Versatile filmmaker Seyi Peter-Thomas, director of recent short “How Do You Raise a Black Child,” talks inspiration, his early roots at MTV, and making an impact across comedy and drama.

Station Film’s Seyi Peter-Thomas is an Emmy Award-winning director whose most recent work includes MasterCard’s touching #ArnieWould commercial in honor of the late great golfing legend, Arnold Palmer. The spot features scenes in which one character—ranging from children playing golf to professionals on tour—gives another advice, each ending with the heartfelt comment, “Arnie Would”. Seyi created and directed this year’s Webby-nominated branded short for Motionpoems, “How Do You Raise a Black Child,” (also a One Show and AICP finalist with winners still to be announced). It’s a pensive, powerful and beautifully shot film based on the poem by Cortney Lamar Charleston observing a mother and son in their daily rhythms under circumstances specific to young black boys becoming men in America. Seyi has also helmed campaigns for MTV, commercials for Truth (Anti-Tobacco), Sprint, Geico and many other brands.

We sat down with Seyi to learn about what inspires him, his early roots at MTV, how he came to be a filmmaker nimble across comedy and drama, and other fun facts.
Q> Comedy or Drama? You do both so well, from your very funny VMA Geico tie-in spots and star-studded MTV VMA West Side Story promo to the emotional “Arnie Would” spot you directed for MasterCard and the branded short, How Do You Raise A Black Child. Do you prefer one genre over the other?
SPT> What’s funny is that I started prepping the Geico campaign the day after we finished shooting How Do You Raise a Black Child. So, yes, I transition quite comfortably between the two worlds.
Both in comedy and in more emotive work, I’m really compelled by creating moments on screen where relatable, nuanced characters can butt up against extreme or even laughably ridiculous situations. I think of each spot as its own tiny movie, so I’m always pushing to make the story feel as richly layered as possible and to use the camerawork to underscore or punctuate the central emotion or punch line for the viewer. Those approaches hold true for all my work, regardless of genre.
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