For 31 years, the New Orleans Film Festival has highlighted the Big Easy’s mark on the film industry and the local creators that are making a difference in the field. This year, southeast Louisiana native and current New Orleans resident Abraham Felix is set to debut two short films at the 2020 festival. Like many this year, Felix had to pivot as COVID-19 threw a wrench in to everyone’s plans. Ahead of the virtual festival, we caught up with the filmmaker to talk about his films, what motivates him as an artist and what’s next in his future.
Q: Who is Abraham Felix? I’m a New Orleans-based film director by way of writing and editing for print and television. My work often falls within the realm of observational cinema, as I constantly find myself exploring humanity, interiority, and relational complexity across project type.
Q: What attracted you to filmmaking? Before I ever picked up a camera, I grew up involved in church and theater productions, while always copping a ticket to as many movies as I could afford. I think there’s a connective tissue to each of those arenas that left an unknowable but profound imprint on me as a young person. As I grew older, I learned there is also a tremendous responsibility in each of those arenas to seek and cultivate honesty – even more so now than when I started in this industry a decade ago.
Today, reality is as fractured as the number of different sources from which we consume stories. Perception is as prismatic as the amount of eyeballs witnessing an event. Truth, honesty, and integrity in the stories we tell ourselves are as important as which stories we tell and support because those stories shape us, our behaviors, our potential, and our reality individually and collectively. It is not always easy to be honest and look at ourselves with honesty, ready to accept what we see. So I’m drawn to the challenge of being one of many filmmakers, artists, storytellers and activists who grabs every opportunity to do just that.
Q: What motivates you as an artist? As a journalism major, I learned precisely how media shapes reality, and beyond what I learned in school, how perception creates reality. From words on a page, to actors on a stage, to video games, television, movies and other works of art, the things we see with our eyes are influenced by in our souls, shape our behavior. For generations so many of the stories we’ve seen reflected don’t always thoughtfully interrogate the effects of gun violence, racism, sexism, all manner of harmful world views.
And to put it mildly, I think our current shared reality demands better from us. We simply cannot continue on telling the same stories in the same way because that’s a big part of what got us here. It’s on those of us who call ourselves storytellers and artists to be leaders in that change. So in that light, I feel a tremendous motivation and responsibility to be as much of a force as I can for shifting the American paradigm in a more just, humanistic, and inclusive direction.
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Q: What does it feel like to have two short films premiere at New Orleans Film Fest? On both films, I was fortunate to work with dedicated, sacrificial casts and crews who were primarily from here at home in New Orleans. On any production, the highest priority is always the story. And even though there’s a ton of camaraderie when we’re working, we’re rarely just enjoying each other’s company and appreciating the growth and ideas in the community.
The New Orleans Film Festival is always a great way to slow down and just reconnect to one another on a human level while also appreciating and supporting the community’s art. So even though the films will screen virtually this year, it still feels like such an opportunity to join in and participate with so many other filmmakers similarly dedicated to telling good stories.
Q: How has COVID impacted the way you create and tell stories? It’s easy to spend much of an independent filmmaking career strategizing and continuously seeking ways to make it all sustainable. COVID has forced me, and probably most of us, to divorce any illusion of control or having a plan. So, I think I’m learning to be more comfortable with being uncomfortable. Hopefully my evolving relationship to risk leads to better, less cautious work.
Q: What’s next for you? “Win by Two” and “Change” are both short films so I’m hoping to make the leap into narrative feature filmmaking in the near future.
Born – Lafayette
Raised – Baton Rouge
Currently – New Orleans
FAVORITE LOCAL BAND / MUSICIAN
Tank & The Bangas
Willie Mae’s Scotch House
FAVORITE NEW ORLEANS FILM
“Ruby Bridges” by Euzhan Palcy (1998)
I like T-Pain. Once I was backstage at an Odesza concert helping a friend direct a music documentary. Concerts are inherently challenging environments to film in and we needed to be laser-focused on the tasks at hand to get what we needed without distracting the live band members. You could give the band’s manager a wrong look or make any tiny error and that’d be all the justification necessary to remove the entire crew from the stage and throw a wrench in production. So I was laser-focused. Intense. We all were. And somehow, we got what we needed. No mistakes.
When production wrapped, as we all breathed sighs of relief exiting the concert area, my colleagues asked me a question, “Yo what was it like meeting T-Pain?” I was confused. As it turns out T-Pain stood shoulder to shoulder with me backstage and I never noticed or had the chance to shake his hand. True story.