Spencer Gillis

Chicago & New York City based writer/director and camera operator.

Sweep (2015)

13 min, Dir. Spencer Gillis, USA


2015 Cleveland International Film Festival
2015 Aspen Shortsfest
2015 Athens International Film + Video Festival
2015 Dallas International Film Festival
2015 Sarasota Film Festival
2015 Los Angeles Film Festival
2015 Palm Springs Shortsfest
2015 Stony Brook Film Festival
2015 Rhode Island International Film Festival
2015 Hawaii International Film Festival
2015 Denver Film Festival
2015 YES Film Festival
2016 Hill Country Film Festival


2016 Short of the Week
2016 Vimeo Staff Pick
2017 "Drama" Collection Pick by Vimeo Curation


VIOLA M. MARSHALL AUDIENCE AWARD, 2015 Rhode Island International Film Festival

Director's Statement

SWEEP is a meditation on fear. Fear of authority. Fear of others. Fear of ourselves. In the film, James – a white man – encounters Jean and Benoit – two black, emigrant men – at a local recycling center. What begins as a tense exchange turns playful as the men bond over fatherhood. When an unexpected visitor arrives, however, it leads to an unforgivable parting. 

The creative seed for the film came from my desire to tell a story about fatherhood. In my adult experience, it is rare for men to drop their guard and find a deeper connection. As a father, however,  I'm constantly struck by the way fatherhood can create an instant bond between men. As the narrative took shape I began to see an opportunity to touch on the larger issue of race and racism in a powerful way. While fatherhood was the unshakable expression of humanity with the power to shatter barriers that exist in our society, fear ultimately returns to reclaim its victory.

Growing up in a small town in Kansas then moving away to more progressive and diverse places has had a huge impact on my preoccupations with racism. For the better part of a decade I've lived in the New York City area, where I'm continually humbled by the diverse populace and cultures at my doorstep. Reflecting upon the narrow-sighted views in the small town bubble of my youth, I can't help but be haunted by the stark contrast that in many ways still exists today - particularly regarding issues of race and racism.

The filmmaking process became a cathartic experience. In rehearsals with Tishuan Scott and Hubert Point-Du Jour we had candid discussions about racism and its many forms. For me personally there was a strange sense of relief in talking openly together without reservations about such things. It was liberating to ignore the polarized messages constantly inundating us, and simply have a conversation from a level of personal experience.

That is the purpose of SWEEP – to stir your emotions and compel you to honest and uncomfortable conversation. SWEEP does not purport to answer these big questions; instead it sets the stage for us to ponder them. Are we ready to face our fears or sweep them under the rug?

CONTACT: spencer@twothreefive.nyc