Interview with Filmmaker Charles Jon Gray (VELVET SKY)

VELVET SKY was the winner of BEST FILM at the June 2022 LA Feedback Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

What motivated me to make this film was mainly two reasons: First, the notion (which I’ve heard people say or tell me) that you shouldn’t make a movie about a writer or about the film industry because it is not relatable to most people. I would hear this in film school but at the same time, so many of my favorite movies are about a protagonist who is a writer, or of someone that lives in a setting of the movie industry. Movies like 5 to 7, Annie Hall, and La La Land. So I always wondered, “why can’t I make a film about this?” Secondly, this is partly a true story so it hits close to home. I once had a mentor who I had to break away from because the “mentorship” became toxic.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

I have been wanting to make this film for about 3 years now, with an outline that was swimming in my head and chunks of dialogue scribbled into notebooks. But for this short film alone, after I found a Producer who believed in the project, the pre-production process went by pretty fast and started around September of 2021, and we shot for 3 days in October of 2021. The post production process took the longest and lasted all of the beginning of 2022 up to about early June of this year honestly because I was writing the feature version of the script at the same time that I was editing the short film.

3. How would you describe your film in two words!?

Toxic mentorship

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

The biggest obstacle happened after we wrapped the principle shoot. I was raising money to pay for the entire film after we had wrapped so the stress of having bills stacked on your plate without a way to pay them was a very stressful experience. We were also faced with some really big mishaps that happened on set when we found out that we lost some of the raw files and had to finish the film utilizing the proxies that we made instead. It was a big blow to my anxiety and confidence, but at the end of the day, we managed to make it all work, earn the money we needed and save this film from breaking our backs.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

I honestly teared up. Because as I was editing the film in my apartment alone after work and on weekends during the beginning months of 2022, I would keep asking myself, “will people get it?”, “What am I doing?”, “Am I revealing too much about myself?” The typical questions artists ask themselves while in the thralls of creating something deeply personal.

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

I only make films now when the idea hits me like an anvil that stops me dead in my tracks as I’m trying to catch the roadrunner. These ones usually flow out of me like water where the ones I try to force out never seem to click for me. For “Velvet Sky” in particular, I knew I wanted to explore the idea of a mentorship going south in the aftermath of one that happened to me.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

It’s in a swirly mix of the ones that played on TNT or somewhere when I was younger and everytime it played, I couldn’t for the life of me change the channel. So It’s probably between “The Shawshank Redemption” or “Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory”.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

The fact that there is an emphasis on inviting industry professionals to watch the films is key. I think every filmmaker dreams of screening at a film festival in hopes that they can run into someone who can help them take their project to newer heights. The fact that you mention that in your response letters makes it very attractive to be a part of. Honestly, what you offer here with real time feedback too is something most festivals don’t offer so I totally appreciate that.

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?

I love FilmFreeway! It’s all so user-friendly and feels like a one-stop shop for all things film festivals.

10. What is your favorite meal?

Filipino breakfast. (Specifically called either “Tapsilog”, “Longsilog”, or “Tosilog”)
Breakdown: garlic fried rice, with a sunny-side up egg on top, tomatoes, and your choice of meat: Tapa, Longanisa, or Tocino and some vinegar on the side.
Chef’s kiss!

11. What is next for you? A new film?

The “Velvet Sky” short film you see here is just a scene from the feature film script that I am currently writing. I am hoping this could lead me to a production company who can help me make it into the feature film it is meant to be. I want to share the larger story of Miguel as he goes through his journey to become the filmmaker he needs to become and find himself at the same time in the process.


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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