One of the coolest things about this panel was I got to meet two exceptional people, Dr. Patrick Runnels (Medical Director at Centers for Family and Children), and Mark Hunter (Chimaira vocalist and photographer) This panel sparked an idea for me, a deep exploration of the subject matter discussed, inspired a short film on the connection between creativity and mental illness. It's something I'm passionate about and I am personally affected by.
I believe bipolar, depression or other mental afflictions have inspired some of the greatest art ever created. I know in my case, bipolar is not only a burden, a callus monster you have to harness, but a source of great power. It's a disease that forces you to look inward, sometimes in painful ways, but ultimately providing a deeper connection to the human condition. If you can harness that and translate it into any medium, then we are talking about a giant creative advantage.
After hearing Mark's story at the panel, I approached him to create a documentary portrait about his issues and his art. He was kind enough to let me explore this topic through his art and his experiences. I am calling the piece Down Again, after Chimaira's hit song. The title and song have a much deeper meaning which will be explored in the doc piece. On a personal note, Chimaira's music was something that helped me through dark times when I was an angsty teenager, So I played this one pretty close to the chest.
We wrapped the first leg of our principle photography around Chimaira's 7 year reunion show on December 30th at the legendary Agora. I wanted to interview Mark leading up to the show as it was bound to stir up some feelings, as well as using that time as an opporitunity to gather interesting B Roll around the band practicing and re-uniting for the big show.
Metal music by its nature is intense, and this piece is shaping up to be a window into that world I feel no one has opened before. Metal musicians and metal fans are often misunderstood and I hope to change that. As a fan of metal myself, and a fan of music and how it affects people, I really want to pour myself into this one. It's deep, it's moody and it will hopefully be profound.
It was awesome to see how the band approaches music in such a professional way. The setlists were rehearsed religiously, the songs were played to a click track live, and every detail from lighting to sound was meticulously managed and thought through in advance.
I am also putting together a short film around Chimaira's return to commemorate an awesome evening I will never forget. The crew was on point and the band absolutely crushed. It was a barn burner of a show.
Huge thanks to Mark and all the fellas in the band for letting me into their world. It was an honor to be a part of the Chimaira family and share such an amazing night with such awesome people. You guys are the best dudes, and should be very proud of what you built with the band and the music and how it's touched fans around the world.
Big thanks to the crew, Tyler Clark for his vision and eye for making the piece moody and atmospheric. Luke DeJeu for running audio and assisting with camera needs. Mikey Tell for wearing all the hats and helping with whatever we needed. Nolan for his assistance on camera and helping with gear on the shoot. Magan for her looks, charm and the Miller High Life. And lastly James Waters for putting this together last minute in a classic hail mary fashion as only he can do.
I am really proud of what we have so far, and am excited to start putting something together. We will be shooting the remaining content in March and the piece will be edited sometime in April. Stay tuned!
Happy new year. Excited to see what 2018 brings my way.
I was recently approached by my talented friend Jade Catta Preta to take a trip to Brazil to explore the comedy scene and her roots there. Jade is a Brazilian born comic and actress who moved to the states at the age of 12. The point of this trip was for her to connect with her roots as an adult in a meaningful way and to bravely attempt her set in Portugese for the first time.
After a week of shooting for another project I rushed into the prep for this trip. Vaccines, Visas, Insurance, Gear etc all right before the madness of the holidays. My initial thoughts were ones of concern, as I don't think rushing into a doc project is the right way to make excellent content. It takes preparation and planning to be effective in my world view. So needless to say, rushing into an international shoot was not my favorite thing in the world. Not to mention I haven't shot any of my own footage in quite some time, having the luxury of working with cinematographers. My concerns were of prep, intentionality of content, and most of all safety, as brandishing a camera in a South American country isn't the smartest idea. I could not of been more off in my estimations.
In fact the opposite was true. The people of Brazil are warm, and welcoming. They share my love for food and the whole trip was an incredibly positive experience. Jade, her friends and her family are very special people who welcomed me into their homes and country with open arms. The content was actually of profound substance, and deeper than I had imagined. The lack of preparation in this case and the spontaneity it incurred was extremely beneficial to the project. Ultimatly shooting, directing and running sound on this, although challenging, created intimacy on screen. On a personal note it allowed me to connect with my orgins and re-affirmed my love for the craft.
The experience seemed even more important for Jade, reconnecting with family and recovering lost culture. I believe it will have a very meaningful impact on her comedy and the quality of her content. In the 11 days we were there she did 9 shows in Portuguese and improved substantially each time. I have a tremendous amount of respect for her taking that risk. Could you move to another country and throw yourself into that situation? I wouldnt even be able to do an open mic here in the states.
One of the most surprising things about Brazil was that the comedy scene is so young. It's only a few years old, yet the community is so strong. We met the biggest comics in Brazil as well as open mic comics, all of which were supportive of each other and want to make the scene stronger and better as a whole. Not selfish interests, but righteous ones.
I am very excited about this project. We have another 5 days of principle to do in LA and after that I can start shaping something up. This project found itself in production. That's something I try to avoid most of the time, but the journey of making this will hopefully come across on screen. This film is about heritage, family, self exploration, fate, predetermination and personal growth. Thank you Jade and all the wonderful people involved in this. I'm honored to tell this story.
This Veterans Day I am proud to release a short film I made on the origins of Oscar Mike. Oscar Mike is military radio jargon for "On The Move". Oscar Mike was founded 11/11/11 by my friend Noah Currier with the mission of keeping all Veterans "On The Move" through adaptive sporting events. Noah's story is inspiring. Oscar Mike is a 100% American made activewear apparel company. That company donates proceeds of those sales to the Oscar Mike Foundation. That foundation sends disabled veterans to adaptive sporting events to help their physical and mental well being. This was a very personal project to me, and I am honored to have had a hand in making it. Watch it below and share. I feel this is important work and it will help save lives quite literally. See the full film below:
Thanks to so many people. Thanks to Aaron Matthews for his assistance since 2011. Thanks to Tyler Clark for shooting the re-enactments and beauty footage. Thanks to Michael Seifert and Dave Shaw for the post mix, SFX and original score. Thanks to Clifton Stommel for his color work. Thanks to Dustin Currier, Dave Padrutt and Matt Troja for the additional music. Most of All, thanks to Noah and his family for letting me into their lives in a very deep and meaningful way. And thanks to all the Veterans, wounded or otherwise for their service.
Honored to have created a few short commercial spots for Oscar Mike. Oscar Mike is American made apparel with a mission. Oscar Mike stands for "On The Move" in the military alphabet. Proceeds of every sale go directly to rehabilitating disabled veterans through adaptive sporting events. Keeping injured veterans on the move is the mission of Oscar Mike. We shot these at Rock Cut Park in Northern Illinois, and the voice overs are actual audio bytes from the interviews with each Veteran. Huge thanks to Michael Seifert and Dave Shaw for the post mix and original score. Thanks to Clifton Stommel for the color work.
Proud to announce my film on Gotta Groove Records has been selected into Palm Springs International Film Festival & Palm Springs ShortFest! The film will screen Thursday, June 22 - 10:30am, at Camelot Theatres as part of the Face the Music program. We are also in competition for their Online ShortFest. You can vote for us now through the 23rd.
It was an amazing experience for us, as this audience was so receptive to the film and asked lots of challenging questions. See the QA below.
Thanks so much to Jonny and Lance, and to all the fans who came out. You challenged and inspired us. For more info, check out this interview with Derek about the filming process on the Threadless Blog.
In honor of mental health awareness month we are partnering with Threadless to release a limited edition t-shirt to benefit Hope For The Day. Forced Perspective has also released 8 teaser trailers for the film. Check them out below and get the film on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu and Vimeo on Demand.
I have long been interested in the link between truly talented people and the motivations behind what drives them. The contrast between dark and light, and the connection between an internal deficit and genuinely unique art. Filling a void. Whether it was Aerosmith writing the best music when high on heroin, or Van Gogh losing touch with reality and mailing his ear to his ex-girlfriend saying "Haven't heard from you in a while!". There is an undeniable bridge between damaged people and earth shattering art. The true human condition must be lived first, in order to be expressed in a pure way.
Billy Bonnell is a standup comic based in Los Angeles. I met Billy through mutual friends in LA four years ago. Billy is a lighthearted guy with a dark past and cynical sense of humor.
Many famous comedians talk about the link between craving laughs and a tortured soul, and I do believe this to be true. Billy's origin story explains his comedy, and is a testament to the ideas and theories expressed by many comics. Billy is a personification of these ideals. He uses his comedy to express his emotions, and in doing so connects deeply to his audience through honesty and trust. This film is an exploration of the grief and sadness behind his art, and how those feelings are expressed in a beautiful way through his craft.
At the age of 10 I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, at 11 I was mentally hospitalized for 6 months. At 16 I was expelled for acting out, put in a behavioral school, and then hospitalized again. This time in isolation. Being bipolar, and having had a dark past myself, allowed me to use my craft to express my frustrations and feelings to the world. I believe myself to be a better person because of it. That is why I connect so deeply to this story. I hope people can see Billy in this piece (and a bit of myself) and grow from it. I hope they are able to use something they are passionate about to express themselves, and to heal.
So many people to thank. First and foremost, thanks to Billy for letting me tell his story. Including Billy's family, especially his mom Rene Smith for being so open about such a personal story. Huge thanks to Travis Mauck and ENDPAIN for producing this short film. Thanks to American Comedy Co, Westside Comedy Theater, Hyenas Comedy Club and Reds Saloon for being so hospitable.
Big thanks to StommelHaus (Clifton Stommel, Evelyn Stommel) for shooting the key footage and color grading the film. Thanks to Ryan Sterton for shooting a few shows in San Diego. Big thanks to Michael Seifert and Dave Shaw for their original music, sound design and mix. All of you guys make this work possible so thank you so much.
The concept of the video was to create an etherial mood piece featuring a spooky muse enchanting the audience with medusa like looks and Dionysian movement. The band almost conjuring her into existence (like a genie) with their music. The song is very a haunting nod to the 80's era of music and has constant references to William Shakespeare's masterpiece Hamlet. Specifically the death of Ophelia.
When I listened to the track, I resonated with the undertone of spirituality and godlike/archetypal quality of the girl in the song. The song to me is an exploration of lust. It's a girl with whom a man is obsessed with to the point where she has complete control of him. Like medusa, her beauty has turned him to stone. I wrote this bit below about the Charachter:
The band resonated immediately with the concept, our only concern being it could end up being cliched. A pretty girl dancing in a dark room doesn't sound very magical. But the devil is always in the details. Our number one challenge was casting. We needed someone who looked the part, a fair skinned beautiful and enchanting girl. Black hair, bright eyes, tattoos and curves. She also needed to be a high level dancer to be able to move in a seductive way. This is about presence. Captivating the audience is key. I worked closely with my producer James Waters and we sent the track out to a pool of dancers and asked them to submit a dance to the track with their own flavor to it. I wanted to see how they were feeling and interpreting the song. After many dances were reviewed we decided on Tracy Lynn Stanbury.
See Tracy's dance submission below.
Tracy's movement had such athleticism and control to it as well as the mysterious and enchanting flavors of middle eastern dances. Tracy also has the presence we were looking for. When she makes eye contact, she almost cuts through you.
So much of avoiding the cliche' was in how the dance and performance was presented. I wanted the cut to start out ambiguous and mysetrious and slowly reveal the band and the dancer over time. Micro > Macro. I enlisted Tyler Clark, a talented young DOP to work on the aesthetic with me in pre-production.
We took steps to make sure it was shot in a specific way that felt current, but had a tinge of the 80's era music videos, (Soft focus, vignetting, lens filters) while adding current aesthetics such as Lens flares, prisms in front of the lens, and high concept lighting. The result is something stunningly unique and beautiful.
Another huge part of this concept was art direction. We plan on having "Fantasy" cut aways or inserts exploring some of the more magical or archetypal imagery in my treatment. I enlisted Inda Blatch-Geib as our art director and she brought a decorative eye to the treatment. It was important to me we not be to "on the nose" with the references below:
We really wanted to contrast the idealized version of her with the reality of her being. What the man lusting after her sees in his head, versus what she actually is. Also, we wanted Iconography that implies female sexual prowess, femininity, fragility, delicateness.
I wanted the inserts to feel roman, and sort of pagan at the same time.
We shot this over two long production days with a half day for tech and pre-light. We were able to set up 4x4 banks on the truss at OSV Studios in Cleveland and have two looks to bounce back and forth from. This made our ambitious shot list possible. Enjoy some behind the scenes below:
I am beyond excited for this one. I am already digging deep into the cut for this and spending lots of time finessing. I really feel like we have something special here, both the track and concept mirror each other in a special way. Excited to get it out to all of you. Huge thanks to all of the crew who worked on this. It was an extremely ambitious project for the budget and we pulled it off because of all of you.
First and foremost thanks to Monakr for the opportunity to make something beautiful to an amazing piece of music. Thanks to Craig Smith and the folks at OSV Studios for the hospitality for two days. Huge thanks to the camera department for all their back breaking work on this. Tyler Clark for his vision on the look. Thanks to Mikey tell for sticking it out on our small time set after Mcconaughey wore him out. (allright allright allright) Thanks to Jordan Pellegrini for his razor sharp focus pulling. (shot at 1.4f) Thanks to Josh Quiros for his camera operation ability and overall help on set. Thanks to Adam Tolley and Jeff Wexler for the assistance throughout both days. Huge thanks to James Waters for his pre-production wizardry. Thanks to Magan McLaughlin and Luke De Jue for Production assisting. Thanks to Katie Wyatt & Morgan Jones for the beautiful Hair and Makeup. Thanks for the beautiful art direction and vision of Inda Blatch-Geib and Dred Geib. You guys brought Ophelia to life. Big thanks to Julia Toke and Anna Wallace-Birchler for being hosts to a bunch of dirty band dudes for 3 days. And last but not least, thanks to the beautiful Tracy Lynn for being a patient soul with the very physical demands of her for this one.
Very excited to announce we will be partnering with Threadless and Hope For The Day for mental health awareness the month of May. Forced Perspective will be screening at the Threadless space and Derek and Myself will be doing a QA following the screening. On top of that we will have a mixer with live performances by Matthew Santos and Dustin Currier who both contributed music to the film.
Click HERE for information and registration.