André Robert Lee, Director, THE PREP SCHOOL NEGRO

André-Robert-Lee Tallulah Bankhead Thursday Interview

Director André-Robert-Lee

***The Thursday Interview is a showcase for creators, innovators and troublemakers to share news and insight about the creative impetus & inspirations behind their latest projects. This week, André Robert Lee, the filmmaker behind the documentary The Prep School Negro shares his journey.


Name: André Robert Lee

Motto: Work it Out.

Occupation: Director and Producer of Film and Television

The Prep School Negro is…

…a documentary that has grown into an experience. I have two version of the film now. The first version is the educational version. I traveled with it to over 175 high schools, colleges, universities and conferences around the the country. I walk an audience through the experience of the documentary during the workshop. The second version is premiering this weekend at the Montclair Film Festival. I made this second version under the guidance of members of the Academy Awards©. I was approached by them to think about making the film into a longer version. We now have the extended theatrical version the The Prep School Negro.

André-Robert-Lee-Spring-1985 The Prep School Negro Thursday Interview

Director André Robert Lee-Spring 1985

I got the idea for the documentary….

…when I first walked through the doors to start 9th grade at Germantown Friends School. I was struck deeply by the environment. I had never really heard the word prep school until I was inside the walls. I wanted to communicate with the my family first and then the outside world about the intense, amazing and challenging environment I was thrown into from day one.

The production process for the documentary was arduous? too much fun? cri de coeur? amazing?

I would not say its a cri de coeur. It is more of a chance to talk about the intensity of the experience. It has been close to 8 years since I decided to make the film. It took a long time to raise the money. The educational version took 24 months to shoot, process (and I mean that personally) and then edit. The extended/theatrical version took about 12 months. This included shooting additional days, and going back into the edit room to destroy and rebuild. I have heard from my fellow documentary filmmakers that is is very unheard of. That’s rather fitting as I have never taken the normal path to much of anything.

My favorite The Prep School Negro memory….

I truly am never great at favorites. I have so many moments I cherish and revisit. Today I will give this one. Elisabeth Alexander, who created and read her poem “Praise Song for the Day” at the 2009 Inauguration of President Barack Obama was my English teacher in high school. She sat me down one day at the end of the school year and told me that I could not write. She offered to tutor me over the summer if I would commit to it. We read Ralph Ellison‘s Invisible Man together and I wrote essays all summer with her guidance. I also learned the value of editing and rewriting that summer. It was a life changing moment.

What’s next for The Prep School Negro?

I have shot a short film called Mama’s Hat. I am in the edit phase of that film. I am also in the development process for a major theatrical feature film on Bayard

Rustin. He is an American hero whose story has not yet been told. I know this is an impossible feat, but I am facing it head on. I must make this film.

Shout outs:

The list is way way too long and I don’t want to exclude folks. I had two sets of editing teams. A few production partners and a ton of folks that stepped in as advisers and supporters. I will add one person that may be fun to list. RuPaul signed on as my Spiritual Adviser early in the process. I think this helped with fundraising.

The Prep School Negro will premiere at the 2012 Montclair Film Festival this Saturday.

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