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Write On: 'American Fiction' Writer/Director Cord Jefferson

January 18, 2024
2 min read time

“I think that approaching the grand things through the smallest entryways possible is the best way to go about taking on these massive issues… So yes, this movie is about race and racism and art and who's allowed to make certain kinds of art - these are really big, unwieldy issues. But the reason that I think people can relate to them –and it doesn't feel so top heavy or clumsy – is because you see it through a character that was deeply personal to me,” says Cord Jefferson, writer/director of American Fiction. 

Based on the book Erasure by Percival Everett, American Fiction is a powerful and often poignantly funny exploration of race in literature, film, family and the marketplace. It toes the line between being relatable and absurd. 

“I wanted to make a movie that felt satirical but never farcical. I wanted the movie to feel like life and life is neither one thing or another, it’s neither comedy nor tragedy,” says Jefferson who made the decision to use humor in the film but he never let the comedy get too broad. 

Jefferson also talks about his journey from journalist – an editor at Gawker – to writing for TV shows like The Watchmen and Succession. 

“If you can write an interesting article, you can probably write a novel. If you can write a novel, you can write a screenplay. I think that it's the same basic idea, which is you need to keep somebody interested in what you're saying from the beginning to the end and what is the best way to keep somebody interested in what you're saying for this long?” says Jefferson.

Take a listen to the podcast for a deep dive into the screenplay for American Fiction.  


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