Here’s our first members-only post: If you haven’t yet watched “In This World,” a new short film we just published, we strongly suggest that you do. It’s a moving portrait of a determined teenager growing up in Durham, North Carolina. We had a lot of questions when we watched this film, and thought you would too, so Narratively’s editorial director, Brendan Spiegel, went behind the scenes with filmmaker Kelly Creedon.
BS: How did you meet Courvosier Cox and decide to make a film about him?
KC: I met Courvosier or “Vosiey” through a mutual friend in the summer of 2014. Pretty quickly he told me about his big plans: He was about to launch his career as an actor, singer and comedian and head to L.A. to be a star. He was planning a talent show and needed help making a demo reel to send to talent agencies.
I was immediately captivated by his oversized ambition and endless optimism. It was striking to hear such big dreams and confidence coming from such a young person. At 14, Vosiey was small for his age but seemed to have a very clear sense of himself and his place in the world, even if it didn’t completely line up with the world around him. I was curious about trying to understand how he sees and moves through the world.
Is he always as unshakably optimistic as he appears on screen?
I spent a lot of time with Vosiey over the course of more than six months filming this project. I was continually struck by his positive and resilient approach to life, even when things didn’t seem to be working out as planned. While his outward optimism and belief in his own eventual success seemed completely sincere, I often wondered if underneath he was experiencing any of the self-doubt or fear of failure that I certainly experience every day.
One of the only moments I saw a slight crack in that facade was during an interview when I asked him about what makes him believe in himself. He responded, “I have to believe in myself. Even if it’s not true, you’ve got to still believe. No matter what.”
The scene with the police officer leaves such a striking impression. Can you tell us what filming that was like?
Vosiey was out promoting his showcase in Downtown Durham. When the officer pulled up and got out of the car, I put up my camera to film the interaction. The officer asked me if I was going to take a picture, and before I could respond, Vosiey immediately stepped in and explained that I was his photographer and that we were out promoting his upcoming showcase. Because Vosiey took control of the conversation, the officer turned away from me and I was able to continue filming.
There’s another scene where Vosiey and his brother are looking at what he calls “a paper full of all criminals.” What is that publication?
It’s a tabloid paper called The Slammer that publishes the mugshots and charges against people who have been arrested in the local area. It’s sold at local convenience stores. The Christian Science Monitor has an article about the paper and the guy who publishes it.
After the film wrapped, Courvosier got in some legal trouble – what happened?
About a year after we finished the film, Vosiey was arrested and charged with over three dozen felony and misdemeanor theft charges after a series of car break-ins. He was 16 at the time and charged as an adult, as North Carolina is the last state that continues to treat all 16- and 17-year-olds as adults by default in the criminal justice system. (Editor’s Note: North Carolina lawmakers recently passed a law that will “raise the age.”)
In June 2017, Vosiey pled guilty to three felony charges and received a sentence of probation, restitution and community service.
Has this dampened his determination to make it to Hollywood?
Vosiey is still very committed to his goal to be a performer. In fact, when his case was ultimately resolved, the judge granted permission for him to travel to L.A. this summer because he had already bought a plane ticket and made plans. I haven’t gotten the full report yet on his time in California, but I’m guessing he’ll be looking for a way to go back again soon. He’s also in school and working towards achieving his high school diploma.
Vosiey’s determination is inspiring, but one can’t help wonder if “this world” is destined to disappoint him. What message did you hope to leave the viewer with?
I’ve heard people have a range of different emotional reactions to the film and I think a lot of that maybe depends on the background and experiences of the individual viewer. I don’t intend to leave viewers with any kind of prescribed emotional experience; instead, I’m hoping to open a tiny window onto one unique human experience and hopefully use that window as a means of generating dialogue and reflection.
Anything else you’d like to let viewers know?
A number of people have responded to the film saying that they’d like to see more support for teens like Vosiey with dreams of working in the arts. Here are two wonderful Durham-based organizations doing this work:
Walltown Children’s Theatre offers classes in dance, music, acting and other performance arts that are accessible to a diverse range of students from different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. Vosiey was able to study dance and acting at WCT on scholarship.
Blackspace is an Afrofuturism digital maker space where students can attend free workshops around digital art, storytelling + technology.
What are you working on next?
My main commitment at the moment is editing the feature documentary Farmsteaders about an independent dairy farm in Southeastern Ohio. Quick synopsis: Out of the ashes of a once-thriving farming community, a philosophical farmer gives everything he has to resurrect his late grandfather’s land, provide for his growing family, and reimagine a better way to feed people. Stay tuned.