Please give us a brief info of yourself
I’m a writer and director. I like stories. I’m from South Carolina, but I’ve been living in Los Angeles for seven years.
Please describe your typical day
First things first — I cook a pot of steel-cut oatmeal and I scramble two eggs. I’m a breakfast man. Then I write from 9:00 - 1:30. When I say write, I mean either a screenplay, an outline, a commercial treatment, or a pitch of some kind. Sometimes all three. It’s insular, hypnotic work…I’m the weirdo at the coffee shop with headphones who keeps humming to himself. Afternoons, I’m usually at meetings or on the phone or something like that. During production, this regiment goes out the window and I turn into an adrenalin-fueled crazy person.
How have you learned directing/filming skills and techniques?
Back when I was a drunken college student I rented a bunch of gear — like 16mm gear — and learned to use it. I made several of the worst student films of all time. Like, the worst. Then I went to the American Film Institute, where my classmates and I made short films and screened them for each other in this brutal class called Narrative Workshop, where you rip apart movie after movie. That’s when I started thinking about the audience, and how to craft something to illicit a certain reaction. That’s also where I met my cinematographer, Todd Banhazl. He’s my guy. He’s taught me everything, just by challenging my instincts and demanding more, visually. What are your future goals and plans?
My goals? Make movies. I just wrote something called Rothchild, which I’m not going to direct, but which I’m helping get made. I’m trying get another movie off the ground called Barracuda, with Ben Mendelsohn, which I’d direct. And I’m up for a bunch of writing gigs. My biggest goal — and this sounds cheesy — but my biggest goal is to keep learning. I’d like to be a sixty-year-old guy who’s super jazzed on some new idea.
Were you interested in filming or other creative pursuits when you were growing up? How did you decide to directing/filming?
I wanted to be a writer, a journalist. I decided on directing when I saw Baraka for the first time, in a little movie theater in Prague when I was 21. The power of the image was overwhelming. Looking back, I’m glad to have had a background in writing and storytelling. It’s all narrative. Everything else is frosting.
What is your biggest regret?
I regret being fearful for so long. What do you have to lose? Go out and make something, screw it. I also regret stealing a bunch of my brother’s baseball cards when I was nine. That was stone cold.
What advice would you give to a young person starting out?
Work hard, expect little, and be grateful. That’s the best you can do. Notice I said expect little. Don’t work for the result, work for the joy of working.
What are you listening to currently?
Rick James. I may write a movie about Rick James for some producers, so I’m doing the research. Come Get It is like an Outkast album that inexplicably came out in 1979.
Do you have any favorite movies or TV shows?
Movies? Raging Bull, Network, Being There, Boogie Nights, Paths of Glory.
TV? True Detective. And I love this British show called An Idiot Abroad that makes me laugh so hard I have seizures.
Any other things to add?
Yeah — go see Whiplash. It might be the best movie of the year, and nobody is seeing it. Go!