Editor’s note: This short-film series is a collaboration between The Root and El Rey Network to support, elevate and promote African-American filmmakers throughout Black History Month via on-air, digital and editorial platforms. Filmmakers were contacted and recruited through film festivals and industry partnerships in December, with finalists selected by both El Rey Network and The Root based on quality, subject matter, and suitability for broadcast and digital exhibition. These talented filmmakers represent the front line in improving diversity of participation and cultural representation in entertainment. Both The Root and El Rey Network are honored to showcase their works and stories.
Kaylon Hunt’s The Brink is an archetypal great short film. In it, Hunt takes a universal subject—in this case, self-doubt—and boils it down to a compact, abstract rendering. It is accessible and yet full of discreet references that science fiction fans will appreciate.
Hunt, a native of Port Arthur, Texas, grew up with a professional interest in math, but theater and cinema soon overtook it and he attended the University of Southern California. Through family friends, he met Viola Davis and Julius Tennon, who have assisted his ambitions through their artist-focused company, JuVee Productions.
Hunt, who wrote and starred in The Brink, spoke with The Root about the creation of his movie.
The Root: What inspired The Brink? Is this a metaphor that you work with often?
Kaylon Hunt: I wanted to tell a story that was very personal, yet relatable and entertaining, and I wanted to do it in less than five pages. Thinking about how often I’ve personally felt like the main character, Rian, at times in my life—stuck, not good enough, anxious about a new endeavor, etc.—I wanted to focus more on what the experience of that feeling was like than plot. The experiences we talk ourselves out of because of fear or doubt, or because of what we think others might think … that internal battle was a fascinating thing [The Brink director] Ben Jendras and I thought would be cool to explore on-screen. I’m a fan of films that are character-focused and delve into duality and psychological themes.
TR: Your initial collegiate interest was math; what led you to turn to film?
KH: I was always drawn to the craft of acting, but I liked math, too, perhaps because of the challenge and it felt more practical. I tended to lose interest once I got into higher-level theoretical courses, and I found myself acting on set more and more and meeting directors, writers and other artists. What drew me specifically to film was the potential to have a bigger voice in my work.
TR: How did Viola Davis and Julius Tennon take an interest in your work, and how have they assisted your ambitions?
KH: I met Viola and Julius through a family connection while I was finishing USC, and we stayed in touch. I think we just connected on a personal level, and I started working with them when they started JuVee Productions. They’ve always been supportive of my goals and given me the creative space to pursue them, whether I’m carving out time to act in a play or write. I presented The Brink to them, and they really dug the concept. And now we’re proud to share it with audiences.
TR: What's the future for The Brink? What else are you working on?
KH: I have a few feature scripts I’m developing, so whatever free time I have, that’s what I’m working on.
Watch The Brink:
The Brink will also air on El Rey Network immediately following the listed features: Avalanche Sharks, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2 p.m. EST; The Dragon Missile, Sunday, Feb. 28, 8:30 p.m. EST.
Editor’s note: Other films in the series also on The Root:
Martin Johnson writes about music for the Wall Street Journal, basketball for Slate and beer for Eater, and he blogs at both the Joy of Cheese and Rotations. Follow him on Twitter.