THE DYING LIGHT was the winner of BEST FILM at the January 2021 Dance & Music Film Festival.
1. What motivated you to make this film?
The shooting of Trayvon Martin, just a black teenager on his way home, profiled, unjustly stopped, and shot and killed for resisting arrest. His death impacted me because there was no reason for him to be murdered, and, his killer was acquitted… I then began researching the wrongful shooting deaths of black people by officers and others and the amount of faces and lives I saw that had been destroyed for no good reason had an astonishing and disturbing pattern. I was angry. I wondered what or if I could do anything to help. I thought about Trayvon and all the other subsequently murdered at the hands of police. I wanted justice for them. I began a long quest to write a song that might reveal the impact racism and violence has on Black people. I thought, in some small way, this project might do some justice for those who have been taken away from us and those of us who have been left behind to carry the burden and legacy of racism in our own lives.
2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?
Well, the song itself took eight years to write. I began composing the music the evening Trayvon Martin was killed on February 26, 2012, and completed the song in March of 2020. The video was started two days after George Floyd was murdered by a police officer, and was completed two weeks later.
3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?
4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
Simply that, completing it. The general song structure was composed the day after Trayvon Martin was shot and killed but the lyrics were a mystery to me. What could I possibly say that hasn’t already been said? It took another seven years to do some soul searching before I found out. There were, literally, hundreds of drafts I scrapped. Talking about something as deep and broad as racism in America is so hard because so many intelligent people have spoken, written, and created art about this subject. I felt if I couldn’t contribute something special… I shouldn’t say anything at all. Every time I thought I would fail to bring this song to life, another black person was murdered. I just had to keep trying. Giving up didn’t seem like an option.
5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
Watching people’s reaction to the video was inspiring because they were all correct in their personal assessments of the video and the song. It gave me hope watching the eloquence and intelligence of the audience members as well as their insights and level of understanding. I have believed for a long time, there are always more ‘good’ people out there than ‘bad’, who know the difference between right and wrong. This diverse cross section of people and their response to the Dying Light’s views supports this belief of mine. It’s a good feeling.
Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:
6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?
This film joins a series of ten songs that form a concept album called Dying Light, which will be available this Spring at mrcorazon.bandcamp.com. This particular video in your film festival is one of songs on the album and happens to be of the same namesake as the album. The album is an intimate discourse on western society and has an equally experimental jazz vibe as a collective.
7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
Empire Strikes Back: Star Wars. I always get emotional when Darth Vader tells Luke he is his father. The implications are… devastating.
8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?
Submitting to film festivals online is brand new to me. I never thought anyone would want or really care to see my films or listen to my music. FilmFreeway allows you to selectively choose film festivals from all over the world with different themes and genres. It seemed like a good avenue to expose people to the art I make. At the click of a button you can submit to as many film festivals you can afford to submit to. I love this platform. In the old days I would have had to produce a DVD, a statement of purpose, and hope it got to whoever and wherever it was supposed to be mailed to… expensive and not very rewarding because you didn’t know if anyone even judged or saw the work. This has been great and several film festivals have selected, liked, and now awarded my work.
9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?
I actually tried to take this question seriously, and… I think it would have to be Michael Jackson’s Rock With You, in terms of actual number of times I’ve heard any one song in my entire life, lol.
10. What is next for you? A new film?
YES! I am releasing two massive music albums this year, DYING LIGHT, and a second album called UNKOWN, which is a soundtrack to the Pandemic we currently face. Both of these projects are cinematic in nature and are screaming at me for more videos. So, I have some ideas and would love to collaborate with some other filmmaker artists and or directors. Also, I have an idea for a musical which could be a film or a stage performance, so I am working on that as well. If it is not possible to work with others due to the nature of the Pandemic, then… I’ll just make the videos myself as I did with Dying Light. It’s harder, but, it forces you to be more creative and simplify. So more film is a can and will do for me.