An award-winning film from Mickey Meyer’s Group Nine Studios provocatively captures the issue of race and police violence
The 2020 movie “Two Distant Strangers,” portrays a Groundhog Day–like scenario in which a Black man is killed by a white police officer over and over again, despite trying to avoid a confrontation. On Sunday, April 25, film producer Mickey Meyer ’03 had hustled home from coaching his son’s Little League game, and turned on the TV just in time to hear the announcement that his 32-minute film had won an Oscar. In a normal year, Meyer would have been dressed to the nines at the ceremony, along with writer/co-director Trayvon Free and co-director Martin Desmond Roe.
“That’s one of the positives of a global pandemic,” he said. Meyer watched the program surrounded by family. “Being able to see my sons react, having my parents there, who instilled in me that sense that it would be possible to move this film through—it was incredible,” he said. “I’m still trying to process it. It doesn’t feel real. It feels like a movie.”
Free approached Meyer with the script shortly after the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, at a time when the country was undergoing a racial reckoning. “My role was removing hurdles, finding financing, connecting the dots on talent—basically building an army behind the film.” The coronavirus didn’t stop the protesters in the street, and it didn’t stop the making of the movie. “Two Distant Strangers” was the first film that the Screen Actors Guild allowed to go into production after the pandemic began. It was filmed in five days. Keeping it short was a way to make sure it saw the light of day quickly, Meyer said, and to reach a wider audience.
Meyer is president of Group Nine Studios, which produced the short that streamed on Netflix and which manages digital media brands such as The Dodo, Thrillist, PopSugar, and NowThis News. He said it fit perfectly with the studio’s mission.
“Black Americans have the feeling of Groundhog Day every time they hear about another police shooting of an unarmed Black person,” he said. “They’ve tried everything they can possibly think of,” just as the “Two Distant Strangers” protagonist has. “Our country is divided right now, and it’s hard to find a way to communicate when words fall on deaf ears. Art is a way to evoke a feeling in viewers, helping the conversation along.”