1) How did you get into directing?
When I was in high school, I went to a film camp hosted by Tim and Daphne Reid at their movie studio in Petersburg, VA. I started off wanting to be a writer. But when the first director I worked with butchered my script, I quickly realized that I needed to step behind the camera myself. What started with short films starring my friends steadily grew into more and more involved (and expensive) productions. I got my MFA in film from American University (with an assist from FAMU in Prague) and when I graduated I took every opportunity I could to get behind the camera.
2) What is your most recent project?
My most recent project is the feature film “TRI.” “TRI” is an inspirational sports drama about a woman, notorious for never finishing anything, who’s inspired by one of her patients to sign up for her first Triathlon. We follow her journey as she joins a Tri team and trains for the Nation’s Triathlon.
3) What is the best part of being a director?
The best part of being a director is the collaboration. Being surrounded by talented artists and craftspeople who bring their own hearts and souls to the project. I love working in an environment where the product created is greater than the sum of its parts. I also love that moment of discovery on set; when an actor does something unexpected, or the DP frames up a beautiful shot. In addition to hard work, there’s a magic to filmmaking. Being a director means you get to be witness to all of it.
4) What is the worst part of being a director?
Those moments when, for whatever reason, the scene or sequence you’re putting together just isn’t working, no matter how hard you and your team try. I hate having to cut scenes, or characters.
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’d like to continue doing features while exploring commercials and television. Today there are so many different methods and mediums to tell stories, I’d like to consider them all. I have no particular genre I’m focused on specializing in, beyond doing emotional, character driven 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’m fortunate enough to have a number of mentors. The lesson learned that resonates most with me is to trust my instincts and stay true to myself, my voice.
You can’t make movies like Spike Lee, or Steven Spielberg, or David Fincher.
But guess what, you don’t have to, because they’re making those movies. No one can make the movies you do, so tell THOSE stories, YOUR way.
7) Who is your favorite director and why?
Steven Spielberg. I am at my core and instinctual, emotion driven director. Some of my earliest memories involved wearing my VHS of ET out. Spielberg helped define a certain type of film language for an entire generation. I was lucky enough to work on “Lincoln,” and witness first hand how he ran a set, how he put together a story. It was amazing to be a part of such a fantastic project. Side note: I interviewed to be Daniel Day Lewis’s local assistant, but I was too tall for the job...true story.
8) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
My favorite movie is “Finding Forrester” for the simple fact that it was the movie that made me want to make movies. It was the first time I saw a character on screen that was me: a young black kid, who fought to be a writer despite society’s preconceived notions and systemic limitations. It inspired me so deeply, I forgive it for having one of the worst lines in movie history: “You da man now, Jamal.”
9) Tell us about your background (i.e. where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I grew up in Richmond, VA. Despite being the former Capital of the Confederacy, the art/film/music scene is extremely vibrant and constantly growing. I went to Hampton University to get my BA in English then to American University for my MFA in Film. While at American, I spent a semester studying at FAMU in Prague, an experience that totally sharpened my voice. I worked on “Lincoln” as a PA and most recently on AMC’s “Turn” as a visual effects assistant.