We had the good fortune of connecting with Trei Hill and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Trei, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking.
I do not think that there are as many 20-30 year careers with the same company as there used to be. I also do not feel like I would enjoy that type of career. Creating your own path and building a unique skillset that you want people want to pay you for is very uncertain in comparison but maybe that’s the way it’s always been. Especially for artists. You have to bet on yourself so that you build the skills and conditioning required for your tasks and there’s no other substitute for experience. All of my productions are a bi-product of what skills and network I’ve most recently obtained. Decisions I make are based off of that and honestly rarely feel risky because of all the planning. There is a saying that goes, “your treasure lies in your inner most cave,” and I say that because I feel I always have to challenge myself to do the thing that I may fear most. Whether it’s learning a new software, or doing a crowdfund, or the writing process, or waking up for a 6am call time; if I want to make this film the way I want to make it, then I have to dig deep. Showing your script with others and leading a talented cast and crew can all be very scary but that’s just what filmmaking is. Choosing this as a career is risky because you don’t know when the next check is coming and if you aren’t the 2% that you see on television, then you are just trying to make it to the next gig. It’s the career, and being compensated and having consistent pay that may feel the most out of my hands at the moment, but I also stay busy creating so I do not think about it much.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I pride myself on my infinite work ethic from my grandmother, kindness of my pops, and my ambition from my mother. I’ve always had a big imagination and have written and created many different forms of art. I’ve enjoyed experiencing culture via books, travel, and friends and I want my films to reflect that. I also enjoy learning about world history, meta-studies of spirituality, and the Black American experience. I’m most excited about growing as a writer and director and creating more films. I went to undergrad for film & television at The Art Institute of Washington. Less than a year later, one of my professors suggested I contact an old classmate of mine and he got me my first production assistant gig. Those years really helped me understand production from the large studio perspective and I took that into graduate school to really master filmmaking in order to tell strong stories. Working hard and keeping a positive attitude, becoming an asset for other talented people garnered success through the festival circuit with my short films, along with different post production and production management skills that keep me employed. Nothing of value comes easy. It was hard to get consistent days working as a PA, especially at the beginning. I would get a call to work as I emcee an event Sunday night, get a ride as close to the set as possible, find a bench to catch a few Z’s, and get up for the day in hopes of getting asked to come back for the next day. I’ve also had a handful of short film productions fail. My writing style tends to have very expensive concepts and I’ve made all the mistakes when trying to film a party scene (warning, throwing an actual party is not the way to go) or bringing a bedroom set out in the middle of a bug infested field (the entire house infested with bedbugs for a month). Sometimes there was no crew or actors that no show, or always looming surprise expense with no contingency so now it’s canned food for the rest of the summer. Collaborating with others with no return or even formatting issues in post after checking all the other boxes. All’s that to say is that I always say you have to respect the film gods and always follow the process. Always dig deep and find the solution and execute; repeat. And enjoy the process. I enjoy each facet and try to remind myself to enjoy it, because once it’s in the can, and everyone is watching it, it’s not yours anymore. I make films because those are the skills I have been blessed with and I enjoy being a vessel that can create films that are entertaining while thought-provoking.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m vegan so anytime anyone is in town, that is an excuse to go to Slutty Vegan. A bit pricey and while vegan, definitely not nutrient-based, so of course it’s delicious. Atlanta has so many gorgeous green parks and public areas so we could hang out somewhere on the Beltline for most of the day and then go to one of the small Hipster neighborhoods like East Atlanta Village or Little 5 Points to here some good music, improv show, or the Drive-in Theater at the end of the night.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My wife and my auntie for all their support. All the PA’s and AD’s that call me to work on set. The handful of amazing professors and classmates that taught me about filmmaking.
Linkedin: Trei Hill
Facebook: Trei Hill
Youtube: Trei Hill
Elisabeth Lanz, Noah Heinrich, Dominic Helton