Being nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director at the age of 24 can either ignite a career or cause tremendous pressure. Luckily, John Singleton was of the former variety. Stopping by LMU to talk about his career, Hollywood and his upcoming projects. Singleton provided ample topics for discussion and conversation.
Early Influences and Inspiration
As a young kid growing up in L.A., Singleton was thinking of being a vet or a computer science major, until a galaxy far far away ignited his passion for movies. He saw Star Wars three times during the summer it came out and remarked that it was the first time he watched a movie with an eye for how the film was made. Singleton also spoke highly of the work of Akira Kurosawa, whom his father also loved and encouraged him to watch.
Boyz n the Hood: Creation and Production
The idea for Boyz n the Hood came from an essay Singleton submitted with his film school application. Only the third screenplay Singleton had ever written, the film went into production a mere month after he graduated from USC. Singleton spoke about how they shot the film in sequence, which allowed him to grow his confidence and abilities. The process worked: John Singleton is the youngest Best Director nominee in Oscar history, and Boyz n the Hood became an instant classic.
Black Films, Financing and Hollywood Studios
The most impassioned topic Singleton discussed was the state of Black cinema and Hollywood. Singleton took many studio executives to task for making films in a homogenized bubble and called for more diversity amongst storytellers. He also discussed how the financial structure of the major studios doesn’t encourage the widest breadth of films, only allowing for big blockbusters to be made and the shuttering of the mid-major studios that used to put out many independent films. However, Singleton did mention how the new era of independent financing was allowing those with creative visions to flourish. “I think that because films are being made in a different vein now, there’s not just a committee of people making them at the studios. Films are being made outside of the certain norm, people are putting in and financing. That’s a liberating thing. You’re going to get different types of stories made.”
On the Tupac biopic
Although Singleton is currently working on the script for the highly anticipated Tupac biopic, he leaked a few details about how he’s crafting the project. Having worked with Tupac on the film Poetic Justice (and written Baby Boy with him in mind), Singleton is in a unique position to tell the American rapper and actor’s story, something he’s not taking lightly. He said the film will look at how important Tupac was to the community and how his death left a void. He’s not concerned about the perceived notion of Tupac, the celebrity; instead he is focusing on how to capture every facet of the artist’s life.
Advice for Young Filmmakers
Singleton relayed many tips to the student audience, starting with challenging them with knowing how to handle both the art and the business sides of moviemaking. He encouraged students to write the films they want to see get made and dramatize what they know.
The Hollywood Masters is a new series that examines the careers of award-winning filmmakers and successful executives, with The Hollywood Reporter’s Stephen Galloway and presented by LMU School of Film and Television.