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Interview with "TNC" (2020) Director Bobby Huntley at the 74th Cannes Film Festival

Interview with "TNC" (2020) Director Bobby Huntley at the 74th Cannes Film Festival Interview with "TNC" (2020) Director Bobby Huntley at the 74th Cannes Film Festival (Photography by @jlufair)

Award-winning Editor, Writer, Director, Producer Bobby Huntley has been making films since the age of ten. Having always known he wanted to be a filmmaker he went to film school to become a professional. He has since written, directed, edited and produced over a dozen films which are character driven dealing with individuals at odds with society at large with aesthetics influenced by music, classic genres and playful perspectives that make him a unique auteur to look out for. A believer in paying it forward, Bobby speaks at high schools and universities to teach students what he knows about professional filmmaking and the importance of collaboration and community. Bobby’s philosophy: “Envision.Execute.Empower.Repeat.” Having recently started his own production company, Bobby Huntley Films, Bobby is just getting started.   

Bobby attended the 74th Cannes Film Festival with his latest work “TNC” (2020) that he wrote, directed and produced. "TNC" screened at the Diversity in Cannes Short Film Showcase.

I met Bobby at Cannes and we held an interview shortly after about his film “TNC” and his career. Here is what he had to say:


Can you tell us about your path to becoming a filmmaker? What has been your biggest challenge/s and your biggest reward/s thus far?

BOBBY: I started my journey as a filmmaker at ten years old. I randomly asked my dad for a video camera for my birthday, and it has been an extension of me ever since. I found out as a senior in high school that one can go to school to study filmmaking and that suddenly made it a very real thing for me. After film school, it has been a trial-and-error process to find my voice and carve my space. My biggest challenge has been not a lot of access to resources and funding but through the years of my tireless efforts, continual growth in my storytelling craft, and audience building has created a community of supporters around myself and my work. Now I feel absolutely that nothing is impossible. If I can dream it and envision it, I can make it happen with the right people around me.


You are an editor, writer, producer, cinematographer, composer and director. Do you believe it is necessary to have multiple talents to be a filmmaker these days?

BOBBY: Yes, I definitely believe it is important to have talents in a lot of aspects of filmmaking, but most importantly knowledge and respect of the process. I have slowly stripped away a lot of my hats to focus on the art of directing, even giving away most of my gear. Hopefully soon I'd love to walk away from the editing table, but it would take time to find someone who not only matches but enhances my voice, as my work is known through my editing style and technique.


Can you tell us about some of your previous films? Like “Coronaman I & II”, “Connect”, “Tre” and “La Vie Magnifique de Charlie”?

BOBBY: Soon after leaving film school and learning to generate buzz throughout the Atlanta film community and social media at large, I helmed my first feature length film “La Vie Magnifique de Charlie” (2017). It is heavily influenced by “Amelie” and French new wave cinema with a bit of funky 80's aesthetic, early Spike Lee attitude and a Prince-esque score sprinkled in. It was my love letter to black women as I felt they haven't had a fun and quirky coming of age story. From then on to create shorter web and festival centered pieces like “Auntie” and “Coronaman” that were tributes to Jordan Peeles' great horror/thriller works. “Connect” was my baby in the sense that it was the first piece that represents me and my story, taking all of the hurt and pain of losing loved ones from a young black male perspective that we don't really see represented in films that much. It's about 2/3 of a feature right now (it stops right at the end of the second act...) it's currently in the festival circuits and we've garnered attention from Executive Producers/Investors who wish to make it a full feature length film. It was a risk that's paying off but I couldn't wait for 'maybes' so I forced its hand. I'm very excited about it. “Louisiana 1961” is my next endeavor of turning one of my previous shorts into feature films.


Do you have one that you are most proud of?

BOBBY: Each of them hold a different meaning to me but anything I can complete and walk away from means the world to me because I had to teach myself how to not be that artist that feels like their work is never good enough and refuses to release anything. I've stalled my career and growth for years because of that internal fear. I'll soon be releasing a feature documentary about a feature film (“Herbert and Cleofis and the Unfortunate Chronicles of the Kidnapping of Miss Ella Fynn” I completed right after film school, but I was too afraid to release it, and the damage/and fall out that fear created. It's a very dangerous space to be in as an artist psychologically. So, I always stand with “be proud no matter what because that represents where you were at that time, which led you HERE.”


Your films seem very character driven and deal with issues of identity and sanity in conflict with the world at large. And you use very interesting mise-en-scene and perspective. Do you want to talk about your style and inspiration? 

BOBBY: Everything tells a story- the color on the wall, the clothes, the hair choices, how a character holds their hand, their eye contact or blinking patterns. I obsess over everything. I think in music as I started in music first at the age of five. It influences everything I do more than film itself. Everything comes down to rhythm and timing. Even down to color and tone, music has that to me as well. As I hear a song I can see it, feel it, even taste it. That will influence me to write a story or script. I start musically and then figure out the story and visual from there. To me, the music is a character to my films that talk as much to my audience as the actors do.


What are the stories that move you most? What films and people have been your biggest source of inspiration?

BOBBY: The stories I'm most in tune with are coming-of-age. No matter the age. We are all constantly trying to figure things out. Figure ourselves out and each other out. It's a constant state of growth and internal struggle to be better. All of my films will have that innocence in a way, because we all subconsciously know what it feels like to feel lost and figure things out.


You have a production company called Bobby Huntley Films. What kinds of films does your company specialize in making?

BOBBY: I love to create period films as they're a fun challenge. Music films are also my specialty as well. As we grow, I look forward to creating a wide variety of genres and works, but will retain that Bobby Huntley Films signature touch- whatever that is. 


You just completed a new film, “TNC”, which was at Cannes. Can you tell us about the film without revealing too much about it?

BOBBY: “TNC” is an artistic response to the spring of 2020 with social-political-racial uprisings across the world. All of these thoughts and feelings have been bumbling under the surface and it had no choice but to explode in all of our faces. Suddenly there was a willingness for discussion like never before- performative or genuine. I felt compelled as an artist to use my voice and my platform to express my general feeling of being Black in America and the world at large in an artistic way. It’s a psychological thriller set in an eternal 1980's bar with an other-worldly, twilight zone feel. Once you enter this space in which you become acutely aware of your Blackness and eventual target on your back - you may never leave. The title “TNC” itself is not only a callback to an infamous Richard Pryor album, but also the gaslighting we receive as a community bringing attention to the injustice we receive every day of our lives for just being.


You attended the Cannes Film Festival 2021. How was it this year post covid? And why is Cannes important to attend as a filmmaker?

BOBBY: Cannes is a celebration of films from all over the world. It’s great to see what generates energy from across the world and what films get the attention. You can take all these things and learn from them as an artist and see what you can apply to your work. It gives you a broader view and perspective on the world at large. This was my first time, luckily the crowds weren't as big, so it wasn't too overwhelming in its scope. The covid precautions were A LOT but very necessary to keep us safe. I appreciated it. I plan to come next year now that I know what to expect and navigate. This time, I only had ten days heads up beforehand.


Where would you like to see yourself as a filmmaker in the next 5-10 years?

BOBBY: Artistically fulfilled....and successful. In whichever way I view that term for myself, lol. It changes every day.



IG/Twitter @bhuntleyfilms
FB @bobbyhuntleyfilmsLLC

Interview with "TNC" (2020) Director Bobby Huntley at the 74th Cannes Film Festival Trailer:

 Interview with "TNC" (2020) Director Bobby Huntley at the 74th Cannes Film Festival Bobby Huntley with actress Danielle Maner & TNC co-producer Eric Rai'Vaun. 

Interview with "TNC" (2020) Director Bobby Huntley at the 74th Cannes Film Festival

Interview with "TNC" (2020) Director Bobby Huntley at the 74th Cannes Film Festival

Bobby Huntley with actress Danielle Maner & TNC co-producer Eric Rai'Vaun at 74th Cannes Film Festival.


Interview by Vanessa McMahon. 74th Cannes Film Festival.

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