1) How did you get into directing?
It all began with writing. I consider myself a storyteller first and foremost and prose was my gateway drug. I quickly learned that directing allowed me to foster my love for more than just the written page, since it entails image-making, music, design, drama and beguiling narrative all at once. I saw the opportunity for interdisciplinary storytelling and took to it like a duck on water. I now balance my directorial aspirations with my writing projects, since the latter only costs my time and creativity.
2) What is your most recent project?
I’m in post on a Vietnam War-set thriller short, “Black Dragon.” It stars Matthew Del Negro (“Scandal,” “The Sopranos,” “West Wing”) and features make-up/VFX from the teams behind “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “X-Men,” “Transformers,” “Tron Legacy,” “Super 8” and “Star Trek Beyond,” among other things. We plan to hit festivals circa fall. Currently I’m prepping a proof-of-concept short, this one a mother-daughter drama/monster movie hybrid that I’ve described as the lovechild of Cormac McCarthy, Guillermo del Toro and a Grimm fairy tale. A co-writer and I are also putting the finishing touches on a script I hope will be my first feature, a hard science fiction/dark fantasy drama set at an elite boarding school for intellectually gifted young women in the 1960’s.
3) What is the best part of being a director?
Telling a great story from a perspective only I can tell. That’s my knee-jerk response. But a more considered answer would entail working with people who are more gifted than myself, and hopefully inspiring their absolute best work via my own passion, intimation and leadership. My creative team is everything to me. Watching a story of my germination come to life by the hands of many talented artists and technicians is a marvel to behold; it moves and galvanizes me endlessly. Auteur theory be damned!
4) What is the worst part of being a director?
There’s always, unerringly, the ‘I’ll-Never-Make-Another-Anything’ moment: “How could I have thought that would work? What was I thinking? How could I make such an asinine judgment call?” These come and go quickly but in the moment bring tremendous self-doubt. But you pick up and move on. I write myself lengthy postmortems after each project, scrutinizing how I grew as a filmmaker, where my shortcomings were and how I’ll avoid certain pitfalls on the next project. This is the only way I know how to cope with failure - To dissect and analyze it in a very clinical fashion, as not to repeat mistakes.
5) What is your current career focus: commercials & branded content, TV, movies? Do you plan to specialize in a particular genre—comedy, drama, visual effects, etc.?
VFX-heavy (but dramatically captivating) commercials and music videos that instill a sense of awe/wonder are my raison d’être as far as short-form and branded content goes! Narrative side; I’m focusing on feature films that combine my love for sci-fi, grounded fantasy, highly original concepts and a strongly humanistic touch. I’ve also begun to unearth great opportunities in the Virtual Reality space. One of my VR spec scripts is moving forward at a fantastic company and might prove to be a game-changer for my nascent career. I wish I could shamelessly namedrop on this one but now’s not the time for that. I’m a screenwriter for hire, too…!
6) Have you a mentor and if so, who is that person (or persons) and what has been the lesson learned from that mentoring which resonates with you?
Cannes Golden Lion-winning commercial director/producer John Adams is a mentor and dear friend. John instilled in me the patience and fortitude that I would need to survive in this industry and more importantly, he is a model of humility and good grace. You hear so many horror stories of directors whose egos erupt from the tiniest morsel of success, and John embodies the diametrical opposite. I’m extremely grateful for his tutelage and friendship. Everyone should be so fortunate to have such a person in their life at one point or other.
7) Who is your favorite director and why?
I’m not much of a director-worshiper, truth be told; authors tend to be closer to my heart… But Sydney Lumet was a real master. I’ve watched some of his films a dozen times and still discover appreciable new aspects of his directorial stamina. I also admire Fritz Lang, Bergman, Miyazaki, Weir, Forman, Kurosawa, Cronenberg, Lynch, the Pixar directors and Guillermo del Toro, among others. I must give mention to a quartet of non-directorial craftsmen who inspire me endlessly: Gregg Toland, Ray Harryhausen, Bernard Herrmann and John Williams. These men deserve as much credit for the success of the films they lent their talents to as any director. Again, directing is really all about surrounding yourself with brilliant people!
8) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
A toss-up between “12 Angry Men,” “Blade Runner,” “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Seventh Seal,” “Citizen Kane,” “2001,” “The Dark Crystal,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Cube” and John Carpenter’s “The Thing”. As for television, the inspired/economic storytelling of “The Twilight Zone,” hands-down. My favorite commercial is an older Sci-fi Channel spot directed by Erick Ifergan, “Tattoo Man”. It was a true creative awakening for me as a child, and set alight my desire to helm commercials from an early age. It’s an utterly enchanting work. As for recent campaigns, the 2015 John Lewis Christmas spot “Man on the Moon” from director Kim Gehrig is a thing of real beauty. These are the kinds of spots I’d give an arm and leg to helm!
9) Tell us about your background (i.e. where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I grew up in Boston before matriculating to the South. As of a few months ago I now reside in Los Angeles, but I’ll go wherever stories take me. Beyond film my great passions are science fiction, fairy tales, folklore, great art and symphonic music. My storytelling exemplars include Bradbury, Steinbeck, Richard Matheson, Harlan Ellison, Joseph Campbell, J.G. Ballard, Lovecraft, Poe, the Brontës, McCarthy, Asimov, Faulkner, Verne, Wells, Twain, King, Plato and many others, and my own voice as a storyteller is a synthesis of these disparate wellsprings. When I’m exhaling my final breath someday, I hope to be remembered as a raconteur whose work was distinct and thematically mature, yet always left the audience with a child-like twinkle in the eye and a desire to live life a little brighter, a little fuller and with a little more wonder.