Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Process of Directing

Let me begin by saying I've received awesome news in the past few weeks. First, my USC second semester film "One on One" has been accepted into The San Diego Black Film Festival.
You can check out more info HERE. My film also received an Award of Merit in the African American category of The Accolade Competition
You can check out the link HERE. I'm waiting to hear back from other competitions and festivals, but it was amazing to receive good news from these ventures. 

My third semester at USC's School of Cinematic Arts has been focused on cinematography and learning the in and outs of rental houses. I'm taking an intermediate cinematography class with Director of Photography, Linda Brown, while working at Panavision. Outside of class, I've focusing on honing my directing chops. I directed a comedy sketch for the group, Wolf Punch Comedy
I directed an episode of the webseries, Black Man Depressed. 
Each of these projects are in post-production. I'll have the chance to show them at the beginning of next year. For now, I'm in the production stage of a webseries I'm directing called "Sassy Batman." 

These past few gigs directing have been immensely rich. I've focused on Uta Hagen's "Six Steps", studying character and structural beats, character arcs, motivation, and the proper usage of verbs to communicate with actors. It's difficult putting these techniques into action, especially on set. When you're in the thick of shooting you're usually thinking on your feet. I've found that sitting down with your actors beforehand, and discussing the intention of their characters leads to a smoother actualization of your ideas. 

Giving them objectives for the scene, conscious and unconscious goals, plus asking them ambiguous and direct questions allows them to create a foundation for their role. The best outcome arrives when an actor formulates a new path for a character you didn't realize based on discussion. It's the intimate relationship between directors and actors which shines through these techniques, questions, discussions, and research. 

The process of directing is arduous. It is commanded by an innumerable amount of ideas, provisions, and strategies. Still, there is a large chunk completely dependent upon chemistry, luck, and physical play. During the Wolf Punch's Daisy's Enfeugo sketch, I repeatedly swooned with one my actors to help her feel "dainty." A few shots later I was jumping/high stepping with my actors right before shouting action. I wanted to ensure their pile-drive into the third character felt authentic. There's a set of guidelines towards bringing the best out of your actors, but there are instances when your instinct serves you best. 

Granted, I'm still learning. I admit this. I'm proud of it. I'm growing. Each time I'm on set working with actors I sense growth, a maturity in my direction. I couldn't ask for more. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Freedom Comes With Preparation: Shot Lists, Floor Plans, & Storyboards

One of the things I hate to hear whenever I’m working with a Director or DP is let’s “free-flow it.” Sometimes this is a necessity if you’re going into a location where you’ve had no chance to scout or see pictures. 
In most instances, it’s the case of the Director and/or DP being lazy. The freedom to try different ideas, shots, and camerawork should stem from a complete understanding of what you need. 
It is assured you’ll hit a point on set where you don’t know the next shot without preparation. Your crew begins to question your vision of the film, scene, short film, etc…

When you prepare beforehand, you give yourself freedom to play on set. When you know the shots you absolutely need it allows you to add, cut, or combine shots after each performance. 
An understanding of your scene gives you the opportunity to play with your actors. You can focus on performance rather than worrying about if the scene will play out correct in the editing room. 
It also gives your crew the reassurance you understand your role as the Director or DP. A crew or cast that doesn’t respect you will not yield positive results. 
In this post I’m sharing a few pages from the shot list, shooting script, and floor plans I put together for a comedy sketch. The entire sketch had an ensemble cast (six actors) plus three separate scenes. It was one location, but we also had the use the same location to “create” a TV commercial to transition into the scenes afterward. 

By the end of the day, after reviewing my entire Director's Book, I had cut four shots, combined two, and added three. I wouldn't have been able to do so without prior preparation. Once I marked all each cut, integration, and addition I handed an extra copy to the producer. 

The final Director's Notebook included character analysis, character and scene beats, shot list, shooting script, and floor plans for the editor. If I'd been more diligent I would've included storyboards and possibly my version of how I'd cut the scene based on the day's work.

More importantly, my previous preparation allowed me to put down my notebook and focus on the actors since I had everything planned out in my head, but I could always reference myself when I was unsure. 
A good director and/or DP realizes freedom comes with preparation. Remember this on your next shoot. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

The United Colors of Amani

The semester is in full swing at USC's School of Cinematic Arts. I've started my internship with company, Panavision, as well as picking up a full course load for my third semester in my graduate studies. Hard work does not guarantee success, but success does not come without hard work.

That's why I'm really proud of the latest webseries I worked on, entitled The United Colors of Amani. The United Colors of Amani, created and produced by Amani Starnes, addresses many of the problems facing African-American and multi-cultural actors and actresses in Hollywood. It's been making a big, immediate splash with features on sites such as Jezebel and Tube Filter.
I met Amani during my first year of graduate school at USC. She played one of the leads in my first film at school, and we've been working together ever since. The webseries, directed by Max Faugno, the series gives a refreshingly entertaining look into an industry that oftentimes mishandles their interactions with minorities. I worked as the main cinematographer for the series, with episodes The TryoutKC Callback, The Wire, and Shakespeare being four I was Director of Photography. I'm really proud of the work the entire cast and crew put together, and you should take out the time to watch every episode! 

Follow The United Colors of Amani HERE, then be sure to give my production page, Que The Lights, a like HERE