absolutely set the tone for my career, overcoming 'No,' because that's what this industry is. It's so easy for people to say no to your vision, to turn down your script, to say no to any opportunities and to give you a chance, so how do you overcome that? Having the knowledge I that overcame no so early and didn't take no for an answer and fought against that no and ended up getting into film school...was everything and I applied that to [my career]."
The Old Guard, Prince-Bythewood's upcoming Netflix action film, will land on the streaming service in July. The feature stars Charlize Theron and Kiki Layne.