"Beyond This Place" (docu short)

Charles Frank

Voyager

1) How did you get into directing? 
When I was in middle school, my friends and I would spend hours trying to make these wild basketball trick shots. We’d set up my Mom’s camera on a tripod, and spend hours attempting. At the end of the day, we’d cut the best shots together and share it on YouTube. It was super lame, but something about dedicating ourselves to documenting a tiny moment in time connected with me.

2) What is your most recent project? 
I just finished a personal doc about my relationship with my Mother entitled, “My Baby You’ll Be.” It’s a reflection on her unconditional love through my life, despite my recent neglect. This film wasn’t initially intended for an audience - it was merely a way to wrap my head around this disconnect between my Mother and I. I wanted to share it with her to help her understand my perspective, and maybe bring us closer together. However as it began taking shape, something more universal emerged. We’ll be launching it this Mother’s day as an ode to her, and other loving Mother’s around the world.

3) What is the best part of being a director? 
Right now, my primary focus is directing documentary work. It’s a strange position because my goal isn’t to manipulate situations to fit a narrative, but rather to create an environment where one can easily unfold. There’s a huge amount of gratification in empathizing with people, and making them feel comfortable with a group of strangers.

4) What is the worst part of being a director? 
In documentary, it’s easy to make a statement about who your subject is. There’s a huge amount of responsibility and power in that - a negative, misrepresentative portrayal could ruin someone’s life, and I’m constantly wrestling with that. I do my best to make observations that feel genuine, and let an audience formulate their own opinions about those observations.

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.? 
I’m a director at Voyager, a production house in Brooklyn. There, I’m focused on finding avenues to make editorial documentary content for brands - I’m thrilled by the recent growing desire for intimate, human doc stories. On a bigger scale, I’d love to embark on a long-term feature documentary, and then eventually transition into narrative work.

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?
I’ve had many mentors at varying stages of my filmmaking career. For me, transitioning into documentary work from the narrative world was a daunting shift. I had no experience in this space, and felt very anxious by the unknown. I was super lucky to work with a talented DP,  Jeff Melanson, on my first doc, “Beyond This Place.” He’s perpetually worry-free, and somehow remains positive that the right moments will unfold. He’s taught me a lot about letting go, and being a part of an experience versus fighting one.

7) Who is your favorite director and why?
Probably Destin Daniel Cretton. “Short Term 12” is one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen - it covers a huge range of emotions, tackles some really difficult topics, but remains relatable at a fundamental level. As a director, he comes off so humble and seems to foster strong, trusting relationships with every person he works with. From watching behind-the-scenes of his films, the on set environment seems so relaxed and fun - I think that’s how making films should feel.

8) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content? 
“Chef’s Table” is definitely up there as one of my favorite documentary series. It pulls me into a world I would normally have no interest in, and makes me care about it through the people. Generally speaking I connect most with movies/TV shows/branded content that are less about the “thing,” and more about the people or experience surrounding the “thing.”

9) Tell us about your background (i.e. where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I grew up in a tiny town a couple of hours outside of Boston. Besides making trick shot videos, I was a dishwasher for a summer and an avid member of the A2Z Yo-Yo Team. I studied in a rigorous academic environment and spent my free time making corny short films, and at 16 I worked on my first feature. There, I met the two dudes (Andrew Hutcheson and David Brickel) that, while I didn’t know it at the time, would forever change the course of my life.  After graduating high-school, I took a gap year and moved to Portland, Oregon to work for a production company. Feeling unsatisfied, I very quickly returned east to reconnect with Andrew and David to help establish and grow our production company, Voyager.