Tell us about yourself: I was a kid in Boston and a teenager in Santa Monica, from salty to sunshine, as if were. I’ve always been a filmmaker, but I’m also a recovering B-Boy and record digger, a decent two-guard who played college hoops, a creator of some cool branded entertainment, a teller of humorous stories about my seminal Little League experiences over a couple Jamesons, and a guy who nerds out on pulp and weird fiction. I’m excited for Tribeca audiences to see "In Your Eyes," a film with a lighthearted, fun approach to the supernatural romance and anchored by strong, well-drawn characters.
Biggest challenge in completing this project? Snow. Chasing snow. Finding Snow on the east coast, then, ironically, ducking crazy hail (and ice) back on the west coast. Snow is a character in the film and it was the one prerequisite from producer Kai Cole -- find it, shoot it, let it live on screen. In pre-production, we bounced between about five potential states, moving north every other day. This is how producer Michael Roiff got us to New Hampshire, shooting in a complete and utter snowstorm. Man, did we find some snow.
Did you crowdfund? We were fortunate to be fully funded! The goal of Joss Whedon and Kai Cole with the micro-studio Bellwether is to bypass the classic studio structure and go straight to their audience with great, untold stories.
What camera did you shoot on? Arri Alexa – Love, love its versatility. To both my DP Elisha Christian and I, it’s the digital camera that seems to get closest to an actual film look.
Did you go to film school? Yessir. NYU graduate film school – which, when I was there, was a little like going to the film school of hard knocks what with the way Eastern European professors would tough love you. Had a great experience there --and at UCLA undergrad film-- but most importantly, learned to grow thick skin and stick to my vision: two very valuable lessons in this crazy profession.
What films have inspired you? "Mean Streets" and "The Conformist" are my two favorites. Spike Lee was a huge influence early (both his work and as a personal mentor). David O Russell’s recent stuff is pushing me to think differently. I always love James Gray’s work. I like pictures that makes you feel something, some kind of real emotion, and I really like characters who want to break free of their socialization and still make you laugh a little along the way.
For "In Your Eyes," I didn’t worry about matching tone when I looked for inspiration. I checked out some Soderbergh: "Traffic," "Contagion," "Sex, Lies and Videotapes," and "Girlfriend Experience." And I looked at some Pete Berg – especially the intimacy of the camerawork in "Friday Night Lights." And it might seem odd, but the immediacy matched with the look & feel of "8 Mile" was super helpful and influential as well.
What do you have in the works? Next up is Thieveland, a story about a conflicted book runner who gets caught up in a surprising love affair as he delves into the murder of a friend; set in the world of illicit gambling in Cleveland. It’s dark and realistic, but I am always trying to write characters whose friendships and humor are central to their experience. I may be channeling a little Phil Joanou a la one of my favs State of Grace as I gear up to direct.
Indiewire invited Tribeca Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they're doing next. We'll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2014 festival. Go HERE to read all the entries.