just a great time and it definitely changed me.
That’s where I got a lot of my nurturing and that’s where I decided what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
My family was 100% supportive of my wanting to be a filmmaker because we were raised in a very artistic household. My father was a jazz musician and composer. We grew up going to see him play at Newport Jazz Festival, and the Bitter End in New York. His attitude was, if that’s what you want to do, go ahead and do it. My mother taught art and black literature, so she was taking me and my siblings to museums and Broadway shows and stuff like that at an early age. So we were very lucky. We were just brought up in a family where art was always pushed.
I’m also lucky that not just my parents, but my grandparents, had the same attitude. Because I have a lot of friends who graduated with me from Morehouse in the class of 1979, and today, a lot of these guys are old, fat, and bald, and they’re miserable because they’re doing something that they don’t like.
It was my experience in school that a whole lot of people were taking majors in things that they didn’t want, but they were told to take [them] because they were expected to make money. Even [my wife] Tonya, from a very early age, she knew from her parents that she had to go to law school or med school. So she went to law school. For a lot of people art is just really discouraged. Especially in schools like Morehouse, which is a very strong business-oriented school.
But at Morehouse a lot of these kids were either the first or second ones in their family to ever go to college and at great sacrifice. So it’s like, “Look, your mother and I did not work two jobs and spend all this money to send your black [behind] through college so that you could be a singer or a poet or a painter. Your [behind] needs to get a job where you’re going to be getting a check every two weeks.”
I understand that. I really do. But I still think that it makes for a lot of miserable people, especially people who have creativity. And I’m just happy my parents weren’t like that.
There are people who are doing whatever they’re doing for money. And you have people doing what they’re doing for love. For me, it’s always been the latter. I never equated my being successful with money, because that’s not why I became a filmmaker.
I became a filmmaker because I wanted to tell stories and, when you break it down, that’s what directors do—the good ones, at least—they tell stories. That’s what I wanted to do, and I wanted to be in control of my work. So that meant that I would produce it, I would write it, and I would direct it. That