Before the Sundance® premiere of Freedom Summer on January 22, 2014, Emmy® award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson spoke at the Goldman Sachs offices in Salt Lake City about the inspiration behind the film: the efforts of civil rights organizers and local citizens in Mississippi who, during the summer of 1964, sought to register black voters, create schools and establish the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in the face of intimidation and sustained violence.
Talking with... Stanley Nelson
Q: What was your first job?
A: My first job was in college working for a supermarket. I was a security guard.
Q: What is the best piece of advice you've ever received?
A: The best piece of advice I received as a young filmmaker was to enjoy the journey of making the film. Even if you're lucky enough to be at Sundance and win an award, you're usually too nervous to remember those five minutes on stage anyway! What you really remember are the people you meet along the way during the years it takes to make the film.
Q: Who do you admire most or who inspires you most?
A: I'm inspired by my father. He just turned 98 a few weeks ago. He was a dentist, and I always say that he was a dentist with the soul of a jazz musician. He lives with me now, and he still gets up, still takes care of himself. He's always smiling, even with the things he can't do. His courage to still - at 98 - enjoy and love life is something I really admire.
Q: If you hadn't become a filmmaker, what alternative career path would you have taken?
A: I have no idea. In college, I knew that I didn't want to carry a briefcase or work in an office, but I had no artistic talent at all. I couldn't play an instrument. I couldn't draw. I couldn't sing. I couldn't dance. But I realized that filmmaking was something that people were just starting in college. It wasn't like somebody had been playing the saxophone for ten years already and I'd never reach where they were. I was starting out on an even keel with everybody else. I took a film class in college and here I am. I'm glad that that happened.