“I’m a rarity,” admits Nelson George, “a middle-aged rookie director.” But with age comes wisdom, and the prolific 49-year-old nonfiction writer (“Hip Hop America”), novelist (“Urban Romance”) and occasional screenwriter (“CB4”) brings to his feature directorial debut “Life Support” decades of experience. “I don’t know if it’s personal cinema,” he says, “but the advantage is that I’ve lived a lot of life, and I should be able to tap into that.”
Indeed, the story of George’s Sundance closing-night film — about a woman, played by Queen Latifah, who is HIV-positive — is based on the life of his own sister. “She has had the virus for 12 years and it’s been a big issue in my life and my family’s life since she’s had it,” he says.
Working on “Everyday People,” the Brooklyn-based HBO original movie he produced, helped George explore the subject matter on a broader level. “The virus is the reason why this movie exists,” he explains, “but the nuance is growing up in Brooklyn.”
But that doesn’t mean the film was any less personal. At the first read-through of the script, Nelson remembers crying along with a half dozen of the actors. “It connected everyone to how much it meant to me,” he says. “It was embarrassing on some level, but it brought forward how real the story was and how much emotion was connected to it.”
“Nelson is passionate about the work,” says “Everyday People” writer-director Jim McKay, who also worked on the “Life Support” script. “He is a smart and open collaborator and is constantly seeking new and interesting ways to dramatize real-life situations.”
Despite the physical challenges that surprised George about directing (“Two weeks after, my legs and back were so fucking sore, I felt like someone beat me with a baseball bat”), he’d like to continue to direct. He has the semi-autobiographical
” ’79” set up at Killer Films and a “male weepie” with “Life Support” producers Jamie Rucker King, Marcus King and Jamie Foxx.
“I just want to do things that matter to me,” says George. “I’m not going to be doing ‘Booty Call 5.’ ”
Inspired by: Ken Loach’s “Raining Stones,” Mike Leigh, “Once Were Warriors,” “City of God” and “Dirty Pretty Things.” “All of these films are united by the fact that they’re about working-class or poor people,” George says.
Reps: Brian Siberell, CAA