Having just returned from shadowing on Silicon Valley, Creative Director Pete Chatmon shares a little bit of what he learned and his excitement about the direction of episodic television. And then some…
November 22, 2015:
I’m going to take the keys on this post and write directly to the good folks that take the time to check out our blog. We love you. Now, you may want to sit back, cause I’m going straight from my mind to the keyboard and will just drop some pics here and there, lol. It’s been a whirlwind of a year, dating back to the decision in early 2014 to produce and direct the short film “BlackCard”. I’m not going to belabor this point, because it’s not what this post is about per se, BUT I will say to all of you filmmakers and artists out there, the most important thing you can do for yourself is to find, by any means necessary, the means with which you can create art that represents your unique voice in the world.
Not every project will allow you that, but somewhere on your yearly calendar, find AT LEAST 2-3 opportunities to create what YOU want to create. Do not let year after year go by with all those projects you think are going to change the world (or just make you happy) festering as documents on your computer’s desktop. You can’t change anything if you’re not producing, and believe me, there are people out here creating everyday that will take whatever position you think might be yours because you’ve got some reason why you can’t go ahead and create whatever it is you SAY you want to do.
I might just be one of them.
Setting up a cool greenscreen shot with a 50 foot crane!
We shot “BlackCard” the first weekend of November 2014 and I had a very simple goal: create something that illustrated my growth as a filmmaker since my last major narrative piece (“Premium”, 2005).
I’d begun to fall into the trap of having great script after great concept after great whatever! on my computer, but the most recent piece I could point anyone toward was almost a decade old. Come on, man! They say you’re only as good as your last hit, and the industry has the shortest of memories. So, a wake-up call was in order.
Now, to be clear, I’ve been producing and directing content at a relentless clip since “Premium”, but many of those projects were at the service of other visions. That is something I enjoy immensely in the work we do for clients, and look forward to doing more of the same in the episodic television world, but it had been awhile since I’d directed something that I felt had my voice and stamp on it.
Tony Patrick’s script for “BlackCard” was the perfect piece.
Huge daylight balanced lights for an exterior shoot in Pacific Palisades!
Since I rolled the dice on myself (it was quite the bet as making any film can be an expensive endeavor, no matter how many hookups you have), “BlackCard” has turned into one of the best artistic investments I ever made.
I achieved my goal of getting 85% of my vision on screen and in March 2015, when the film was finally complete, I felt as proud as I’d ever felt after looking at something I’d been involved with.
I was able able to collaborate at the highest level with my cast and crew and execute beyond our financial means in an effort to tell a unique story with a personal style that could be enjoyed by all, but if not, thoroughly enjoyed by me!
When the film festival selections started rolling in during Spring/Summer 2015, it was extra gravy that only added to a meal I was already 100% happy with. Montclair Film Festival, Los Angeles Film Festival, Palm Springs International Shortsfest, and American Black Film Festival/HBO Short Film Competition came knocking first, and we were off to the races!
WHICH FINALLY BRINGS ME BACK TO “SILICON VALLEY”.
View from the Palisades backyard…not bad!
With our ABFF/HBO selection, we were also able to secure an HBO licensing deal for “BlackCard”, a RARITY beyond rarities for short films. We were now introduced to creatives and executives at a network that is home to so many seminal shows it’d be hard to count them on two hands.
I met countless folks that have become advocates and in their efforts to propel my career forward, have set me up for opportunities to expand my creative knowledge and industry relationships.
Shadowing on “Silicon Valley” was one such opportunity and for 17 days I was immersed in the prep and production of what I think is one of the best comedies on television. If you don’t watch it, I advise you to binge watch Seasons 1 and 2 before it returns for Season 3 (which I was shadowing on) in what will most likely be April 2016.
The Hacker House set on the Sony Lot….
It was beautiful to see that everything I’ve been doing the past few years, working with Fortune 500 companies and brands to local businesses, has essentially prepared me for the dynamics of an episodic television set. Fellow director Laura Belsey said it best over coffee, in episodic television you are a guest director, and indeed you are “a guest before a director”, so you must bring your creative best, plus a flexible attitude, to work well within the culture of each show.
These actors, in some cases, may have done 50+ episodes as their characters, and the crew, well, they know what works best on their sets, and all of this happens in the service of the creator/showrunner who serves as the driving force for the concept…and the final answer on creative decisions.
What’s most exciting about episodic television directing, to me, is the opportunity to work within the unique style of each show to deliver an episode that maintains the integrity of the show while bringing a new eye and excitement for what’s being created.
All of this while moving at an incredibly fast pace because time is money and shooting schedules are tight in order to make the most of production budgets.
KinoFlo Celeb 400 keeping things lit!
That’s it on the details, as episodic plot and cast/crew details are not mine to share. And you’ll want to see everything fresh when it premieres!
I must extend a HUGE THANK YOU to HBO and the Silicon Valley team, Kelly Edwards and Jim Kleverweis for opening the door and welcoming me to their creative family.
As I digest everything that I had the opportunity to experience, it’s all about to gear up again as I prepare to shadow on an episode of “The Blacklist”.
To bring this whole manifesto back home, this is yet another opportunity that our 14-minute short film called “BlackCard” has afforded me.
During the ABFF/HBO screening I had the pleasure of meeting Brett King and learned about Sony Pictures Televisions Diverse Directors program. After 6 weeks of intimate conversations with industry professionals about what is expected of episodic television directors, I was fortunate enough to be selected to shadow on this action-packed! show (another favorite of mine).
I’ve already had a chance to visit set and meet some of the good people over there and am very much looking forward to the experience.
As for what the 2016 future holds, I can’t call it. And, won’t try.
I’ll be pushing and working to get my first episodic assignment, but no matter what happens, everything I’m learning will only serve to make my future passion projects that much better.
I’ve got a mockumentary script that should be done by year’s end, co-written with Candice Sanchez McFarlane, and once that’s done we’ll be off to the races to figure out how we can shoot that in Spring/Summer 2016. Along with a couple other projects because that’s what we do…
KEEP ON CREATING.
“BlackCard” Official Trailer…