PARK CITY - I'm not entirely sure when I first met Justin Simien. Actually, correct that.  It was four and a half years ago ( found the E-mail introducing him as the new online publicist for Paramount Pictures from 2009). Having worked for the venerable studio one time myself, we immediately had a number of similar acquaintances both socially and professionally.  And in my position I ended up talking to him about work related items usually once  week.  But, as we chatted about more interesting topics than say the latest publicity opportunities for "The Last Airbender" (you poor child) I quickly realized something about this young twentysomething: He was way too smart for the room and he wouldn't be there long. And within two years, he'd moved on to bigger and better things. 

And with so many people you know in the industry you keep in casual touch. He worked at a company HitFix spent a year fostering a partnership with and then he spent a good amount of time at Participant Media. Business does, what business does. It was when he launched his Dear White People twitter account just as the service was taking off though, that I realized something else was up.  He had plans. And, it turns out, he'd been working for years on a screenplay whose lead character was the same "voice" he was using on said twitter account.  This past week he accomplished something that's rarely done.  He officially escaped from the dark side of the movies business with the Sundance premiere of "Dear White People."

 Trust me, you'll never have to go back.

Stylish, smart and funnier than you'd expect (and, yes, I'm sure I've got some bias in there), "Dear White People" stands out this year not just because it's about modern day race relations, but because of Simien's original voice as a screenwriter and a director. "DWP" demonstrates a vision much closer to early Wes Anderson movie than the pre-fest assumed Spike Lee (without either's long tracking shots). The humor will make you laugh, cringe and get angry all at the same time. Drew McWeeny will have a review up later this week with more details.

In the meantime, I took a few minutes earlier in the week to chat with Justin and a number of his cast including Tyler James Wiggins (best known as Chris from "Everybody Hates Chris"), Tessa Thompson ("Veronica Mars" alum), Teyonah Paris ("Mad Men"), Brandon P. Bell ("Hollywood Heights"), Malcom Barrett (Chris Walker) and Kyle Gallner ("A Nightmare on Elm Street").  Split in two, both interviews are off the cuff, entertaining affairs (one embedded at the top of your post, the second below).  And, yes, the topic of Tyler Presenting "Dear Black People" -- as he and Oprah Winfrey did with "Precious" -- is discussed.

Hey, never say never, right?

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With over a decade of experience in the movie industry, Ellwood survived working for two major studios and has written for Variety, MSN and the LA Times. A co-founder of HitFix, Ellwood spends his time relaxing hitting 3’s on the basketball court and following his beloved Clippers.