'American Fiction' Director Cord Jefferson Urges Hollywood to Take More Filmmaking Risks During Oscars Speech

The 'American Fiction' director and screenwriter wants to see more nuanced stories in films that don't have blockbuster budgets.

Jeff Kravitz / FilmMagic

American Fiction director Cord Jefferson gave a groundbreaking speech in his Oscars acceptance for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Up against fellow screenwriters and filmmakers Christopher Nolan (Oppenheimer), Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach (Barbie), Jonathan Glazer (The Zone of Interest) and Tony McNamara (Poor Things), it was Jefferson who took home the trophy. In his acceptance speech, Jefferson called for low-budget films to be given a chance, as American Fiction had a small budget of $10 million. Following its Dec. 15 theatrical premiere, the film went on to gross $22.5 million.

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“I’ve been talking a lot about how many people passed on this movie, and I worry that sometimes sounds vindictive. I don’t want to be vindictive, I’m not a vindictive person anymore, and I’ve worked very hard to not be vindictive anymore,” he began. “It’s more a plea to acknowledge and recognize that there are so many people out there who want the opportunity that I was given.”

“I understand that this is a risk-averse industry; I get it. But $200 million dollar movies are also a risk, you know?” he added. “And it doesn’t always work out but you take the risk anyway. And instead of making one $200 million dollar movie, try making twenty $10 million dollar movies or fifty $4 million dollar movies. Like, you can—there are so many people, I just feel so much joy being here, I felt so much joy making this movie, and I want other people to experience that joy, and they’re out there I promise you.”

Jefferson went on to shout out some of his fellow nominees while addressing filmmakers that have yet to see mainstream success.

“The next Martin Scorsese’s out there, the next Greta’s out there—both Gretas, the next Christopher Nolan’s out there, I promise you," he said. "They just want a shot, and we can give them one, and this has changed my life. Thank you all who worked on this movie for trusting a 40-year-old Black guy who has never directed anything before. It’s changed my life, thank you. I love you all, thank you so much.”

'American Fiction' secures the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay! Congratulations, Cord Jefferson! pic.twitter.com/OG1mEubS7I

— The Academy (@TheAcademy) March 10, 2024
Twitter: @TheAcademy

Following his win, Jefferson was in the Oscars press room, where he expressed a desire to see more complex stories about Blackness, rather than stereotypical narratives.

"American Fiction" Oscar-winner Cord Jefferson on what the film's success means: "There is a market for depictions of Black life that are as broad and as deep as any other depictions of people's lives" https://t.co/zBZiywMTRo pic.twitter.com/wlN8UUDklN

— Variety (@Variety) March 11, 2024
Twitter: @Variety

Based on the 2001 Perceival Everett novel Erasure, American Fiction follows protagonist Thelonious "Monk" Ellison, a Black author whose satirical book garners high acclaim despite him writing it in jest.

Jeffrey Wright speaks on his character’s biggest struggle in ‘AMERICAN FICTION’ at the world premiere. pic.twitter.com/0vV1myuSWz

— Complex Pop Culture (@ComplexPop) December 7, 2023
Twitter: @ComplexPop

Sterling K. Brown on what his biggest takeaway was from ‘AMERICAN FICTION’ at the world premiere. pic.twitter.com/J6kJlE0Q14

— Complex Pop Culture (@ComplexPop) December 8, 2023
Twitter: @ComplexPop

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