The African Film Festival has granted us another solid gem.
Across The Line, a film by Director X, and produced by Floyd Kane, premiered in Manhattan on Thursday night, thanks to the combined efforts of Lightyear Entertainment and African Film Festival, to the excitement of spectators and film critics. The Knockturnal had the opportunity to speak with the film’s lead characters, including Stephan James, Sarah Jeffery, and Shamier Anderson.
Q: There have been a lot of things that happened in Nova Scotia, that people here in America don’t know about, but what aspired you to write this? What did you want to achieve in writing this piece?
A (Floyd Kane): I was at that high school when the first race riots in modern times actually happened. So, for me, when I go out to the entertainment industry, it has always been a kind of passion project. I decided, I want to do a story about Nova Scotia. Most of the Blacks who are in Canada are first, second generation. And so, the Blacks in Nova Scotia are lots of generations – they’ve been there since probably the 1700s. So, we never see ourselves on screen. So it was really important for me to show that, you know, we actually exist. Because people don’t see us at all.
Q: What were some of the things you wanted to bring across in this script?
A (Floyd Kane): For me, it’s very simple. I have spent 15 years working in the film/entertainment industry in Canada. I was a lawyer before then. I’ve spent a lot of times in rooms where I’m the only person of color; I’m the only black person in those rooms. You notice in the film that we never see Mattie on the ice with his team. And I really wanted to capture that sense of isolation you feel when, as a person in a non-traditional field, you do feel like you’re on your own a lot of the time. And I really wanted to try, with this film, to capture that.
Q: What stood out to you about your character?
A (Stephan James): First of all, thank you everyone. This is great. But no, when I got this script, the first thing I thought to myself was: “damn, I didn’t know this stuff was happening,” you know, in Nova Scotia. And, you know, being Canadian, obviously, we know racism exists, but sometimes the rest of the world is ignorant to that fact. So for me, it’s just an opportunity to tell a story about the Canadian community, something I could relate with, and a story that – I didn’t know – I didn’t know there was so much tension. So, you know, it’s an opportunity to tell a story that I really feel wasn’t told enough. That people don’t know enough about. And do be a part of that is a big step.
Q: Tell me about the characters you play and your thoughts on the script?
A (Shamier Anderson): I think I was in Los Angeles and and I got the script on like, a Saturday. Fell in love with the character. I was familiar and kind of aware that Stephan was doing a film, but I wasn’t 100% sure he was a part of the project. But the character for me stood out. What gravitates towards me when I’m looking at work is the story of character – I’m very character driven in any type of role that I pick – and that script for me at the time stood out for me, put it on tape in Los Angeles, and I think I got the job early Monday morning. And I flew out like, the very next day. And I met the director. It was such an honor to be a part of that, whether it was background or a lead or not, I was a huge fan, I said sign me up right away. We’re on set, we’re doing it, and if there were any perks, it was being able to bring that experience to the crowd without even trying. I think that was hopefully displayed on screen. You guys can be the judge of that. But on set, it was a very easy, easy way of doing things. He’s an incredible actor, he’s a great bro, and yeah.
Q: Tell me your impressions of this character and how you relate to her.
A (Sarah Jeffery): I got the script and immediately fell in love with it, obviously. Like Steph said, I was unaware there was still racial divide in Nova Scotia. I live on the west coast in Vancouver, and there’s not even a strong black community there. So, that was interesting in of itself. And then, I definitely did remember relating to Jayme because, you know, the story is about her ending the divide with both sides. It’s supposed to be very difficult for her and I can relate to that, in that auditioning for different projects the feedback would be: “you’re not black enough, you’re not white enough,” and it comes up so often that I didn’t even realize it. So when I read the script, I was like “wow, that is a real struggle,” it’s kind of the perfect project and I desperately wanted the character.
Q: Most challenging part of writing/playing in this?
A (Floyd Kane): Difficult question. I mean, you know, the most challenging part was not so much the writing, it was actually getting it made. There’s a lot of work that goes into making anything. I’m the writer but I’m also the producer, so theres a lot of people to work with to actually getting a film financed. I’m sure most people in this room understand this, but you try to make a film that’s about black people that doesn’t have Denzel Washington in it, it’s really hard to get distributors and financers to engage. And even though we’ve got a public financing model in Canada, it’s still work, right. Because you’ve still got distributors to convince so they’re not bored. And honestly, you go into these meetings and you tell them about so and so, and they’re like “what?” – because they don’t give a shit. And so, it’s one of those things where for me, that was the hardest part of making the film. And probably, I think, as a writer, I think the other thing is just generally when you hire a filmmaker, so that’s on board, it’s simply you’ve gotta let it go. And that the script is not gonna be the movie. And I think that’s really challenging, especially since you’re the producer as well. You gotta be better than someone willing to let things happen. And that was the hardest part of making the film. The most rewarding part of it is simply having the opportunity to watch the film with audiences. I love how people react to it. And that’s the kind of thing I’ll remember from this process.
A (Stephan James): You know, I’ve been trying to find out what was the toughest part. Honestly, whenever you’re having to drive a story, it’s tough. It’s just a tough thing in general. For Mattie, I sort of had to find this sort of space. Often times when you’re the leading character, you’re not the villain – you have to find ways to have depth to your character. So, you know, it’s always a show to go through, with whatever I do. Honestly, I really felt comfortable in this film. Obviously, I had to immerse myself a little bit in the life there in Nova Scotia. I think it was a little bit intentional that certain things I was pulled back away from you know? It’s really incredible when you go down there – you get really blown away just by performance and what he was able to capture.
It was probably more strategically why we did that because they wanted Mattie to be a sort of outsider and I understood that, so yeah. I didn’t immerse myself fully into that culture because it helped me process-wise. But yeah, sometimes you feel like you’re not doing enough. Like, that scene with my brother. Am I doing enough? Because it feels so normal. Is it really translating on screen? Is it working? So, for me, that’s easy. When it comes to working with Sarah – Sarah’s an incredible, incredible actress – and she’s obviously beautiful. So, you know, honestly just like being the character and finding my own path and finding myself in Mattie, I think that was the most difficult part. As far as the most rewarding part, you know, everybody said this, but really, just getting to share the film with you guys. You know, when I was first approached with this script, I was in a project, I met with Floyd, I met with X, and we talked. We talked a lot of things too, just in terms of the character, just in terms of storyline. But we’re proud of what we’ve been able to come up with. I think Floyd’s a brilliant writer, a brilliant producer, and I thank him for including me in this project. It’s fun to see, you know, from the first script I got to working where the scripts went to to where the film actually went to. And as actors, we never really know how stuff’s gonna turn out. We just do it. So, seeing it for the first time – I was really, really, really proud of it. I say that honestly and truly. And yeah, sharing it with you guys. And if you guys enjoy it, that’s probably the biggest thing to me.
A (Sarah Jeffery): I would say one of the biggest challenges, for me was, this was my first time taking a lead in a film. I had done a lot of work previously as supporting in TV series, but film is a lot different. It’s much slower paced. That said, we were on a tighter budget. So we had to be prepared but just exerting a lot of emotional energy; a lot of physical energy; it was brutally cold. I’m from the west coast I had no idea how cold it could get. And it was like, the dead of winter. I was, as you saw, in the little shorts. That was actually very challenging. And to push beyond that and be able to put on an emotional performance and connect to my character. But on the flip side, I was say that the most rewarding process was getting to be a lead in a film. And learning, and just sort of having to do pedal to the medal. There were times where it was crunch time, and some times we just had to get a scene out. Sometimes it worked, and just came out that way. And yeah. It was a very rewarding process overall, working with such phenomenal people and phenomenal talents. I just feel very blessed.
Across The Line hits Digital media on August 1st.