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Cord Jefferson Attributes Inspiration to Direct American Fiction to Aziz Ansari During Master of None Shoot

Ansari Spurs Jefferson's American Fiction Debut

Cord Jefferson’s journey to becoming a director wasn’t always clear to him. His inspiration sparked while working on Netflix’s Master of None when Aziz Ansari, the actor, writer, and creator of the show, inquired if Jefferson had any directorial ambitions. Jefferson initially dismissed the idea, citing his lack of formal training in film school and his unfamiliarity with the technical aspects of filmmaking.

However, Ansari’s encouragement played a pivotal role in shifting Jefferson’s perspective. Ansari’s own background in business, rather than film, and his advice to focus on hiring technical experts while bringing his own creative vision to life helped Jefferson reconsider his potential in directing.

This conversation was a turning point for Jefferson, leading him to his directorial debut with the film American Fiction, an adaptation of the novel Erasure. His journey and experiences, including winning the TIFF Audience Award for this film, were discussed in an episode of the Variety Awards Circuit Podcast. The podcast also delved into topics like the SAG-AFTRA strike and its implications for major awards like the Oscars and Emmys.

Jefferson’s path to directing American Fiction was influenced significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Feeling downcast, he read a review of Charles Yu’s Interior Chinatown, which likened its satirical style to Percival Everett’s Erasure. Intrigued, Jefferson read Erasure and quickly decided to adapt it into a film, envisioning Jeffrey Wright in the lead role.

Despite the risk of being too fixated on a single actor before even writing the script, Jefferson was determined to involve Wright, an Emmy and Tony-winning actor known for his versatile roles. Their initial meeting took place unexpectedly on a Malibu beach, where they connected over the character and film’s vision. Wright’s commitment to the project made subsequent steps in the filmmaking process smoother.

Securing financing for the film was another hurdle. After numerous meetings with various producers and production companies, Rian Johnson and Ram Bergman’s T Street Productions decided to back the project. Jefferson, who had faced challenges in bringing his projects to fruition, was moved to tears by this opportunity to realize his directorial dream. Source

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