Stephen Lewis Simpson – The inspiration to fight for the rights of others


We are proud to be TEDx Plovdiv’s partner in its second release. TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people to share good experiences and inspiring thoughts. A combination of live presenters and TED Talks videos blend to provoke deep conversations and often life-changing conclusions, which perfectly matches the topic of this year’ event – “United”.

One of the main speakers of TEDx Plovdiv 2018 is Steven Lewis Simpson and we were more than excited to have the chance to interview him for our blog. Steven Lewis Simpson is an independent film and documentary filmmaker from Scotland. At eighteen, he was Britain’s youngest stockbroker and trader. Four years later he moved to Hollywood to work in the studio of legendary Hollywood producer – Roger Corman. He recently theatrically self-distributed his sixth feature film. The one with the greatest success is called  “Neither Wolf Nor Dog”. The film has become the most successful self-distributed movie of 2017 in the US as the most successful non-Hollywood Native American film in years. So far it has run in over 110 theatres in the US and Canada and has hardly covered 15% of the market.
In the interview below Steven Lewis Simpson is sharing some interesting facts about him and his incredible work.


Can you tell us a little bit more about you and what inspired you to start doing what you do today?

I’m a feature filmmaker from Scotland who has lived in many places and I directed my first movie when I was 23. Bringing great, dynamic stories to real-world environments is what is my greatest inspiration in storytelling.


Why did you choose to move your company from LA to Plovdiv?

I had been to Plovdiv a couple of times before and always gravitated to it, and I stumbled back here and decided to build my company more here. The US has lost its mind these days politically and it isn’t a good place to live in my opinion so needed to get out. But also the business climate is much easier here for me to expand the way that I want to. Plovdiv is a pretty special town.


Why TEDX and what inspires you?

What I have achieved with the distribution of my latest film in the US is truly unique and I know it is important to share that with other filmmakers so they realize that there is a different way. The reason that most people won’t have heard the term ‘self-distributed theatrical release” is that it isn’t done. I know of one other filmmaker that had a small amount of success doing it. But we’ve been breaking some records, like having the longest theatrical release of any film in the US in at least the last decade. This is the TED talk I’d have liked to have heard coming into distribution. People who fight for the rights of others inspires me the most.


In your work what is the most common problem or pattern that blocks your creativity?

Being creative is the easiest part of filmmaking for me. I don’t really experience blocks. It is the share amount of hard work that it takes to make everything else happen with the film that is the true struggle. Certainly less than 1% of my 7-years working on this film have been creative.


What is it that loads you with energy and encourage your creativity?

It is far too much work to feel any energy from the process. It takes all your energy. Last year I had 9-months of working 100+ hours every week. But that is what it took to create such a successful distribution campaign.


How does it feel to be the creator of the most successful self-distributed theatrical release of a movie in US cinemas?

The success of the film has all been about the audience, their support, and connection with the film. Even though I’ve been in more theatres than the last 2 winners of the Cannes Film Festival, the industry still totally ignores the film. Hollywood is not a place where things are rated on merit. It is all about who you know. But I’ve created a system that at least now allows me to bypass the industry other than theatres and I don’t know any other filmmaker who can self-finance their films into theatrical distribution like that. So there is some satisfaction in that.


In this article, we are presenting just a little part of Steven Lewis Simpson’s inspiring experience, if you are curious to hear more from him visit TEDx Plovdiv event on 28th of April.

And one last thing – Do not forget that there will be many more enchanting talks.

Learn more about TEDx Plovdiv here.