It’s not every day a side interest becomes a Student Academy Awards-nominated film. Shane Watson, an O’Fallon, Illinois, native, became interested in film during a trip to Barcelona in 2013, and only four years later, his short film “I Live Here” is up for an Oscar.
“I never thought I’d be a semi-finalist in my life, and then I got told I was a finalist. It’s amazing,” says Watson. Regardless of the results, the filmmaker already feels as though he’s won. “I’m meant to tell stories of actual things that are happening to black people in America. It was also an issue of ‘I’m black; I’m gay,’ and it’s a weird situation for some people.” The film is about a new San Francisco resident who is experiencing his sexuality and race in a new city with his two roommates.
“The film is about a gay black guy who moves from the south to San Francisco in hopes of experiencing his sexuality. He moves in with two gay roommates — one is black, one is white —and they basically tell him he needs to go to specific places to redeem his identity,” says Watson. The importance of the film is monumental. For Watson, the film is a personal telling of his experience in California and his coming out. “[The film] is about being black and being gay — and what it’s like trying to live my life. Not everyone knows I’m gay. If you see me walking down the street, you wouldn’t know it. Through the film, I’m telling everyone.
“One of the frontline activists of Black Lives Matter came out as gay, and when he did, I saw on my Facebook feed that people weren’t supporting him anymore because he was gay. It was the stupidest thing I’ve heard,” says Watson. “When you’re gay, there is a fear of homophobia.” Through the film, according to Watson, he was able to express his true self and touch on the subject unlike before.
As for the future, the world is Watson’s oyster. He’s been planning on entering film festivals across the Midwest, assisting a few people on their film projects, working on a few stories himself, and looking for a place to stay in LA. But overall, Watson says, “I want to make films to show people what’s really going on in the world.” V