Phillip Youmans directed, produced, wrote and co-edited his first film “Burning Cane,” an Array release currently playing on Netflix. He also served as his own director of photography. The film was started when he was in high school.

Phillip Youmans is just 19 years old. He grew up in the seventh ward of New Orleans. His first love was acting and as a junior at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), he formulated the story of “Burning Cane” which centers on a woman of faith (Karen Kaia Livers), her son (Dominique McClellan), and her pastor (Wendell Pierce) in a religious community in rural Louisiana.

Youmans caught the attention of director Benh Zeitlin (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”) who eventually signed on as executive producer. The film screened at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival where he won the festival’s Best Narrative Feature Award, marking him as the first African American director to ever win the prize; Youmans also won Best Cinematography and Wendell Pierce was named Best Actor. The film was also nominated for a Gotham Award for Breakthrough Director.

Ava DuVernay’s company ARRAY picked up distribution rights.

Here is what writer/director/producer/editor/DP Phillip Youmans had to share about making “Burning Cane” now playing on Netflix.

AMSTERDAM NEWS: You are a 19-year-old filmmaker. Your first film, you, completed in high school which is now playing on Netflix—you. I’m applauding you, can you hear me?

PY: (laughing) Yes.

AMN: Did you expect this level of success for “Burning Cane”?

PY: I could have never expected it would work out this well. You put the work in and it’s sometimes not as easy to remind myself about how awesome things have panned out.

AMN: I saw the film in New York’s Tribeca Film Festival and I loved it then.

PY: Oh word. Tribeca was crazy. I have a lot of crazy memories that came around Tribeca, where I saw and met people I thought I would never meet. I feel nothing but fortunate that things have worked out this well.

AMN: Do you live in New York?

PY: I’ve relocated to Los Angeles. A lot of opportunities have opened up for me, and I am taking advantage of these opportunities.

AMN: I can only imagine. Ava DuVernay is a wonderful role model.

What was amazing about working for ARRAY? What’s the experience been like working with them?

PY: Amazing! The team has an honorable mission as a distributor.

They’re dedicated to promoting the work of filmmakers of color and women of all kinds, that’s the mission statement and it’s incredibly true.

AMN: So far I’ve liked everything they have sent me.

PY: ARRAY is so dope too because it’s a company founded and almost completely staffed with brilliant Black women.

AMN: Well “Burning Cane” is an unapologetically Southern Black story so it fits.

PY: Exactly it feels like a match made in heaven. I can’t lie, I feel mad fortunate for that too.

“Burning Cane,” an Array Release, now playing on Netflix

(This interview was been edited for length and clarity.)