Upstart director and storyteller Xavier Neal-Burgin is pushing to tell underrepresented stories in Hollywood.
At only 28 years old, Neal-Burgin has already directed twelve short films, which have led him to become an HBO Film Finalist, a Sundance Lab Fellow, a Student Academy Award Semifinalist—and he has 60,000 Twitter followers to boot.
Neal-Burgin says he is excited by his success and hopes he’ll see increased visibility for black directors, storytellers, actors, and other creatives. Thus far, he has focused his storytelling and his films on the lives of black communities that are rarely recognized on the big screen—and he plans to continue.
“Simply put, I enjoy the varying experiences black people go through and our ability to be both diverse and varied in our depictions,” Neal-Burgin said. “For example, my film On Time explores homelessness and job scarcity for black women, while my upcoming film, A Little Closure, is a ghost story set on the backdrop of millennial, middle class black people. I want to convey the idea we, as black people, can represent and be anything.”
Currently living in Los Angeles, Neal-Burgin spends his days writing and directing his own work, pitching to different production companies, and developing new ideas for future projects.
“Still, at 28, I know I have so much more work to do in regards to achieving my dreams,” Neal-Burgin said. “The ultimate goal is becoming a feature-film director, but I want to explore the plethora of avenues within my industry to tell my stories, and adjacent stories, about black and brown people. I’m in this for the long haul, because I know my voice matters.”
In 2019, Neal-Burgin directed the critically-acclaimed Shudder/AMC documentary Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror, which explores the history of Black people in the horror genre from the early 1900s to the present. The documentary features well-known filmmakers and industry icons, including director Jordan Peele, actors Keith David, Tony Todd, and Rachel True, and writer Robin R. Means Coleman, Ph.D., who wrote the book that inspired the film.
“Horror Noire was made to give light to the undeniable contributions Black people have given to the horror genre,” Neal-Burgin said. “As a whole, Black people tend to find themselves unfairly erased from American history. American cinema is no different. The Horror Noire team wanted to make sure the accomplishments, exploits, and exploitation of Black people within the horror genre can never be erased or forgotten. This is why we feel our project was, and is, so important.”
Horror Noire received praise from critics and audiences alike, maintaining a 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and receiving dozens of positive reviews referencing the documentary’s thoroughness in a wide array of subjects and issues, as well as its entertainment value. The documentary won Best Non-Theatrical Release at the 2020 Online Film Critics Society Awards and Best Documentary at the 2020 Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards.
Horror Noire can be viewed for free on Shudder’s website.