My Director’s Journey
As a filmmaker, I have a public narrative and a private narrative. The private narrative is something only I know, the total of my life experiences that tells me who I am, how I should act, and what I want out of life. Drawing from my private narrative, my film work and how it’s promoted, ideally opens a window to audiences, collaborators, and investors about who I am and what potential my future work might have – that is my public narrative.
Years ago, after graduating from the University of Southern California, I was out to write my public narrative and declare to anyone who would listen what I privately knew to be true, I am a film director. To achieve that goal, I put all my time, effort, and even some money I didn’t have into making one single film, called SARA’S SONG. To this day, I love that screenplay. Unfortunately, my love affair with the script currently has a tragic ending. Without going into details that are best left private amongst those who were there, the financing for the film collapsed ten days before production was set to start.
After years of work, to be so close to my goal and to have it disappear was soul crushing beyond belief. If there was ever a moment when I was going to give up on being a filmmaker, that was it. However, I could not then, nor can I now, imagine doing anything else. Thankfully, some friends ended up needing help with their feature films, so I was able to regroup as a film producer.
During this period, Marion Kerr, whom I meet as an actress while casting SARA’S SONG, presented me with a unique opportunity. She asked me to read a feature-length screenplay she had written, GOLDEN EARRINGS, with the idea that I would direct it.
The GOLDEN EARRINGS script was perfectly constructed for a low-budget production–six speaking roles, two locations and a low page count. However, after digesting and discussing the story with Marion, I realized she had created the story and characters so effectively from her own point of view, that it was going to be impossible for me to impose my direction on her vision. I might have called “action” and “cut,” but it never would have been my film. I could have crafted a public narrative saying the film was my vision, but in my private narrative I knew that would have been a lie. GOLDEN EARRINGS belonged to Marion Kerr. So, I offered to edit and produce the film while she directed it.
Simultaneously with GOLDEN EARRINGS, I was a producer on Gregg Bishop’s zombie feature DANCE OF THE DEAD. My third producing credit was a comedy called FATHER vs. SON, which I also edited. By 2010, these three features had all found distribution. While my time as a producer had furthered the narrative that I was a filmmaker, I was certainly not a director. I was now a producer.
If I was going to pursue being a director, I had to find away to take control of my pubic narrative. I was developing several feature ideas, but I knew from SARA’S SONG, a feature can take years to get moving. I needed a quicker solution and short films proved to be the perfect medium. While I was writing a feature-length time travel story called BUILDING TIME with my producer Hugh Aodh O’Brien, Marion Kerr offered to write a short script for me to direct. To avoid the conflict of viewpoints that happened on GOLDEN EARRINGS, she wisely insisted that I had to give her the premise for this new short. As this was to be my first directing project in six years, I wanted to make a film that spoke to my view of the world and contained some of my optimism. I wanted to achieve that with comedy and a dash of science fiction. I chose the sci-fi element to give myself genre credibility for my time travel screenplay. Marion delivered a script constructed from my goals that was tailor made for me to direct. It was called FAR.
In the twenty six months since FAR premiered, it has effectively rewritten my public narrative. We have played more than 40 film festivals across three continents, winning seventeen awards at twelve festivals and earning four distribution deals. Right now, we have festival dates booked through February 2015. I am no longer just a feature film producer, I am a short film director.
My goal now is to direct a feature film and drop that word “short” from my public narrative. However, before doing that I felt I needed to address a few other concerns. Ever since I walked out of FAR‘s Dances with Films premiere, all I have heard is that the film is cute. Yeah, FAR is cute, I made a cute film. I am very proud of my cute film but for some internal reason, hearing the word “cute” makes me want to make a film that is the exact opposite.
However, that was not my only reason for wanting to make another short before moving on to a feature. Most of my scripts are action based, not suitable for a low budget film like GOLDEN EARRINGS. I needed to make a film that looked and sounded like a studio product to show that I can operate at that level. There is no way I could afford to do that with a feature film, but I could achieve that level of quality with a short.
Recently finished and soon to be released, UNE LIBÉRATION is set in World War II Paris on the last day of the Nazi occupation of the city. In terms of tone and style, the finished film is unlike FAR in every way. It is a period/action/drama, it has a two minute fight scene, a mini-documentary at the front of the film, and actors speaking in three different languages.
I hope to have now successfully written my public narrative to have a clear developing arc. The three features I produced prove I can handle the production and storytelling needed in feature films. FAR, and when released UNE LIBÉRATION, prove my ability to work with actors in multiple tones and genres. My next step, and the focus of my attention, is to direct a feature film.