- Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?
Not a particular time or specific event, no. It was definitely a gradual process that led me to decide to want to be a filmmaker for the rest of my life and tell stories that way. I had seen Dr. Strangelove and watched Monty Python quite avidly as a kid which I think made me love telling stories more than anything. Holy Grail I thought was the most epic adventure that I had seen probably over 20 times by the time I was 13. I first saw the Godfather by age 11 or 12 and I remember the first month I had seen it, I spent every weekend just watching and rewatching it, I loved the characters, and the authenticity of the acting just blew my mind, even at that age. It wasn’t until around over a year ago I decided to pursue being a filmmaker after shooting and writing for 8 years prior while in high school and university.
- Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?
Definitely not. I think the benefit of film school is you get to connect with like minded individuals who also love films and more importantly the process of filmmaking. I feel that if you wanted to go to say NYU film school for example, you should really ponder as to why and what the whole point of it is. Most people don’t have $100,000 plus dollars to do that and I feel like some would rather say I went to NYU film school as opposed to say I made a film. You can’t fall in love with the Idea of going because ultimately the purpose is to become a filmmaker so I’d much rather take that money and make 20 short films and learn that way, but that’s just how I am. I never went to film school, I just watched hours of youtube videos on how to do it, then I went and tried it myself. But if the love of wanting to tell a story is what is driving you, film school or not, you’ll make something happen.
- Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?
I find the process to be quite cyclical, when you’re conjuring an idea you want to go and just make it happen and once you start making it, the process at times becomes arduous and you want to just go to the editing room, and when you’ve reached the editing room you just wanna get the final cut. And then you start all over again. So I think the hardest part sometimes is just remembering the moment you’re in and enjoying that for what it is. I find film as an artistic medium is innately imperfect. It’s never going to manifest the way you had it in your head, sometimes for better or for worse. Overall I’d say it’s harder to keep going but you just have to enjoy every single step regardless of if some parts are painstakingly mundane.
- What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?
Well I think the learning process is constant. You’re always learning to some degree, there’s always an update. But, one particular lesson I learned thus far is don’t forget to live your life and don’t take it so seriously you stop enjoying it. For this particular film there was a moment where Mazz and Michael’s character were sitting out on this stoop waiting for the getaway driver to come. They had actually rehearsed that scene on their own time and came to me and just said what if we try it like this and I liked the energy they both had so I told them let’s rehearse it, me and Lewis (the DOP) are just gonna run through the camera movement. Once they started I just told the DOP to hit record and that was the take I ended up using. If I were to be so serious and caught in my own writing I feel like I wouldn’t let others have fun as well, so that was a great little light bulb that went off at that moment.
- What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?
There have been so many production hurdles that are just natural to the stage I am in currently. For one thing we had shot this for $1500 dollars, and had a crew of 4 people. There was no Grip, Gaffer, Costume Designer, Set Dec, PM, Prod. Designer, we had one PA for the last two days, no designated Boom operator, no one. I had an actor drop out the night before our first day of shooting so we had to do the scene without her. On top of all of that, the city of Toronto was still technically in a COVID lockdown. But again it boils down to one thing: do you truly love it? Because if you do those things won’t stop you.
- What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?
Honestly most of the artistic choices have come down to Budget constraints. I made my second short for literally the cash I had in my pocket which was $50 dollars. That was hard because I really wanted a Steadicam and some dolly track but that just wasn’t possible for me so the camera movement is quite wobbled, but the story and the characters stand true to what I wanted to convey so that made up for it. There were also rewrites I had to do for my first short film, because of COVID I couldn’t shoot inside a bar/restaurant but I realized that the environment for that particular moment I had was actually quite irrelevant to the purpose of why these characters met in the first place.
- You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?
One of the first things I say to new collaborators is I want this to be an ongoing relationship because I know it’s easier working with people you can communicate with and that listen to you, from a PA to an Actor. Relationships are the most important thing on set while filming and just in life because being lonely is unnatural and quite frankly terrible. You keep them strong by asking them how they’re doing, what’s going on in their life and also don’t be afraid to give them the opportunity to contribute their artistic voice. We are dealing with people at the end of the day with real world problems and real life to confront so never forget that.
- What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?
Audiences want to connect with the story emotionally. The filmmakers only concern should be how is this going to register to a viewer. If the navigation of the characters emotions is clear, a 12 year old to a 90 year old should understand it. If you’re worried about the lights and the lens and the angles and the hair and the focal length, I think what you’re really doing is avoiding what you should be focusing on which is the story. Everything else outside of that is just an attribute to the core.
- What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?
I’m just starting to enter festivals, I think they’re necessary for a multitude of reasons. One of them being if you get into a prestigious festival it can really open a lot of doors for you as a filmmaker, at least that is my perception of it. You also just get to meet people and fall into your tribe so to speak which makes it exciting and fun. So far they’ve allowed me to see what other filmmakers are doing and to see how many other great artists exist around the world.
- Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?
Ultimately it comes down to what do you want to say. I don’t believe there is anything safe in cinema, nothing about it is innately safe. It’s a lot of work and a lot of risk. If you want to be safe go work in a bank but if this last year and half has taught the world anything it is that even things society deems to be safe, can drop on its head and turn on a dime, so you might as well take a bit of a risk. For filmmakers I think we are just scratching the surface. It’s still a new medium and hasn’t been around as long as painting, poetry, music and just about every other form. Digital Filming has only been around since the late 90s, so it’s all new on the cosmic scale. The most important thing however is the filmmaker has to have a set intention and emotional connection with the story being conveyed. Original, un-original, a remake, marvel movie or art house, doesn’t matter. Take a risk because life’s a risk and don’t worry about the noise.