Writer and filmmaker Riley S. Wilson is known for innovative work. Wilson’s live-action, sci-fi web series Little Apple tells the story of an outspoken, nine-year-old claircognizant growing up in a new Harlem, New York. This brilliantly gifted, African American girl shines as she confronts social injustice one adventure at a time. Little Apple is black girl magic personified! Wilson uses his creative talents to produce an empowering narrative for people of color. In a fascinating chat with QG, he gives insight on how a creative platform can challenge social injustice and how he uses his gifts to inspire change.
What inspired the creation of Little Apple?
In 2015, there was a viral video of a South Carolina school officer physically assaulting a young girl and arresting her. He basically threw her across the room. My family, including my little sister, lived in South Carolina. That could have been her.
After I saw the video, I had a fire under my butt to do something beyond a protest. When it came to police brutality and fighting for racial and social justice, I felt like it was my responsibility as an artist to not only reflect the times but create something that could really aid the movement. I wanted to create a leader that would inspire me and challenge the world-a powerful character like Little Apple.
What was winning the 2019 American Black Film Festival Jury Award for Little Apple in Best Web Series category like?
Honestly, it was one of the most life-changing experiences. It was my second time attending ABFF. The first time, my short film was top 10 for the HBO Short Film Competition, but it didn’t screen. This time, I was actually selected to screen Little Apple and in a very large Regal theater. After that, and networking, I was already happy and felt like I had already won. To win for my category was really an additional (major) blessing.
On stage, during my acceptance speech, it was the most significant point in my career because to my peers, I was finally Riley S. Wilson writer, director, and producer. That’s what I’ve been working to be seen as. That win was surreal, but exactly what I’ve been working towards all 4 years I was developing Little Apple.
Can you share your experience working for Howard University’s The Hilltop? How did you make the creative transition from managing editor to filmmaker?
The Hilltop has a special place in my heart. I was actually in the Howard School of Business, so when I signed up to be a staff writer my junior year, everyone looked at me crazy. I’ve always been a writer, so it was a no-brainer for me. My articles were hefty pieces, some of which included financial analysis and data, something The Hilltop had rarely seen. From examining Howard’s funding make-up over the years to an investigative piece on cheating, I really flexed my writing chops here.
After a year of working for the paper, which was a daily-printed paper at the time, I knew that I could offer more with my business background, so I went for an editor position and got it. The transition to filmmaker wasn’t instant. I actually went from managing editor to book author to writer for Advertising Age and then to filmmaker. Being a filmmaker wasn’t planned; I just knew that the way content consumption trends were going, I needed to be in the visual content space. So I made my first book into a short film.
Can you share a bit about your novella, my ID, and its journey from book to film?
My ID is a sci-fi/drama novella that follows a young boy who’s obsessed with flying. It examines our relationship with our psyche, what Sigmund Freud calls our id, ego, and superego. I wrote the book all throughout college, self-publishing it when I graduated as a sort of self and public proclamation that I am a writer. After a couple of years in the industry, I quickly realized that there was another way I could tell the story of Triven (the protagonist). So I planned a Kickstarter campaign and self-produced the project. Now that I think about it, it’s quite insane that I had little to no experience in filmmaking yet did it anyway–and did pretty well at that.
What motivated you to create ATS.4 Inc.? Also, what is your company’s vision?
ATS.4 Inc. is a multimedia services provider and production studio specializing in the development and marketing of multimedia and new media, including comic books, television programs, films, animation, games and interactive content with a specific tilt towards super-serving people of color.
We want to own and produce imaginative content, new worlds, and characters from the lens of people of color. It appears that Hollywood is starting to invest more money into this type of content, but for ATS.4 it’s not enough to get a show greenlit. It’s imperative that POC are not only in front of the camera and behind it, but in the producer chairs and at the tables that pull, analyze, and strategize around the data collected on us.
Why is cultural representation in creative media important to you?
Content is king; I’m sure you’ve heard that saying before. But I also believe that content is power. Those that control the creation and distribution of content are the ones who drive sentiment and, ultimately, decisions. If we’re not represented, then who’s making all the content decisions, doing all the data analysis and marketing?
Riley S. Wilson
Did you have a mentor growing up that helped influence your career path?
I’ve had great friends, inspirations and guides that I’ve looked to-some old, some young, some alive and some ancestors. As for a specific mentor, that’s probably my mother. Her biggest contribution was instilling in me that I don’t need her or anyone to actualize myself. I should look to people for insight, inspiration, and best practices, but I don’t need the permission of gatekeepers to move.
What’s been the highlight of your career thus far?
Discovering that with a hot idea, time and rigorous intent, I can do anything I want.
What can fans expect from you in the near future?
An afro-futuristic reality.
Photo Credit: www.littleappletheseries.com