Faculty spotlight | Skinner Myers on telling stories of ”the underdog and the forgotten”

It was a lack of good acting roles that inspired film and TV production professor Skinner Myers to begin writing films with characters he wanted to play. Another influence: Seeing the 2000 film Amores Perros, directed by the renowned Alejandro González Iñárritu. ”I was enamored of it, and I wanted to tell real, honest, and raw stories in a similar way,” Myers recalls. ”It inspired me to tell the story of the underdog and the forgotten.” We checked in with the multi-hyphenate Myers to learn more about his work.

Tell us a bit about your most current films.

I have two projects that I’m focusing on at the moment. One is my Russian short film Things of Beauty Burn, which is about an Afro-Russian teenager who must make a life-or-death decision after having his first sexual encounter with a white Russian pastor’s daughter. It’s on the festival circuit right now, with a virtual screening coming up on Thursday, June 11 at deadCENTER Film Festival in Oklahoma City. And it will also screen in September at the We Make Movies International Film Festival.

The other project I’m excited about is my first feature film as a writer/director/actor called The Sleeping Negro. It’s about a young Black man who’s confronted with a series of racially charged incidents and must overcome rage, alienation, and hopelessness to find his own humanity. We’re in post-production, and it should be finished by the end of June. Here’s the trailer.

You shoot all of your projects on film. What draws you to this medium?

Using film forces me to make purposeful decisions and has helped me define what my directing and shooting style is. For me, film is magical—it’s that extra layer of visual magic that we see reality through, which transforms into make-believe. It’s the way films were made for decades before digital cameras came along, and I want to keep the tradition alive for as long as possible.

How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected how you’re working? What are you still able to do behind the scenes?

The pandemic has forced me to revisit and finish old writing projects, and to start some new ones. I just finished two new feature-length screenplays and I’m working on the second draft of my novel. I’m pitching my TV show to executives and producers via Zoom, so I definitely feel productive.

How has teaching affected or influenced your work as a filmmaker? What do you like most about it?

Teaching has made me a much stronger filmmaker. When you’re immersed in the world of filmmaking and teaching, you become more acutely aware of your craft. My favorite thing about teaching is the students. I love working with them and watching them grow as people and artists.

What filmmakers and creators inspire you?

To name a few: Andrei Tarkovsky, Bela Tarr, Luis Bunuel, Apichatpong Weersethakul, Mahatma Saleh Haroun, Wong Kar Wai.

What are some of your favorite films?

So many. Stalker, Bye-Bye Africa, Chameleon Street, Satantango, The Sacrifice, Drive, The Tree of Life, Happy Gilmore, Moonlight, The Godfather, Lost in Translation, City of God, Persona, Chungking Express, Come and See, Andrei Rublev.