Rolling Out

Storyteller Neil Drumming embraces ‘Big Words’ made for the silver screen


Neil Drumming is a filmmaker, journalist and pop culture critic. A former staff writer and editor at Entertainment Weekly, Drumming’s work has appeared in numerous publications including Wired, The Washington Post, Vibe, Rolling Stone, Essence and Vanity Fair. A Brooklynite, he’s excited about his latest project, Big Words, where he serves as writer and director. Big Words is a film about a once-promising hip-hop group, confronting regret and change on the eve of Obama’s historic election.

Do you most often actively seek inspiration or does it find you? Or is it a combination of the two?
I seek inspiration. More often I make sure to be in places where it is sure to find me.

What led you to art in general and to your art form in particular?
I’ve always liked to create things. Writing and telling stories especially came to me at an early age.

Have you ever been involved in traditional business? If so, how?
I worked as a magazine journalist for many years. I don’t know if you’d call that traditional, though.

How do you measure your success?

I’m a one-step-at-a-time kind of guy. I begin something, finish it, and then try to start something better or more interesting to me in the moment.

Who do you consider to be your peers in your field? 
I guess my peers would be filmmakers like Barry Jenkins (Medicine for Melancholy) and my amazingly talented distributor Ava DuVernay. There are many filmmakers who I respect and admire like Alexander Payne and Richard Linklater — people who do the kind of work I aspire to do.

What affirmations do you repeat to yourself that contribute to your success?

On particularly stressful days I mutter “FML” under my breath to no one in particular, but I wouldn’t consider that an affirmation.

What role would you like to see art play in the community?
I like to see people of any community enjoying themselves. I like to see art broadening people’s perspectives.

What software, app or other technological innovation has made the biggest difference in your life or career?

Final Draft. You can use it to write movies.

What is your favorite vacation destination and why?
I mean, it wouldn’t always be my first choice, but I have always been in love with Epcot Center in Walt Disney World Florida. It is the home of many a fond memory for me and symbolizes dreaming and hoping and looking optimistically toward the future.


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