I started out at Procter & Gamble marketing panty liners, so basically selling women insecurity. I thought there must be more to life than this. Then I was on set for a Dr. Scholl's commercial, and I asked one of the execs, 'How do you get a job behind the camera?' and he said, 'Film school.' So I quit and applied to NYU.

I wrote poetry and short stories. I would send them to magazines; they wouldn't get in. But short stories are how I found philosophy and how I'd understand the world.

It's a failure of imagination if you can only write what you know - we have to be able to imagine different worlds.

I was interested with exploring the idea of who gets to be in possession of the land - how it's sometimes impossible to go back home, how family can be the thing that drags you down.

As long as you tell the best story possible, you can trust that people will be able to connect to it.

In an industry that's uncertain and when you're in a lot of situations that are anxiety-causing, to have someone there who has your back unconditionally and cares for you and the material and would give anything to make sure everything is OK, makes you feel so much better. It gives you a sense of security as an artist.

I can't put anything out that's not me.

I think art breaks down otherness.

Contemporarily, we struggle with people worried about representation sometimes. It's a burden, as artists, that we take on that limits the work. It limits the characters people play. It limits the roles they want to do.

My dad was a cop, you know, and I grew up three houses down from people who used Confederate flags as curtains.

My ultimate dream was just to be an auteur.

History informs where we are and how we got here.

I want people to get from 'Pariah' that it's okay to be you and not to check a box as a parent or child.

Culture - art, music, literature - is the long game, because it's the way to change people's ideas in a more personal way.

I had originally written 'Pariah' as a feature, and we shot the first act as a short film, and then we used the short as a marketing tool to fundraise for the feature.

We shouldn't be discriminating against each other. The whole 'light skin versus dark skin' is an idea we need to break down.

I'm interested in characters and relationships.

I grew up in Nashville in a white suburb. We lived next to a Klan member. We didn't see hoods, but my dad knew that guy was a Grand Dragon.

I still want to do features, but on my own terms.

My first job was at Proctor and Gamble in Cincinnati, my second job was at a pharmaceutical company in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey. My third job was at Palmolive. And I realized, three jobs in three years, maybe it wasn't the job. It had to be me.

When I first came out, holidays were hard. I reached a point where I didn't go home anymore. I constructed my own, kind of like, family group around Christmas.

I grew up listening to Mary J. Blige's music. When I initially met her, it was like, 'Oh, wow. I'm meeting this woman whose music was the soundtrack of my college years.'

I definitely felt the desire to, like - I definitely knew there was an elsewhere. I definitely knew that, like, if I were going to be free, I needed to be away from, kind of, like, Nashville and kind of get out of the South and get out of the country.

There's a dearth of media around young black women and certainly a dearth of LGBT media for people of color.

I want more images onscreen because when I was growing up, I think, like, that one kiss in 'The Color Purple' was the one thing that I had. Or 'The Watermelon Woman.'

For me, 'Pariah' is very much about that inner churn. It's about this person's emotional inner life, and that's really what I wanted to bring to 'Bessie.'

Our country is pathologically violent.

There's a line that runs between everyone and their ancestors, and you cannot sever that. Maybe disassociate from those ideas but not how you are connected to them. But, you can realise how you've benefited and change how you raise your kids.

I'm not a writer that writes every day. I just kind of have ideas. I jot them down when I have them, and when I have enough, I just start. And for me, I start more around noon, and I'm all about feeling. Once there's a theme, I can't not write.

I was always going to direct. I wasn't going to hand my characters over to anyone else.

When I first came to New York, I was surprised by all these out teenagers who were openly on the street being who they were. That intrigued me because I was 27 and still struggling with being myself.

I thought I'd get an MBA, and then I could be anything. And I'd write on the side. That was the idea.

I've been around many different lives, many different voices. It was amazing material for a writer.

I just want to tell stories that are meaningful and have inspiration to them; people can watch it and take away something, or maybe they'll just think about themselves differently or think about the world differently. I just want to create characters that live on.

I'm always excited about stories that allow me to explore a character and create interesting stories and worlds that we haven't seen before.

I like 'Paris is Burning' by Jennie Livington.

Having to stake out your identity and have people question whether or not you're being yourself was a tension that I could relate to.

Growing up, I was very aware that there weren't many people like me on the screen.

For me, Sundance always felt big. It's not the only way to make your way, but for me, it was definitely that critical link between struggling artist, kind of working on my own, to actually working professionally and being connected and being seen.

Each moment is defined by a multitude of histories, the past constantly converging upon us, perpetually decaying and reforming itself on the steady pulse of now, now, now, now.

The only advice I can give is to surround yourself with people who are friends and people who believe in you and your material and who are going to help you take it to the next level. It doesn't mean you don't listen to criticism, but you listen to it and edit it, and you figure out what you can take.

It's okay to be yourself and to love and accept yourself however you are.

When I first started going out to lesbian clubs, I felt a very binary recreation of hetero culture. There are butches and femmes, and I felt like I was neither of those things. I'm in a turtleneck and jeans and just learning to be comfortable in that space. I realized I don't have to be a certain way.

I kept getting offered all this young adult stuff. I don't want to keep telling teen coming-of-age stories!

Knowing what you want is not a shortcoming. Let people deal with their own anxieties.

If I can go three grandmothers back and find a slave, that means someone else can go three grandmothers back and find a slave owner. When you interrogate your histories, it forces you to rethink who you are and where you are.

I had this thing where I only wanted to work on original material, no adaptations, and obviously, that changed. I really wanted to have the resources and have the space and the time to tell stories that I've really cared about. I've kind of changed my approach, but I've gotten to do that, to tell stories that I really care about.

For 'Pariah,' people were surprised Kim Wayans was there, but comedians have a dark streak; they're comedians for a reason.

Art makes you see people as individual, unique human beings. Art, in that way, allows us to see each other in particulate, as opposed to in aggregate.