AD 150 | Riley Stearns
“The Art of Self Defense”

Riley Stearns (Director + Writer) grew up in Pflugerville, Texas.

His short, The Cub, screened at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. His feature debut, Faults, starring Leland Orser, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, premiered at SXSW in 2014 and was released theatrically.

The Art of Self-Defense (2019) played at numerous international film festivals including the opening night slot of Munich Film Festival and was released domestically to critical acclaim. The Art of Self-Defense is Stearns’ second feature.

He is a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu under, Renzo Gracie black belt, Shawn Williams.

Show Notes: 
  • Stearns' seven-year journey training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and studying at various schools including Renzo Gracie's academy in LA
  • A discussion on Stearns' recent film “The Art of Self Defense”
  • The concept of toxic masculinity, and its effects on society's expectation of people
  • His use of dark comedy, and absurdity in breaking down the stereotypes of men and developing an overall message on the importance of being yourself
  • Using his art as a means to express his emotions and deal with personal traumas, including a recent divorce
  • On Stearns' writing process, incubation period, and organic approach in editing after the script is finished
  • Finding a recent passion playing the mandolin
  • His collaborations in film, and maintaining healthy relationships with those he works with
  • Having wins and balancing what people like versus having a healthy ego as an artist, specifically concerning his reception of his 2013 short film “The Cub” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival
  • Reflection on Stearns' 2014 film, Faults
  • The Art of Self Defense is available to stream on Hulu

Posted 03.18.2020


"I started this series as a means for exploration, an exploration of self, and an exploration of the perspectives of other artists.

This series is an unabridged documentation of conversations between artists. It’s a series dedicated to breaking down the barriers we tend to set up in our own minds. I want to inspire future creatives to have the courage to explore and experiment. This is about making dreams a reality and not about letting our dreams fall to the wayside.

My intention is to give my audience a sense of real human connection, something that feels rich and organic.

When I was thinking of a title I thought of the word “movement”.

In relation to the Renaissance period in art, my goal for this program is to signify a rebirth of consciousness towards the way we look at contemporary art."

- Yoshino