Before 2011 began I had not directed a thing in about 3 years- and even that is still in post. So I was a frustrated filmmaker who found a filmmaking niche in hosting events and as a festival director for an indie film festival in San Diego. I became known as a huge supporter of indie film- which I did not mind as a title or as a responsibility. I naturally like to build communities anyhow so it was a good fit plus I made lots of friends and contacts through these ventures. Hell, I am grateful for those opportunities and I like to think that I rose to the occasion. With that said, I knew this would all just play into the blueprint of my career as a director.
I will never forget sitting down and talking to a friend and long time film crew cohort, Kurt Braun when he discovered I wanted to direct. He in fact had no clue. I was utterly confused- cuz wasn't me running festivals, putting together networking events, and hosting indiefilm hashtags online the same as...oh...wait...suddenly I got it.
So, in the beginning of 2011 I got an opportunity to direct a video for a song that brought me to hidden tears the first time I heard it. I related to it many times over. I put on my directing hat and went for it. With this project I had the ability to work with 3 time emmy award winning DP Mario Ortiz, we had a bit of a budget to work with and had lots of the filmmaking tools we needed. It was a 3 day shoot that took lots more creative energy- mentally to truly conquer than had been exercised in recent years.
While I am very happy with the final product we are stuck in post on some visual details that need to be fixed before everyone is happy with the final product. Either way, I can stand proud on the project.
With all of that said, when all the shooting was done- I knew it had been too long since I had directed and I definitely felt rusty. I knew if I were to ever rise to the occasion of being one of the best filmmakers in cinematic history (yes- that is my overly ambitious goal) then I had a lot to do. So, I set out to direct this year and actually be considered by friends and colleagues a real, live filmmaker.
The second opportunity I got to direct in 2011 was another music video- One Beating Heart- which was a project conceived by singer/songwriter Justin James. This was to be a video that would market the song as a download on iTunes of which all proceeds would go to All Hands Volunteers.
I knew I was gonna take it. First, Justin is a good dude who is uberly professional, second it was for charity, third it I had met a producer I wanted to work with and fourth it was my first real gig as a director in LA since returning. The concept was simple. It was a one day shoot ultimately that had to be spread over two days. So, I hired Lynda Lopez as my producer and rolled the dice and asked publicist, Cid Swank, I had met during San Diego Indie Fest 7 to represent us on the project. She agreed. We were all very happy.
After we shot and looked at the footage- I both loved it and was a bit worried about how it would actually come together.
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This is where the power of a good editor was reiterated. Our editor Michelle MacKinnon rocked it. The video has some high energy and meaningful images to go along with its meaningful lyrics. I am just awaiting the last cut- and it should be up for public view and download.
Now, I got this gig right in the middle of me finding a way to start up the Mental Eclectic ensemble again. So, by the time we shot we had a few people join us from the newly formed ensemble. A few of the newly discovered talent joined us in the shoot and were great to work with.
Now, it is months later and as a group we've been shooting regularly. Four events in the last two months have created confidence in myself as a cinema director. The first and foremost was our first 48 hour film project together. "Lost Heroes" was created through the elements of getting the genre Superhero, the prop dust mask, the character Jeremy North- a politician and the line of dialog "don't tell me that what I think it is."
When this weekend was finished and the final edit was done- we knew- we could see it plain as day- that we had done something that was noteworthy and I had directed it...I was a proud papa. Then we made it to the finals in LA, got nominated for best acting- and while we did not win- we were all very proud. This project then ignited the imagination of all involved and grew itself into a webseries. So, we created the world, new characters, defined others and created archs for each. Next thing you knew we had 4 eps of the official webseries and with shuffling around of cast we finally found a way to make it happen.
This brought on Trina K Sandal as my new producer. This of course is the second event that rose my confidence and abilities. See I loved working with Lynda and will do it again but I knew Trina from years past. I knew the talent I had met five years previous and how she must have grown since then. Trina, in fact, is one of the hardest working people in the industry, I feel lucky that I have partnered with her before the studios found her. This event has changed my focus from having to produce to being able to concentrate more and more on directing.
This brings me to the last 2 events. One was the addition of fellow LA Film School classmate and alumni Travis A Belgard whose talent, quiet laid back demeanor and general good attitude has been amazing. His abilities and knowledge with the plus of his equipment have brought us to a new level.
The last event happened during the shooting part of episode three of the webseries with Irving Martinez at helm as the director he pushed the boundries for us...creating a look with the lighting that I was not aware we had the current abilities to do. This of course both worried and excited Trina and I. The look was quite different from everything we shot thus far...but it looked beautiful. So, we did research and found a way to make it possible and work. Well, honestly the jury it still out on that. We will see- either way it forced us to do some cool things.
These four events, grew and stretched me further as a director then anything had since my graduation of LA Film School.
All of these puzzle pieces came together and proved that I am on the right track towards my ultimate goal in the last 48 hour film project I did for The Producers Guild of America. The film is called, "En Passant."
When all is said and done this could be the best project I have directed to date. While being judged, I cannot release this film to the general public but I am stoked with the final product- or at least the non directors cut version. The acting, the writing, the lighting all came together in what I hope to be a success to the judges eyes.
I cannot wait to be able to work with a lot of my longtime film crew cohorts with this new found confidence. For the first time I don't feel like a theater director armed with a camera, I have finally, FINALLY, turned that corner to film director.
Now, my next steps? Get my first feature under my belt to show indie film just how seriously I need to be taken as a director.