As all of you know, the grand jury’s decision on the Michael Brown case was announced a few days ago. It was devastating, but expected. I believe Officer Darren Wilson murdered Michael Brown. I believe Darren Wilson should be behind bars. My beliefs have no bearing on his fate or that of Michael’s family. I also believe that I have a responsibility to do something about this injustice. Some have taken to the streets and some have taken to social media. I must take it to film. And I don’t mean making a movie about the case (of course that is always an option). This decision is a reminder of what my role is as a filmmaker. My intent is to question, challenge and engage mass audiences. My role as a director is to depict humanity in all of its honesty, complexity, beauty and conflict. And to be clear, I do not just mean for black people. I have had the privilege to share experiences with all types of people both domestically and internationally. I am by no means a cultural expert, but my world view is shaped by relationships with many great people and some not so great people. With that said, I refuse to stereotype and exploit who we are, but I do accept presenting the various facets of who we are. I assume the responsibility of wielding this influence with great care. I want to use my talents in a way that combat damaging depictions of people in mainstream media. I want to explore why people behave the way they do with the hopes of others getting a better understanding of one another. I want the world to be better and my contribution is through this dope medium of film. I hope you all continue to have a safe and wonderful holiday weekend. Let’s strive to be better.
There are times when you meet a person and you know instantly they’re going to have a big impact on your life for a long time. Omar Benson Miller is one of those people. I had the pleasure of working with Big O on the set of Miracle at St. Anna in Italy back in 2007. With the position I held on set, I was able to work with Omar pretty intimately so a friendship was born away from the camera. The things that impress me the most about him is his passion for the craft, his business sense, intelligence and humor. Simply put, Omar is the total package.
I had a chance to attend a screening for an episode of Omar’s new show on the Esquire Network entitled “Weekend Fix.” It is a dope travel show for millennials. Omar and his friend Andres, travel the country and build their weekend itineraries through social media interaction. You can see an episode of it here. What I took the most out of the viewing was how much effort and dedication Omar put into seeing his vision executed and distributed. We worked together on a pilot for another show that ran into a lot of roadblocks along the way. It had great potential, but the timing and situation wasn’t right. To see him push through that setback and end up with something just as strong with the full commitment from an up and coming network is inspiring. The room for the screening was packed and the positive energy was evident. Omar didn’t allow his creative spirit to be deterred and he ended up with a fantastic product with cherished experience. His perseverance has now put him in a position where he can build a strong brand AND pursue even greater artistic endeavors. It just goes to show that character is just as important as talent. Salute and congrats to Big O.
I hope this post finds you all well. With the great fortune that I’ve had professionally over the last year; I wanted to share some of the things I have learned because I believe it can make all of us better filmmakers, artists and people. As some of you may know, my career has taken a major turn over the last year. Since last October, I have served as one of Spike Lee’s editors on numerous projects including “Da Sweet Blood of Jesus,” “Katt Williams: Priceless” and most recently “What Is The Triangle? A Spike Lee Orange and Blue Skies Joint.” What I thought would be awesome to discuss is the ways in which you can take something that is good and turn it into something better, even great. I’m not offering a guarantee of course, but I am dropping a challenge. Will you do the things necessary to squeeze everything out of your project and yourself? This challenge isn’t just for you, but myself as well. Lord knows, I need to get better with every project. Let’s see where we end up.
I used to believe that being great was achievable strictly on talent. You are either born with the ability to be great or you’re not. I’ve realized in the past year that this is only one piece of a much larger puzzle. The first lesson learned is the sheer amount of labor and commitment it takes to maximize whatever it is you’re working on. You can never be satisfied in the development process. You have to be meticulous and honest. Honest in the sense that if something isn’t working you can’t be married to it. You have to be willing to find a better solution and grind away until you find one.
One example is when I cut “Katt Williams: Priceless.” Spike shot with eight cameras so the options were plenty. Being a young editor, working on my first project with so many cameras and working on a comedy special my natural tendency was to think on a macro level. What camera angle is the best for this part of the show and how long do I stay on it to help set up and deliver a joke? That makes sense right? Well, I quickly learned screening with Spike that you had to think on a Macro AND Micro level. What is going on in the corners of the frame, what is going on with the camera movement, how many times have we seen this angle in this amount of time. All of these factors mattered when making a decision on what we were going to see on the screen. It took a couple weeks repeatedly looking at the SMALL things before we arrived at a point where we exhausted all of the available footage. Looking back on it, I did a pretty good job at the beginning, but that meticulous attention to detail is what made it way better.
We all need to ask ourselves, have I done enough to make this as strong as this can be. Have I committed to it enough? Have I given myself enough TIME to see it all the way through? These are critical things we have to ask ourselves while we’re thinking about visual strategies, budgets, marketing, fame and fortune. Have you thought about them enough?
Let me know what you think in the comments. I would love to hear from you all.
“What we can tell you is that it’s an artistic, cinematic experience by a genius movie director and completely open to interpretation. Suffice to say in this film, which is beautifully shot by Dan Patterson, meticulously edited by Randy Wilkins and wonderfully scored, its “less sacrilegious to drink blood, than to spill it….”
- Black Enterprise, June 2014
What a journey the last ten months have been for me. Last August, I was an assistant editor working feverishly on Spike Lee’s Mike Tyson Undisputed Truth while working equally as hard on a Seed and Spark crowdfunding campaign to raise money for our web series Docket 32357. Fast forward to today and I am the editor on Spike’s new film Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, while our web series has premiered online (see it here) receiving wonderful feedback from the public. I feel like I’ve matured by ten years in ten months. I can’t really describe what I’m feeling at the moment because I am still in the middle of a whirlwind. I never thought my name would be mentioned in a film review by Black Enterprise for editing a legend’s film. I quote honestly never thought I would create web based material allowing folks to binge watch a story that I love so much. It just goes to show how far persistence, hard work and commitment can get you. I hope the trend continues upward. I want to increase my impact and I want to inspire. I want to be a standard for artists and the general public. I feel really good about things right now and I feel even better that I’m surrounded by wonderfully talented people who push me every day. I hope you all get a chance to check out Da Sweet Blood of Jesus when it hits theaters and check out the Docket 32357 Web Series now!
I have to be honest with all of you. I didn’t expect or anticipate the success of the Docket 32357 short film. I knew the film was strong in all aspects of the craft, but I was privately unsure if people would like watching two women hold a conversation on a bench. It turns out that people were really interested. We were constantly asked what happens next. We were told by our audience that they wanted to see more. We decided we would satisfy that demand with a web series. We really feel strong about this narrative. One of the reasons is the focus on multi dimensional women characters. I’m really excited that Docket features two strong women leads in a dramatic series.
But in order for this series to come to fruition we need a communal effort. We recently launched our crowd funding campaign through Seed and Spark. We have a wish list of all the essential items we need for production and post production. We have awesome incentives like tickets to our premiere, roles in an episode, cooking recipes from Lois and other great packages. We really want to foster a community with Docket and would love for you to be a part of it. Please consider backing us by clicking on this link
If you can’t make a contribution please consider tweeting, emailing, facebooking (is that a word?) or even following us on the Seed and Spark page. Every little bit helps. Thank you very much.
I had a conversation yesterday with an up and coming actress who is taking her first step into the world of directing. She wanted to speak with me about my process creating Docket 32357 and my general thoughts on directing and film. I was flattered because I don’t view myself as an expert on either one of those topics, but I knew I had experiences I could share. We ventured into the subject of web series. She had an immediate negative reaction when the discussion began. I understood her feelings on it. As we talked, I realized that the reason we both felt disappointed in many of the web based projects was laziness or more specifically, the absence of putting your best foot forward as a filmmaker.
I don’t want to waste space by criticizing other people’s work. That is not the purpose of this blog. What I would like to do is briefly touch upon the absolute need for filmmakers to maximize their current abilities with every project they undertake. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve heard filmmakers raise perceived limitations for why they didn’t create the work they envisioned. Some of my favorites are money, locations, bad relationships with crew members, “it’s just a short” and “it’s just for the web.” In my mind, these are all opportunities to not only showcase your skills, but an opportunity to add to your toolbox. All of those limitations are potential contributing factors to creating work you didn’t even imagine you could make. It all begins with the attitude that you’re gonna demand your best regardless of the circumstances. There is no obstacle for that mindset other than yourself.
Last summer, Jeff Pinilla and I went on a research shoot to convince Jeff’s bosses at PIX 11 in NYC that buying a RED camera would be beneficial for the creative services department. The shoot was simple. We would drive around various neighborhoods in the city and capture the architecture, people and details of the areas. We were under the impression we had the whole day to drive around and capture footage. It turned out that we only had an hour to get all of this done. Despite the time crunch, we captured some great stuff and figured we had a good shot at a successful pitch. What came out of it was more than I ever imagined.
Jeff turned the footage into an impromptu spot for PIX entitled “New York Perspective.” He wrote a beautiful script to accompany the visuals and the promo ran almost nonstop. The success of Perspectives caught the attention of the creative team at FOX 59 in Indiana. They were looking to create a dynamic campaign that connected their news team with the people of Indianapolis and the surrounding towns. Jeff and I spent a week in Indy capturing the beauty of the people and the city. What we ended up with was a spot named “Indiana Made.”
I’m really happy to share the news that Indiana Made is the winner of a 2013 local Emmy. I never thought I would be considered for an Emmy, let alone a recipient of one. To be honest, the idea never crossed my mind. It is a wonderful accomplishment that I am proud to achieve. It was just as special to work with the great people in Indy: Michael Brouder, Andrew Witham and Shelby Simpson. It was a pleasure working with you guys. If you want to see the promo along with New York Perspective you can click here.