Award-winning director, screenwriter and producer Kirk Fraser speaks on his journey in the entertainment industry, and the importance of compromising while never giving up. Fraser is the president and CEO of the D.C.-based May 3rd Films.
What's your journey been like in the world of television and film?
I'm still on the journey and every day it seems like it's something new. I started out doing internships at local access television stations and really practiced my craft in high school; we had a television production program. It all kind of took off from there.
Was it always something you know what you wanted to do?
From a young age I always had a curiosity about how things were done. I'd see a show and always think about what I would have done differently. I learned that I didn't have those tools around me so I had to create the opportunities for myself.
During my senior year of high school I transferred to another school that had a television production program because I wanted to learn as much as I could before I got to college. The more I learned about the industry, the more I knew it was exactly what I wanted to do.
There are many challenges and rewards that come along with being a director and a producer. What have yours been?
There are a lot of challenging parts, especially when you're dealing with network executives. Compromising becomes a huge part of being a successful director and producer. When you're taking your work to networks [or] movie studios, they're about the money and you'll be about the art. One of the biggest challenges is finding the happy medium.
The most rewarding part about making great documentaries, movies and shows is knowing the impact you've had on someone after they've watched your work. When people come up to me and tell me why they really appreciated something I worked so hard on, it makes me feel good and it doesn't get any better than that.
You inspire many, but who inspires you?
When I was first starting out, definitely Spike Lee, especially because there aren't too many black producers and directors. I also love Oliver Stone's work; I think he's such a phenomenal director. Ron Howard is great as well. As artists we are inspired constantly by other people's work; it keeps you going.
What's the biggest lesson you've learned thus far?
I'm still learning! However, one of the most important lessons I've learned is to stay real to your craft. Don't try to immolate anyone else; just be yourself. Your work is what you're going to leave behind when it's all said and done.
What advice can you give to up-and-coming directors?
You have to understand that not everyone is going to get you, but that doesn't mean that someone won't eventually say yes. It's about consistently putting out work that people enjoy -- and the only way people will enjoy it is if you stay real to who you are. You have to knock on every door until you get what you want, and eventually they'll come looking for you. Also study your craft; know what you're doing.