“First Chair” (short)
1) What was your first professionally directed work and when was it?
I have been a professional producer, writer and actress, among other things, but as a director all of the work I’ve accomplished has been on my own.
2) How did you get into directing?
I graduated from Boston University Film School, jumped into big features at the bottom of the ladder and worked my way up. From there I split my time acting and directing theatre in New York City. I’ve had several positions in the industry, from agent to craft service, but directing was something I made happen no matter what. I fit it between the spaces. Whether it was my story being told or someone else’s that I was lucky enough to be allowed to explore, I am only happy when I am creating passionate, hot, moving, fun, powerful projects. I also fricking adore actors. Several that I’ve cast have gone on to great success. So merging the two loves – working with actors and directing – became my true drive and passion.
3) What is your most recent project?
Most recently I directed a political thriller web series pilot called “Blind Trust”. It’s very much a “House of Cards” meets “Savages”. It’s gotten incredible feedback, and I’m working on the next episodes now and seeking a platform for distribution and financing. I have a wide range of genres I’ve directed, musical films, dramas, comedies, commercials. ABD.
4) What is the best part of being a director?
Taking a project from 0 to 60, hitting the gas on the Porsche, turning an idea into an epic moving image is a special thrill, and a special talent. Let’s see, best part: communicating my vision to a entire crew individually to create a cohesive vision, and all of those talents converging with mine, the story, the actors to make an emotionally moving piece of art. One of my biggest strengths is picking a strong crew who work well together. From my DP to my Production Designer, Sound designer, wardrobe, talent. That synergy and pulse of everyone being on the same page, as well as the struggle to get there, is what I enjoy most. I love when shit goes wrong, because we always find a way to make it better than it would have been. I trust my crew, and letting pros do what they do best while keeping a tight, positive ship is exhilarating. I come from a big family so each set is pretty much a new big family.
5) What is the worst part of being a director?
Hmm. Let’s see. I mean… I like sleep. Budgetary restrictions suck. OH, and snow storms. Definitely: blizzards, weather issues, cast/crew scheduling conflicts. The Usual.
6) 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.?
Well if I had my druthers, I’d take my background in film, theatre and acting and be directing dramatic, dialogue driven television, A la “Breaking Bad”, “Shades of Blue” (different I know) “Blindspot”. That said, I’ve always wanted to explore sexy car commercials, since they remind me of those hot romances I used to read. I’m also a musician, so sound and music are incredibly important in my work. Sound will always play a top role in what I direct.
7) 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 have no mentor right now and I would really love to have one. In the past, the closest I had to a mentor was Joseph Burns, 1st AD to Scorsese, Ron Howard, John McTiernan among others. He got me my first job on a film set and through example, teaching and some hard knocks he taught me everything I know about how a professional set is run, what it should feel like, what the energy can be like and should be like. “Everything I learned, I learned in Kindergarten” is pretty true. Everything I learned, I learned as a PA on big films, working with the best, watching, absorbing, learning from them. Joe was the best mentor for that.
8) Who is your favorite director and why?
The Coen Brothers, Tim Van Patten, Steven Spielberg. You thought I’d pick one? Heh. As a former stand up comedian, The Coen Brothers’ dark use of humor entwined with true-life pain is incredibly absorbing in its exploration of character and quirky stories. Steven Spielberg is simply a master of storytelling. I lose myself in his films (in the best of ways)… Tim Van Patten’s career is epic! Director, actor, producer, writer at the highest levels… nuff said.
9) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
Saving Private Ryan, Breaking Bad, Ok Go – “Won’t Let you Down” and the Budweiser Super Bowl Commercial “Born The Hard Way” I love for it’s cinematic storytelling and confidently slow pace. I think they all speak for themselves.
10) Tell us about your background (i.e. where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
Born and raised in Nashville, TN, I come from a pretty big family with six siblings. I started working in features as a PA before I left college. My first job was on Oliver Stone’s JFK. I finished film school and moved to NYC to work on A Bronx Tale, Carlito’s Way, and Sabrina, among others. I jumped out of production to start acting in a Meisner Conservatory and continued directing theatre while working on my acting studies. I’ve been a professional stand up comedian, had call backs to the Actor’s Studio, owned my own below the line agency, worked as a UPM in Iraq during the war, coordinated commercials and mvs… you name it, and all of it makes me a stronger director.
Colleen Davie Janes
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