My history teacher had spent a month on WWII and a week on the Vietnam War. When I asked why were spent so much time on a war that was four years for the U.S. and so little time on one that was 12 years, I was told because that was the way it was. It was 1982 and the U.S. still had trouble with the idea that they had lost the war. I felt like my history teacher was trying to hide something from me about the Vietnam War and it made me want to find out why.
At the same time that we were studying the Vietnam war in History, we were reading Joseph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness in English class. I had told my English teacher that I was trying to find more information on the Vietnam War and he told me that Joseph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness was made into a movie but it was set during the Vietnam War. That piqued my curiosity and so i went to my local video store and rented Apocalypse Now. I was blown away. After seeing the film, I could understand both why and what my history teacher was trying to hide.
Another favorite film of mine was Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. Like a lot of kids who grew up in the ’80s in NYC, I watched a lot of karate flicks in Times Square when I cut school and on Saturdays on TV, there were marathons of kung fu movies. Seven Samurai was epic though in ways that many of those other films weren’t and essentially it was a western set at the end of feudal Japan.
There are more films and i could go on but you get the idea.
On that job, I met another production assistant who told me that she was going to work for Spike Lee on her next job. Spike was a huge inspiration to me then and I asked her if she could get me a job. She told me there were no paid positions but I could intern for free. So i did. And I wound up working on Do The Right Thing for five weeks. I met so many people on that movie that it led to other jobs and I was able to find work on a pretty stable basis after that.
I had always loved films and going to the movies. When I was younger I would find two movies I wanted to see and look at all the theaters to see where they were playing back to back with the idea that I would buy one ticket to see one film and when it was over sneak into the other movie when no one was looking.
I decided that Aftermath: The Seeds of Armageddon should be a kind of prequel to Kali. So I wrote this film to give a backstory to the lead character in Kali and the tragedy that she goes through that makes her so angry and so full of rage that she wants to destroy to the world. It also gives a backstory as to how these other girls join her in her quest to destroy the world. The reason it’s called Kali is because Kali is the Hindu goddess of death and although there are no names used in Aftermath, the lead actress (played by my niece Alexi “Flea” Fernandez) is named Kali.
Aftermath was also made as a short film made specifically for a contest that Japanese musician and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto (his last score was for Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu’s The Revenant) held for the his latest album asynch. Ryuichi Sakamoto had stated that asynch was a soundtrack to a film by the great Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, but the catch was that it was Ryuichi Sakamoto imagining a soundtrack to a Andrei Tarkofsky film that didn’t exist. So Ryuichi invited filmmakers from all over the world to shoot a short film using one or two songs from the album. Aftermath is the result of our effort to try and win that contest and although we lost we did manage to make a film using the music of Ryuichi Sakamoto.
Beaumont: Don’t go to film school unless you have $200K lying around and even then don’t go to film school use the $200K to just make a film. The so-called best film schools, like NYU, Columbia, USC, UCLA, AFI, are breeding grounds for Hollywood and if you have the money to go to those schools then you’ll most likely be classmates with the next young crop of filmmakers in Hollywood. That can help if your goal is to work in Hollywood but it’ll cost you $200K and there are no guarantees.
FilmStruck is the streaming service for the Criterion Collection and it costs $99 a year. The Criterion Collection is a distribution company that distributes the best films from the best filmmakers from all around the world. If you got a subscription and watched a film everyday for a year you’d have an amazing knowledge base of 365 films from around the world from the best filmmakers in the world.
A park bench (the set)
Go shoot that. Then take another scene make a list of what you need to shoot and shoot that scene. Wash, rinse, repeat. Do it on weekends, days off. Keep your cast and crew small every person who has to be on set when you shoot exponentially holds you up when you want to schedule a shoot and they can’t make because of work, school, or life in general. So be small, keep it guerrilla.
The advantage you have of shooting a film in piece meal over six months to a year is that you can take your time which is something conventional shooting schedules of 21 to 30 days on most indie feature films don’t have. Take your disadvantages turn them around and make them work for you. And not just with your budget and your scheduling but with the creative aspects of your film. Embrace your limitations and find creative ways to work within them.
This is how I made my first feature film Machetero. It started as a 23 page short film and grew to be a 98 minute feature. I went from shooting street scenes with two actors to shooting bigger street scenes with four and five actors to shooting with an international film star Isaach de Bankolé who was in Casino Royale, Manderlay, The Limits Of Control and recently Black Panther in a prison with a cast and crew of 20. I was able to shoot one day in a prison for $1200. That film went on to screen all over the world and win six awards while doing it.
The only other piece of advice I can give is this. You can love filmmaking but it will never love you back.