Now that we are finally comfortable talking about racism, what are we going to do about it? We’ve never come this far in so long, so let’s not stop the motion and let’s keep pushing the wheel of change. We all want to feel safe when we go outside, but yet – the very same people that have taken an oath to serve and PROTECT are now the threat if your skin happens to be black. We are taught in schools as children that you can feel safe around a police officer. If you are black then you are safer to call a friend or relative for help. How has it gotten this bad and why have we just started waking up to it? As a civilization, we’ve come so far since the industrial revolution in terms of technology, but yet we still stand so divided on racism. I don’t understand the logic behind treating people differently based on the colour of their skin. We all carry some responsibility in it, which is why we can only fix it together.
Multiracial Filmmaker Richard Pierre has had his finger on the pulse of racism for the larger part of his life because he sees it, he experiences it and knows the victims first hand. How do you best draw attention to important issues… you give it a voice and an amplifier! Some would call film a perfect platform/megaphone to draw attention to an issue/dilemma you are consumed by… and using it to send a message can impact the masses – an entire population. Much like the dinosaurs… if there are enough impacts, then dinosaur thinking could be eradicated. Richard certainly knows how to make an impact with his films and his most recent, Uninvited Guest is garnering much attention because of the story and relevance in today’s good cop/bad cop society.
This short film can be viewed on the CBC Gem website and it is a must watch film. Richard Pierre admires Spike Lee a great deal for his contributions to shining a light on racism, film after film after film. You could say that Spike has influenced Richards 2 dozen short films throughout his career. They are short films but the message is loud and it resonates within your psyche, your moral obligations and your consciousness. Are you awake yet?
Richard B. Pierre is an award winning writer, director and producer, known for tackling a range of genres and subject matters. Pierre has been placing his focus on race-based projects “An Uninvited Guest” comes on the heels of the successful documentary “What Are You?” by the film maker. The idea for “An Uninvited Guest” came to the talented director after watching the 6 o’clock news report on the murder of a Black man. Unfortunately, not an uncommon headline. The report & video repeated several times on a seemingly endless loop. Pierre realized he had become numb to the horror. He had to do something other than just get angry, in a city that is already angry, “An Uninvited Guest” was born.
The short film portrays three people wordlessly enjoying dinner together, one of the dinner guests is black. Outside the mansion, in full view of the guests, a Black man is assaulted by a police officer. The Black dinner guest grows increasingly anxious, his demeanor changes from numb to responsive, the people around him grow uncomfortable. “An Uninvited Guest” speaks to the line we walk and the one we don’t cross in today’s society. We’ve become numb, almost complacent to violence and hate, to make us feel safe…. but change won’t come from silence.
Please check out the trailer for ‘An Uninvited Guest‘
I had an incredibly insightful conversation with Richard about this film and the power behind the camera.
HNM “I’ve only had the opportunity to watch the trailer to An Uninvited Guest. From a dinner table inside of a luxurious home, a family with a black dinner guest witnesses an arrest of a Black man through the dining room window. Is racial profiling at the heart of this film?”
RICHARD “I like to describe it as dinner in the twilight zone by way of police brutality and racial profiling. We have this act of police brutality happening outside the window and nobody in the room seems to have any reaction to it, except for the main character – the Black dinner guest.”
HNM “Would the overall message be that, Black people are being brutalized by police so frequently that we’ve become numb to it?”
RICHARD “It’s only a 3 – minute film but it’s open to many perspectives. I see it as more of a commentary on the fact that we never really acknowledged that there was a problem. We don’t see that there’s a problem to acknowledge.”
HNM “One of my favourite films is 12 Years A Slave because it was based on true events and the story is so unbelievable. Do you have any true stories that you’ve given any thought of writing about?”
RICHARD “That’s a great question. I do… there’s a few. I’ve made a documentary before, so I’m open to doing one on racial based themes. There’s this one story about these forced labour camps in the Southern US – as a sort of continuation of slavery. In that moment of time, there’s so many different stories to tell. As opposed to a true experience, I would want to build on an experience to create a more uplifting story.”
HNM “How long have you been making films?”
RICHARD “I’ve been making short films since 2009. I’ve made 2 dozen short films – but I enjoy making short films.”
HNM “Making short films is the gateway to feature films – is that the end goal?”
RICHARD “At this point it definitely is. I’ve spoken to a couple of production companies about feature film projects and potentially turning Uninvited Guest into a feature film. Hang on for 2021 to see if there is a longer version of this story, but if not… I’ve got some other feature projects that I’m finally hoping to get some traction on.”
HNM “We’ve heard that comedy is a great vehicle for addressing a serious subject. How are your comedy chops and have you ever considered that?”
RICHARD “Oh yeah, I’ve done a few comedic shorts. One is called The Racist Neighbour – which is funny and controversial at the same time. Who knows when you’ll see another comedy from me but it’s perfectly possible. There are shows like The Dave Chappelle Show, Tracey Ullman and even the Baroness Von Sketch Show that tackle ‘social issues’ and they nail it.”
HNM “Going forward, do you want to continue making social/race issue themed films?”
RICHARD “Most of my work previous to this, I would describe as racially agnostic. I like to double up on race, in terms of casting diversely – as opposed to being head on confrontational about it, however the last few films have focused on race. I think it was just time for something a little more real… a little more uncomfortable… a little more challenging for me as a filmmaker. I’m of mixed race and can present as a White person in some circumstances… it’s an evolution.”
HNM “With the push for more diverse casting, what is your take on the movement?”
RICHARD “In terms of on screen representation, I think it’s long overdue that we get away from tropes and typecasting – we should be done with that. How we consume the media affects how we see the world. If I always see a Black drug dealer… I’m gonna think Black people are drug dealers, if I see Asian doctors all the time – I’m gonna think that’s all Asians can do. Instead of seeing shows with a predominantly white cast, with ethnic sidekick characters… it’s time to move away from that. It also involves people behind the scenes changing, because too often the director or casting director isn’t a person of colour, so they don’t think about these things.”
HNM “How long did it take to shoot this film?”
RICHARD “In terms of start to finish, the process was really long – from inception to post-production. We wrapped in the start of 2020, in January.”
HNM “Where did you find your cast?”
RICHARD “They’re all Canadian talent, shout out to ACTRA. I had a great casting director, Jesse Griffiths. Ultimately, to find everyone that I wanted, I had to use union talent and I’m glad I did… because one of my actors, Richard Walters has already won an award for his performance as the lead, Echo.”
HNM “How did you finance the film?”
RICHARD “I was very fortunate; the Ontario Arts Council gave me the money for the film. Without them, it would’ve been quite a different movie. I was able to compensate my crew and afford all the festival submissions for the last year.”
HNM “Have you ever submitted to Cannes with this film or in the past?”
RICHARD “I think as filmmakers, we have to aspire to get into Sundance, to get into TIFF and Cannes… but it didn’t happen. It’s easier to get into the Cannes ‘Short Film Corner.”
HNM “What inspired you to take up filmmaking in the first place?”
RICHARD “I’d say I’ve always been a storyteller and started writing stories in grade 5 and continued it throughout high school. A couple times, people would read my stories and tell me that they’re like movies. When I was applying to university, I was pretty certain I was going to business school… but my second option was going to film school. I went to Ryerson and learned all I could about movie production and started making films.”
HNM “Moving forward, do you want to continue making films on social issues or do you want to move into a narrative feature?”
RICHARD “That’s a great question… right now my focus is certainly more on social issues but I don’t think I’ll be constrained to that for the rest of my life; it’s a high burnout rate. I don’t know how Spike Lee does it – I stand in awe of someone that’s able to talk about race in pretty much every film he’s done. It’s an exhausting process, so I don’t think I could continue to do it forever… it might be a matter of making 1 social issue movie and then the next one could be more frivolous and fun. After I finished post-production on Uninvited Guest, I wrote a supernatural comedy, similar to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I needed a break and something in the sense of light cotton candy – writing serious stuff is draining.”
HNM “What do you want your audience to walk away with after watching this film?”
RICHARD “I want them to be able to feel comfortable about having uncomfortable conversations about race. Had this film come out in the previous year (2019), it would be a totally different conversation – but I do believe this year (2020) has impacted more people and they’ve had awakenings. Now if we could see awakenings on the rest of the planet, it would make the world a better place and it would be an amazing thing. Having those conversations and thinking about the role you play in this cycle of violence… we all play an active role, whether we like it or not.”
HNM “What size crew did you work with on this film?”
RICHARD “I would think that we were around 20-30 people and they were predominantly women and women of colour. Diversity starts on the screen but behind the scenes is even better. There are databases if you want to crew up entirely with women, as well as a lot of bi-platforms available as of this year (2020), to help crew up and achieve those diversity levels quickly. It is possible and doable, you just have to have the initiative to make it happen. We need as many voices at the table as possible, every little bit counts.”
Richard Pierre never shy’s away from tough subjects or controversial issues. He is an advocate for change but he needs all of us to join him in the fight for change. It won’t be easy but it’s not impossible.