NYU and UCLA better start taking notes. Again and again, UNO’s film students continue to be a force to be reckoned with and filmmaker KC Simms, a second semester junior, is no exception.
Last Saturday, Simms and his longtime collaborator, Maison Harris (another UNO second semester junior film major) screened their 20 minute short film “Do You Love Me?” to guests at Kirschland Auditorium. The two were thrilled by the support of the community, especially since many they did not personally know were in attendance to cheer them on. “It was a beautiful experience and humbling – a lot of people we didn’t even recognize came out to support,” the Baton Rouge-native states.
The first thing the viewer will notice about “Do You Love Me?” is that it’s a psychedelic voyeuristic experience. There are saturated colors, smeared skies, swaying trees – at times you may feel like you are in Romeo + Juliet on another planet. It’s no coincidence, Simms and Harris are both heavily influenced by musicians like Travis Scott and Kanye West who use striking imagery in their visuals – not something you hear every day from a filmmaker.
“Travis Scott is a huge influence on what we’ve been doing. His videos have always been very psychedelic and visually stunning. His director for certain videos helped him a lot in terms of getting a specific and unique look and he has always used strong images in his work. We also wanted to have strong images in our film,” explains Simms.
Although he also calls Quentin Tarrantino a major influence (and even a splash of Beyonce’s “Lemonade” shorts), Simms says he and Harris, who have worked together since high school, built the premise of the film around their own personal experiences with love and emotion. “In terms of love, we’ve had our own personal experiences in relationships and we wanted to definitely give and express the emotions we were feeling in terms of the confusion, betrayal of sorts and overall just how one can be so in love and yet wonder – is it really love or is just the feelings and emotions of the moment? This expresses how we can act and move in certain instances out of pure emotion.”
The cast is noticeably flawless, starring the two filmmakers and love interests who are naturals on camera. While many student filmmakers’ projects flounder as a result of casting friends, “Do You Love Me?” exceeds undergraduate level casting expectations.
Simms explains the casting process: “Aasiyah Williams was a close friend of mine and in conception she was the first person that popped up because we had a real close relationship. Kobi Green, we knew through a mutual friend, we had seen pictures of her and said we had to get her in. We met her via instagram – everybody was just cool and the chemistry is just really cool and now we are all friends.”
He is quick to point out that films like this are not made overnight. “When I got to high school I met Maison and he was experimenting with videos at that time. He may have shot a couple things, but when we got together we were friends and we just started working together more and building up to this project which is the culmination of everything we’ve done – we wanted to make something big and unique that pushed us to the limit and I think we succeeded in that. It had a lot of ups and downs and it could have ended at any point, but we chose not to stop. We just accepted that bad things were going to happen but we couldn’t stop and say to hell with it. We knew we had to finish it…after you get hit so many times you just got to keep going with it.”
Simms has no plans on stopping. For the burgeoning filmmaker, the four years spent in university are a chance to make mistakes and learn from them. “We recognize that college is four years and it’s a long time but it goes by fast and it gives you a bubble to make mistakes. You got to recognize that it won’t last long but jump on every opportunity you can and use these four years because that’s how you learn.”
Simms is grateful that the landscape is changing for black filmmakers and black actors. “It’s opening up for a lot of ideas. History will look at Jordan Peele as one of the people that opened it up. They will look at a lot of actors like Lakeith Stanfield – his roles are what I would do. He’s just so different and not the average stereotype. I think it’s just going to keep opening up more and more with us (black Americans) being more comfortable to express ourselves in every aspect. We still have a way to go – I do think with larger companies for some reason black actors are still seen as a liability. I think that’s still a hurdle we’ve got to jump. We’ve also got the aspect of tokenism, we’ve got to put a black person in the role but it’s definitely changing for the better.”
The day after KC and Maison hosted their event with their film’s composer, Kirkland Sheppard (a first semester UNO senior), the Oscars took place. But KC didn’t watch. When asked why not, he explains, “Because I want to be there – I don’t want to watch other people there.”
Watch “Do You Love Me?” at: https://youtu.be/acywhllKTEM
Follow KC Simms and Maison Harris on Instagram at @kizzzooo @_markaveli
Follw them on Twitter at @saysaykc @_markaveliii