“I was immediately drawn to the story and the way that it asked this very large question about could one moment in your life define your whole life,” said director Anthony Mandler during his turn at Deadline’s Sundance Studio to speak on his directorial debut feature, Monster.

Based on the young adult novel by Walter Dean Myers, its a familiar story that centers on Steve Harmon, played by rising star Kelvin Harrison Jr, a bright, sensitive 17-year-old who stands trial for acting as a lookout during the lethal armed robbery of a Harlem bodega. An honors student and aspiring filmmaker, now he’s seen as just another young black criminal. But Steve and his lawyer declare his innocence and attempt to defy the odds in a bid to win his freedom.

“To crystalize the lens and look at mass incarceration and criminal justice and the ways our laws were written, as well as this incredible journey of a young artist,” said Mandler on his decision to take on the project. “Watching this kid from a great family goes to a great school seek out his take on the world and how that curiosity leads him to a place where he now has to defend his life against what happened, I was attracted to it on all those different levels.”

The pic, which was written by Radha Blank, Cole Wiley, and Janece Shaffer, also stars Jeffrey Wright, Jennifer Hudson, Jennifer Ehle,Tim Blake Nelson, Rakim Mayers, who joined Mandler and Harrison Jr at the studio.

Catch the rest of the interview above.

The Deadline Studio is presented by Hyundai. Special thanks to Calii Love.