Beyond the Lights Director and Actor Discuss Film

Florida A&M University students were invited to an advance screening of romantic drama, Beyond the Lights, following a Q&A session with writer and director Gina Prince-Bythewood and actor Nate Parker.

The movie is about a love story between two people that teaches the importance of accepting one’s authentic self. The film addresses the hyper-sexualization and the shaky state of the music industry.

Prince-Bythewood, creator of Love and Basketball and The Secret Life of Bees, and Parker of The Great Debaters and Red Tails, talked about the film.

Beyond the Lights was shown in January at the Toronto Film festival, and Bythewood was proud of its reception.

“That was amazing, that was the world premiere, and you just never know when you put it in front of an audience, and we got a standing ovation so it was great,” Bythewood said.

The film was four years in the making for Prince-Bythewood. She said that the anticipation and fire still remains.

“It was such a struggle trying to get this made, so the fact that I can look onto the screen and see the movie that was in my head is amazing, it doesn’t always happen that way,” Prince-Bythewood said. “Now to be here with a film that I’m proud of, it’s great.”

When asked about the challenges of his role, Parker discussed avoiding the cliché.

“I think initially, reading the script was self reflecting on how can I make sure this character doesn’t come across as the stereotypical guy trying to save the girl,” Parker said.

How do I illuminate the layers that were already within the character in such a way that you say that he too needed her. That without each other they were kind of doomed, because sometimes in your generalization of the film, you miss the layers,” Parker continued.

Many will recognize Parker from his other films, most of which he had a love interest, but this one differs from the ones in the past.

“With this one, it deals with mental health and suicide, so it’s important that the character doesn’t take a selfish step towards Noni, but he takes one of concern of her well being the one who heard her cry and supporting her,” Parker said.

Prince-Bythewood shared advice to novice filmmakers.

“Be passionate about what you’re writing,” Prince-Bythewood said. “Love and Basketball, every studio turned it down. Beyond the Lights, every studio turned it down twice. You just need one yes. If you’re passionate, that fuels the fight and keep you going.“

Prince-Bythewood said she’d like to think the audience could leave inspired and be able to enrich and cultivate the people who witness it.

“It’s a film about finding your voice,” Prince-Bythewood said. “Finding your authentic self.  I think it’s something definitely missing in today’s society. We’re trying to show in this film is the underbelly of the flossy life.”

Ashley Kelley a junior pre-nursing student from Jacksonville, Fla., said she loved the film and it’s her new favorite movie.

“I absolutely loved the movie,” Kelley said. “It was very empowering and had beautiful life lessons, it made me want to be in love. Easily one of the best movies of the year. It’s my new favorite movie.”

Beyond the Lights is in theatres everywhere now.