Antebellum director says Black art 'is the most policed'
Hollywood has long shut out or discouraged Black filmmakers from telling their stories, and the horror genre is no exception.
"Black art so often, our art in particular, is the most policed," says Gerard Bush, who directed and wrote the recent film Antebellum with Christopher Renz.
The two appeared alongside Tales From the Hood director and co-writer Rusty Cundieff and Bad Hair writer-director Justin Simien for Entertainment Weekly's State of Black Horror panel during New York Comic Con on Thursday.
"There's an expectation around what we say, how we say it, when we say it, that has a difficulty rating that is much more arduous than what other filmmakers and artists have to go through," Bush adds.
Therefore, he says, there's power in "not asking for permission from anyone" to make the films you want to make. "The sky's the limit," he adds about the future of Black horror.
During the panel, he also said that when making a film as unflinching as Antebellum, which stars Janelle Monáe as a woman who finds herself trapped on a slave plantation, Bush says critiques are to be expected.
"Whenever you're saying something in Hollywood where you don’t ask for permission from the cultural gatekeepers, or when you’re not asking permission from the right-wing of white America, then chances are you’re going to be attacked by multiple sides when you’re trying to make something like Antebellum," Bush says.
Cundieff, who resonated with Bush and Renz's experience, says he ran up against his own share of obstacles working on the various iterations of Tales From the Hood. Luckily for his team, they had the famously outspoken Spike Lee as an executive producer.
"In Tales 2, they wanted us to take out some things because we were making commentary on Trump ... Tales 1, they wanted us to take out some things because they didn't like how we were dealing with police," Cundieff says. "When they tried to make us do something, we would go to Spike and say, 'Spike, tell them we’re not going do it.' And no one wanted to upset Spike, so we got to keep a lot of things in that we wanted."
That approach paid off, and the horror anthology struck home with many viewers, including Simien. The Dear White People creator, whose film Bad Hair is about a literal killer weave, says that seeing Tales From the Hood "was one of the reasons why I thought I could even" make a horror movie.
Previously, he says he "never actually thought about making a horror movie. It didn't dawn on me that I could do that as a Black person, which is odd. And when I began thinking about the movie, I realized that was actually the only thing that was holding me back. In fact, I love horror movies."
He adds, "As a filmmaker, you just can't find a genre where you could be more free. You can absolutely do absolutely nutball stuff in a movie like this and still have it be grounded, and still have it be based on a psychological terror ... and have audiences accept it. What genre can you do that in but this?"
Watch the full panel, moderated by EW staff writer Chancellor Agard, above. And check out the clip below from Tales From the Hood 3, out Oct. 17 on Syfy.