Interview with Lanre Olabisi – “There is an aspect of the story that feels timely for many people.”

Lanre Olabisi short film A Storybook Ending tells the story of a black man who tells a white cop in self defence. A film which truly speaks to the times and the current climate of what is going on in the world today, we had the absolute  pleasure of speaking with Lanre on his crucial film.

Hi Lanre, how are you doing?

Very well,  thank you. 

Congratulations on your wonderful and extremely relevant short film, “A Storybook Ending”. What was the inspiration for this movie?

Thank you! The idea was born out of an incident that happened to James Blake, a retired Black tennis star, in 2015. He was  standing in front of the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City waiting for a car to take him to the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament. All of a sudden, and for no apparent reason, a plainclothes police officer tackled Mr. Blake to the ground without ever announcing himself. The officer later claimed that he “fit the description.”

I’m 6’2, 240lbs. I wrestled at the University of Michigan. I’m a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I know how to defend myself. This incident actually scared me because I have always been acutely aware that at some point in my life I might just “fit the description.” This encounter led me to ask a cascade of questions that all started with: what if?

What if that happened to me? What if I fought back? What if I hurt the officer? What if I ran away in a panic? Fortunately, I never had to make this choice, but the main character in this film, Wale, does.

There is an aspect of the story that feels timely for many people, but if you think about it, you could really tell this same exact story for the past 100 years and it would still feel relevant. 

In this film, we see four amazing performances by four brilliant actors (Carra Patterson, Sawandi Wilson, Rotimi Paul, and Toni Ann DeNoble). How did the cast for this movie come together?

Carra Patterson and I met a while back when she was teaching at the New York Film Academy with me. She was in the Acting Department, but I had never seen her act before. When she was in JITNEY on Broadway, I made a point to go see it and Carra was outstanding. I knew I wanted to work with her at some point, so when the opportunity arose with A STORYBOOK ENDING, it was really a no brainer to give her a call. Luckily, she accepted.

Carra is actually the one who introduced me to Rotimi. He and I had actually trained at the same acting studio (Esper Studios) and we hit it off right away. I knew immediately that he would be able to nail it.

I found Toni and Sawandi through the casting process. I had a wonderful Casting Director by the name of Lois Drabkin who brought in some really fantastic actors, but these two really stood out for me and it was such an amazing experience to work with all of them. It was probably one of the most enjoyable experiences that I ever had on set. Everyone was so warm, kind, open, and willing to go to whatever lengths to make the project really pop.  

 What was the hardest part during the making of this movie?

Probably the editing. It took a long time for us to find the right tone. Sometimes we would veer into territory that was way too serious and other times it would be too comedic. We wanted to strike the right balance to keep the audience on their toes. At the end, I think we accomplished that, but it took a lot of work to get us there. 

“A Storybook Ending” is currently screening online at the American Black Film Festival and the Black Star Film Festival, How does it feel for you?

It’s great. They are both great festivals so I am really happy that we are able to screen there.

What do you hope that people will take away with them after seeing this movie?

First and foremost, I want people to leave thinking “wow, that was riveting.” After that initial feeling were to wear off,  that I would want them to reflect on the underlying messages of race, class, privilege, colorism and police violence. 

Will we be able to catch “A Storybook Ending” during other film festivals (online or in physical form)?

There are a number of festivals that we have gotten into that have not announced yet. We are also still waiting to hear back from a bunch of festivals. So to answer the question – yes you will be able to catch it at another festival. We just can’t tell you where or when yet, but if you go to you can stay up to date with all of the future screenings. 

What was the main reasons as to why you wanted to go into the movie industry?

I took screenwriting class while I was a senior at the University of Michigan and I fell in love with the process of thinking up an idea and then going out and making it. 


What makes being a writer and director so interesting?

The very fact that you get to create something tangible out of your imagination is still very captivating to me. 

Do you already have other projects coming up?

Yes, I actually have a few that I am writing and developing. In addition to the feature film version of A Storybook Ending, which I would like to make next, I have:

My White Friend, which is a half-hour dramedy series about a young Black couple living in Brooklyn struggling with infertility and willing to do anything for a baby, but when My White Friend shows up, they get the child that they wanted but never expected.

Ṣàngó Negro – The Nubian Prince. It’s a drama series as well with a fairly large budget about a virus-desecrated dystopia where people of color no longer exist and the seemingly only black man left alive discovers that he is a central figure in a far greater conspiracy than meets the eye.

Finally, there is Highway to Nowhere. It is a narrative feature that takes place on the border between Mexico and the United States. It tells three intersecting stories: one about a young teen trying to cross it in search of his father; another about a young man trying to impress his father by controlling both sides of it; and the last about a US border patrol officer who is assigned to protect the very same border he himself crossed as a child.

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