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FILMMAKER SPOTLIGHT: Kelsey Scott Speaks About Playing Anne Northup in 12 Years A SlaveLast Sunday was a big night for Kelsey Scott. 12 Years A Slave took home three Oscars –  including Best Picture, Best Actress in a Supporting Role, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Playing at the same time on HBO, you could find her acting opposite Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey on the critically acclaimed True Detective.
However, Scott is no newcomer to the limelight. She made her professional debut at six. By high school, she was starring opposite Robert Guillaume on ABC‘s The Robert Guillaume Show.
Taking a break from early success, Scott went on to college and then film school, where she discovered her love of writing for the camera. Since then, she has worked as a “hyphenate”; a writer-director-actress. In 2004, she penned Motives, an edgy thriller, starring Vivica A. Fox and Shemar Moore. In 2006, she penned the sequel, while teaching Screenwriting at her graduate school alma mater.
We at iheardin had the pleasure of sitting down with Ms. Scott. She shared with us her triumphs and trials, her start in the biz, what it’s like working with the likes of Steve McQueen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Quvenzhané Wallis, and how she became Anne Northup.

JD: You missed your debut on True Detective because you were at the Oscars?
KS: Yes.
JD: How were the Oscars?
KS: Oscar Night was Incredible, and I haven’t even had a chance to watch the new episode yet.
JD: Your performance was hardcore.
KS: Thank you.
JD: Can you talk about your experience on The Robert Guillaume Show?
KS: The show was on ABC. Robert Guillaume starred as the title character. He played a marriage counselor, who happened to be divorced, living with his son and daughter and his father. It was one of the first shows to feature an interracial relationship.
It was an amazing opportunity, first of all. But it was also an amazing experience. Robert and I remain in contact ‘til this day. He was a role model, in terms of career guidance. I was a teenager when the show began. Robert handled his career and his fame with so much class and I noticed that. Children learn by watching, more than by what they hear. I took some good lessons from him.
JD: What happened to your career after you worked on that show?
KS: I never really stopped acting. When I did the Guillaume Show, I was in high school. Then I went to college. At that point, there was no plan for me to move to California.
While I was an undergraduate at Florida A & M, I was cast in a student film. I had never worked on a film before. I had worked in television and I had worked in theatre. But I found myself curious about what was going on behind the camera. Why weren’t the sound and picture running together? Why is that person writing everything down? I’d been bitten by the film bug.
I always knew one day I would go into film, but I had never, until then, thought about the other side of the camera. After graduation I moved to Atlanta and was working as an actress. But I couldn’t shake that bug. That’s when I started applying to film schools. I went back to school and got my MFA at Florida State.
JD: Then you moved out Los Angeles. What was your first breakthrough moment in your career?
KS: I was working as an assistant to a couple of studio executives. I had a partially completed screenplay that I wrote when I was out of school. I found that, for me, that whole idea of you-write-when-you-get-home wasn’t working. So my screenplay was just sitting.
One night, I was talking to some fellow writers and actors, and I had this profound sense that I needed to do something and that I needed to take a risk.
When I got to work the next day, I went into the office of one of my two bosses and said, “I have a screenplay at home that I really need to finish. I’m requesting a six-week leave of absence to work on it. If you’ll have me, I’d like to come back afterwards. But, either way, I do have to go.”
My boss was incredible. She said, “Okay. Find me somebody to work your desk for six weeks and you can go.”
And I did. I went. Finished the screenplay by the skin of my teeth. I also realized, the longer I was gone, that I was supposed to be gone. I needed to have a single-minded focus on the things I was out there to do.
So I had another difficult conversation with my boss – telling her that I was sorry. That it had not been my plan to leave – especially after she had been so gracious in allowing me to take that time away. That was the beginning of when I struck out. And I’m great friends with that former boss, to this day.
JD: And that led immediately to big things?
KS: It did actually. Not long after I made that decision, I got a phone call from the producer of that student film I worked on at Florida A & M. He was now producing films outside of school.
He said, “I heard you’re writing now.” laughs I had no idea where he’d heard that.
I said, “Yes, I am.”
He said, “I have this idea for a film. Will you send me a writing sample? I’ll be out in LA next week. Let’s have breakfast.”
I sent him the script that I’d completed two weeks earlier, and that got me my first job as a screenwriter.
JD: And that was Motives with Vivica A. Fox?

KS: Yes, with Viv, Shemar Moore, Golden Brooks. It was a really good cast. We ended up doing a sequel a couple of years later.
JD: You have gotten to work on some major programs, True Detective of course, Grey’s Anatomy, Treme, House. Can you talk a little bit more about your highlights in your career as an actress?
KS: I’ve had some delicious experiences. Besides the shows themselves, I was able to work with some remarkable people. When I shot House, I worked opposite James Earl Jones. Grey’s Anatomy is one of my favorite shows. So to be on set was surreal for me. It was like “Oh wait. I’m in it. Oh, wow.” It was just an incredible experience.
When I was on Treme I acted opposite Melissa Leo. On True Detective I was acting opposite Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. It’s not just that I was on all of these amazing shows, I was on these shows working with iconic actors, whose careers I had followed and admired. Here I am, able to share a space with them.
JD: And 12 Years A Slave.
KS: And of course…12 Years A Slave. Who knew? I mean, I knew of Steve McQueen’s work and I was a big fan of his. But who knew it was going to be what it is?
Who knew it was going to be this big? This large? This impactful? In the beginning stages, you’re just given the scenes you are in. I didn’t get the full script until I booked the role.
First, I read the memoir, and then I read the script. All of sudden, I realized “this is history-making and I’m about to be a part of it.” You can only be humbled by something like that.
JD: Your journey to get on 12 Year’s A Slave was very unconventional and unexpected. You have said before you thought you had blown the audition.
KS: I definitely thought I’d blown it. The first thing I did was put myself on tape and submitted that to casting. Then they wanted to see me live. But that audition was in New Orleans, and I was in Los Angeles. It was not a financially feasible journey for me.
The role I ended up getting in 12 Years A Slave was not the role I originally auditioned for. I auditioned for a smaller role. One scene. It was still significant, in terms of the story. But when I got word of the callback, it was difficult for me to rationalize making that trip, in terms of expenses.
Up until the day before the callback, I hadn’t purchased my ticket. But then I just… did it. I made it out there. But I was also prepping another trip for another project.
This was the schedule… The callback was on a Saturday, in New Orleans. That Sunday, I had a rehearsal in Los Angeles for a reading I was supposed to perform that Monday. Then, that Wednesday, I was driving cross-country to begin rehearsals for a play I was doing in Atlanta.
So I got to New Orleans on Friday and auditioned on Saturday. I didn’t think that I’d done well and I wasn’t feeling that great about myself. I was on my way to the airport because I had to fly out that night. But I stopped to get some dinner. My food had just arrived when my agent called and said “Turn around. They want you to read for a larger role. By the way, you might have to stay in town.”
“Oh, wow. Okay.” I turned around, changed back into the period outfit I had chosen for the audition. And I went in. The casting director said, “You might want to stay overnight so you have time to go over the materials.”
I said, “I can’t, I have to be back in LA tomorrow. But I can change my flight.” And I changed it right there in the lobby.
She gave me the sides for two scenes. I went to a coffee shop for a few hours to go over them, came back, and she put me on tape for Steve – who had already gone back to work on the film.
And then I thought I blew that one. There was just so much going on. I didn’t feel like I’d given my best. It’s hot. I am wearing these bulky clothes…
So I headed to the airport again. Just saying to myself, “Well, life is an adventure.”
I went back to LA. I did the rehearsal. I did the performance. And I was halfway across the country when I got the phone call. I had booked the larger role.
JD: Did you stop the car to take a breath?
KS: I probably should have. laughs The timing worked out perfectly. The shoot dates were fairly quick. When I got to Atlanta, I literally dropped my bags, drove to New Orleans, shot the film, drove back to Atlanta, and started rehearsals for the play.
JD: What was it like meeting Steve McQueen?
KS: It was wonderful. I met him for the first time in the callback. He was… quiet. He listens very carefully. He’s very succinct. When I finished my audition, he said, “Simple. Great.”
I was thinking, “Is that good? I’m not sure.” But that’s kind of his style. He’s very economical with his words. Once he says what he means, he’s done talking. And you can always count on him to say what he means. He doesn’t play the game – which is nice.
JD: What was your shooting schedule like for the film?
KS: The entire film was shot in 35 days. I was in town for a couple of weeks – but I wasn’t shooting every day.
JD: How many days did you actually end up shooting?
KS: It was around three or four days.
JD: So your first scene… you were in bed with Chiwetel?
KS: The first scene we shot was a dinner scene that didn’t make the final film. But later that night, yes, I was in bed with Chiwetel.
JD: How long had you known Chiwetel?
KS: That day. {laughs] I met him when we did the dinner scene.
JD: What was it like working with him?

KS: He’s really a great partner. He’s very aware of the other actor, so you feel like there’s a give-and-take. It could have been very awkward to jump into bed with a stranger. Of course he’s professional, but he’s also very open. We could have a conversation as two actors, not just two characters. It felt very comfortable very quickly.
JD: How did Steve McQueen handle the bedroom scene?
KS: For the bedroom sequence, originally there was no dialogue. It was just the two of us kind of looking at each other. The script spoke about what was to be conveyed in those nonverbal moments. We were supposed to communicate, through our expressions, how much these people loved each other.
When we got on set, Steve asked us, “Do you need me for this, or can you figure it out on our own?”
When we said we could figure it out, Steve cleared the room. Then Chiwetel and I spoke about what we saw happening, physically and emotionally.
Steve came back in and asked us to show him what we had. We showed him. And he said, “Great. Let’s shoot it.”
JD: There is a tenderness and affection in that bedroom scene that you actually do not see in many films. As an actress what did you do to get in that space?
KS: I didn’t try to “play it.” I didn’t try to say, “I am so in love with you, can’t you see it in my eyes?”
We got into that space, that acting space, in the bedroom and in the marital bed. I feel like we just listened to each other. Beyond the obvious audible thing, we just let it be. We didn’t try to make it one thing or another.
As I said before, Chiwetel is very aware of the other actor. We could just lie there and look at each other, and it would be okay. We could get lost in the personas of these other people.
We had the backstories in our heads. So it was just a matter of letting it happen. It’s either a hammer or a feather, and we chose the feather.
JD: How did you get into the headspace of Anne?
KS: I read the text. Then I read the script. There’s not much to be found about her historically, in terms of research. So what I really did was see her through Solomon’s eyes, from the book. I saw how his longing for their life together drove him. I held on to that.
I already knew the nuts and bolts of her life. What I needed to find was this woman who so enraptured her husband. I needed to find a real version of that, and not a fantasy.
JD: You and Chiwetel have in my opinion the most powerful scene of the film together. He comes home after being in slavery. He trembles at the sight of you.  He asks your forgiveness for being kidnapped and in slavery and you say, “There is nothing to forgive.” 
You say it very understated, but it is full of emotion and grief. You have to be strong for this man who you can see has been worn down over the years. Can you talk a little bit more about that moment and how you got there.
KS:  I had to allow emotion, and then check it. Kelsey-the-person tends to shut off when things get difficult, emotionally. I do the stoic face. It’s the rare person who has seen me cry.  There are so many things going on for Anne in that moment when Solomon returns. It would have been easy to have played her as stoic.
The idea of the strong black woman goes back for centuries. The idea of holding up the world and holding up the family is age-old. That’s what Anne did when Solomon was away. She held the family together.  She held herself for husband. She wasn’t with someone else when he came home 12 years later. I think it would have been simple to play that stoicism. But the deeper incarnation of that would be to play ‘trying-to-be-stoic’ and ‘trying-to-be-strong’, when there’s so much underneath the surface.
For me to get there, I had to allow myself that sadness and that grief – which is a personal challenge because I don’t allow that for Kelsey. So how could I allow that for Anne?
So that was the journey for me. Allowing myself to be raw, first. Then it was dealing with that open wound and allowing myself to hold it together in such a way that I could be strong for Solomon, for the children, for that moment.
JD: Do you mind talking about whether there is any personal experience or memory that you have borrowed from?
KS:  I borrowed from my own grief. I had lost my mother the year before. I’d gone through those ‘stages’. But I didn’t really allow myself permission to bawl. I did the ‘strong black woman’ thing, and I would grieve in private.  But here, I was going to have to publicly release.
It was a trying time, because I had to go through something personally in order to do justice to this woman and her real-life legacy.
My mother quilted this blanket that she gave to me before she passed away. I took it with me to set and I kept it in my trailer, so she could be with me. So that before I stepped onto that set, especially before that scene, I hoped she would give me the strength to cry. I think it takes a special kind of strength to acknowledge hurt and to acknowledge those things that debilitate us.
That’s what I had to draw from. I had to step away from how I had been dealing with that grief, so that Anne had permission to cry.
JD: You got to play the mother of the youngest nominee for an Academy Award for Best Actress, Quvenzhané Wallis.  What was it like working with her?
KS: She’s a little spitfire. I think she’s great. She’s amazingly intelligent, and precocious. We had a blast on set. And she’s an old soul. She has definitely been here before. laughs
JD: You have stated before that meeting Quvenzhané’s mother was a delight. What impact do you think she has on Quvenzhané’s career?

When you’re in the business that young, it’s easy to get caught up and to not really be able to distinguish real life from what’s happening on the screen. Being young in the industry does mold your world differently than your typical childhood.
You have to have people around you to ground you and to remind you of what the real world is. You need people who will tell you to take out the trash no matter how big your check is. You need people to remind you of what’s important and also that things in the industry can be fleeting. Because this life can be everything that you dreamed of in one moment and then nothing the next.  You have to be prepared for both of those.  You need a support system that holds onto the real world, so you don’t fall into the trap of mistaking smoke and mirrors for brick and mortar.
JD: What do you think the lasting legacy of this film will be?
KS: I think it is a rare, if not totally unique, depiction of that time period. There is a tendency to soften the edges of telling that story, because it’s a difficult story to witness, whatever your ethnicity.  It can be uncomfortable whenever it’s baldly told, rather than coated.  But that’s what Steve does, he tells the truth.  I would expect no less from him.
Then there’s what the film has ended up doing organically – and that is, start conversations. Initially, when I asked friends and family what they thought of the film, they assumed I meant, “What do you think of the characters, the cinematography, and the production design?”
On some level, I was asking that. But almost religiously, after they commented on those things, they started talking about their lives – on being black in America. Or not being black in America.  They talked about our country, our history, the present, and echoes of what that means in history.
Some would say, “Oh I remember this time…”. And all of sudden these stories would begin. They would start talking about the ghosts that we’re still dealing with from that time period. It’s not a conversation that you bring up around the dinner table, without some catalyst. So I think that’s the greatest impact this film has had.
This is a true story. Solomon gets his story heard – which I think is a beautiful thing.
What we get is the discussion, which we don’t dive into nearly often enough. But I think that’s the only way to progress – learning how to identify and deal with those ghosts. If we acknowledge their presence and not sweep them under the rug, we can deal with them. We have to talk it out. It will not go away by itself. One of the most amazing gifts this film has given people, is permission to speak.
JD: Currently, you are working with a direct descendant of Solomon and Anne Northup. Can you talk about that more?
KS: I was in the process of producing a short film and I had the opportunity to meet some of the Northup descendants. We exchanged information to keep in touch. I was having lunch with Solomon’s great-great-great-great grandson in LA, and found out he’s in the commercial side of the industry.  We were discussing our individual projects he seemed interested in helping with the post-production side of mine. I ran it by one of the other producers and now he’s aboard.
JD: Was it meta talking to one your pretend descendants?
KS: laughs I think it’s okay. Sitting at a cafe in Los Angeles, we pretty much made the distinction.

To find out more about Kelsey Scott you can visit her website at http://www.kelseyscott.com/hello.html or follow her on twitter @MsKelseyScott
By Jaye Sarah Davidson
 http://iheardin.com/2014/03/07/filmmaker-spotlight-kelsey-scott-speaks-playing-anne-northup-12-years-slave/ View Larger

FILMMAKER SPOTLIGHT: Kelsey Scott Speaks About Playing Anne Northup in 12 Years A Slave

Last Sunday was a big night for Kelsey Scott. 12 Years A Slave took home three Oscars –  including Best Picture, Best Actress in a Supporting Role, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Playing at the same time on HBO, you could find her acting opposite Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey on the critically acclaimed True Detective.

However, Scott is no newcomer to the limelight. She made her professional debut at six. By high school, she was starring opposite Robert Guillaume on ABC‘s The Robert Guillaume Show.

Taking a break from early success, Scott went on to college and then film school, where she discovered her love of writing for the camera. Since then, she has worked as a “hyphenate”; a writer-director-actress. In 2004, she penned Motives, an edgy thriller, starring Vivica A. Fox and Shemar Moore. In 2006, she penned the sequel, while teaching Screenwriting at her graduate school alma mater.

We at iheardin had the pleasure of sitting down with Ms. Scott. She shared with us her triumphs and trials, her start in the biz, what it’s like working with the likes of Steve McQueen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Quvenzhané Wallis, and how she became Anne Northup.

JD: You missed your debut on True Detective because you were at the Oscars?

KS: Yes.

JD: How were the Oscars?

KS: Oscar Night was Incredible, and I haven’t even had a chance to watch the new episode yet.

JD: Your performance was hardcore.

KS: Thank you.

JD: Can you talk about your experience on The Robert Guillaume Show?

KS: The show was on ABC. Robert Guillaume starred as the title character. He played a marriage counselor, who happened to be divorced, living with his son and daughter and his father. It was one of the first shows to feature an interracial relationship.

It was an amazing opportunity, first of all. But it was also an amazing experience. Robert and I remain in contact ‘til this day. He was a role model, in terms of career guidance. I was a teenager when the show began. Robert handled his career and his fame with so much class and I noticed that. Children learn by watching, more than by what they hear. I took some good lessons from him.

JD: What happened to your career after you worked on that show?

KS: I never really stopped acting. When I did the Guillaume Show, I was in high school. Then I went to college. At that point, there was no plan for me to move to California.

While I was an undergraduate at Florida A & M, I was cast in a student film. I had never worked on a film before. I had worked in television and I had worked in theatre. But I found myself curious about what was going on behind the camera. Why weren’t the sound and picture running together? Why is that person writing everything down? I’d been bitten by the film bug.

I always knew one day I would go into film, but I had never, until then, thought about the other side of the camera. After graduation I moved to Atlanta and was working as an actress. But I couldn’t shake that bug. That’s when I started applying to film schools. I went back to school and got my MFA at Florida State.

JD: Then you moved out Los Angeles. What was your first breakthrough moment in your career?

KS: I was working as an assistant to a couple of studio executives. I had a partially completed screenplay that I wrote when I was out of school. I found that, for me, that whole idea of you-write-when-you-get-home wasn’t working. So my screenplay was just sitting.

One night, I was talking to some fellow writers and actors, and I had this profound sense that I needed to do something and that I needed to take a risk.

When I got to work the next day, I went into the office of one of my two bosses and said, “I have a screenplay at home that I really need to finish. I’m requesting a six-week leave of absence to work on it. If you’ll have me, I’d like to come back afterwards. But, either way, I do have to go.”

My boss was incredible. She said, “Okay. Find me somebody to work your desk for six weeks and you can go.”

And I did. I went. Finished the screenplay by the skin of my teeth. I also realized, the longer I was gone, that I was supposed to be gone. I needed to have a single-minded focus on the things I was out there to do.

So I had another difficult conversation with my boss – telling her that I was sorry. That it had not been my plan to leave – especially after she had been so gracious in allowing me to take that time away. That was the beginning of when I struck out. And I’m great friends with that former boss, to this day.

JD: And that led immediately to big things?

KS: It did actually. Not long after I made that decision, I got a phone call from the producer of that student film I worked on at Florida A & M. He was now producing films outside of school.

He said, “I heard you’re writing now.” laughs I had no idea where he’d heard that.

I said, “Yes, I am.”

He said, “I have this idea for a film. Will you send me a writing sample? I’ll be out in LA next week. Let’s have breakfast.”

I sent him the script that I’d completed two weeks earlier, and that got me my first job as a screenwriter.

JD: And that was Motives with Vivica A. Fox?

Behind the scenes of Motives

KS: Yes, with Viv, Shemar Moore, Golden Brooks. It was a really good cast. We ended up doing a sequel a couple of years later.

JD: You have gotten to work on some major programs, True Detective of course, Grey’s Anatomy, Treme, House. Can you talk a little bit more about your highlights in your career as an actress?

KS: I’ve had some delicious experiences. Besides the shows themselves, I was able to work with some remarkable people. When I shot House, I worked opposite James Earl Jones. Grey’s Anatomy is one of my favorite shows. So to be on set was surreal for me. It was like “Oh wait. I’m in it. Oh, wow.” It was just an incredible experience.

When I was on Treme I acted opposite Melissa Leo. On True Detective I was acting opposite Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. It’s not just that I was on all of these amazing shows, I was on these shows working with iconic actors, whose careers I had followed and admired. Here I am, able to share a space with them.

JD: And 12 Years A Slave.

KS: And of course…12 Years A Slave. Who knew? I mean, I knew of Steve McQueen’s work and I was a big fan of his. But who knew it was going to be what it is?

Who knew it was going to be this big? This large? This impactful? In the beginning stages, you’re just given the scenes you are in. I didn’t get the full script until I booked the role.

First, I read the memoir, and then I read the script. All of sudden, I realized “this is history-making and I’m about to be a part of it.” You can only be humbled by something like that.

JD: Your journey to get on 12 Year’s A Slave was very unconventional and unexpected. You have said before you thought you had blown the audition.

KS: I definitely thought I’d blown it. The first thing I did was put myself on tape and submitted that to casting. Then they wanted to see me live. But that audition was in New Orleans, and I was in Los Angeles. It was not a financially feasible journey for me.

The role I ended up getting in 12 Years A Slave was not the role I originally auditioned for. I auditioned for a smaller role. One scene. It was still significant, in terms of the story. But when I got word of the callback, it was difficult for me to rationalize making that trip, in terms of expenses.

Up until the day before the callback, I hadn’t purchased my ticket. But then I just… did it. I made it out there. But I was also prepping another trip for another project.

This was the schedule… The callback was on a Saturday, in New Orleans. That Sunday, I had a rehearsal in Los Angeles for a reading I was supposed to perform that Monday. Then, that Wednesday, I was driving cross-country to begin rehearsals for a play I was doing in Atlanta.

So I got to New Orleans on Friday and auditioned on Saturday. I didn’t think that I’d done well and I wasn’t feeling that great about myself. I was on my way to the airport because I had to fly out that night. But I stopped to get some dinner. My food had just arrived when my agent called and said “Turn around. They want you to read for a larger role. By the way, you might have to stay in town.”

“Oh, wow. Okay.” I turned around, changed back into the period outfit I had chosen for the audition. And I went in. The casting director said, “You might want to stay overnight so you have time to go over the materials.”

I said, “I can’t, I have to be back in LA tomorrow. But I can change my flight.” And I changed it right there in the lobby.

She gave me the sides for two scenes. I went to a coffee shop for a few hours to go over them, came back, and she put me on tape for Steve – who had already gone back to work on the film.

And then I thought I blew that one. There was just so much going on. I didn’t feel like I’d given my best. It’s hot. I am wearing these bulky clothes…

So I headed to the airport again. Just saying to myself, “Well, life is an adventure.”

I went back to LA. I did the rehearsal. I did the performance. And I was halfway across the country when I got the phone call. I had booked the larger role.

JD: Did you stop the car to take a breath?

KS: I probably should have. laughs The timing worked out perfectly. The shoot dates were fairly quick. When I got to Atlanta, I literally dropped my bags, drove to New Orleans, shot the film, drove back to Atlanta, and started rehearsals for the play.

JD: What was it like meeting Steve McQueen?

KS: It was wonderful. I met him for the first time in the callback. He was… quiet. He listens very carefully. He’s very succinct. When I finished my audition, he said, “Simple. Great.”

I was thinking, “Is that good? I’m not sure.” But that’s kind of his style. He’s very economical with his words. Once he says what he means, he’s done talking. And you can always count on him to say what he means. He doesn’t play the game – which is nice.

JD: What was your shooting schedule like for the film?

KS: The entire film was shot in 35 days. I was in town for a couple of weeks – but I wasn’t shooting every day.

JD: How many days did you actually end up shooting?

KS: It was around three or four days.

JD: So your first scene… you were in bed with Chiwetel?

KS: The first scene we shot was a dinner scene that didn’t make the final film. But later that night, yes, I was in bed with Chiwetel.

JD: How long had you known Chiwetel?

KS: That day. {laughs] I met him when we did the dinner scene.

JD: What was it like working with him?

12 years family photo

KS: He’s really a great partner. He’s very aware of the other actor, so you feel like there’s a give-and-take. It could have been very awkward to jump into bed with a stranger. Of course he’s professional, but he’s also very open. We could have a conversation as two actors, not just two characters. It felt very comfortable very quickly.

JD: How did Steve McQueen handle the bedroom scene?

KS: For the bedroom sequence, originally there was no dialogue. It was just the two of us kind of looking at each other. The script spoke about what was to be conveyed in those nonverbal moments. We were supposed to communicate, through our expressions, how much these people loved each other.

When we got on set, Steve asked us, “Do you need me for this, or can you figure it out on our own?”

When we said we could figure it out, Steve cleared the room. Then Chiwetel and I spoke about what we saw happening, physically and emotionally.

Steve came back in and asked us to show him what we had. We showed him. And he said, “Great. Let’s shoot it.”

JD: There is a tenderness and affection in that bedroom scene that you actually do not see in many films. As an actress what did you do to get in that space?

KS: I didn’t try to “play it.” I didn’t try to say, “I am so in love with you, can’t you see it in my eyes?”

We got into that space, that acting space, in the bedroom and in the marital bed. I feel like we just listened to each other. Beyond the obvious audible thing, we just let it be. We didn’t try to make it one thing or another.

As I said before, Chiwetel is very aware of the other actor. We could just lie there and look at each other, and it would be okay. We could get lost in the personas of these other people.

We had the backstories in our heads. So it was just a matter of letting it happen. It’s either a hammer or a feather, and we chose the feather.

JD: How did you get into the headspace of Anne?

KS: I read the text. Then I read the script. There’s not much to be found about her historically, in terms of research. So what I really did was see her through Solomon’s eyes, from the book. I saw how his longing for their life together drove him. I held on to that.

I already knew the nuts and bolts of her life. What I needed to find was this woman who so enraptured her husband. I needed to find a real version of that, and not a fantasy.

JD: You and Chiwetel have in my opinion the most powerful scene of the film together. He comes home after being in slavery. He trembles at the sight of you.  He asks your forgiveness for being kidnapped and in slavery and you say, “There is nothing to forgive.” 

You say it very understated, but it is full of emotion and grief. You have to be strong for this man who you can see has been worn down over the years. Can you talk a little bit more about that moment and how you got there.

KS:  I had to allow emotion, and then check it. Kelsey-the-person tends to shut off when things get difficult, emotionally. I do the stoic face. It’s the rare person who has seen me cry.  There are so many things going on for Anne in that moment when Solomon returns. It would have been easy to have played her as stoic.

The idea of the strong black woman goes back for centuries. The idea of holding up the world and holding up the family is age-old. That’s what Anne did when Solomon was away. She held the family together.  She held herself for husband. She wasn’t with someone else when he came home 12 years later. I think it would have been simple to play that stoicism. But the deeper incarnation of that would be to play ‘trying-to-be-stoic’ and ‘trying-to-be-strong’, when there’s so much underneath the surface.

For me to get there, I had to allow myself that sadness and that grief – which is a personal challenge because I don’t allow that for Kelsey. So how could I allow that for Anne?

So that was the journey for me. Allowing myself to be raw, first. Then it was dealing with that open wound and allowing myself to hold it together in such a way that I could be strong for Solomon, for the children, for that moment.

JD: Do you mind talking about whether there is any personal experience or memory that you have borrowed from?

KS:  I borrowed from my own grief. I had lost my mother the year before. I’d gone through those ‘stages’. But I didn’t really allow myself permission to bawl. I did the ‘strong black woman’ thing, and I would grieve in private.  But here, I was going to have to publicly release.

It was a trying time, because I had to go through something personally in order to do justice to this woman and her real-life legacy.

My mother quilted this blanket that she gave to me before she passed away. I took it with me to set and I kept it in my trailer, so she could be with me. So that before I stepped onto that set, especially before that scene, I hoped she would give me the strength to cry. I think it takes a special kind of strength to acknowledge hurt and to acknowledge those things that debilitate us.

That’s what I had to draw from. I had to step away from how I had been dealing with that grief, so that Anne had permission to cry.

JD: You got to play the mother of the youngest nominee for an Academy Award for Best Actress, Quvenzhané Wallis.  What was it like working with her?

KS: She’s a little spitfire. I think she’s great. She’s amazingly intelligent, and precocious. We had a blast on set. And she’s an old soul. She has definitely been here before. laughs

JD: You have stated before that meeting Quvenzhané’s mother was a delight. What impact do you think she has on Quvenzhané’s career?

Kelsey-Scott-Chiwetel-Ejiofor-Quvenzhané-Wallis-Cameron-Zeigler-12-years-a-slave1

When you’re in the business that young, it’s easy to get caught up and to not really be able to distinguish real life from what’s happening on the screen. Being young in the industry does mold your world differently than your typical childhood.

You have to have people around you to ground you and to remind you of what the real world is. You need people who will tell you to take out the trash no matter how big your check is. You need people to remind you of what’s important and also that things in the industry can be fleeting. Because this life can be everything that you dreamed of in one moment and then nothing the next.  You have to be prepared for both of those.  You need a support system that holds onto the real world, so you don’t fall into the trap of mistaking smoke and mirrors for brick and mortar.

JD: What do you think the lasting legacy of this film will be?

KS: I think it is a rare, if not totally unique, depiction of that time period. There is a tendency to soften the edges of telling that story, because it’s a difficult story to witness, whatever your ethnicity.  It can be uncomfortable whenever it’s baldly told, rather than coated.  But that’s what Steve does, he tells the truth.  I would expect no less from him.

Then there’s what the film has ended up doing organically – and that is, start conversations. Initially, when I asked friends and family what they thought of the film, they assumed I meant, “What do you think of the characters, the cinematography, and the production design?”

On some level, I was asking that. But almost religiously, after they commented on those things, they started talking about their lives – on being black in America. Or not being black in America.  They talked about our country, our history, the present, and echoes of what that means in history.

Some would say, “Oh I remember this time…”. And all of sudden these stories would begin. They would start talking about the ghosts that we’re still dealing with from that time period. It’s not a conversation that you bring up around the dinner table, without some catalyst. So I think that’s the greatest impact this film has had.

This is a true story. Solomon gets his story heard – which I think is a beautiful thing.

What we get is the discussion, which we don’t dive into nearly often enough. But I think that’s the only way to progress – learning how to identify and deal with those ghosts. If we acknowledge their presence and not sweep them under the rug, we can deal with them. We have to talk it out. It will not go away by itself. One of the most amazing gifts this film has given people, is permission to speak.

JD: Currently, you are working with a direct descendant of Solomon and Anne Northup. Can you talk about that more?

KS: I was in the process of producing a short film and I had the opportunity to meet some of the Northup descendants. We exchanged information to keep in touch. I was having lunch with Solomon’s great-great-great-great grandson in LA, and found out he’s in the commercial side of the industry.  We were discussing our individual projects he seemed interested in helping with the post-production side of mine. I ran it by one of the other producers and now he’s aboard.

JD: Was it meta talking to one your pretend descendants?

KS: laughs I think it’s okay. Sitting at a cafe in Los Angeles, we pretty much made the distinction.

To find out more about Kelsey Scott you can visit her website at http://www.kelseyscott.com/hello.html or follow her on twitter @MsKelseyScott

By Jaye Sarah Davidson

http://iheardin.com/2014/03/07/filmmaker-spotlight-kelsey-scott-speaks-playing-anne-northup-12-years-slave/

FILMMAKER SPOTLIGHT: Behind the Screen with Short Term 12 Editor Nat SandersRecently nominated for the Independent Spirit Sward for best editing for his work on Short Term 12, Nat Sanders speaks to us on a rare moment of break. He is currently working full time with the Duplass Brothers on their new HBO series Togetherness. Sanders jumped to this project after having finished his fourth collaboration with director Lynn Shelton on Laggies starring Kiera Knightley and Sam Rockwell.
Yet, times have not always been so bustling or so glamourous.  Nat shares with us the ups and downs behind post-production life, from missed opportunities and spending four years working in reality television to career changing moments such as working with Barry Jenkins on his breakout film Medicine for Melancholy. He also shares with the us editing secrets of Short Term 12, the differences of working on scripted versus improv films, and his friendships with directors Lena Dunham, Barry Jenkins, Lynn Shelton, Destin Cretton, and the Duplass Brothers.

JD: You have mentioned before that right out of film school you were up for a career making internship.
NS: The internship was with ACE, which is a prestigious editing guild. Every year the internship takes a guy and a girl who are fresh out of film school and want to be editors, and you work a week on a feature, a week on an episodic TV show and a week on a documentary. Whoever gets it is pretty much set and on their way because they make so many contacts.
But I was so pretentious. During the interview – which was with 10 editors seated around a table – they asked me what I was interested in and I told them I was interested in features and that’s it. They said, “Okay, that’s great. What about episodic TV shows?” And I said, “I don’t watch episodic TV. I don’t like episodic TV. I just want to make features.”
Suffice to say, I did not get the internship. I found out later that three-fourths of the editors in that room were TV editors. And then cut to three months later, where I couldn’t find any work in features and ended up taking a job on a really bottom-of-the-barrel reality TV show.
JD: The internship interview was something that stuck out in your mind, I take it?
NS: I think features are the hardest part of the industry to break into and in hindsight, over my first five years of being in LA, I only got three little opportunities to even potentially get my foot in the door working on features, and I blew this first one and ended up starting down another path, which was reality TV, and that path wound up tying me up for four or five years.
I wasn’t able to take advantage of my second little feature opportunity either. The third opportunity was when my buddy Barry Jenkins, who’d been a year behind me in film school but was kind of the golden boy of the program, decided to make a movie and I jumped on it.
JD: Medicine for Melancholy turned out to be a breakout film for many of the key crew. Would you say that movie changed your life?
NS: It really did. Barry and I for a year or two after that would send each other emotional texts when one of us had had a bit to drink about how we’d helped changed each other’s lives. I don’t know if any other project I’m a part of will ever mean as much to me as that one did.

Making the movie changed my life, but going to South By Southwest with it also did. In those five years since film school, all my filmmaker friends and I had just been talking and talking about making things, but none of us were doing anything about it.
Going to SXSW and meeting all these people who were our age and weren’t making any excuses and were really prolific and just making stuff was really inspiring. It was so easy and organic to make friends there and I made a lot of them quickly. There”s a whole festival circuit in the spring that programs a lot of South By Southwest movies – Sarasota, Independent Film Festival of Boston, Maryland – and I turned down reality TV work to keep flying myself to these festivals and I kept seeing my same new filmmaker friends at each one and becoming tighter and tighter with them.
JD: And that is where you met Lynn Shelton?
NS: Yeah, one of the people I met was a director Lynn Shelton, who had a movie on the circuit with us.  Over dinner in Boston, she told me and Barry about the new movie she was planning to make that summer called Humpday with Mark Duplass in it. I liked her first two films and I was a big fan of Mark’s movie The Puffy Chair.  So after the festival was over, I wrote her and told her I really wanted to edit the movie.

It was a similar situation with Barry. In both cases, I didn’t wait to be asked. He sent me the script for Medicine for Melancholy maybe just looking for notes or feedback and I wrote him back and just told him I was going to edit it. And with Lynn’s movie, I shoved my foot in the door in the same kind of way.
She said, “That sounds great. But I am in Seattle and I don’t have any money to pay you. I would love to work with you sometime, maybe on the next one.”
And I wrote her back and said, “No, you don’t understand. I’ll get myself up there and put myself up on my own dime, and I’ll work for free.” I’d done the same thing on Medicine. And so I went up there and got lucky again with how that movie turned out. It went so far beyond my expectations. It won an award at Sundance. It played at Cannes. I got a lot of positive recognition for the movie because it was entirely improvised and a lot of the storytelling happened in the edit room, and career-wise things kind of started snowballing from there.
JD.  I am a big fan of GIRLS, so I was excited to see that you were in Tiny Furniture.
NS: Yeah I met Lena Dunham through Barry. He had seen a web series of hers called Tight Shots and I remember him telling me really early on that “this girl was going to be huge.”
I met her in New York in 2008 and she and I hit it off and became good friends. She already had an editor attached to Tiny Furniture and I was working on a film with the Duplass Brothers at the time they were making it, but Lena threw me in the background of a scene they were filming and I watched some rough cuts of the movie and gave notes as they were editing.
I’d gotten to see some filmmakers around me take off – it happened for Barry and it happened for Lynn, but what happened with Lena was insane. I was hanging out with her a lot around that time. She’d been this under-the-radar filmmaker, but in the month after her movie played SXSW, things blew up. I’d look over her shoulder and see she was responding to an email from Zach Galifianakis saying that he saw the movie and would love to work with her. Judd Apatow told her whatever she wanted to do next he would love to help her with.
JD: What movie were you doing with the Duplass brothers?
NS: It was called The Do-Deca Pentathalon. They’d shot it a couple years earlier and the edit wasn’t quite coming together yet. I think they were wondering whether the movie was going to work and then they got greenlit for Cyrus and right after that they went into making Jeff, Who Lives At Home.  So Do-Deca got side tracked for a few years. When they came back to it their editor was on a studio movie. They asked me to come work on it and I am really happy with how it turned out. It’s a small, scrappy movie with a lot of heart.
The film came out four years after they shot it, which is pretty crazy.  The camera that they’d shot it on was already obsolete by the time the movie was released.
JD: It’s just funny how life works out.  You do a little movie called Medicine for Melancholy and it breaks wide open. You do a movie with the Duplass Brothers who are huge and that movie falls through the cracks.
NS: laughs Yeah.  They had Jeff, Who Lives At Home and Cyrus which were studio movies that had already come out. Then Do-Deca played at South By Southwest. It was tricky because they wanted the movie to get out there and they wanted people to find it, but I think they were also a little concerned that people wouldn’t know they’d shot it years earlier and would think that this was their next film project and that they’d regressed a bit, at least in how the movie looked and sounded. It was a tough balance.
JD: How did you meet Destin Cretton, the director of Short Term 12?
NS: Wholphin puts out a quarterly DVD of their favorite short films, most of which are from the festival circuit. It is a great way to spot up-and-coming directing talent and I’d recommend any young, hungry crew folks to stay up on those. Through watching Wholphin DVDs I discovered the Beasts of the Southern Wild guys really early on and got to know them and I also saw the short version of Short Term 12, which had won best short at Sundance in 2009. I knew what Destin looked like and saw him talking to a friend of mine a year or two later at Sundance. I made a beeline up to him and told him I loved his short and we became friends.
JD: How did you become involved with the feature?
After we met at Sundance, we’d meet up every couple of months in LA and get lunch. The money was slow in coming together for Short Term, so he decided to make a smaller movie called I Am Not a Hipster instead.  The next year he returned to working on Short Term. I asked him if I could read the script and when I did I was blown away. I think it’s the best script I’ve ever read. I can’t remember if he asked me to cut the movie or if I just told him first that I really wanted to do it, but I know I had the job pretty early on.
JD: The editing of the film stands out. The opening scene is particularly striking. It opens on black with the dialogue of Mason and Nate. Then you cut to the wide shot. Mason and Nate keep talking but before cutting to them you cut to Grace, establishing her as the main character. Then you throw us into this crazy storytelling until it explodes with the kid running out of the door. Then it is quiet again, but you have taken us into this world with these kids.  Could you talk about the process of editing this sequence?
NS: Yeah. I mean, that burst of energy was definitely in the script.  Originally, the script began with Grace in therapy a month after the events of this film had taken place. The scene had her describing a dream she’d had where she was wading through this muck. It played very dark and we realized early in the edit that it wasn’t the right mood to begin the movie on. So now we had the movie starting on this scene where Mason, John Gallagher‘s character, is talking the whole first scene to Nate, who’s serving a bit as the cipher for the audience to establish how the facility worked. With all that dialogue focused on those two, we were worried that we weren’t going to establish Grace as the main character early enough.

We had some random footage of her and we tried using that to open the movie. We had footage of her showering before work. We had her riding her bike in the morning. But it just felt tacked on. So we decided again to open with that Mason storytelling scene but we used footage that starts with Grace’s perspective (which Destin was really smart to shoot just in case we needed it) and then cut to her as much as we possibly could, to stay with her as much as possible in that scene.
The little scene right after that is of Grace filling up a super soaker. Originally when I saw the footage come in, my first thought was we were going to end up cutting that little scene. But we ended up keeping it because sitting with her alone in that scene helped us establish Grace as the main character.
JD: It’s funny because when you watch that scene it feels very poetical and intentional. When you talk about it it feels very technical.
NS: It is funny because when you get close to it, you are looking at the movie from the inside out. You are looking at it in a very technical specific way. You’re constantly analyzing whether you’re telling the story in the best way it can be told.
JD: Can you ever watch a movie that you have edited like a normal person?
NS: That’s a good question. As an editor you are so involved in the story process. You’re kind of a part of the writing team of the movie, where you’re helping write that last draft of it. Going to a festival premiere of your movie is such a reward and is also a great learning experience. You can see what gets laughs or what isn’t getting laughs in a more real way than a friends and family screening will (though I love those screenings too).  You see the pacing a little differently than you might have before.  For me, watching it with an audience is the only way for it to get fresh again.
After the first few screenings you have a really good idea of how the film is usually going to play, and if we’re there to do a Q&A afterwards, we’ll stick around for the first few minutes to make sure the sound is correct and then go get drinks or dinner. However, almost every time with Short Term 12, I’ll think I’m staying just for the first two minutes and then find myself getting sucked in and not leaving.
JD: The movie feels very fluid. Did you and Destin make choices to convey that feeling?
NS: I think that’s in the way that they shot it. The cinematography has such a great naturalistic feel. I love the way it looks.
JD: What were some of the challenges you faced editing the film?
The main challenges for that movie were tonal and cutting down the running time. The original cut was 2 hours and 17 minutes. The first cut is always long, but this wasn’t a fat cut or anything. Then with the director’s cut we got it down to 2 hours and 2 minutes. At that point, all the scenes were great, so had to make some tough decisions. Usually when you watch a DVD and see the deleted scenes it’s very obvious why they cut them, but I think Short Term 12 has some great deleted scenes.
But when we showed that director’s cut to the producers, the movie felt so heavy. It was bludgeoning you and made you feel pretty depressed about humanity.
JD: What work did you and Destin do to adjust the tone?
Originally, there were three kids we were following: Jayden, Marcus, and Sammy.  We needed to cut something and Sammy’s storyline was the thinnest but also the heaviest, so we decided to cut that down.
We saw that the more levity the movie had the more people were relating to it. We’d have feedback screenings every week or two where we’d have friends over or show it at colleges Destin had gone to. These screenings are invaluable because you lose objectivity. Those audiences really tell you what’s working and what’s not.

I was cutting in temp music during the edit and at first we were trying pretty dramatic stuff. We had a couple of heavy scenes that we underscored with these drone-y temp cues and it was so wrong. It made the movie feel like an after school special. That really helped us inform the direction to go in with our composer a little later on.
JD: Did this involve reshaping any of the story?
NS: Yes. During that first scene when Mason tells the story, the original direction was for Brie to play the scene like Grace already knew she was pregnant. Because the pregnancy brings up so many associations for her, she played it dour and downcast.
However, since we cut the downer opening therapy scene and were looking to lighten up the movie in general, Grace’s heaviness during Mason’s storytelling wasn’t what the movie wanted any more.  So we had to dig through the footage to find any little bit where she was smiling. A good bit of it was before slate had been clapped or when a line had been flubbed. We scoured through five or six takes to find any light moment that we could to put it together.
JD: So it seems that in the original story, she is in therapy and the rest of the story is kind of a flashback to what brought her to therapy?
NS: Or it’s a flashfoward. It’s kind of unclear. We go through the movie and she has her breakthrough and talks to Jayden about what happened to her, and then she goes to therapy. We toyed around with whether we would put text on the screen saying, “One Month Later.”
Her therapy scene at the end of the movie was originally a six or seven minute scene. Destin says it’s the best thing he’s ever shot. He held on to it for a very long time, but in the end he knew we had to let it go.
The scene held on Brie for a very long time. We had coverage so we could have cut away, but for the most part it was one long shot of Brie telling the story of this dream she had.  She had been crawling through this mucky tunnel and she realized that she had been in a whale’s asshole. Then Mason and Marcus and the rest of the kids wiped the shit off of her and bubbles carried her up to the surface of the ocean where she could breathe again. Her dream was so well-written and was a beautiful metaphor for the story but it just killed the momentum. Destin insisted we couldn’t lose it all together, because he wanted to show her going to therapy to show that she was moving forward. So we cut it down to its bare bones.
JD: You guys did re-write the movie during the editing room in a lot of ways.
NS: Yeah.
JD: How was working on Short Term 12 different from your other movies?
I feel like you kind of get a sense the first day the footage comes in whether the movie is going to be special or not. I always edit during the production and on the second day of shooting the first day’s footage comes in. So on that second day, I often have a feel for whether or not the movie is going to be what I hoped it would be or not. With Short Term 12, I knew right away that it was going to be what I wanted it to be and it was going to be very special.

The original script was 120 pages. So it was a lot of material. We knew we wanted to get it under 100 minutes. All that levity was in there but it was about bringing it out and finding the right balance.
On the night in which Marcus commits suicide and she and Mason break up, there was another scene we cut out where Grace goes to the nurse at the clinic and wants to have an abortion right then. The scene was playing really intense and we didn’t need it, so the rewriting process would be to take such a scene out.  It was about finding the balance between what was light and what was too bludgeoning.
JD: You do walk away from the movie feeling angry about the injustice done to kids, but it doesn’t quite paralyze your day.

NS: I think that’s part of what’s special about the film is that you do get angry in the ways that you are supposed to, but the film is also so full of humanity and hope. It’s all Destin. I remember when I was cutting the last scene of the film during my first assembly. I was working from home and I was halfway through the scene when I went out to get lunch.
During that walk to get a sandwich, I realized I was ridiculously happy. I remember wondering, “Why am I so crazy happy right now?” And I realized it was because of that scene, which is so full of love and humanity.  It put me in an ecstatically good mood as I was working on it.
JD: The movie is bookended. It begins with Mason telling a story and then a kid runs out, and it ends with Mason telling a story then Sammy runs out.  Except the end is shot in slow motion. It makes this naturalistic film feel very epic.
NS: The last bit with Sammy is both celebratory and sad. It was not shot in 24 frames a second. It was always set apart.
JD: How long did it take you to edit the movie?
NS: We shot in the beginning of September. It was a twenty day shoot. I was cutting through production. I got the week after to finish my first assembly. We locked close to Christmas.
Most of the movies I’ve done have taken three or four months. Medicine for Melancholy was an exception because we had a lot of single takes or what you call “oners” and we did that one in just two months.
The improv ones we always seem to do in exactly 3 months.  The shoots run only about 11 days so there is not even a ton of footage, but it is more like editing a documentary.  You can have twenty minute long takes.
JD: What is it like to edit an improv movie?
NS: It is great, but I wouldn’t want to do it every time.  There are limitations. You can’t do as much with the cinematography. I remember when cutting Medicine for Melancholy, James Laxton‘s cinematography was amazing and was really fun to cut. It is like cutting for another character in the movie.
On the improv ones, cinematography is such a low priority on the movie. The DPs are handicapped. It’s all overhead lighting and two cameras and is all about capturing the performance.  But the gains are great. You get those spontaneous moments that are just like lightning in a bottle.
For the scripted ones, I’m usually going line by line and looking for the best read. But with the improv ones I go through each take and just pull everything that’s good and feels real and throw it all into a giant timeline. Then I focus on the handful of moments that really pop and find a way to get from one to the next in a way that hits all the beats that need to be hit.  It is definitely a lot more like editing a documentary. It’s great because it makes you feel like a co-writer and gives you a feeling of shared authorship of the movie.
JD: What are you working on now?
NS: I’m cutting the Duplass Brothers’ new HBO show. We did the pilot last summer and are shooting and editing the series right now. I think it is the best thing they have ever done.
JD: I have caught you at a good time of your life I take it.
NS: laughs Yeah I guess so. My career has already had some small ebbs and flows. I remember the year before Short Term 12, I felt like I had no momentum at all.  I wasn’t getting offers for movies I wanted to do. The previous film I was coming off of had been a disappointment and I felt like nothing good was coming my way.  But Short Term 12 turned out to be amazing and there is that momentum that came out from that.  I got lucky that the first two movies I did - Medicine for Melancholy and Humpday - turned out so great but at the time I definitely didn’t appreciate how rare those special ones are.
JD: What is the television show you are doing with the Duplass brothers?
NS: It’s called Togetherness. There are four main characters. Two of them are married but they’re no longer having sex and they love their kids but they also feel like their kids have taken their lives away from them.  The other two are his best friend and her sister who are both lovable fuck-ups and by the end of the first episode they’ve moved into the house with them.
It’s really personal to them and they’re putting a lot of their lives into it.
JD: What was your gut reaction to your nomination?
NS: I was really surprised. I knew the nominations were coming out that morning and I went online to see if Short Term 12 had gotten nominated for anything. And I did a triple take when I saw my name on there. Editing in general is such a hard thing to judge. Sometimes the best editing job you will ever do is taking bad footage and just making it watchable.  From the outside, you never know how good the footage was on a project. How much is it the director vs. the editor? How much of it is the actor’s performance vs. the editing enhancing it? It’s so hard to judge from the outside.
By Jaye Sarah Davidson
 http://iheardin.com/2014/02/28/filmmaker-spotlight-behind-the-screen-with-editor-nat-sanders/ View Larger

FILMMAKER SPOTLIGHT: Behind the Screen with Short Term 12 Editor Nat Sanders

Recently nominated for the Independent Spirit Sward for best editing for his work on Short Term 12, Nat Sanders speaks to us on a rare moment of break. He is currently working full time with the Duplass Brothers on their new HBO series Togetherness. Sanders jumped to this project after having finished his fourth collaboration with director Lynn Shelton on Laggies starring Kiera Knightley and Sam Rockwell.

Yet, times have not always been so bustling or so glamourous.  Nat shares with us the ups and downs behind post-production life, from missed opportunities and spending four years working in reality television to career changing moments such as working with Barry Jenkins on his breakout film Medicine for Melancholy. He also shares with the us editing secrets of Short Term 12, the differences of working on scripted versus improv films, and his friendships with directors Lena Dunham, Barry Jenkins, Lynn Shelton, Destin Cretton, and the Duplass Brothers.

JD: You have mentioned before that right out of film school you were up for a career making internship.

NS: The internship was with ACE, which is a prestigious editing guild. Every year the internship takes a guy and a girl who are fresh out of film school and want to be editors, and you work a week on a feature, a week on an episodic TV show and a week on a documentary. Whoever gets it is pretty much set and on their way because they make so many contacts.

But I was so pretentious. During the interview – which was with 10 editors seated around a table – they asked me what I was interested in and I told them I was interested in features and that’s it. They said, “Okay, that’s great. What about episodic TV shows?” And I said, “I don’t watch episodic TV. I don’t like episodic TV. I just want to make features.

Suffice to say, I did not get the internship. I found out later that three-fourths of the editors in that room were TV editors. And then cut to three months later, where I couldn’t find any work in features and ended up taking a job on a really bottom-of-the-barrel reality TV show.

JD: The internship interview was something that stuck out in your mind, I take it?

NS: I think features are the hardest part of the industry to break into and in hindsight, over my first five years of being in LA, I only got three little opportunities to even potentially get my foot in the door working on features, and I blew this first one and ended up starting down another path, which was reality TV, and that path wound up tying me up for four or five years.

I wasn’t able to take advantage of my second little feature opportunity either. The third opportunity was when my buddy Barry Jenkins, who’d been a year behind me in film school but was kind of the golden boy of the program, decided to make a movie and I jumped on it.

JD: Medicine for Melancholy turned out to be a breakout film for many of the key crew. Would you say that movie changed your life?

NS: It really did. Barry and I for a year or two after that would send each other emotional texts when one of us had had a bit to drink about how we’d helped changed each other’s lives. I don’t know if any other project I’m a part of will ever mean as much to me as that one did.

Making the movie changed my life, but going to South By Southwest with it also did. In those five years since film school, all my filmmaker friends and I had just been talking and talking about making things, but none of us were doing anything about it.

Going to SXSW and meeting all these people who were our age and weren’t making any excuses and were really prolific and just making stuff was really inspiring. It was so easy and organic to make friends there and I made a lot of them quickly. There”s a whole festival circuit in the spring that programs a lot of South By Southwest movies – Sarasota, Independent Film Festival of Boston, Maryland – and I turned down reality TV work to keep flying myself to these festivals and I kept seeing my same new filmmaker friends at each one and becoming tighter and tighter with them.

JD: And that is where you met Lynn Shelton?

NS: Yeah, one of the people I met was a director Lynn Shelton, who had a movie on the circuit with us.  Over dinner in Boston, she told me and Barry about the new movie she was planning to make that summer called Humpday with Mark Duplass in it. I liked her first two films and I was a big fan of Mark’s movie The Puffy Chair.  So after the festival was over, I wrote her and told her I really wanted to edit the movie.

It was a similar situation with Barry. In both cases, I didn’t wait to be asked. He sent me the script for Medicine for Melancholy maybe just looking for notes or feedback and I wrote him back and just told him I was going to edit it. And with Lynn’s movie, I shoved my foot in the door in the same kind of way.

She said, “That sounds great. But I am in Seattle and I don’t have any money to pay you. I would love to work with you sometime, maybe on the next one.

And I wrote her back and said, “No, you don’t understand. I’ll get myself up there and put myself up on my own dime, and I’ll work for free.” I’d done the same thing on Medicine. And so I went up there and got lucky again with how that movie turned out. It went so far beyond my expectations. It won an award at Sundance. It played at Cannes. I got a lot of positive recognition for the movie because it was entirely improvised and a lot of the storytelling happened in the edit room, and career-wise things kind of started snowballing from there.

JD.  I am a big fan of GIRLS, so I was excited to see that you were in Tiny Furniture.

NS: Yeah I met Lena Dunham through Barry. He had seen a web series of hers called Tight Shots and I remember him telling me really early on that “this girl was going to be huge.”

I met her in New York in 2008 and she and I hit it off and became good friends. She already had an editor attached to Tiny Furniture and I was working on a film with the Duplass Brothers at the time they were making it, but Lena threw me in the background of a scene they were filming and I watched some rough cuts of the movie and gave notes as they were editing.

I’d gotten to see some filmmakers around me take off – it happened for Barry and it happened for Lynn, but what happened with Lena was insane. I was hanging out with her a lot around that time. She’d been this under-the-radar filmmaker, but in the month after her movie played SXSW, things blew up. I’d look over her shoulder and see she was responding to an email from Zach Galifianakis saying that he saw the movie and would love to work with her. Judd Apatow told her whatever she wanted to do next he would love to help her with.

JD: What movie were you doing with the Duplass brothers?

NS: It was called The Do-Deca Pentathalon. They’d shot it a couple years earlier and the edit wasn’t quite coming together yet. I think they were wondering whether the movie was going to work and then they got greenlit for Cyrus and right after that they went into making Jeff, Who Lives At Home.  So Do-Deca got side tracked for a few years. When they came back to it their editor was on a studio movie. They asked me to come work on it and I am really happy with how it turned out. It’s a small, scrappy movie with a lot of heart.

The film came out four years after they shot it, which is pretty crazy.  The camera that they’d shot it on was already obsolete by the time the movie was released.

JD: It’s just funny how life works out.  You do a little movie called Medicine for Melancholy and it breaks wide open. You do a movie with the Duplass Brothers who are huge and that movie falls through the cracks.

NS: laughs Yeah.  They had Jeff, Who Lives At Home and Cyrus which were studio movies that had already come out. Then Do-Deca played at South By Southwest. It was tricky because they wanted the movie to get out there and they wanted people to find it, but I think they were also a little concerned that people wouldn’t know they’d shot it years earlier and would think that this was their next film project and that they’d regressed a bit, at least in how the movie looked and sounded. It was a tough balance.

JD: How did you meet Destin Cretton, the director of Short Term 12?

NS: Wholphin puts out a quarterly DVD of their favorite short films, most of which are from the festival circuit. It is a great way to spot up-and-coming directing talent and I’d recommend any young, hungry crew folks to stay up on those. Through watching Wholphin DVDs I discovered the Beasts of the Southern Wild guys really early on and got to know them and I also saw the short version of Short Term 12, which had won best short at Sundance in 2009. I knew what Destin looked like and saw him talking to a friend of mine a year or two later at Sundance. I made a beeline up to him and told him I loved his short and we became friends.

JD: How did you become involved with the feature?

After we met at Sundance, we’d meet up every couple of months in LA and get lunch. The money was slow in coming together for Short Term, so he decided to make a smaller movie called I Am Not a Hipster instead.  The next year he returned to working on Short Term. I asked him if I could read the script and when I did I was blown away. I think it’s the best script I’ve ever read. I can’t remember if he asked me to cut the movie or if I just told him first that I really wanted to do it, but I know I had the job pretty early on.

JD: The editing of the film stands out. The opening scene is particularly striking. It opens on black with the dialogue of Mason and Nate. Then you cut to the wide shot. Mason and Nate keep talking but before cutting to them you cut to Grace, establishing her as the main character. Then you throw us into this crazy storytelling until it explodes with the kid running out of the door. Then it is quiet again, but you have taken us into this world with these kids.  Could you talk about the process of editing this sequence?

NS: Yeah. I mean, that burst of energy was definitely in the script.  Originally, the script began with Grace in therapy a month after the events of this film had taken place. The scene had her describing a dream she’d had where she was wading through this muck. It played very dark and we realized early in the edit that it wasn’t the right mood to begin the movie on. So now we had the movie starting on this scene where Mason, John Gallagher‘s character, is talking the whole first scene to Nate, who’s serving a bit as the cipher for the audience to establish how the facility worked. With all that dialogue focused on those two, we were worried that we weren’t going to establish Grace as the main character early enough.

Still-1_John-Gallagher-Jr_Brie-Larson

We had some random footage of her and we tried using that to open the movie. We had footage of her showering before work. We had her riding her bike in the morning. But it just felt tacked on. So we decided again to open with that Mason storytelling scene but we used footage that starts with Grace’s perspective (which Destin was really smart to shoot just in case we needed it) and then cut to her as much as we possibly could, to stay with her as much as possible in that scene.

The little scene right after that is of Grace filling up a super soaker. Originally when I saw the footage come in, my first thought was we were going to end up cutting that little scene. But we ended up keeping it because sitting with her alone in that scene helped us establish Grace as the main character.

JD: It’s funny because when you watch that scene it feels very poetical and intentional. When you talk about it it feels very technical.

NS: It is funny because when you get close to it, you are looking at the movie from the inside out. You are looking at it in a very technical specific way. You’re constantly analyzing whether you’re telling the story in the best way it can be told.

JD: Can you ever watch a movie that you have edited like a normal person?

NS: That’s a good question. As an editor you are so involved in the story process. You’re kind of a part of the writing team of the movie, where you’re helping write that last draft of it. Going to a festival premiere of your movie is such a reward and is also a great learning experience. You can see what gets laughs or what isn’t getting laughs in a more real way than a friends and family screening will (though I love those screenings too).  You see the pacing a little differently than you might have before.  For me, watching it with an audience is the only way for it to get fresh again.

After the first few screenings you have a really good idea of how the film is usually going to play, and if we’re there to do a Q&A afterwards, we’ll stick around for the first few minutes to make sure the sound is correct and then go get drinks or dinner. However, almost every time with Short Term 12, I’ll think I’m staying just for the first two minutes and then find myself getting sucked in and not leaving.

JD: The movie feels very fluid. Did you and Destin make choices to convey that feeling?

NS: I think that’s in the way that they shot it. The cinematography has such a great naturalistic feel. I love the way it looks.

JD: What were some of the challenges you faced editing the film?

The main challenges for that movie were tonal and cutting down the running time. The original cut was 2 hours and 17 minutes. The first cut is always long, but this wasn’t a fat cut or anything. Then with the director’s cut we got it down to 2 hours and 2 minutes. At that point, all the scenes were great, so had to make some tough decisions. Usually when you watch a DVD and see the deleted scenes it’s very obvious why they cut them, but I think Short Term 12 has some great deleted scenes.

But when we showed that director’s cut to the producers, the movie felt so heavy. It was bludgeoning you and made you feel pretty depressed about humanity.

JD: What work did you and Destin do to adjust the tone?

Originally, there were three kids we were following: Jayden, Marcus, and Sammy.  We needed to cut something and Sammy’s storyline was the thinnest but also the heaviest, so we decided to cut that down.

We saw that the more levity the movie had the more people were relating to it. We’d have feedback screenings every week or two where we’d have friends over or show it at colleges Destin had gone to. These screenings are invaluable because you lose objectivity. Those audiences really tell you what’s working and what’s not.

Still-2_Brie-Larson_Kaitlyn-Dever

I was cutting in temp music during the edit and at first we were trying pretty dramatic stuff. We had a couple of heavy scenes that we underscored with these drone-y temp cues and it was so wrong. It made the movie feel like an after school special. That really helped us inform the direction to go in with our composer a little later on.

JD: Did this involve reshaping any of the story?

NS: Yes. During that first scene when Mason tells the story, the original direction was for Brie to play the scene like Grace already knew she was pregnant. Because the pregnancy brings up so many associations for her, she played it dour and downcast.

However, since we cut the downer opening therapy scene and were looking to lighten up the movie in general, Grace’s heaviness during Mason’s storytelling wasn’t what the movie wanted any more.  So we had to dig through the footage to find any little bit where she was smiling. A good bit of it was before slate had been clapped or when a line had been flubbed. We scoured through five or six takes to find any light moment that we could to put it together.

JD: So it seems that in the original story, she is in therapy and the rest of the story is kind of a flashback to what brought her to therapy?

NS: Or it’s a flashfoward. It’s kind of unclear. We go through the movie and she has her breakthrough and talks to Jayden about what happened to her, and then she goes to therapy. We toyed around with whether we would put text on the screen saying, “One Month Later.”

Her therapy scene at the end of the movie was originally a six or seven minute scene. Destin says it’s the best thing he’s ever shot. He held on to it for a very long time, but in the end he knew we had to let it go.

The scene held on Brie for a very long time. We had coverage so we could have cut away, but for the most part it was one long shot of Brie telling the story of this dream she had.  She had been crawling through this mucky tunnel and she realized that she had been in a whale’s asshole. Then Mason and Marcus and the rest of the kids wiped the shit off of her and bubbles carried her up to the surface of the ocean where she could breathe again. Her dream was so well-written and was a beautiful metaphor for the story but it just killed the momentum. Destin insisted we couldn’t lose it all together, because he wanted to show her going to therapy to show that she was moving forward. So we cut it down to its bare bones.

JD: You guys did re-write the movie during the editing room in a lot of ways.

NS: Yeah.

JD: How was working on Short Term 12 different from your other movies?

I feel like you kind of get a sense the first day the footage comes in whether the movie is going to be special or not. I always edit during the production and on the second day of shooting the first day’s footage comes in. So on that second day, I often have a feel for whether or not the movie is going to be what I hoped it would be or not. With Short Term 12, I knew right away that it was going to be what I wanted it to be and it was going to be very special.

The original script was 120 pages. So it was a lot of material. We knew we wanted to get it under 100 minutes. All that levity was in there but it was about bringing it out and finding the right balance.

On the night in which Marcus commits suicide and she and Mason break up, there was another scene we cut out where Grace goes to the nurse at the clinic and wants to have an abortion right then. The scene was playing really intense and we didn’t need it, so the rewriting process would be to take such a scene out.  It was about finding the balance between what was light and what was too bludgeoning.

JD: You do walk away from the movie feeling angry about the injustice done to kids, but it doesn’t quite paralyze your day.

ST12-25

NS: I think that’s part of what’s special about the film is that you do get angry in the ways that you are supposed to, but the film is also so full of humanity and hope. It’s all Destin. I remember when I was cutting the last scene of the film during my first assembly. I was working from home and I was halfway through the scene when I went out to get lunch.

During that walk to get a sandwich, I realized I was ridiculously happy. I remember wondering, “Why am I so crazy happy right now?” And I realized it was because of that scene, which is so full of love and humanity.  It put me in an ecstatically good mood as I was working on it.

JD: The movie is bookended. It begins with Mason telling a story and then a kid runs out, and it ends with Mason telling a story then Sammy runs out.  Except the end is shot in slow motion. It makes this naturalistic film feel very epic.

NS: The last bit with Sammy is both celebratory and sad. It was not shot in 24 frames a second. It was always set apart.

JD: How long did it take you to edit the movie?

NS: We shot in the beginning of September. It was a twenty day shoot. I was cutting through production. I got the week after to finish my first assembly. We locked close to Christmas.

Most of the movies I’ve done have taken three or four months. Medicine for Melancholy was an exception because we had a lot of single takes or what you call “oners” and we did that one in just two months.

The improv ones we always seem to do in exactly 3 months.  The shoots run only about 11 days so there is not even a ton of footage, but it is more like editing a documentary.  You can have twenty minute long takes.

JD: What is it like to edit an improv movie?

NS: It is great, but I wouldn’t want to do it every time.  There are limitations. You can’t do as much with the cinematography. I remember when cutting Medicine for Melancholy, James Laxton‘s cinematography was amazing and was really fun to cut. It is like cutting for another character in the movie.

On the improv ones, cinematography is such a low priority on the movie. The DPs are handicapped. It’s all overhead lighting and two cameras and is all about capturing the performance.  But the gains are great. You get those spontaneous moments that are just like lightning in a bottle.

For the scripted ones, I’m usually going line by line and looking for the best read. But with the improv ones I go through each take and just pull everything that’s good and feels real and throw it all into a giant timeline. Then I focus on the handful of moments that really pop and find a way to get from one to the next in a way that hits all the beats that need to be hit.  It is definitely a lot more like editing a documentary. It’s great because it makes you feel like a co-writer and gives you a feeling of shared authorship of the movie.

JD: What are you working on now?

NS: I’m cutting the Duplass Brothers’ new HBO show. We did the pilot last summer and are shooting and editing the series right now. I think it is the best thing they have ever done.

JD: I have caught you at a good time of your life I take it.

NS: laughs Yeah I guess so. My career has already had some small ebbs and flows. I remember the year before Short Term 12, I felt like I had no momentum at all.  I wasn’t getting offers for movies I wanted to do. The previous film I was coming off of had been a disappointment and I felt like nothing good was coming my way.  But Short Term 12 turned out to be amazing and there is that momentum that came out from that.  I got lucky that the first two movies I did - Medicine for Melancholy and Humpday - turned out so great but at the time I definitely didn’t appreciate how rare those special ones are.

JD: What is the television show you are doing with the Duplass brothers?

NS: It’s called Togetherness. There are four main characters. Two of them are married but they’re no longer having sex and they love their kids but they also feel like their kids have taken their lives away from them.  The other two are his best friend and her sister who are both lovable fuck-ups and by the end of the first episode they’ve moved into the house with them.

It’s really personal to them and they’re putting a lot of their lives into it.

JD: What was your gut reaction to your nomination?

NS: I was really surprised. I knew the nominations were coming out that morning and I went online to see if Short Term 12 had gotten nominated for anything. And I did a triple take when I saw my name on there. Editing in general is such a hard thing to judge. Sometimes the best editing job you will ever do is taking bad footage and just making it watchable.  From the outside, you never know how good the footage was on a project. How much is it the director vs. the editor? How much of it is the actor’s performance vs. the editing enhancing it? It’s so hard to judge from the outside.

By Jaye Sarah Davidson

http://iheardin.com/2014/02/28/filmmaker-spotlight-behind-the-screen-with-editor-nat-sanders/

FILMMAKER SPOTLIGHT: Interview with Alana McNair pilot director of In the BogWelcome to the web premiere of the new series In the Bog! (See video below). In the Bog tracks the journey of the aspiring yet naïve filmmaker, Jesse Marks as he makes a home in Sunny Bog Brooklyn. Watch as Jesse wrestles with the challenges of Sunny Bog living from working at the hot dog sweet shop to overcoming the scrutiny of the neighborhood fashionistas. Then come back and enjoy iheardin’s interview with In the Bog pilot director, Alana McNair.

IN THE BOG – Pilot Episode from Alana McNair on Vimeo.
JD: How did you first get connected to the In the Bog project?
AM: About 6 months after I finished graduate school I ran into a friend, Rich Tayloe, in New York. While I had been getting my MFA in film he had been getting his MFA in screenwriting. So we decided that we should collaborate immediately! He sent me the pilot script for a series that he had been developing and we took it from there.
JD: So then you stepped up as a producer. How did you finance the production?
Yes, I was a producer through my production company, Cat Fight Productions. Rich and our friend Daisy Rosario also produced. We financed the pilot primarily by crowd funding through indiegogo. Our budget was $7000. But we still pulled it off!
JD: What were some of your early conversations about the script?
AM: First I wanted to understand Rich’s plans for the series as a whole because I wanted to make sure we were establishing each character in a true way. Many of the characters in this pilot come across as quite shallow. This is the intention at first. However, the idea is that as the series progresses each character’s true persona shows through and they become real people and less like caricatures. They are just trying to find their way in a rather shallow world. So we discussed each character and her/his path in the whole series.
JD: The tone of the script is very unusual. On the one hand it is very gentle with its characters and their strange habits. On the other it shows a world of insecure people who are very unaware or disconnected from the reality of their lives.
AM: Yes, I would agree with that. Rich and I have a similar tone in some of our work, which is why I felt like I was the right match for this script. Rich and I both moved to New York when we were 18 years old to attend acting school and were thrown out into the “real world” with so many artistic skills and not so many practical ones. I think that the lives of these characters reflect that feeling of hopeful helplessness. When you are experiencing those times everything seems so real and important. But when you are a bit older and reflect upon those times, the situations you found yourself in seem completely absurd. I think In the Bog speaks to that experience.
JD: It also speaks to being trapped…
AM: Yes!
JD: How was that then communicated in terms of design for instance?
AM: I chose a very colorful palette for the project. I wanted to keep that feeling of hopefulness and cheerfulness with the characters by using an array of cheerful primary colors. The characters are innocently thrilled with their own lives so they don’t quite notice yet how depressing it looks from the outside. For the costumes I wanted to use black with accents of bright colors. The black is the gritty New York part, but the colors are keeping them positive and motivated – for now.
Jesse is the only character who goes slightly out of the color palette since he is somewhat on the outside. He does not have the black incorporated yet.
Our production designer, Doug Cordes, our costume designer, Julian Andres Arango, and assistant costume designer, Shady P, were super on board with all of this and worked so hard to make sure everything fit together.

JD: There is an absurd element to these characters’ worlds. For instance, Jesse’s job is in a hotdog sweetshop, which his potential friend nemesis wears a demon donut outfit in protest.
AM: The truth is that as absurd as these things seem, they are in fact quite realistic to our own experiences! New York is a great place, but it is so expensive to live here. So when you are young and making no money and you want to stay in this city, you find yourself living in really crappy places and convincing yourself that your apartment is awesome! You are living on the edge! But as an outsider, it is easy to see how horrible that is. And if you lived anywhere else in the country (or at least in many other places) you could have a huge apartment for half the price that actually has walls and a private bathroom. So we wanted to really make fun of that idea. Jesse’s apartment is actually an apartment where people live, but we made it look really messy and gross for the purposes of the film. And “Jesse’s room” is actually a storage room in their apartment, but I have honestly seen that sort of thing pass as a room before.

JD: Wow.
AM: So the idea with Karen is that she is a talented artist, but she hasn’t quite found her voice yet. We are gently making fun of her path toward finding her voice. She believes so vehemently in what she is saying, but she is a bit misdirected in terms of her cause and her activist art. I tried to make that performance a somewhat misdirected Laurie Anderson inspired piece.
JD : You could say that about all the characters. They are just trying to find their voice, even the fashionistas.
AM: Yes – that is exactly the idea.
JD: Having the luxury of looking back on this period in hindsight, what would you say your “voice” is?
AM: I like using comedy as a lens to point out the absurdities in life. I find that I can take certain creative liberties when using comedy to criticize a larger social idea. Comedy can exist on an immediate slapstick level, but then it can also exist on a more existential level.
JD: So you are working on a budget and this absurd environment. What was the on set process like? What choices did you make with your Director of Photography, Brian Gutierrez Aramayo?
AM: We shot the pilot over three weekends, so six days total. It was a very fast production! We shot on the Sony F3. We had a very small crew. I think we had about 12-15 people depending on the day.
I love working with Brian.
JD: The cinematography is very natural, yet even.
AM: Brian and I talked a lot how to shoot the pilot taking into consideration what we wanted in terms of style and also considering our very fast shooting schedule. I watched a lot of new comedy series from network series to HBO series to web series online. I tried to think about the next step beyond The Office look. I wanted the show to look nice and tv ready, and I wanted to shoot it in a way that felt familiar yet modern for an audience.
I thought the handheld would also lend itself to helping the scenes feel somewhat naturalistic. The story itself is so stylized that I wanted the cinematography to feel a bit more “real” so that it might help the audience to connect. I tend to love wide lenses, so we stayed on those for most of the pilot.

JD: What are your plans for continuation after the pilot?
AM: We are submitting to some festivals now and reaching out to see if we can gather funding for further episodes. We have discussed making more full length episodes or even perhaps creating very short web-series shows that each focus on a character.
JD: What your other projects in addition to In the Bog?
AM: Currently I am living in New York. (Don’t worry. These days I have a nice apartment. Small, but nice.) I teach film classes at Rutgers University where we are in the process of creating a BFA in film. I am close to finishing a script which I hope will be my first feature length film. It is about a thirty-something woman living in a small southern town who attempts to reshape her life after her mother, for whom she has been a primary caretaker, dies. Religious hypocrisy and nice-nastiness abound! And it is a musical! I am also working on a horror film about urban witches with my frequent collaborator Kate Wilkinson. (She is half of Cat Fight Productions.) Kate is writing the script, and I will direct. Kate and I are also in the process of turning one of our plays, Power Burn 3, into a screenplay. And the list goes on. But those are all at the top of the list.
————————
Alana McNair is a film director, writer and performer. Her short film, Imminent Danger!, has been selected to screen at many festivals including Broad Humor Film Festival, Etheria Film Festival, and Dragon*Con Film Festival, where it was a finalist for Best Comedy Short.  Her work as a playwright and performer has been produced in New York and other cities around the country, including the plays Fatal Attraction: A Greek Tragedy, Power Burn 3, Settlement, and Just Piddlin’: a dirt road operetta.  She is also a founding member of the pop rock band Ladystein. Alana holds a BFA in Acting from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and a MFA in Film Production from FSU’s College of Motion Picture Arts. She currently teaches film classes at Rutgers University.
You can contact Alana at catfightproductions@gmail.com
By Jaye Sarah Davidson
 http://iheardin.com/2014/02/21/filmmaker-spotlight-interview-with-alana-mcnair-pilot-director-of-in-the-bog/ View Larger

FILMMAKER SPOTLIGHT: Interview with Alana McNair pilot director of In the Bog

Welcome to the web premiere of the new series In the Bog! (See video below). In the Bog tracks the journey of the aspiring yet naïve filmmaker, Jesse Marks as he makes a home in Sunny Bog Brooklyn. Watch as Jesse wrestles with the challenges of Sunny Bog living from working at the hot dog sweet shop to overcoming the scrutiny of the neighborhood fashionistas. Then come back and enjoy iheardin’s interview with In the Bog pilot director, Alana McNair.

IN THE BOG – Pilot Episode from Alana McNair on Vimeo.

JD: How did you first get connected to the In the Bog project?

AM: About 6 months after I finished graduate school I ran into a friend, Rich Tayloe, in New York. While I had been getting my MFA in film he had been getting his MFA in screenwriting. So we decided that we should collaborate immediately! He sent me the pilot script for a series that he had been developing and we took it from there.

JD: So then you stepped up as a producer. How did you finance the production?

Yes, I was a producer through my production company, Cat Fight Productions. Rich and our friend Daisy Rosario also produced. We financed the pilot primarily by crowd funding through indiegogo. Our budget was $7000. But we still pulled it off!

JD: What were some of your early conversations about the script?

AM: First I wanted to understand Rich’s plans for the series as a whole because I wanted to make sure we were establishing each character in a true way. Many of the characters in this pilot come across as quite shallow. This is the intention at first. However, the idea is that as the series progresses each character’s true persona shows through and they become real people and less like caricatures. They are just trying to find their way in a rather shallow world. So we discussed each character and her/his path in the whole series.

BlakeandCookie

JD: The tone of the script is very unusual. On the one hand it is very gentle with its characters and their strange habits. On the other it shows a world of insecure people who are very unaware or disconnected from the reality of their lives.

AM: Yes, I would agree with that. Rich and I have a similar tone in some of our work, which is why I felt like I was the right match for this script. Rich and I both moved to New York when we were 18 years old to attend acting school and were thrown out into the “real world” with so many artistic skills and not so many practical ones. I think that the lives of these characters reflect that feeling of hopeful helplessness. When you are experiencing those times everything seems so real and important. But when you are a bit older and reflect upon those times, the situations you found yourself in seem completely absurd. I think In the Bog speaks to that experience.

JD: It also speaks to being trapped…

AM: Yes!

jesse hot dogJD: How was that then communicated in terms of design for instance?

AM: I chose a very colorful palette for the project. I wanted to keep that feeling of hopefulness and cheerfulness with the characters by using an array of cheerful primary colors. The characters are innocently thrilled with their own lives so they don’t quite notice yet how depressing it looks from the outside. For the costumes I wanted to use black with accents of bright colors. The black is the gritty New York part, but the colors are keeping them positive and motivated – for now.

Jesse is the only character who goes slightly out of the color palette since he is somewhat on the outside. He does not have the black incorporated yet.

Our production designer, Doug Cordes, our costume designer, Julian Andres Arango, and assistant costume designer, Shady P, were super on board with all of this and worked so hard to make sure everything fit together.

Jesse w graffiti

JD: There is an absurd element to these characters’ worlds. For instance, Jesse’s job is in a hotdog sweetshop, which his potential friend nemesis wears a demon donut outfit in protest.

AM: The truth is that as absurd as these things seem, they are in fact quite realistic to our own experiences! New York is a great place, but it is so expensive to live here. So when you are young and making no money and you want to stay in this city, you find yourself living in really crappy places and convincing yourself that your apartment is awesome! You are living on the edge! But as an outsider, it is easy to see how horrible that is. And if you lived anywhere else in the country (or at least in many other places) you could have a huge apartment for half the price that actually has walls and a private bathroom. So we wanted to really make fun of that idea. Jesse’s apartment is actually an apartment where people live, but we made it look really messy and gross for the purposes of the film. And “Jesse’s room” is actually a storage room in their apartment, but I have honestly seen that sort of thing pass as a room before.

Karen and Rob

JD: Wow.

AM: So the idea with Karen is that she is a talented artist, but she hasn’t quite found her voice yet. We are gently making fun of her path toward finding her voice. She believes so vehemently in what she is saying, but she is a bit misdirected in terms of her cause and her activist art. I tried to make that performance a somewhat misdirected Laurie Anderson inspired piece.

JD : You could say that about all the characters. They are just trying to find their voice, even the fashionistas.

AM: Yes – that is exactly the idea.

JD: Having the luxury of looking back on this period in hindsight, what would you say your “voice” is?

AM: I like using comedy as a lens to point out the absurdities in life. I find that I can take certain creative liberties when using comedy to criticize a larger social idea. Comedy can exist on an immediate slapstick level, but then it can also exist on a more existential level.

JD: So you are working on a budget and this absurd environment. What was the on set process like? What choices did you make with your Director of Photography, Brian Gutierrez Aramayo?

AM: We shot the pilot over three weekends, so six days total. It was a very fast production! We shot on the Sony F3. We had a very small crew. I think we had about 12-15 people depending on the day.

I love working with Brian.

JD: The cinematography is very natural, yet even.

AM: Brian and I talked a lot how to shoot the pilot taking into consideration what we wanted in terms of style and also considering our very fast shooting schedule. I watched a lot of new comedy series from network series to HBO series to web series online. I tried to think about the next step beyond The Office look. I wanted the show to look nice and tv ready, and I wanted to shoot it in a way that felt familiar yet modern for an audience.

I thought the handheld would also lend itself to helping the scenes feel somewhat naturalistic. The story itself is so stylized that I wanted the cinematography to feel a bit more “real” so that it might help the audience to connect. I tend to love wide lenses, so we stayed on those for most of the pilot.

BGandAlana-prodstill

JD: What are your plans for continuation after the pilot?

AM: We are submitting to some festivals now and reaching out to see if we can gather funding for further episodes. We have discussed making more full length episodes or even perhaps creating very short web-series shows that each focus on a character.

JD: What your other projects in addition to In the Bog?

AM: Currently I am living in New York. (Don’t worry. These days I have a nice apartment. Small, but nice.) I teach film classes at Rutgers University where we are in the process of creating a BFA in film. I am close to finishing a script which I hope will be my first feature length film. It is about a thirty-something woman living in a small southern town who attempts to reshape her life after her mother, for whom she has been a primary caretaker, dies. Religious hypocrisy and nice-nastiness abound! And it is a musical! I am also working on a horror film about urban witches with my frequent collaborator Kate Wilkinson. (She is half of Cat Fight Productions.) Kate is writing the script, and I will direct. Kate and I are also in the process of turning one of our plays, Power Burn 3, into a screenplay. And the list goes on. But those are all at the top of the list.

————————

Alana McNair is a film director, writer and performer. Her short film, Imminent Danger!, has been selected to screen at many festivals including Broad Humor Film Festival, Etheria Film Festival, and Dragon*Con Film Festival, where it was a finalist for Best Comedy Short.  Her work as a playwright and performer has been produced in New York and other cities around the country, including the plays Fatal Attraction: A Greek TragedyPower Burn 3Settlement, and Just Piddlin’: a dirt road operetta.  She is also a founding member of the pop rock band Ladystein. Alana holds a BFA in Acting from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and a MFA in Film Production from FSU’s College of Motion Picture Arts. She currently teaches film classes at Rutgers University.

You can contact Alana at catfightproductions@gmail.com

By Jaye Sarah Davidson

http://iheardin.com/2014/02/21/filmmaker-spotlight-interview-with-alana-mcnair-pilot-director-of-in-the-bog/

FILMMAKER SPOTLIGHT: Interview with Ken Adachi co-writer and director of Dead DadIt’s not often that a Kickstarter campaign created by film school buddies results in not only its immediate goals but a highly successful film to boot. But this is exactly the story for Dead Dad writers Ken Adachi and Kyle Arrington.  Restless to make a film, Adachi and Arrington pulled their resources and friends together to tell the the heart wrenching and sometimes heart warming story of three different siblings coming together for their fathers’ funeral. (See Trailer)
On a budget of $10,000 the film was shot on weekends.  Premiering at the Florida Film Festival the film immediately found distribution. Dead Dad continued its journey through the festival circuit winning a number of awards including Best Narrative Feature at the Tallgrass Film Festival.
Dead Dad is all at once an elegant film; with all the subtleties of fine acting and nuanced directing of a raw film; with all the naturalism that grief entails. Its craftsmanship is testament to the cast and filmmakers whose wisdom is beyond their years.
You can watch Dead Dad on iTunes and VOD. https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/dead-dad/id796810408?ign-mpt=uo%3D4

To find out more about the film, you can read our in depth interview (below) with Dead Dad‘s co-writer and director Ken Adachi.
CAST:
Kyle Arrington as Russell Sawtelle
Jenni Melear as Jane Sawtelle
Lucas K Peterson as Alex Sawtelle
Director(s): Ken J. Adachi
Producer(s): Kelly Calligan and Ben Hethcoat
DP: Eric Bader
Composer(s): Nadeem Majdalany
Writer(s): Ken J. Adachi and Kyle Arrington
Editor(s): Eric Ekman
JD: What was your inspiration behind the film? In what ways did you draw on personal experiences to talk about grief?
KA: I had just finished my Master’s degree, moved out to Los Angeles along with my classmates and was eager to get a feature film off the ground. All the screenplays I had been working on would’ve taken another year to complete and a six-figure budget to produce so I decided to start fresh. I approached a good friend, Kyle Arrington, to co-write a film that would shoot the following spring. I specified that it would be a no-budget film with a large emphasis on improvisation to meet the production’s needs. I didn’t have to do much convincing, as he was also eager to get a feature film produced.
It didn’t take long before he tossed me a line about siblings dealing with their father’s death and I latched onto the idea because I knew it would be manageable for a shoestring budget production. We met every week for a few months and discussed our experiences with grief, but for the most part we shared stories about our siblings, childhood friends and extended family members to develop the characters and the family dynamic. We made a conscious decision to keep our specific experiences with death out of the script so we could separate ourselves from the narrative and develop a story that could be dramatic and also light-hearted.

JD: Can you tell me about the unique writing process between you and Kyle?
KA: It was really simple actually, because we were already good friends. Once we had gathered notes about the story we alternated passes writing the outline and then the script. Once production began we took on our separate roles as director and actor, but continued to do rewrites between takes and at night.
JD: How did you decide to cast Kyle as Russell? What was the casting process for the other actors?
KA: I approached Kyle as a co-writer knowing that I wanted him to also act in the film. We were making the film for next to nothing and I knew we needed actors who understood the situation and would go the extra mile to help out the production. It also helped that he is a very talented actor. Like Kyle, I approached Ben Hethcoat to be a producer and an actor because of his versatility and positive energy. We gathered most of the cast through our various networks. Jenni Melear, who plays Jane, is a good friend of Kyle’s, so they had a built in chemistry that we knew would help with their interaction as siblings. Brett Erlich is also a friend of Kyle’s, and Fred Stoller is an acquaintance of our other producer, Kelly Calligan.
We held one day of auditions and were lucky enough to find Allyn Rachel, who plays Russ’s girlfriend, and Lucas Peterson, the third, adopted sibling. Unlike my previous experiences of spending months and multiple casting calls to find the right talent, everything came together for this project very quickly and smoothly. It helped that we wrote the script knowing that we would rewrite the characters based on the talents that were available to us.

JD: So you used Kickstarter… what was that like and did it live up to what you needed to be?
KA: I was going to make the film for next to nothing, but my producers convinced me we could use more money and of course they were right. Our goal wasn’t that high, only $5,000, and we raised almost double. We shot a teaser exclusively for Kickstarter to show our prospective donors the tone and style of the film, and I think that really helped with our pitch. It was also a great practice run for the cast and crew, and it prepared us mentally for the hectic shoot that was looming ahead of us.
JD: Can you talk about your unique shooting schedule?
KA: Because we were a micro budget film we couldn’t pay our cast or crew. It was only logical to shoot over nights and weekends, basically whenever people were not working (most of us had full time jobs). We started shooting over a long weekend, Memorial Day, to get our bearings, and then on three more consecutive weekends with a couple nights in between. Once we assembled a rough cut we did a test screening and then did a couple more days of pickups to wrap things up. I believe we shot for a total of about 12 days.
JD. Can you talk about your decisions and choices for cinematography?  Technical specs are great, but can you talk about the deliberacy if any behind the shallow focus?
KA: My visual reference was the works by Yoshimoto Nara. I really wanted pastels and a muted color palette to create a youthful, dreamlike world to complement the fact that the siblings are revisiting their childhood throughout the story. Due to budgetary restraints we were limited in how much we could actually control the palette, but it was in the back of our minds with every decision made.

Eric Bader, the cinematographer, and I pre-visualized the majority of the film, but once we entered production I gave him creative freedom to float with the characters especially during their individual journeys. I kept reiterating to him to embrace the mistakes and always keep the camera rolling. While editing the film we kept the accidental moments and rarely cut around the imperfections of a take. This small bit of rawness really added to the realism we were trying to achieve.
Shallow focus and various filters were used to take the edge off the sharpness and achieve a cinematic look with the 5D Mark 2. We kept pushing the shallowness of the DOF to emphasize the loneliness the siblings were experiencing throughout the story.
JD: Editing – I noticed several scenes in which the dialogue would overlap with the event that was about to take place. For example they would talk about going to the mini golf park and then you would see them in the car, but then it would cut back to them at dinner. It gives a certain fluidity to the film.  What helped you and your editor decide to make these choices?
KA: I knew while writing that I wanted the individual journeys of the siblings that happen after the funeral to happen in a music driven montage with a lot of crosscutting, almost like a music video. This approach quickly became the style for the rest of the film. I believe the first scene we cut with this style was the scene in which the siblings hang out together the night of the funeral. My editor, Eric Ekman, showed me an assembly of that scene and because of all the improvisation and extra pages that were shot, the scene ran way too long. We reshaped it with crosscutting and condensed the scene to its essential beats. Once we established the editing style with that scene Eric was able to apply it to the rest of the film.
JD: You have talked about in other articles that the siblings are dysfunctional and the audience has to pick who they want to side with. Who do you side with?
KA: One of the core messages of the film is that there is no right or wrong way to grieve, and I truly believe that. I’d be contradicting the point I’m trying to make if I side with one of the characters. All three siblings are flawed in their actions, and I believe that’s what makes them real and relatable. In short, I side with all three of the siblings.

JD: So you made this film on a shoe string budget… and now the film can be seen on Video on Demand.  What was the distribution process like from point A to point B?
KA: We had our world premiere at the Florida Film Festival and immediately got interest from distributors. FilmBuff, our distributor, had approached us then but we wanted to experience the full gamut of the festival season before thinking about distribution. We ended up screening at over twenty festivals around the world and won a few awards, all of which would become a key element of promoting our film on VOD.
Once we landed with FilmBuff and got a release date, we started to work on our trailer (edited by Jake Odenberg). I had withheld cutting a full trailer until distribution, because I knew it could reignite interest. The film had been circulating through festivals since the spring of 2012 with a teaser, but this new trailer has been crucial for getting the word out about our release.
JD:. Now that you have made this film, what are your next steps in your career?
KA: I’m focusing primarily on writing and the goal is to direct a feature every two to three years. I don’t really have any major plans, but to keep creating and to continue growing as a filmmaker.
JD:  What do you want people to walk away feeling from the film?
KA: I mentioned this in an earlier answer, that one of the core messages of the film is there is no right or wrong way to grieve. I hope our viewers can come to understand that idea through our film. Besides that my goal was to take a dark topic and turn it into an entertaining story filled with drama and humor. I hope our viewers were able to experience a full range of emotions while watching Dead Dad.

More about DEAD DAD at
DEAD DAD ON ITUNES: http://bit.ly/1b2d2Dw
DEAD DAD WEBSITE: http://www.deaddadmovie.com/
DEAD DAD ON FILMBUFF: http://www.filmbuff.com/films/dead-dad
DEAD DAD ON FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/deaddadmovie
DEAD DAD ON TWITTER: @DeadDadMovie
By Jaye Sarah Davidson
 http://iheardin.com/2014/02/14/filmmaker-spotlight-interview-ken-adachi-co-writer-director-dead-dad/ View Larger

FILMMAKER SPOTLIGHT: Interview with Ken Adachi co-writer and director of Dead Dad

It’s not often that a Kickstarter campaign created by film school buddies results in not only its immediate goals but a highly successful film to boot. But this is exactly the story for Dead Dad writers Ken Adachi and Kyle Arrington.  Restless to make a film, Adachi and Arrington pulled their resources and friends together to tell the the heart wrenching and sometimes heart warming story of three different siblings coming together for their fathers’ funeral. (See Trailer)

On a budget of $10,000 the film was shot on weekends.  Premiering at the Florida Film Festival the film immediately found distribution. Dead Dad continued its journey through the festival circuit winning a number of awards including Best Narrative Feature at the Tallgrass Film Festival.

Dead Dad is all at once an elegant film; with all the subtleties of fine acting and nuanced directing of a raw film; with all the naturalism that grief entails. Its craftsmanship is testament to the cast and filmmakers whose wisdom is beyond their years.

You can watch Dead Dad on iTunes and VOD. https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/dead-dad/id796810408?ign-mpt=uo%3D4

To find out more about the film, you can read our in depth interview (below) with Dead Dad‘s co-writer and director Ken Adachi.

CAST:

  • Kyle Arrington as Russell Sawtelle
  • Jenni Melear as Jane Sawtelle
  • Lucas K Peterson as Alex Sawtelle

Director(s): Ken J. Adachi

Producer(s): Kelly Calligan and Ben Hethcoat

DP: Eric Bader

Composer(s): Nadeem Majdalany

Writer(s): Ken J. Adachi and Kyle Arrington

Editor(s): Eric Ekman

JD: What was your inspiration behind the film? In what ways did you draw on personal experiences to talk about grief?

KA: I had just finished my Master’s degree, moved out to Los Angeles along with my classmates and was eager to get a feature film off the ground. All the screenplays I had been working on would’ve taken another year to complete and a six-figure budget to produce so I decided to start fresh. I approached a good friend, Kyle Arrington, to co-write a film that would shoot the following spring. I specified that it would be a no-budget film with a large emphasis on improvisation to meet the production’s needs. I didn’t have to do much convincing, as he was also eager to get a feature film produced.

It didn’t take long before he tossed me a line about siblings dealing with their father’s death and I latched onto the idea because I knew it would be manageable for a shoestring budget production. We met every week for a few months and discussed our experiences with grief, but for the most part we shared stories about our siblings, childhood friends and extended family members to develop the characters and the family dynamic. We made a conscious decision to keep our specific experiences with death out of the script so we could separate ourselves from the narrative and develop a story that could be dramatic and also light-hearted.

DeadDad_SiblingsDrink

JD: Can you tell me about the unique writing process between you and Kyle?

KA: It was really simple actually, because we were already good friends. Once we had gathered notes about the story we alternated passes writing the outline and then the script. Once production began we took on our separate roles as director and actor, but continued to do rewrites between takes and at night.

JD: How did you decide to cast Kyle as Russell? What was the casting process for the other actors?

KA: I approached Kyle as a co-writer knowing that I wanted him to also act in the film. We were making the film for next to nothing and I knew we needed actors who understood the situation and would go the extra mile to help out the production. It also helped that he is a very talented actor. Like Kyle, I approached Ben Hethcoat to be a producer and an actor because of his versatility and positive energy. We gathered most of the cast through our various networks. Jenni Melear, who plays Jane, is a good friend of Kyle’s, so they had a built in chemistry that we knew would help with their interaction as siblings. Brett Erlich is also a friend of Kyle’s, and Fred Stoller is an acquaintance of our other producer, Kelly Calligan.

We held one day of auditions and were lucky enough to find Allyn Rachel, who plays Russ’s girlfriend, and Lucas Peterson, the third, adopted sibling. Unlike my previous experiences of spending months and multiple casting calls to find the right talent, everything came together for this project very quickly and smoothly. It helped that we wrote the script knowing that we would rewrite the characters based on the talents that were available to us.

DeadDad_AlexFuneral

JD: So you used Kickstarter… what was that like and did it live up to what you needed to be?

KA: I was going to make the film for next to nothing, but my producers convinced me we could use more money and of course they were right. Our goal wasn’t that high, only $5,000, and we raised almost double. We shot a teaser exclusively for Kickstarter to show our prospective donors the tone and style of the film, and I think that really helped with our pitch. It was also a great practice run for the cast and crew, and it prepared us mentally for the hectic shoot that was looming ahead of us.

JD: Can you talk about your unique shooting schedule?

KA: Because we were a micro budget film we couldn’t pay our cast or crew. It was only logical to shoot over nights and weekends, basically whenever people were not working (most of us had full time jobs). We started shooting over a long weekend, Memorial Day, to get our bearings, and then on three more consecutive weekends with a couple nights in between. Once we assembled a rough cut we did a test screening and then did a couple more days of pickups to wrap things up. I believe we shot for a total of about 12 days.

JD. Can you talk about your decisions and choices for cinematography?  Technical specs are great, but can you talk about the deliberacy if any behind the shallow focus?

KA: My visual reference was the works by Yoshimoto Nara. I really wanted pastels and a muted color palette to create a youthful, dreamlike world to complement the fact that the siblings are revisiting their childhood throughout the story. Due to budgetary restraints we were limited in how much we could actually control the palette, but it was in the back of our minds with every decision made.

DeadDad_JaneBrandonSunset

Eric Bader, the cinematographer, and I pre-visualized the majority of the film, but once we entered production I gave him creative freedom to float with the characters especially during their individual journeys. I kept reiterating to him to embrace the mistakes and always keep the camera rolling. While editing the film we kept the accidental moments and rarely cut around the imperfections of a take. This small bit of rawness really added to the realism we were trying to achieve.

Shallow focus and various filters were used to take the edge off the sharpness and achieve a cinematic look with the 5D Mark 2. We kept pushing the shallowness of the DOF to emphasize the loneliness the siblings were experiencing throughout the story.

JD: Editing – I noticed several scenes in which the dialogue would overlap with the event that was about to take place. For example they would talk about going to the mini golf park and then you would see them in the car, but then it would cut back to them at dinner. It gives a certain fluidity to the film.  What helped you and your editor decide to make these choices?

KA: I knew while writing that I wanted the individual journeys of the siblings that happen after the funeral to happen in a music driven montage with a lot of crosscutting, almost like a music video. This approach quickly became the style for the rest of the film. I believe the first scene we cut with this style was the scene in which the siblings hang out together the night of the funeral. My editor, Eric Ekman, showed me an assembly of that scene and because of all the improvisation and extra pages that were shot, the scene ran way too long. We reshaped it with crosscutting and condensed the scene to its essential beats. Once we established the editing style with that scene Eric was able to apply it to the rest of the film.

JD: You have talked about in other articles that the siblings are dysfunctional and the audience has to pick who they want to side with. Who do you side with?

KA: One of the core messages of the film is that there is no right or wrong way to grieve, and I truly believe that. I’d be contradicting the point I’m trying to make if I side with one of the characters. All three siblings are flawed in their actions, and I believe that’s what makes them real and relatable. In short, I side with all three of the siblings.

DeadDad_SiblingsMotel

JD: So you made this film on a shoe string budget… and now the film can be seen on Video on Demand.  What was the distribution process like from point A to point B?

KA: We had our world premiere at the Florida Film Festival and immediately got interest from distributors. FilmBuff, our distributor, had approached us then but we wanted to experience the full gamut of the festival season before thinking about distribution. We ended up screening at over twenty festivals around the world and won a few awards, all of which would become a key element of promoting our film on VOD.

Once we landed with FilmBuff and got a release date, we started to work on our trailer (edited by Jake Odenberg). I had withheld cutting a full trailer until distribution, because I knew it could reignite interest. The film had been circulating through festivals since the spring of 2012 with a teaser, but this new trailer has been crucial for getting the word out about our release.

JD:. Now that you have made this film, what are your next steps in your career?

KA: I’m focusing primarily on writing and the goal is to direct a feature every two to three years. I don’t really have any major plans, but to keep creating and to continue growing as a filmmaker.

JD:  What do you want people to walk away feeling from the film?

KA: I mentioned this in an earlier answer, that one of the core messages of the film is there is no right or wrong way to grieve. I hope our viewers can come to understand that idea through our film. Besides that my goal was to take a dark topic and turn it into an entertaining story filled with drama and humor. I hope our viewers were able to experience a full range of emotions while watching Dead Dad.

More about DEAD DAD at

DEAD DAD ON ITUNES: http://bit.ly/1b2d2Dw

DEAD DAD WEBSITE: http://www.deaddadmovie.com/

DEAD DAD ON FILMBUFF: http://www.filmbuff.com/films/dead-dad

DEAD DAD ON FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/deaddadmovie

DEAD DAD ON TWITTER: @DeadDadMovie

By Jaye Sarah Davidson

http://iheardin.com/2014/02/14/filmmaker-spotlight-interview-ken-adachi-co-writer-director-dead-dad/

FILMMAKER SPOTLIGHT: Interview with Ken Adachi co-writer and director of Dead DadIt’s not often that a Kickstarter campaign created by film school buddies results in not only its immediate goals but a highly successful film to boot. But this is exactly the story for Dead Dad writers Ken Adachi and Kyle Arrington.  Restless to make a film, Adachi and Arrington pulled their resources and friends together to tell the the heart wrenching and sometimes heart warming story of three different siblings coming together for their fathers’ funeral. (See Trailer)
On a budget of $10,000 the film was shot on weekends.  Premiering at the Florida Film Festival the film immediately found distribution. Dead Dad continued its journey through the festival circuit winning a number of awards including Best Narrative Feature at the Tallgrass Film Festival.
Dead Dad is all at once an elegant film; with all the subtleties of fine acting and nuanced directing of a raw film; with all the naturalism that grief entails. Its craftsmanship is testament to the cast and filmmakers whose wisdom is beyond their years.
You can watch Dead Dad on iTunes and VOD. https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/dead-dad/id796810408?ign-mpt=uo%3D4

To find out more about the film, you can read our in depth interview (below) with Dead Dad‘s co-writer and director Ken Adachi.
CAST:
Kyle Arrington as Russell Sawtelle
Jenni Melear as Jane Sawtelle
Lucas K Peterson as Alex Sawtelle
Director(s): Ken J. Adachi
Producer(s): Kelly Calligan and Ben Hethcoat
DP: Eric Bader
Composer(s): Nadeem Majdalany
Writer(s): Ken J. Adachi and Kyle Arrington
Editor(s): Eric Ekman
JD: What was your inspiration behind the film? In what ways did you draw on personal experiences to talk about grief?
KA: I had just finished my Master’s degree, moved out to Los Angeles along with my classmates and was eager to get a feature film off the ground. All the screenplays I had been working on would’ve taken another year to complete and a six-figure budget to produce so I decided to start fresh. I approached a good friend, Kyle Arrington, to co-write a film that would shoot the following spring. I specified that it would be a no-budget film with a large emphasis on improvisation to meet the production’s needs. I didn’t have to do much convincing, as he was also eager to get a feature film produced.
It didn’t take long before he tossed me a line about siblings dealing with their father’s death and I latched onto the idea because I knew it would be manageable for a shoestring budget production. We met every week for a few months and discussed our experiences with grief, but for the most part we shared stories about our siblings, childhood friends and extended family members to develop the characters and the family dynamic. We made a conscious decision to keep our specific experiences with death out of the script so we could separate ourselves from the narrative and develop a story that could be dramatic and also light-hearted.

JD: Can you tell me about the unique writing process between you and Kyle?
KA: It was really simple actually, because we were already good friends. Once we had gathered notes about the story we alternated passes writing the outline and then the script. Once production began we took on our separate roles as director and actor, but continued to do rewrites between takes and at night.
JD: How did you decide to cast Kyle as Russell? What was the casting process for the other actors?
KA: I approached Kyle as a co-writer knowing that I wanted him to also act in the film. We were making the film for next to nothing and I knew we needed actors who understood the situation and would go the extra mile to help out the production. It also helped that he is a very talented actor. Like Kyle, I approached Ben Hethcoat to be a producer and an actor because of his versatility and positive energy. We gathered most of the cast through our various networks. Jenni Melear, who plays Jane, is a good friend of Kyle’s, so they had a built in chemistry that we knew would help with their interaction as siblings. Brett Erlich is also a friend of Kyle’s, and Fred Stoller is an acquaintance of our other producer, Kelly Calligan.
We held one day of auditions and were lucky enough to find Allyn Rachel, who plays Russ’s girlfriend, and Lucas Peterson, the third, adopted sibling. Unlike my previous experiences of spending months and multiple casting calls to find the right talent, everything came together for this project very quickly and smoothly. It helped that we wrote the script knowing that we would rewrite the characters based on the talents that were available to us.

JD: So you used Kickstarter… what was that like and did it live up to what you needed to be?
KA: I was going to make the film for next to nothing, but my producers convinced me we could use more money and of course they were right. Our goal wasn’t that high, only $5,000, and we raised almost double. We shot a teaser exclusively for Kickstarter to show our prospective donors the tone and style of the film, and I think that really helped with our pitch. It was also a great practice run for the cast and crew, and it prepared us mentally for the hectic shoot that was looming ahead of us.
JD: Can you talk about your unique shooting schedule?
KA: Because we were a micro budget film we couldn’t pay our cast or crew. It was only logical to shoot over nights and weekends, basically whenever people were not working (most of us had full time jobs). We started shooting over a long weekend, Memorial Day, to get our bearings, and then on three more consecutive weekends with a couple nights in between. Once we assembled a rough cut we did a test screening and then did a couple more days of pickups to wrap things up. I believe we shot for a total of about 12 days.
JD. Can you talk about your decisions and choices for cinematography?  Technical specs are great, but can you talk about the deliberacy if any behind the shallow focus?
KA: My visual reference was the works by Yoshimoto Nara. I really wanted pastels and a muted color palette to create a youthful, dreamlike world to complement the fact that the siblings are revisiting their childhood throughout the story. Due to budgetary restraints we were limited in how much we could actually control the palette, but it was in the back of our minds with every decision made.

Eric Bader, the cinematographer, and I pre-visualized the majority of the film, but once we entered production I gave him creative freedom to float with the characters especially during their individual journeys. I kept reiterating to him to embrace the mistakes and always keep the camera rolling. While editing the film we kept the accidental moments and rarely cut around the imperfections of a take. This small bit of rawness really added to the realism we were trying to achieve.
Shallow focus and various filters were used to take the edge off the sharpness and achieve a cinematic look with the 5D Mark 2. We kept pushing the shallowness of the DOF to emphasize the loneliness the siblings were experiencing throughout the story.
JD: Editing – I noticed several scenes in which the dialogue would overlap with the event that was about to take place. For example they would talk about going to the mini golf park and then you would see them in the car, but then it would cut back to them at dinner. It gives a certain fluidity to the film.  What helped you and your editor decide to make these choices?
KA: I knew while writing that I wanted the individual journeys of the siblings that happen after the funeral to happen in a music driven montage with a lot of crosscutting, almost like a music video. This approach quickly became the style for the rest of the film. I believe the first scene we cut with this style was the scene in which the siblings hang out together the night of the funeral. My editor, Eric Ekman, showed me an assembly of that scene and because of all the improvisation and extra pages that were shot, the scene ran way too long. We reshaped it with crosscutting and condensed the scene to its essential beats. Once we established the editing style with that scene Eric was able to apply it to the rest of the film.
JD: You have talked about in other articles that the siblings are dysfunctional and the audience has to pick who they want to side with. Who do you side with?
KA: One of the core messages of the film is that there is no right or wrong way to grieve, and I truly believe that. I’d be contradicting the point I’m trying to make if I side with one of the characters. All three siblings are flawed in their actions, and I believe that’s what makes them real and relatable. In short, I side with all three of the siblings.

JD: So you made this film on a shoe string budget… and now the film can be seen on Video on Demand.  What was the distribution process like from point A to point B?
KA: We had our world premiere at the Florida Film Festival and immediately got interest from distributors. FilmBuff, our distributor, had approached us then but we wanted to experience the full gamut of the festival season before thinking about distribution. We ended up screening at over twenty festivals around the world and won a few awards, all of which would become a key element of promoting our film on VOD.
Once we landed with FilmBuff and got a release date, we started to work on our trailer (edited by Jake Odenberg). I had withheld cutting a full trailer until distribution, because I knew it could reignite interest. The film had been circulating through festivals since the spring of 2012 with a teaser, but this new trailer has been crucial for getting the word out about our release.
JD:. Now that you have made this film, what are your next steps in your career?
KA: I’m focusing primarily on writing and the goal is to direct a feature every two to three years. I don’t really have any major plans, but to keep creating and to continue growing as a filmmaker.
JD:  What do you want people to walk away feeling from the film?
KA: I mentioned this in an earlier answer, that one of the core messages of the film is there is no right or wrong way to grieve. I hope our viewers can come to understand that idea through our film. Besides that my goal was to take a dark topic and turn it into an entertaining story filled with drama and humor. I hope our viewers were able to experience a full range of emotions while watching Dead Dad.

More about DEAD DAD at
DEAD DAD ON ITUNES: http://bit.ly/1b2d2Dw
DEAD DAD WEBSITE: http://www.deaddadmovie.com/
DEAD DAD ON FILMBUFF: http://www.filmbuff.com/films/dead-dad
DEAD DAD ON FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/deaddadmovie
DEAD DAD ON TWITTER: @DeadDadMovie
By Jaye Sarah Davidson
 http://iheardin.com/2014/02/14/filmmaker-spotlight-ken-adachi-co-writer-director-dead-dad/ View Larger

FILMMAKER SPOTLIGHT: Interview with Ken Adachi co-writer and director of Dead Dad

It’s not often that a Kickstarter campaign created by film school buddies results in not only its immediate goals but a highly successful film to boot. But this is exactly the story for Dead Dad writers Ken Adachi and Kyle Arrington.  Restless to make a film, Adachi and Arrington pulled their resources and friends together to tell the the heart wrenching and sometimes heart warming story of three different siblings coming together for their fathers’ funeral. (See Trailer)

On a budget of $10,000 the film was shot on weekends.  Premiering at the Florida Film Festival the film immediately found distribution. Dead Dad continued its journey through the festival circuit winning a number of awards including Best Narrative Feature at the Tallgrass Film Festival.

Dead Dad is all at once an elegant film; with all the subtleties of fine acting and nuanced directing of a raw film; with all the naturalism that grief entails. Its craftsmanship is testament to the cast and filmmakers whose wisdom is beyond their years.

You can watch Dead Dad on iTunes and VOD. https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/dead-dad/id796810408?ign-mpt=uo%3D4

To find out more about the film, you can read our in depth interview (below) with Dead Dad‘s co-writer and director Ken Adachi.

CAST:

  • Kyle Arrington as Russell Sawtelle
  • Jenni Melear as Jane Sawtelle
  • Lucas K Peterson as Alex Sawtelle

Director(s): Ken J. Adachi

Producer(s): Kelly Calligan and Ben Hethcoat

DP: Eric Bader

Composer(s): Nadeem Majdalany

Writer(s): Ken J. Adachi and Kyle Arrington

Editor(s): Eric Ekman

JD: What was your inspiration behind the film? In what ways did you draw on personal experiences to talk about grief?

KA: I had just finished my Master’s degree, moved out to Los Angeles along with my classmates and was eager to get a feature film off the ground. All the screenplays I had been working on would’ve taken another year to complete and a six-figure budget to produce so I decided to start fresh. I approached a good friend, Kyle Arrington, to co-write a film that would shoot the following spring. I specified that it would be a no-budget film with a large emphasis on improvisation to meet the production’s needs. I didn’t have to do much convincing, as he was also eager to get a feature film produced.

It didn’t take long before he tossed me a line about siblings dealing with their father’s death and I latched onto the idea because I knew it would be manageable for a shoestring budget production. We met every week for a few months and discussed our experiences with grief, but for the most part we shared stories about our siblings, childhood friends and extended family members to develop the characters and the family dynamic. We made a conscious decision to keep our specific experiences with death out of the script so we could separate ourselves from the narrative and develop a story that could be dramatic and also light-hearted.

DeadDad_SiblingsDrink

JD: Can you tell me about the unique writing process between you and Kyle?

KA: It was really simple actually, because we were already good friends. Once we had gathered notes about the story we alternated passes writing the outline and then the script. Once production began we took on our separate roles as director and actor, but continued to do rewrites between takes and at night.

JD: How did you decide to cast Kyle as Russell? What was the casting process for the other actors?

KA: I approached Kyle as a co-writer knowing that I wanted him to also act in the film. We were making the film for next to nothing and I knew we needed actors who understood the situation and would go the extra mile to help out the production. It also helped that he is a very talented actor. Like Kyle, I approached Ben Hethcoat to be a producer and an actor because of his versatility and positive energy. We gathered most of the cast through our various networks. Jenni Melear, who plays Jane, is a good friend of Kyle’s, so they had a built in chemistry that we knew would help with their interaction as siblings. Brett Erlich is also a friend of Kyle’s, and Fred Stoller is an acquaintance of our other producer, Kelly Calligan.

We held one day of auditions and were lucky enough to find Allyn Rachel, who plays Russ’s girlfriend, and Lucas Peterson, the third, adopted sibling. Unlike my previous experiences of spending months and multiple casting calls to find the right talent, everything came together for this project very quickly and smoothly. It helped that we wrote the script knowing that we would rewrite the characters based on the talents that were available to us.

DeadDad_AlexFuneral

JD: So you used Kickstarter… what was that like and did it live up to what you needed to be?

KA: I was going to make the film for next to nothing, but my producers convinced me we could use more money and of course they were right. Our goal wasn’t that high, only $5,000, and we raised almost double. We shot a teaser exclusively for Kickstarter to show our prospective donors the tone and style of the film, and I think that really helped with our pitch. It was also a great practice run for the cast and crew, and it prepared us mentally for the hectic shoot that was looming ahead of us.

JD: Can you talk about your unique shooting schedule?

KA: Because we were a micro budget film we couldn’t pay our cast or crew. It was only logical to shoot over nights and weekends, basically whenever people were not working (most of us had full time jobs). We started shooting over a long weekend, Memorial Day, to get our bearings, and then on three more consecutive weekends with a couple nights in between. Once we assembled a rough cut we did a test screening and then did a couple more days of pickups to wrap things up. I believe we shot for a total of about 12 days.

JD. Can you talk about your decisions and choices for cinematography?  Technical specs are great, but can you talk about the deliberacy if any behind the shallow focus?

KA: My visual reference was the works by Yoshimoto Nara. I really wanted pastels and a muted color palette to create a youthful, dreamlike world to complement the fact that the siblings are revisiting their childhood throughout the story. Due to budgetary restraints we were limited in how much we could actually control the palette, but it was in the back of our minds with every decision made.

DeadDad_JaneBrandonSunset

Eric Bader, the cinematographer, and I pre-visualized the majority of the film, but once we entered production I gave him creative freedom to float with the characters especially during their individual journeys. I kept reiterating to him to embrace the mistakes and always keep the camera rolling. While editing the film we kept the accidental moments and rarely cut around the imperfections of a take. This small bit of rawness really added to the realism we were trying to achieve.

Shallow focus and various filters were used to take the edge off the sharpness and achieve a cinematic look with the 5D Mark 2. We kept pushing the shallowness of the DOF to emphasize the loneliness the siblings were experiencing throughout the story.

JD: Editing – I noticed several scenes in which the dialogue would overlap with the event that was about to take place. For example they would talk about going to the mini golf park and then you would see them in the car, but then it would cut back to them at dinner. It gives a certain fluidity to the film.  What helped you and your editor decide to make these choices?

KA: I knew while writing that I wanted the individual journeys of the siblings that happen after the funeral to happen in a music driven montage with a lot of crosscutting, almost like a music video. This approach quickly became the style for the rest of the film. I believe the first scene we cut with this style was the scene in which the siblings hang out together the night of the funeral. My editor, Eric Ekman, showed me an assembly of that scene and because of all the improvisation and extra pages that were shot, the scene ran way too long. We reshaped it with crosscutting and condensed the scene to its essential beats. Once we established the editing style with that scene Eric was able to apply it to the rest of the film.

JD: You have talked about in other articles that the siblings are dysfunctional and the audience has to pick who they want to side with. Who do you side with?

KA: One of the core messages of the film is that there is no right or wrong way to grieve, and I truly believe that. I’d be contradicting the point I’m trying to make if I side with one of the characters. All three siblings are flawed in their actions, and I believe that’s what makes them real and relatable. In short, I side with all three of the siblings.

DeadDad_SiblingsMotel

JD: So you made this film on a shoe string budget… and now the film can be seen on Video on Demand.  What was the distribution process like from point A to point B?

KA: We had our world premiere at the Florida Film Festival and immediately got interest from distributors. FilmBuff, our distributor, had approached us then but we wanted to experience the full gamut of the festival season before thinking about distribution. We ended up screening at over twenty festivals around the world and won a few awards, all of which would become a key element of promoting our film on VOD.

Once we landed with FilmBuff and got a release date, we started to work on our trailer (edited by Jake Odenberg). I had withheld cutting a full trailer until distribution, because I knew it could reignite interest. The film had been circulating through festivals since the spring of 2012 with a teaser, but this new trailer has been crucial for getting the word out about our release.

JD:. Now that you have made this film, what are your next steps in your career?

KA: I’m focusing primarily on writing and the goal is to direct a feature every two to three years. I don’t really have any major plans, but to keep creating and to continue growing as a filmmaker.

JD:  What do you want people to walk away feeling from the film?

KA: I mentioned this in an earlier answer, that one of the core messages of the film is there is no right or wrong way to grieve. I hope our viewers can come to understand that idea through our film. Besides that my goal was to take a dark topic and turn it into an entertaining story filled with drama and humor. I hope our viewers were able to experience a full range of emotions while watching Dead Dad.

More about DEAD DAD at

DEAD DAD ON ITUNES: http://bit.ly/1b2d2Dw

DEAD DAD WEBSITE: http://www.deaddadmovie.com/

DEAD DAD ON FILMBUFF: http://www.filmbuff.com/films/dead-dad

DEAD DAD ON FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/deaddadmovie

DEAD DAD ON TWITTER: @DeadDadMovie

By Jaye Sarah Davidson

http://iheardin.com/2014/02/14/filmmaker-spotlight-ken-adachi-co-writer-director-dead-dad/

FILMMAKER SPOTLIGHT: Tales from Development Hell with Dustin McLeanMeet Dustin McLean, a mid-western filmmaker who went straight from film school to Hollywood.  This might be the first time you have heard of Dustin, but it won’t be your last.  This Taylor University and FSU Film school grad is determined to go places and go places he shall.  Working with writing partner Corey Womack, they have gotten a screenplay optioned in their first year in LA, and they have significant interest on a TV pilot.
Dustin himself would chalk this success up to sheer grit.  However, it is clear that underneath that determination is an empathy and depth, or as one industry professional has phrased it “Dustin is a whatever it takes filmmaker with a heart.”
We at iheardin have been lucky sit down with Dustin at the beginning of his cinematic career. He has shared with us his trials and tribulations: what he has learned in the trenches and how to survive development hell. Join us for this in depth interview and be sure to check out Dustin’s film Anya (15 minutes) below.

JD: What was your student thesis film? What was it about?
DM: My thesis film was called Anya and it centered around a female KGB agent sent to assassinate Jack Kerouac. It’s actually more of a love story – with some action and suspense.
JD: What did you learn most from the process of making it?
DM: Write what you want. People hear that and think, “obviously,” but I feel that it is the the first thing that filmmakers forget when they want their work to be liked or loved by an audience. You start with what they would want to see or what is most likely to get produced — that’s not really the way to write. It’s your story. You know what’s right. Start there.
JD: What did the complete film get you?  What did it not, especially when you were out in LA?
DM: With my thesis film there seemed to be this anomaly that occurred along with several other exceptional films from our class. It seemed that they were passed over at festivals for falling into the weird gap of being very professional but not made by professionals. Programers will grab some of the shorter, often rougher, projects and showcase them, and then include longer shorts that are made with notable celebrity directors and cast. It’s possible that I’m simply looking for a reason to explain why it didn’t do well at festivals. But a much rougher, six minute short of mine got into everything I sent it to.
Ironically enough, my film was invited to several women’s film festivals. All we had to do was prove that I or my producer or my co-writer were women. We weren’t. It couldn’t play at any of them, which is sort of a shame.
Shorts are a mixed bag. I had a great experience there that certainly made me a better filmmaker, but as far as where a short can get you in LA: short films rarely have that much mileage. They are useful IF an influential party happens to watch it AND love you. I consider myself lucky that I got Benjamin Scott to watch the whole thing.
JD: What advice would you give people about what to do after their first project?
DM: Keep moving. The short might be great or it might be terrible, but a short deserves no more that 6 months of your life, tops. Write something else. You should be writing through that entire process anyway. Writing the next thing, I mean.
JD: What advice would you give about moving to LA?
DM: Move here when you have to. And come prepared. For writers and directors, I feel like you should have several features ready to print before you head out.
Writing takes time and it’s like anything else: you need to write all the time if you want to be good at it. You need several features you would be happy to hand to any executive to read. And you need to be honest with yourself about that. Don’t just hand out a 68 page first draft of something because you think it’s pretty good or a 145 page opus because you think it’s an all-inclusive work of art. An executive can tell if your script is too short or too long just by picking it up.
All that to say: take your time. Build a library and keep drafting. Make your scripts great.
And learn to write query letters.
Query everyone. Before I left for LA I had written about 11 feature length screenplays. I took the one I considered to be the best and I queried approximately 1100 producers, managers and development executives. I found their names and contact info anywhere I could, but mostly from IMDB Pro.
Out of those 1100, I received about 30 responses. Out of those 30, 10 told me they weren’t interested and 15 requested the script. The remaining 5 said to query them again later.
JD: Can you tell us about your script?
DM: The Sainthood of Bethany Wolfe follows the title character who she loses her parents at a very young age. The priest who takes her in tells her she is destined to become a saint, she rejects that identity and becomes a contract killer instead. It’s a romantic crime-drama with a supernatural thriller element.
JD: What was the origination for your idea?
DM: I’m a big believer in Godard‘s philosophy: “All you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun.”
Actually, I love strong female characters. I think there needs to be more of them. I had played around with the idea of having this obsessive-compulsive, female, contract killer and sort of getting into her disorder and where it came from.
Together, my writing partner, Corey, and I started putting together a story with spiritual elements, action, and romance. Then we just kept stirring the pot.

JD: What was the process that you and Corey took?
DM: Corey and I sit down and outline until we hate the story and each other. Then we outline some more. We work out character bios; where they’re from, how they talk. That stuff. That process usually takes us 6 to 8 weeks on something like Bethany Wolfe.
Then we’ll do a scene by scene breakdown and get it to about thirty sequences -which will eventually be broken down into more scenes.
We usually start by writing the last scene, it’s good to know where you’re going. On the early drafts we usually set obscenely high page quotas for ourselves. It helps avoid being overly precious and it definitely keeps us motivated.
Corey and I also tend to compete a little with both the quality of what we’re doing and our page counts. It’s a good time.
Then we take a break and send it out to a few people for notes.
When we come back we analyze the notes, try to get to the root of the problems and start doing purpose outlines that trace elements like characters, props and themes.
Then we dig in again.
JD: What were the different options it underwent?
DM: Well, initially we wrote it to make in Chicago. But it just wasn’t coming together. I also felt that we could take it to another level and wanted to see if it had any legs, so I began that querying process that I detailed earlier. The responses were generally positive, and eventually Benjamin Scott read the script and wanted to make it.
Regarding the partnership that followed, Ben would tell you it was my persistence. I’d follow up with him, ask if he needed help at his company or with other projects and eventually we met and he liked me. That’s a big part of it. You need to be persistent but likable. You have to be aggressive but not to the point of turning people off.
Last summer Ben and his business partner decided to option the script, and after watching my thesis they agreed to keep me attached as Director. But, as these things go, the company is undergoing some severe restructuring and the project is currently in turn around.
JD: What is it like to be in limbo?
DM: Well, awful. You get so close to making something and then it flies off course because of the weirdest things. It’s frustrating. Maybe I can elaborate more on it later, but what it comes down to is this: people can be waylaid by their own hubris – and they can take down a lot of people or projects with them.
JD: What did it teach you about the industry and working with people?
DM: Well, the first thing it taught me is to trust my instincts. There are people you want to do business with and there are people you do not. If you get a bad feeling, then don’t. It’s not worth it.
The other major take away from the experience so far: even if you have a killer script and people like what you’re doing, you still have to come up with a plan to overcome the fact that, in the eyes of this industry, you haven’t done anything yet.
No one wants a “first time” director or a DP who hasn’t shot a feature. That’s why you really need to be persistent and insanely driven.
David Fincher once talked about how he wanted to go to film schools and give a lecture that starts by asking one of the “fresh faces” to tell him about the movie they want to make. As soon as they started to speak he would say, “Shut up and sit the fuck down.” If they did then he’d know that they weren’t ready for the industry. Because the film business is full of “shut up and sit down!”
I’d say he nailed it.
JD: What are you working on in the meantime?
DM: Right now, the biggest things are a TV show called Jake and the Possum and a little indie feature called Betaville. We are very excited about both. We’ve taken a few meetings on Possum and we’re at the point where people are trying to put something together for us which is awesome.
The pilot is based on a concept we developed with Kyle Reid, another FSU alum.  We call ourselves The Brain Trust, imbibe a bit and then come up with ridiculous ideas loosely based on Kyle’s personality.
Betaville is a small indie, sci-fi thriller. We’re really happy with it and we have Jas Sams (V/H/S) attached to star and co-produce.

JD: Can you give us some synopses of other ideas you have? What are you hopes for the future?
DM: Jake and The Possum is a fun concept about what it means to be a man in our current time. It’s about a guy who calls himself “The Possum” because of his unique abilities and the effects his lifestyle has on his best friend.
Betaville is about a girl who is — for lack of a better word — a robot and her journey to uncover her real abilities and find her true purpose. It’s a thoughtful, small film that focuses more on character and theme, but does have some action elements.

Photos courtesy of imdb.com and Georgios Demitrios Telonis.

Dustin McLean Thesis Film 2012 — ANYA from Dustin McLean on Vimeo.
By Jaye Sarah Davidson
 http://iheardin.com/2014/01/31/filmmaker-spotlight-tales-development-hell-dustin-mclean/ View Larger

FILMMAKER SPOTLIGHT: Tales from Development Hell with Dustin McLean

Meet Dustin McLean, a mid-western filmmaker who went straight from film school to Hollywood.  This might be the first time you have heard of Dustin, but it won’t be your last.  This Taylor University and FSU Film school grad is determined to go places and go places he shall.  Working with writing partner Corey Womack, they have gotten a screenplay optioned in their first year in LA, and they have significant interest on a TV pilot.

Dustin himself would chalk this success up to sheer grit.  However, it is clear that underneath that determination is an empathy and depth, or as one industry professional has phrased it “Dustin is a whatever it takes filmmaker with a heart.

We at iheardin have been lucky sit down with Dustin at the beginning of his cinematic career. He has shared with us his trials and tribulations: what he has learned in the trenches and how to survive development hell. Join us for this in depth interview and be sure to check out Dustin’s film Anya (15 minutes) below.

Dustin Mclean 2

JD: What was your student thesis film? What was it about?

DM: My thesis film was called Anya and it centered around a female KGB agent sent to assassinate Jack Kerouac. It’s actually more of a love story – with some action and suspense.

JD: What did you learn most from the process of making it?

DM: Write what you want. People hear that and think, “obviously,” but I feel that it is the the first thing that filmmakers forget when they want their work to be liked or loved by an audience. You start with what they would want to see or what is most likely to get produced — that’s not really the way to write. It’s your story. You know what’s right. Start there.

JD: What did the complete film get you?  What did it not, especially when you were out in LA?

DM: With my thesis film there seemed to be this anomaly that occurred along with several other exceptional films from our class. It seemed that they were passed over at festivals for falling into the weird gap of being very professional but not made by professionals. Programers will grab some of the shorter, often rougher, projects and showcase them, and then include longer shorts that are made with notable celebrity directors and cast. It’s possible that I’m simply looking for a reason to explain why it didn’t do well at festivals. But a much rougher, six minute short of mine got into everything I sent it to.

Ironically enough, my film was invited to several women’s film festivals. All we had to do was prove that I or my producer or my co-writer were women. We weren’t. It couldn’t play at any of them, which is sort of a shame.

Shorts are a mixed bag. I had a great experience there that certainly made me a better filmmaker, but as far as where a short can get you in LA: short films rarely have that much mileage. They are useful IF an influential party happens to watch it AND love you. I consider myself lucky that I got Benjamin Scott to watch the whole thing.

JD: What advice would you give people about what to do after their first project?

DM: Keep moving. The short might be great or it might be terrible, but a short deserves no more that 6 months of your life, tops. Write something else. You should be writing through that entire process anyway. Writing the next thing, I mean.

JD: What advice would you give about moving to LA?

DM: Move here when you have to. And come prepared. For writers and directors, I feel like you should have several features ready to print before you head out.

Writing takes time and it’s like anything else: you need to write all the time if you want to be good at it. You need several features you would be happy to hand to any executive to read. And you need to be honest with yourself about that. Don’t just hand out a 68 page first draft of something because you think it’s pretty good or a 145 page opus because you think it’s an all-inclusive work of art. An executive can tell if your script is too short or too long just by picking it up.

All that to say: take your time. Build a library and keep drafting. Make your scripts great.

And learn to write query letters.

Query everyone. Before I left for LA I had written about 11 feature length screenplays. I took the one I considered to be the best and I queried approximately 1100 producers, managers and development executives. I found their names and contact info anywhere I could, but mostly from IMDB Pro.

Out of those 1100, I received about 30 responses. Out of those 30, 10 told me they weren’t interested and 15 requested the script. The remaining 5 said to query them again later.

JD: Can you tell us about your script?

DM: The Sainthood of Bethany Wolfe follows the title character who she loses her parents at a very young age. The priest who takes her in tells her she is destined to become a saint, she rejects that identity and becomes a contract killer instead. It’s a romantic crime-drama with a supernatural thriller element.

JD: What was the origination for your idea?

DM: I’m a big believer in Godard‘s philosophy: “All you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun.

Actually, I love strong female characters. I think there needs to be more of them. I had played around with the idea of having this obsessive-compulsive, female, contract killer and sort of getting into her disorder and where it came from.

Together, my writing partner, Corey, and I started putting together a story with spiritual elements, action, and romance. Then we just kept stirring the pot.

Corey Womack

JD: What was the process that you and Corey took?

DM: Corey and I sit down and outline until we hate the story and each other. Then we outline some more. We work out character bios; where they’re from, how they talk. That stuff. That process usually takes us 6 to 8 weeks on something like Bethany Wolfe.

Then we’ll do a scene by scene breakdown and get it to about thirty sequences -which will eventually be broken down into more scenes.

We usually start by writing the last scene, it’s good to know where you’re going. On the early drafts we usually set obscenely high page quotas for ourselves. It helps avoid being overly precious and it definitely keeps us motivated.

Corey and I also tend to compete a little with both the quality of what we’re doing and our page counts. It’s a good time.

Then we take a break and send it out to a few people for notes.

When we come back we analyze the notes, try to get to the root of the problems and start doing purpose outlines that trace elements like characters, props and themes.

Then we dig in again.

JD: What were the different options it underwent?

DM: Well, initially we wrote it to make in Chicago. But it just wasn’t coming together. I also felt that we could take it to another level and wanted to see if it had any legs, so I began that querying process that I detailed earlier. The responses were generally positive, and eventually Benjamin Scott read the script and wanted to make it.

Regarding the partnership that followed, Ben would tell you it was my persistence. I’d follow up with him, ask if he needed help at his company or with other projects and eventually we met and he liked me. That’s a big part of it. You need to be persistent but likable. You have to be aggressive but not to the point of turning people off.

Last summer Ben and his business partner decided to option the script, and after watching my thesis they agreed to keep me attached as Director. But, as these things go, the company is undergoing some severe restructuring and the project is currently in turn around.

JD: What is it like to be in limbo?

DM: Well, awful. You get so close to making something and then it flies off course because of the weirdest things. It’s frustrating. Maybe I can elaborate more on it later, but what it comes down to is this: people can be waylaid by their own hubris – and they can take down a lot of people or projects with them.

JD: What did it teach you about the industry and working with people?

DM: Well, the first thing it taught me is to trust my instincts. There are people you want to do business with and there are people you do not. If you get a bad feeling, then don’t. It’s not worth it.

The other major take away from the experience so far: even if you have a killer script and people like what you’re doing, you still have to come up with a plan to overcome the fact that, in the eyes of this industry, you haven’t done anything yet.

No one wants a “first time” director or a DP who hasn’t shot a feature. That’s why you really need to be persistent and insanely driven.

David Fincher once talked about how he wanted to go to film schools and give a lecture that starts by asking one of the “fresh faces” to tell him about the movie they want to make. As soon as they started to speak he would say, “Shut up and sit the fuck down.” If they did then he’d know that they weren’t ready for the industry. Because the film business is full of “shut up and sit down!

I’d say he nailed it.

JD: What are you working on in the meantime?

DM: Right now, the biggest things are a TV show called Jake and the Possum and a little indie feature called Betaville. We are very excited about both. We’ve taken a few meetings on Possum and we’re at the point where people are trying to put something together for us which is awesome.

The pilot is based on a concept we developed with Kyle Reid, another FSU alum.  We call ourselves The Brain Trust, imbibe a bit and then come up with ridiculous ideas loosely based on Kyle’s personality.

Betaville is a small indie, sci-fi thriller. We’re really happy with it and we have Jas Sams (V/H/S) attached to star and co-produce.

Jas Sams

JD: Can you give us some synopses of other ideas you have? What are you hopes for the future?

DM: Jake and The Possum is a fun concept about what it means to be a man in our current time. It’s about a guy who calls himself “The Possum” because of his unique abilities and the effects his lifestyle has on his best friend.

Betaville is about a girl who is — for lack of a better word — a robot and her journey to uncover her real abilities and find her true purpose. It’s a thoughtful, small film that focuses more on character and theme, but does have some action elements.

Mclean Night Set

Photos courtesy of imdb.com and Georgios Demitrios Telonis.

Dustin McLean Thesis Film 2012 — ANYA from Dustin McLean on Vimeo.

By Jaye Sarah Davidson

http://iheardin.com/2014/01/31/filmmaker-spotlight-tales-development-hell-dustin-mclean/

Still Waiting for the Desolation of SmaugThe Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is better than the first, still not as good and less visually impressive than The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but then that’s a high bar to set even for the director of those movies. That said, brave whatever weather you have to (without endangering yourself) and watch this movie. It’s good. One might even say it’s great. But there’s no way to successfully vary the words good, go, and see for a full article so nitpicky things are what’s most readily available for criticism. Again the movie is good. Go and see it. Any potential fault, flaw, or misstep in this movie hasn’t hurt the overall standing of the movie to the degree that a large, fire breathing dragon voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch won’t immediately rectify.

Bilbo’s still on his journey with the company of dwarves and the wizard Gandalf to reclaim the former kingdom of the dwarves, Erebor, from the dragon Smaug and with it all the treasure tucked away there. From there the story expands to various odds and ends involving elves, orcs, dark magic, and barrels which are all complicated enough to be difficult to follow here, but plain enough to be laid out in the movie. Orlando Bloom returns as the elf prince Legolas, and Evangeline Lilly is introduced as the non-canon Tauriel, both of whom have a fixation on the dwarves and the trouble they wrought.
The biggest problem this movie seems to have is the rather large disconnect it has with the trilogy it’s trying to connect itself with. That isn’t to say the characters don’t eventually pass over into the older movies, it’s that the problems are more involved in the physical and the narrative. One of the best things about the original trilogy was that they used a lot of people in real costumes, so when special effects were brought in for fights they blended really well. Here, it seems like too much is computer animated. It makes sense from the standpoint that costumed actors don’t have the proper range and enunciation the characters need, but no matter how impressive the effect is, that layer of plastic CGI seems to create doesn’t go away. It’s much less visceral for characters to fight totally animated because of the disconnect from reality it causes because the effect is too apparent. Especially when it seems to be trying to top action scenes from the previous movies, which were in turn building on top of each other. When you can see in the trailers just how impossibly graceful and agile elves can be it makes one wonder just how some could run into spears at Helm’s Deep. That’s the thing though; cracks in this movie will inevitably run deeper than they mean to because of just how interwoven it gets with the other movies. It doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t be entertaining to watch, it just feels like something’s lost which didn’t have to be.

The way the movies try to connect with the original trilogy all come through the side story (almost said side quest) of Gandalf’s to figure out who the necromancer is. In the original book, and here somewhat, Gandalf has always been a deus ex machina character. He’s someone who could be brought in to clean up a problem if it needs a simple solution more than a clever one. So he had to be written out of a lot of the book to keep the natural tension. Here, those points allow him time to investigate. The thing is, there’s some distance between here and the formation of the fellowship, about 60 years to be exact. Without getting into spoilers, it creates some minor inconsistencies with what’s to come in the future for him to be making discoveries now, which can hopefully be explained in the next movie.

As I said, there’s nothing to really say about this movie that would make it even remotely unwatchable, and that’s down to how well this movie was put together. It’s a fun ride through a world that’s vibrant and full of energy, even if it tends to get a little silly at times.
It’s good. Go and see it.

By Marc Price
 http://iheardin.com/2014/01/17/still-waiting-for-the-desolation-of-smaug/ View Larger

Still Waiting for the Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is better than the first, still not as good and less visually impressive than The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but then that’s a high bar to set even for the director of those movies. That said, brave whatever weather you have to (without endangering yourself) and watch this movie. It’s good. One might even say it’s great. But there’s no way to successfully vary the words good, go, and see for a full article so nitpicky things are what’s most readily available for criticism. Again the movie is good. Go and see it. Any potential fault, flaw, or misstep in this movie hasn’t hurt the overall standing of the movie to the degree that a large, fire breathing dragon voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch won’t immediately rectify.

Smaug-and-Bilbo

Bilbo’s still on his journey with the company of dwarves and the wizard Gandalf to reclaim the former kingdom of the dwarves, Erebor, from the dragon Smaug and with it all the treasure tucked away there. From there the story expands to various odds and ends involving elves, orcs, dark magic, and barrels which are all complicated enough to be difficult to follow here, but plain enough to be laid out in the movie. Orlando Bloom returns as the elf prince Legolas, and Evangeline Lilly is introduced as the non-canon Tauriel, both of whom have a fixation on the dwarves and the trouble they wrought.

The biggest problem this movie seems to have is the rather large disconnect it has with the trilogy it’s trying to connect itself with. That isn’t to say the characters don’t eventually pass over into the older movies, it’s that the problems are more involved in the physical and the narrative. One of the best things about the original trilogy was that they used a lot of people in real costumes, so when special effects were brought in for fights they blended really well. Here, it seems like too much is computer animated. It makes sense from the standpoint that costumed actors don’t have the proper range and enunciation the characters need, but no matter how impressive the effect is, that layer of plastic CGI seems to create doesn’t go away. It’s much less visceral for characters to fight totally animated because of the disconnect from reality it causes because the effect is too apparent. Especially when it seems to be trying to top action scenes from the previous movies, which were in turn building on top of each other. When you can see in the trailers just how impossibly graceful and agile elves can be it makes one wonder just how some could run into spears at Helm’s Deep. That’s the thing though; cracks in this movie will inevitably run deeper than they mean to because of just how interwoven it gets with the other movies. It doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t be entertaining to watch, it just feels like something’s lost which didn’t have to be.

The-Hobbit-The-Desolation-of-Smaug-Dwarves

The way the movies try to connect with the original trilogy all come through the side story (almost said side quest) of Gandalf’s to figure out who the necromancer is. In the original book, and here somewhat, Gandalf has always been a deus ex machina character. He’s someone who could be brought in to clean up a problem if it needs a simple solution more than a clever one. So he had to be written out of a lot of the book to keep the natural tension. Here, those points allow him time to investigate. The thing is, there’s some distance between here and the formation of the fellowship, about 60 years to be exact. Without getting into spoilers, it creates some minor inconsistencies with what’s to come in the future for him to be making discoveries now, which can hopefully be explained in the next movie.

gandalf-the-hobbit-the-desolation-of-smaug

As I said, there’s nothing to really say about this movie that would make it even remotely unwatchable, and that’s down to how well this movie was put together. It’s a fun ride through a world that’s vibrant and full of energy, even if it tends to get a little silly at times.

It’s good. Go and see it.

By Marc Price

http://iheardin.com/2014/01/17/still-waiting-for-the-desolation-of-smaug/

Filmmaker Spotlight: Faren Humes’s Our RhinelandFilmmaker Faren Humes presents to us her baby, Our Rhineland (see video below). Faren is a Miami based writer and director whose aim is to broaden the narrative and cultural scope of black film.  Not shy of heavier subjects, Faren’s first film Nazir explored the creation of African child soldiers. No less ambitious, Our Rhineland takes place in Nazi Germany in the year 1937, a time when over four hundred thousand mixed women were captured and forced to undergo sterilization.  Faren offers us a unique insight into the horrific history that we thought we already knew. She does so very well by depicting the oppressive choices that two sisters, Sofia and Marta are force to make: choices of resistance and survival.
Running at 16 minutes in length and in German, Our Rhineland is a tour de force and has garnered the Director’s Guild of America Student Film Award and an Academy of Television Arts & Sciences College Television Award. However, one of the proudest moment in all her success occurred when Ava DuVernay (Middle of Nowhere) saw Our Rhineland and gave her a call to tell her how much she enjoyed it.
Like DuVernay, Humes is a filmmaker who has found her beginnings working in features in various departments.  After finishing as production designer for her friend and fellow artist Praheme Rick’s feature film Troop 491: The Adventures of the Muddy Lions, she went to work as the art director for a Sci Fi series. This past summer Faren produced the short film, Seventh Grade, a story of romantic angst from the prepubescent eyes of Hatian-American Patrice.
Faren studied filmmaking at Florida State University’s College of Motion Picture Arts. She is currently in Miami, Fl, developing stories inspired by her place of origin. I had the privilege of chatting with Faren about Our Rhineland and her upcoming projects:

JD: How did you reach you initial concept for Our Rhineland? Is there a personal backstory here?
FH: Our Rhineland went through a couple of months of story development and pitching with the FSU faculty. Over that time period it morphed from a love story between a German doctor and a black patient to what it is today: the story of two sisters. I knew I wanted to explore the idea of “others” affected by the Holocaust. When I began to research the history of blacks in Germany, I was fascinated by the story- white German women falling in love with African soldiers, the influx of mixed children from those affairs, Hitler coining them Rhineland bastards, the propaganda, the secret sterilizations, the kidnappings, etc. I knew I had to explore it visually.
JD: Can you talk about the artistic process behind your choices (Cinematography/Design)?
FH: I had an amazing team of people who were exceptionally competent and adherent to my vision for the story. Magazine clippings, newspaper archives, paintings, tumblr, flickr were all influential sources in helping me create the world for the sisters in Our Rhineland. I’d then pass those on to Jamie Kassler and Gloriana Fonseca, my designer and DP respectively. I’d give Glori pictures of cobblestones that had long shadows cast on them, just so she could get what I was going for tonally. Jamie and I’d confer over pics of old German apartments.
In terms of shot design, I let the feel of the story dictate the camera orientation. Our Rhineland always felt intimate and heavy. So Glori and I always favored tight 85mm shots and long uninterrupted takes.
JD: What was it like working in German?
FH: I went through a number of revisions with the help of three different translators. It took a lot of work to translate idioms and prose-y bits of dialogue. The shooting script had the dialogue in English and German, so it was easy for me and the script supervisor to follow along.
It was pretty neat to find that directing for a foreign language was fairly functional.  I found that a beat remains the same regardless of the language. So, I directed them not by the recital of words, rather their conveyance of emotions. That language barrier was a positive, as I had no choice but to focus on an evocative, moving delivery.
JD: What has the festival landscape looked like for you? What awards have you won?
FH: We’ve been pretty fortunate on the festival circuit. Right out the gate, I was awarded a DGA award for best African American student director in the eastern conference. We placed third for a College of Television Arts & Sciences Award. It also screened at the Athena Film Festival and most recently the Bluestocking Film Series. But I think one of my proudest moments was having it lauded by indie maverick Ava DuVernay. She gave me a call to tell me how much she enjoyed it.
JD: What are you next plans?
FH: I just completed a feature screenplay entitled, SAVIOR. It follows fictional Miami mayor, Moses Estrada as he tries to mend his city after the murders of six black men by city police. I’m currently penning another, MACHO. It follows a homophobic southerner and his effeminate nephew as they take a trip to Key West. Currently shopping them to rich uncles, etc.
You can watch Our Rhineland below:

By Jaye Sarah Davidson
 http://iheardin.com/2014/01/10/filmmaker-spotlight-faren-humes-our-rhineland/ View Larger

Filmmaker Spotlight: Faren Humes’s Our Rhineland

Filmmaker Faren Humes presents to us her baby, Our Rhineland (see video below). Faren is a Miami based writer and director whose aim is to broaden the narrative and cultural scope of black film.  Not shy of heavier subjects, Faren’s first film Nazir explored the creation of African child soldiers. No less ambitious, Our Rhineland takes place in Nazi Germany in the year 1937, a time when over four hundred thousand mixed women were captured and forced to undergo sterilization.  Faren offers us a unique insight into the horrific history that we thought we already knew. She does so very well by depicting the oppressive choices that two sisters, Sofia and Marta are force to make: choices of resistance and survival.

Running at 16 minutes in length and in German, Our Rhineland is a tour de force and has garnered the Director’s Guild of America Student Film Award and an Academy of Television Arts & Sciences College Television Award. However, one of the proudest moment in all her success occurred when Ava DuVernay (Middle of Nowhere) saw Our Rhineland and gave her a call to tell her how much she enjoyed it.

Like DuVernay, Humes is a filmmaker who has found her beginnings working in features in various departments.  After finishing as production designer for her friend and fellow artist Praheme Rick’s feature film Troop 491: The Adventures of the Muddy Lions, she went to work as the art director for a Sci Fi series. This past summer Faren produced the short film, Seventh Grade, a story of romantic angst from the prepubescent eyes of Hatian-American Patrice.

Faren studied filmmaking at Florida State University’s College of Motion Picture Arts. She is currently in Miami, Fl, developing stories inspired by her place of origin. I had the privilege of chatting with Faren about Our Rhineland and her upcoming projects:

faren humes

JD: How did you reach you initial concept for Our Rhineland? Is there a personal backstory here?

FH: Our Rhineland went through a couple of months of story development and pitching with the FSU faculty. Over that time period it morphed from a love story between a German doctor and a black patient to what it is today: the story of two sisters. I knew I wanted to explore the idea of “others” affected by the Holocaust. When I began to research the history of blacks in Germany, I was fascinated by the story- white German women falling in love with African soldiers, the influx of mixed children from those affairs, Hitler coining them Rhineland bastards, the propaganda, the secret sterilizations, the kidnappings, etc. I knew I had to explore it visually.

JD: Can you talk about the artistic process behind your choices (Cinematography/Design)?

FH: I had an amazing team of people who were exceptionally competent and adherent to my vision for the story. Magazine clippings, newspaper archives, paintings, tumblr, flickr were all influential sources in helping me create the world for the sisters in Our Rhineland. I’d then pass those on to Jamie Kassler and Gloriana Fonseca, my designer and DP respectively. I’d give Glori pictures of cobblestones that had long shadows cast on them, just so she could get what I was going for tonally. Jamie and I’d confer over pics of old German apartments.

In terms of shot design, I let the feel of the story dictate the camera orientation. Our Rhineland always felt intimate and heavy. So Glori and I always favored tight 85mm shots and long uninterrupted takes.

JD: What was it like working in German?

FH: I went through a number of revisions with the help of three different translators. It took a lot of work to translate idioms and prose-y bits of dialogue. The shooting script had the dialogue in English and German, so it was easy for me and the script supervisor to follow along.

It was pretty neat to find that directing for a foreign language was fairly functional.  I found that a beat remains the same regardless of the language. So, I directed them not by the recital of words, rather their conveyance of emotions. That language barrier was a positive, as I had no choice but to focus on an evocative, moving delivery.

JD: What has the festival landscape looked like for you? What awards have you won?

FH: We’ve been pretty fortunate on the festival circuit. Right out the gate, I was awarded a DGA award for best African American student director in the eastern conference. We placed third for a College of Television Arts & Sciences Award. It also screened at the Athena Film Festival and most recently the Bluestocking Film Series. But I think one of my proudest moments was having it lauded by indie maverick Ava DuVernay. She gave me a call to tell me how much she enjoyed it.

JD: What are you next plans?

FH: I just completed a feature screenplay entitled, SAVIOR. It follows fictional Miami mayor, Moses Estrada as he tries to mend his city after the murders of six black men by city police. I’m currently penning another, MACHO. It follows a homophobic southerner and his effeminate nephew as they take a trip to Key West. Currently shopping them to rich uncles, etc.

You can watch Our Rhineland below:

By Jaye Sarah Davidson

http://iheardin.com/2014/01/10/filmmaker-spotlight-faren-humes-our-rhineland/

King Charles the Martyr Back in BrooklynFrom its bizarre opening to enigmatic conclusion, “Meet Me in the Tomb,” the latest music video from the band King Charles the Martyr, combines the group’s experimental earlier film work with a straight laced narrative.  Much as the band blends its early rock’n roll influences with a more modern sound in its latest EP, Night Machine, this video balances a flair for the old with a glimpse of something new.
The song itself, a modern blues propelled by a classic guitar riff, contains a dark, foreboding tone, especially when vocalist/guitarist Scott Schwartz’s piercing snarl rises to its peak with the line, “So, why don’t you meet me in the tomb?  Cause when I’m dead and rotten to the core, then you’ll know for once and for all that I ain’t ever gonna love you no more.”  The music video attempts to capture this angry, desolate place with visual imagery of abandoned carnivals (thanks to heavy use of the ’60s cult classic film Carnival of Souls), vacant lots with towering limestone, and aimless barges floating on a lifeless river. Both song and video create an experience that remains with the viewer long after the running time.
While the images and music produce this sense of dread, the story superficially follows two men (played by bandmates Schwartz and bassist Tim Grant) in search of Schwartz’s adulterous lover. The execution of this storyline is really where the fun begins. The femme fatale footage comes from Carnival while the shots of Schwartz and Grant are all original. By never allowing the two sides to connect, the video echoes the song’s feelings of separation and doomed love while reinforcing this mixture of old and new. Sandwiched between the two interwoven tales are live clips of the band, always appearing as transmissions beamed into Carnival’s world, the only moment where the two domains briefly connect.
While the video is open to interpretation, one thing is for certain: King Charles the Martyr is definitely a band to watch.  Their live shows have always been an experience, and it’s great to see this crossing over into their video work.
The band’s next show is Saturday December 21st at The Rock Shop in Brooklyn. In the meantime, tide yourself over with their latest video, “Meet Me in the Tomb.”

Website | Facebook | Twitter
By David C. Sales
 http://iheardin.com/2013/12/13/king-charles-the-martyr-back-in-brooklyn/ View Larger

King Charles the Martyr Back in Brooklyn

From its bizarre opening to enigmatic conclusion, “Meet Me in the Tomb,” the latest music video from the band King Charles the Martyr, combines the group’s experimental earlier film work with a straight laced narrative.  Much as the band blends its early rock’n roll influences with a more modern sound in its latest EP, Night Machine, this video balances a flair for the old with a glimpse of something new.

The song itself, a modern blues propelled by a classic guitar riff, contains a dark, foreboding tone, especially when vocalist/guitarist Scott Schwartz’s piercing snarl rises to its peak with the line, “So, why don’t you meet me in the tomb?  Cause when I’m dead and rotten to the core, then you’ll know for once and for all that I ain’t ever gonna love you no more.”  The music video attempts to capture this angry, desolate place with visual imagery of abandoned carnivals (thanks to heavy use of the ’60s cult classic film Carnival of Souls), vacant lots with towering limestone, and aimless barges floating on a lifeless river. Both song and video create an experience that remains with the viewer long after the running time.

While the images and music produce this sense of dread, the story superficially follows two men (played by bandmates Schwartz and bassist Tim Grant) in search of Schwartz’s adulterous lover. The execution of this storyline is really where the fun begins. The femme fatale footage comes from Carnival while the shots of Schwartz and Grant are all original. By never allowing the two sides to connect, the video echoes the song’s feelings of separation and doomed love while reinforcing this mixture of old and new. Sandwiched between the two interwoven tales are live clips of the band, always appearing as transmissions beamed into Carnival’s world, the only moment where the two domains briefly connect.

While the video is open to interpretation, one thing is for certain: King Charles the Martyr is definitely a band to watch.  Their live shows have always been an experience, and it’s great to see this crossing over into their video work.

The band’s next show is Saturday December 21st at The Rock Shop in Brooklyn. In the meantime, tide yourself over with their latest video, “Meet Me in the Tomb.”

Website | Facebook | Twitter

By David C. Sales

http://iheardin.com/2013/12/13/king-charles-the-martyr-back-in-brooklyn/

Maleficent Scares Up Some Excitable Promise“Don’t be afraid.”
“I am not afraid.” 
“Then come out.”
“Then you’ll be afraid.”
How incredibly chilling are those words? H-O-L-Y Shit.
We are all familiar with Disney villains but how many of us actually know the story behind our classically evil villains? Take Maleficent for example; Sure she’s the villain from Disney’s 1959 classic Sleeping Beauty but do we really know Maleficent? No, we don’t. We know she has horns on her head, turns into a dragon, then falls to her death from a sword through the heart; therefore we must ask Maleficent, “girl, why you so angry?” Well, Disney has decided to tell all!
Maleficent, which opens May 30th 2014 and stars Angelina Jolie (which by the way makes my hormones go wild, and that’s saying a lot coming from a gay man) we will finally learn what caused Maleficent to curse princess Aurora. Um… thank you Disney!!!!
As we all know Disney always creates such amazing films so I am certain I will be adding Maleficent to my “amazing Disney movies that make me laugh, cry, shout, and poop” list. Pure excitement ensues…
Check out the trailer and let me know what you think!

By Kevin Tydlaska
 http://iheardin.com/2013/12/13/maleficent-scares-up-some-excitable-promise/ View Larger

Maleficent Scares Up Some Excitable Promise

“Don’t be afraid.”

“I am not afraid.” 

“Then come out.”

“Then you’ll be afraid.”

How incredibly chilling are those words? H-O-L-Y Shit.

We are all familiar with Disney villains but how many of us actually know the story behind our classically evil villains? Take Maleficent for example; Sure she’s the villain from Disney’s 1959 classic Sleeping Beauty but do we really know Maleficent? No, we don’t. We know she has horns on her head, turns into a dragon, then falls to her death from a sword through the heart; therefore we must ask Maleficent, “girl, why you so angry?” Well, Disney has decided to tell all!

Maleficent, which opens May 30th 2014 and stars Angelina Jolie (which by the way makes my hormones go wild, and that’s saying a lot coming from a gay man) we will finally learn what caused Maleficent to curse princess Aurora. Um… thank you Disney!!!!

As we all know Disney always creates such amazing films so I am certain I will be adding Maleficent to my “amazing Disney movies that make me laugh, cry, shout, and poop” list. Pure excitement ensues…

Check out the trailer and let me know what you think!

By Kevin Tydlaska

http://iheardin.com/2013/12/13/maleficent-scares-up-some-excitable-promise/