Black Magic

Austin, Texas | Film Short


Cristin Stephens

1 Campaigns | Texas, United States

Green Light

This campaign raised $20,857 for production. Follow the filmmaker to receive future updates on this project.

107 supporters | followers

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Black Magic is a unique exploration of one of popular culture’s most persistent tropes: the magical negro.

About The Project

  • The Story
  • Wishlist
  • Updates
  • The Team
  • Community

Mission Statement

Our team is committed to expanding the ways we see Black and Brown people represented on screen. In this project, we get to challenge the age-old depiction of a supporting Black character with no story of their own. We explore the foundations of this popular trope and subvert expectations.

The Story

We are so grateful for the outpouring of support Black Magic has received over the last few weeks! We could not make this film without all of you!

As we move into Production this week, we are looking forward to our Post-Production needs and are setting one final, Finish Line Goal to support Post-Production needs! This funding will go towards hiring an Assistant Editor, Composer, and Colorist. Can you help us reach the finish line?

Black Magic
is a dark comedy that follows Alicia, a Black screenwriter, as she navigates her new staff writer position on a network drama. When she discovers that she’s nothing more than the diversity hire, Alicia tries to prove her worth to a room that must write in a "diverse" character to save their show. As the character devolves into little more than a trope, Alicia faces a choice: compromise her hard-earned dream job or compromise herself?

Written and directed by Cristin Stephens, this film is a unique exploration of popular culture’s most persistent tropes: the “magical negro.” The trope of the “magical negro” not only persists but also prevails as a common depiction of Black characters in popular media. Coined by filmmaker Spike Lee way back in 2001, the trope describes a Black supporting character who comes to the aid of the white protagonist, often with spiritual folk wisdom or magical powers.


Or for a more contemporary example, Jolene in The Queen’s Gambit.


To be clear, we love Will Smith, John Coffey, Moses Ingram and any opportunity for them to be in front of the camera. However, this film is more interested in what happens before the camera is set up - in the writing process.

Black Magic

  • Is an exploration of the magical negro trope - a “magical negro origin story” if you will. At the heart of the film we ask: Why does this caricature persist? And if the caricature was fully embodied in a character with a full story and their own stakes, who would they be? 
  • Subverts expectations, putting our “magical negro” on the court instead of on sidelines of the story.
  • Think Late Night meets Network meets Bamboozled, if they were short films. Black Magic is serious yet irreverent as it tackles an irreverent stereotype.

As a Black woman and filmmaker, I draw from my experiences and the experiences unique to my community to inform the work I create. The magical negro not only perpetuates myths of Blackness but adheres to the idea that Black folks are a monolith. Through a dark and comedic lens, Black Magic explores the parallels between real perceptions and consequential misrepresentations of Black people. It attempts to illustrate the dangers of this popular depiction as well as draw a connection to the real world writers who – consciously or not – replicate it. 

- Cristin

  • We are taking all Covid safe precautions during the shoot (masks, testing, etc.)
  • We’re shooting with an Arri Amira graciously donated by Ben Steinbauer and Berndt Mader of Austin production company The Bear. We're also using Cooke anamorphic lenses to emphasize negative space and capture the loneliness a diversity hire often faces.
  • With your help!
    • If you're able to make a contribution to our campaign, that's wonderful! We're so happy to have you on our team. If making a contribution isn't possible right now, we completely understand! Please consider sharing our Seed&Spark campaign on social media and following @blackmagicthefilm on Instagram to stay in the loop! 


  • We’re hoping to cover at least 50% of our total $26k production budget through crowdfunding.
  • $6500 will support our talented cast -- including covering the costs associated with bringing Cortney Gift (Alicia) and Robert Fuller (Jax) to Austin, TX from New York City. 
  • $2500 will be spent transforming our locations into the set of fictional TV sitcom The Way It Is. We’re especially excited to partner with Austin Public for our Writers’ Room. Austin Public operates public access media in ATX (cable channel 10 being the longest continually running public access station in the country).
  • $2000 will help us hire specialist crew members such as our incredible steadicam operator Heather Grothues. We have more folks we’d like to bring on board — stay tuned for our stretch goals!
  • $1500 will go towards Equipment, including the rental of anamorphic lenses from local equipment house MPS — our incredible DP Carlos Estrada believes these lenses can emphasize negative space, contributing to the feeling of isolation for our protagonist in the Writers’ Room.
  • $400 is earmarked for Covid-19 safety — our entire cast and crew are following strict Covid-19 safety protocols, and these funds will ensure we can provide PPE and testing for our team!



Use the WishList to Pledge cash and Loan items - or - Make a pledge by selecting an Incentive directly.

Travel, Housing, + Paying our Cast

Costs $6,500

Cover the costs associated with bringing our leads, Cortney Gift and Robert Fuller, to Austin, TX.


Costs $2,500

Transforming our locations into the set of fictional TV sitcom “The Way It Is.”

Crew Specialists

Costs $2,000

Allow us to hire specialist crew members such as our skilled steadicam operator, Heather Grothues.

Equipment Rentals

Costs $1,500

Rental of anamorphic lenses from local equipment house, MPS.

PPE + Covid Safety

Costs $500

These funds will ensure we can provide PPE and testing for our team!

Cash Pledge

Costs $0

About This Team

Cristin Stephens


Cristin Stephens is a documentary and narrative filmmaker hailing from Philly, PA. Her non-fiction work has centered media representations of black and brownness, of settlement communities, and has explored tenants' rights and gentrification. Her narrative work leans toward the off-kilter and comedic. Cristin’s films have screened at several film festivals including SXSW and New Orleans Film Festival, and her film installation Dear Black Girl premiered at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  She is also a contributing member of Brown Girls Doc Mafia the Beautiful Project Collective.


Carlos Estrada


Carlos is an award winning southern filmmaker based in Austin, Texas, whose work centers on providing a voice to Latinx-American stories. His work in both fiction and documentary make him a versatile visual storyteller with a focus always on the emotions within the story. His latest short “Ángelito” can soon be watched through ShortsTV, broadcast through North America, South America, and Spain. His work has been featured at the Cannes Film Festival, PBS' Reel South, NPR’s Studio 360, Sidewalk Film Festival, Indie Grits, Film Shortage and El Paso Film Festival. Carlos is a graduate of the MFA program in Film & Media Production at The University of Texas at Austin. 


Karl-Mary Akre


Karl-Mary Akre is a first-generation Ivorian American writer and producer based in sun-drenched Austin, TX. Her writing primarily focuses on centering Blackness within genre narratives of horror, mystery, and science fiction. She has been a Finalist for the 2020 PERIPLUS Fellowship, a mentee in WOC Unite’s #Startwith8 program, and a participant in the 2021 Athena Film Festival Virtual Writers Lab.

After garnering her B.A. in English at Barnard College of Columbia University, Karl-Mary worked as the Creative Assistant at Viacom Velocity and later served as the Media Specialist of the Elsie K. Sloate Media Center at her alma mater. During her time at Barnard, she served as an Assistant Producer and Programmer of the Feminist Film Festival, an Associate Producer and Co-Curator of the Moving Body-Moving Image Festival, and a mentor in the Emerging Filmmaker Mentorship Program. Karl-Mary is currently a Screenwriting Fellow at the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin.


Alexander Rosales


Originally from the Colorado Rocky Mountains, Alexander has nourished his affection for cinema in Austin, TX utilizing intimate storytelling as a film and commercial director. After graduating from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2015 with a BFA in Film/Video and earning the Outstanding Graduating Senior, he freelanced as a Director and DP traveling nationwide working for clients and various production companies. But in an effort to narrow his focus, Alexander has spent the last few years as an MFA candidate in Film & Media Production at the University of Texas at Austin, where he has committed exclusively to the role of a director. His work has been screened at the Austin Film Festival, deadCenter Film Festival, and the Short Corner at the Festival De Cannes in 2011 (while in high school).


Dana Reilly


Dana Reilly is a documentary filmmaker. Her films are intimate and collaborative, exploring how work, love, and family shape women's sense of self. She is grateful to those who share their stories and time with her.

Her work has screened at SXSW, Big Sky, Hot Springs, and Cinequest film festivals. Her most recent film, MS DIVA TRUCKER, won the Jury Award at the PBS Shorts Festival and is currently available to stream on

Born in New York City, she spent her formative years in London, England and currently lives and works in Austin, TX where she recently earned her MFA in Film Production from the University of Texas at Austin.


Sinead Keirans


Sinead was born and raised in New York, NY and attended Middlebury College, earning a B.A. in Film and Media Culture. She worked as a post production assistant to Director Todd Haynes on Carol (2015) and at WGBH Educational Foundation as a Production Assistant on more than 13 series for Lifestyles and National Programming.

Camille Morales


Camille Morales-Zayas is a filmmaker from San Juan, Puerto Rico. She graduated from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez where she majored in English Literature with a minor in Film studies. She also attended the University of Carlos III in Madrid where she studied Film production and explored her love for International Cinema. Her love for storytelling and filmmaking began in high school, where she first took a Film Analysis class and has been making films ever since. She aspires to create films that tell intimate and personal stories people can relate to and hopefully find solace in. Ultimately, she hopes to one day work in her own production company alongside other filmmakers she meets along the way and loves working in any collaborative experiences she can.

Current Team