My first introduction to filmmaking was figuring out how to make my little brother disappear and reappear using a primitive, in-camera jump-cut with my dad’s VHS camera for our Matrix-style fan film. Years later, while attending NC State, I took an intro to film course on a whim. After the first class, I quickly switched my biology major to film studies and haven’t looked back since.
My work has been recognized by the American Advertising awards, the Global Trend Triumph awards, and several film festivals. I have been fortunate to see projects go from concept to finish, interacting with clients throughout the entire process. My projects ranges from corporate/commercial video with big tech such as Red Hat, Lenovo, Cisco, and Intel to work on feature films premiering at the Tribeca International Film festival and reality TV on national networks.
I’m passionate about sci-fi films, running, the issue of climate change, and representation of people of color in media. I currently work as an art director of video on Red Hat’s internal creative agency in Raleigh and I run Negative Split Films as a platform for narrative short films shot in North Carolina.
Q & A
If the world you created in your film became a reality, is that a world you would want to live in? Is there a Sci-Fi world you’d buy a one-way ticket to?
I would not want to live in Gill’s world since it has been ravaged by climate change. However, I wouldn’t mind my own personal teleportation suit- preferably one that doesn’t have any bugs. I’m drawn to universes like Mass Effect and Star Trek because they bring about a sense of wonderment and adventure in exploring the galaxy. They also show that intergalactic-species cooperation is possible (which seems amazing when the U.S. can’t seem to agree on basic facts.)
Name a Sci-Fi character you relate to on a spiritual level? Who is your Sci-Fi spirit animal/spirit alien?
I’d aspire to be Hans Solo, but really I’m just C3PO at heart.
Friend or Foe: humanoid robots with advanced artificial intelligence? What if robots start making their own Sci-Fi films? Will you support them in their endeavors?
When I think about AI or computers, I’m always reminded of my high school computer science teacher. She would say that computers are infinitely stupid machines. I’m not afraid of a robot apocalypse. I am concerned about humans and how they responsibly or (irresponsibly) use technology. The last couple of years have only reinforced that. I would 100% support a future robot auteur. I already love the iPhone AI generated slideshow photo videos.
In 1996, Bugs Bunny recruited Michael Jordan and Bill Murray to form the greatest basketball squad of all-time, the Tune Squad; you’re Bugs, who’s on your Sci-Fi Tune Squad?
I don’t know basketball or sports for that matter, but I like the idea of assembling a squad for a heist. I’d bring in Omar Sy (as Lupin) as my spy/stealth specialist, Henry Cavill (as Geralt in The Witcher) as my heavy, Jewel Belair Staite (Kaylee in Firefly) as our chief engineer, and use Lewis Hamilton (as himself) as the getaway driver. (Okay, I guess I did manage to work in one sports reference. F1 counts, right?)
You’ve gotta go through some bad ideas to get to the good ones. Tell us one of your bad ideas. How do you get past the bad ones to find your spark?
One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was, “Don’t fall in love with your first idea.” It’s a good reminder that whatever immediately popped into your head has probably already been thought of before. It’s a well threaded path. Your goal is to take that vehicle of an idea, kick the tires, and then drive it in all directions to find a better, more interesting route. My latest bad idea was a pandemic inspired film about a crime that happens during a Zoom call. I’m pretty sure everyone had that idea.
Do you consider yourself part of a sci-fi community? Or when your brain is in the future and your body’s in the present, is that isolating?
I wouldn’t consider myself part of a specific sci-fi community, but I do think I have found a great filmmaking community here in North Carolina. I think science fiction is incredibly relevant and grounding today. We’re seeing early technologies like AI, automation, and edge computing. Some of these technologies have already had major effects on society (for better or worse). Science fiction is a good reminder or warning of the various paths we can take with those technologies. The genre brings me more into the present.
Do you consider yourself more of an analog or digital person? What kind of balance do strike between the two? Is there a disconnect between the technology you make films about and the technology that you make films with?
As a filmmaker, I am a digital person. In life, I am also a digital person but I would like to be more analog. I stare at too many screens everyday, and I don’t miss the irony of working in a profession that causes people to look at their screens even more. I’m not sure how I can reconcile that- except with the hope that I’m creating content that’s worth watching.
When you’re creating the props and sets that make a new world, where do you look for inspiration? How do you create objects that are relatable but unfamiliar?
For Gill’s suit, I was actually inspired by the Delorean in Back to the Future. It’s my favorite movie of all time. But I didn’t start out with that visual in my head or with a desire to subtly reference the time machine. I just knew the world I wanted to create, and I let the creative guide me. Generally, I try to first define the world in which these objects will live. That helps build a common language and understanding of the direction. Stay as broad as you can and don’t get too hung up on the actual visuals early on. Once I have that canvas of adjectives to work from, I present that to the designers, prop makers, and other talented folks who actually figure out the best way to bring those items to life. I trust others because I’ve brought them along through the process and we now have a shared vision.
Lightning round: Star Wars or Star Trek? Philip K. Dick or William S. Burroughs? Practical or CGI? Dystopia or Utopia? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
Star Wars. Confession: I’ve never read anything by William S Burroughs. I should probably get on that. Practical. Dystopia (but lately more interested in Utopian stories.) Post Apocalypse - I like stories where characters have to pick up the pieces and move forward in the aftermath.