Writer and director Travon Free, who won the 2021 Oscar for Best Live-Action Short with “Two Distant Strangers”, makes an in-studio appearance on Tuesday’s “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”.
Free tells DeGeneres how he came up with the idea for the short film while protesting last year for the wrongful death of George Floyd, who was killed by police officer Derek Chauvin a year ago today, and how he wrote the script in five days.
He describes his film as being about “a Black man trying to get home to his dog,” adding that while the plot “sounds simple, you can complicate that in many ways when you’re telling a story about America.”
“So he runs into a cop and the cop ends up killing him and he wakes up and the day starts all over again. He finds himself going through this loop, trying to figure out how to break the cycle of running into this cop and trying to change his behaviour and do things different, and having the same memories of it.”
Free says his story was inspired by his desire “to try to demonstrate how there’s nothing we can really do to stop it from happening, and that the actual solution lies beyond Black people.”
Free says he was inspired to make the 29-minute film while taking part in protests following Floyd’s murder last summer, “absorbing the energy that the world had taken on once he had been killed.”
“In doing that and repeating that cycle every day and internalizing the feelings you feel when you hear a new name — Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd,” Free tells DeGeneres.
“As a Black person, you go through this cycle of emotions to process these things, and I found myself going through that cycle for these three different people and they were overlapping, and it just felt like living the worst version of ‘Groundhog Day’.
Free talks about taking home an Oscar for the flick earlier this year, telling DeGeneres: “My fear was always that this film is about a subject matter that’s so polarizing to people. Will it be embraced for all of its parts — the technicality, the story, the emotion, the work that we put into it? And could people see beyond their opinion on what they feel about the subject matter to look at the art form and what we created?”
He adds of the film relating to people because it’s just about a man wanting to get home to his dog: “It’s such a calming thing to want to just go home to something or someone who loves you.
To mark the one-year anniversary of the murder of Floyd, DeGeneres and her friends at Shutterfly donate $25,000 to the George Floyd Memorial Foundation.