Director of Sundance entry ‘Blindspotting’ talks race relations, networking and increased accessibility to the film industry today

Director of Sundance entry ‘Blindspotting’ talks race relations, networking and increased accessibility to the film industry today

The director was in town for the 2018 Sundance Film Festival: Hong Kong


Daveed Diggs (left) and Rafael Casal are also good friends in real life.
Photo: 2018 Sundance Film Festival: Hong Kong

Carlos Lopez Estrada, whose feature film directorial debut Blindspotting has been a smashing success with critics, said there are “no excuses” for young people who wants to get into the film industry today. 

“We live in a time where film is becoming more accessible for someone who’s young to shoot something on a small camera or phone, at a price and reach that was not something we could even imagine ten or even seven years ago,” Estrada told Young Post while in Hong Kong for the Sundance Film Festival:HK. “It used to be that renting a decent camera for an inexpensive price was almost impossible. Now there are commercials and entire films shot on phones.”

Estrada has spent most of his career working on music videos. In addition to working with great artists like Passion Pit, Flying Lotus, and Capital Cities; he has also worked on musical projects with Blindspotting scriptwriters and stars Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal. He directed several music videos for Diggs’ rap group Clipping, and directed the filming of Casal’s live musical theatre and rap workshop #BARS.

Sundance Film festival entry 'Blindspotting', starring 'Hamilton' star Daveed Diggs, is a genuine and heartfelt comedy-drama [Review]

“Daveed and Rafael spent nearly 10 years working on the script, so they wanted someone that they trusted to direct the film,” explained Estrada. “We had such a good working relationship from our other projects that it made sense for them to take me on board.”

Blindspotting contains several almost theatrical rap scenes, which isn’t all that surprising considering Estrada, Diggs and Casal’s musical pedigrees. In fact, the film’s musical element has been a key factor in its success. 

But mixing that in with the film’s more serious topics – such as racism, gentrification and police brutality, while also maintaining its comedic touch – was “the most challenging aspect.”

Estrada debut film 'Blindspotting' is a critical success.
Photo: Ben Young/SCMP

“You go from one scene which is straight up slapstick comedy, to another one that is equally profound and really heavy ideas,” Estrada explained. “We had to make sure one wasn’t better than the other and that it felt cohesive. It was no easy feat.” 

“It was a series of long conversations and compromising and coming up with solutions. But I was happy with what we were doing and I was also motivated by the brilliance of the script. Daveed and Rafael were very deliberate about their writing; they put thought into every word they used. At the same time, they give me and everyone else plenty of creative liberties.”

The best movies to watch out for at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival: Hong Kong

This brings us to Estrada’s final message to young film and art enthusiasts - to understand the importance of networking so you can be choosy about who you work with.

“Your film career can really start to snowball once you start networking,” he said. “Blindspotting showed me how invaluable it is to work on projects you believe in with people that you respect. I was able to give all of myself into the movie; it was such a rewarding feeling because everyone was working so hard to make sure it’s the best it can be, and it’s not always like that. People get sidetracked for money and other superfluous stuff.”


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