Seven Questions with Andrew Huggins

Andrew Huggins is the writer, director, and producer of Civil. In the film civilians and soldiers collide and must ultimately decide each other’s fates in South Carolina, 1865.

1. Who are your film influencers?

My primary influences are Kelly Reichardt, Jeff Nichols, Spike Jonze, Billy Wilder, Lynne Ramsay, Alex Garland, and Olivier Assayas. 
2. What are the toughest aspects of making a film today?

Budget is always tight, so being able to handle the logistical parts of making a film so that you can then be creative is so important. We’re in an era of technology where it’s easier than it’s ever been to make a film. Filmmaking is still often brutally challenging, but I’m always thankful to be able to grab my camera and go make something.
3. Best advice you’ve received as a filmmaker?

The best advice I’ve received as a filmmaker comes from someone who didn’t even like movies. My grandfather always stressed to me the importance of relationships. I strive to build important friendships and working relationships with every actor and crew member, on every single set. 
4. What does it mean to you to be a Black filmmaker?

I am Caucasian, however this film in particular taught me so much about the perspective of African Americans in terms of history and in present times. Devin Walker, our lead actor, worked tirelessly to portray the grueling plight of African Americans in the Civil War. In the film, he fights for the Union. However, many white Union soldiers were just as racist as the Confederacy. He fights for his people’s freedom while battling the South and his own commanding officer. I’ve also learned a great deal working with primarily Black film crews and casts on the feature films I’ve shot. I’ve learned how very different it is for them to make something and finish it with additional societal challenges that I don’t face. I’ve also learned so much about culture and the rich sense of family and camaraderie embedded into the way these filmmakers have approached their films and made me feel at home. 

5. What does it mean to you that your film is on Aspire TV and other platforms?

Our film being placed on AspireTV is a dream and so meaningful for me and the cast and crew. We worked very hard on this short film and to gain an entirely new audience is everything we could want from this experience. We’re so thankful for AspireTV and are proud that this story has a renewed chance to connect with audiences. 
6. Advice you would give the next gen following you?

My advice is always that the script is everything. Make sure you do the necessary work in building your story on paper before you move in to production. Secondly, cultivate and maintain meaningful relationships with your collaborators. As much as we love filmmaking, life is bigger than film, and the people helping you tell your story are more important than your characters. 

7.Are there any inspirational films, articles or books that you would recommend to go deeper into the topics and themes in your film?

I’ll admit I’m not very well read, so I didn’t have any specific articles or books that I drew inspiration from. At the time that I made Civil, I was heavily influenced by the films of Kelly Reichardt (Meek’s Cutoff) and war epics like Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line. I was fascinated by the idea of telling a Civil War era story that partly touched on racism while showing things were not black and white in regards to the Union and the Confederacy. There was racism embedded in to both sides, not just the South. Recent Civil War era films that have further inspired this are The Free State of Jones, Birth of a Nation, and The Keeping Room.