Sunday, July 27, 2014

Best Advice I Received While in Film School: Are you growing as a filmmaker?

You may have heard of this little social media trend called #ThrowbackThursday. Because nostalgia is marketable, #ThrowbackThursday has expanded from personal stories to reflections on how "stupid we were back then."

Reflect back to the start of your filmmaking career. What mistakes have you made? How far have you grown as a filmmaker? Are you better at your craft? Have you tighten up your story?

I made this video while at the Richard Lawson Studios. I nearly forgot about it. It was shot around November 2010. It made me smile because my career was facing a lot of uncertainty. I had just left my day job to concentrate on filmmaking. I also failed at it several times. Several doors were shut in my face. 

Now in 2014, my career is taking a more positive turn. I finally have a car, and I own better equipment. This is my point: if you want to make a career in film, you WILL face some uncertainty and some moments where you would want to give up. This #ThrowbackThursday video reminded me how optimistic I was about my career, even with my limitations. In the end, isn't this the point of #ThrowbackThursday? Failure is a constant for truly successful people. Embrace it!

Happy Filmmaking!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Lagniappe Cinemas promotion

As many of you readers know, I run Lagniappe Cinemas. Every now and then, business owners get inspired to promote a cause dear to their hearts. I knew three people who took their own lives last year, including actor and fellow classmate Lee Thompson Young. Mental illness, especially among people of color, is a taboo subject. Lee's family recently revealed that he suffered from schizophrenia.

Even if they do not take their own lives, people of color face discrimination in care. They also are often ostracized by their communities and possibly pushed into drug abuse, homelessness, and crime. In honor of National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, Lagniappe will produce two videos highlighting mental illness and its complications for free. Every July. Forever.

Please email us for details. Also please visit NAMI at 

Happy filmmaking.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Malia Obama: Production Assistant

Looks like the First Kid is thinking about a career in the film business! The 15-year-old was a set PA for a week on the set of Extant, the new sci-fi series staring Halle Berry. While I doubt anyone yelled her about coffee, it is wonderful news that the First Children are getting a taste of how the other half lives. Even in a so-called "glamorous" field, like Entertainment. We don't need a reminder where PAs are in the pecking order!

Malia even got to slate a take. Careful, Malia, the pull of the Industry is strong! And you are already stunning and tall. Follow your dreams, homegirl! Your father did...

TMZ also reports that Malia's sister Sasha recently visited the set of Pretty Little Liars. No PA work for Sasha yet, since she's only 13.

Happy Filmmaking!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Sarah Jones and Crew Safety
When 2nd assistant camera Sarah Jones died on-set last month, the Industry mourned the 27-year-old by honoring her at the at various industry events, including the Oscars (sort of). Her death sparked a debate regarding safety on-set. How far is too far, and how responsible should senior crew members and above-the-liners be when a crew member dies on-duty?

Sets are dangerous places. Lighting alone has a tripping hazard, a fire hazard, a burn hazard, and a heavy object hazard. Sarah was knocked down by debris from an unexpected train, and then was hit by that train. In addition to her death, several crew members were injured. This happened in a state where filmmaking is growing exponentially. Filmmaking is still new territory in the South, and many of the safety regulations set forth by Hollywood are unenforced by the Southern states. 

However, there is an elephant in the room: even among California crews, safety regulations are ignored in favor of lower cost. In other industries, such as construction or shipbuilding, workers are overcompensated for dangerous work conditions, but the employer still has an obligation to follow OSHA standards. Film crews are fortunate to be paid at all. And crew members often do as they are told, in fear of “never working in this town again.” That attitude must change.

Let’s make an Industry-wide pledge to put safety first! Urge extra-Hollywood states to adopt stringent safety regulations. Enforce the 12-hour work day and turnaround. Never put your crew in danger. And when marking your slate this year, do it for Sarah!

Happy Filmmaking!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

New Year, New Beginnings

Happy 2014! The year is already kicking my butt!

This will prove to be a huge year for indies. While blockbusters still rule the box office, several anticipated indie projects were/are greenlighted. Equipment is getting cheaper by the day. By the way, the new iPhone 5S video is pretty impressive for a cell phone. iPhone (or Android, if you prefer) filmmaking is becoming more professional. Check out the raw footage below. I performed a color test using the phone. Warning: if you find Future annoying, don't worry. I turned off the song.

I started this year by shooting an impromptu music video Sunday. I love planning and believe in it immensely, however, impromptu shooting worked out my brain creatively.  I still advocate planned shoots, but now I think everyone should try shooting this way at least once. I'm now editing the results and will be posting shortly.
Sometimes organic shooting is best!

My hometown is turning Hollywood as well. In addition to the other productions shot last year, at least three major productions, including a Mario Van Peebles movie, are slated to be shot in our little Southern city. I urge all indie filmmakers to consider Mobile before hipsters start to hate us. And, Mario, if you need a local with some skills, I'm here! Just kidding. Or am I?

Anyways, I hope you have a great and productive new year! Happy Filmmaking!