Your new movie Not in
Love - in a few words, what is it about?
A woman convinces herself she isn't in love with the new man in her life
because she's still in love with her husband who died in the Navy.
were your sources of inspiration when writing Not
in Love, and is any of this based on personal experience?
Definitely the song I'm Not in Love by 10cc. Everything from the
story, the shots and angles, the editing and the movement of my camera
is directly based off of the images I see in my head when I listen to
the song. This story would not be alive without the song; it's directly
based off the song. I had this story running through my head for so long
and am happy to have finally unleashed it from my mind. I've never had a
loved one die, knock on wood, but the Navy man in the movie, his death
is symbolic for many things in my personal life. I've been on both sides
of the issue of not being able to move on from someone. I've been the
one who couldn't move on and had to hurt the new guy because my heart
was with someone else, and I've been the one who was led on, strung
along, used and shelved by a particular ex I tried to love, who didnt
take me seriously and shelved me like he did many of his ex girlfriends.
I was just another girl to him, another girl he dated who it didn't work
out with. I was nobody special. He looked me in the eyes and lied to me
about his dealing with an ex, and he hurt me (while I was doing
everything for him) and he was indifferent about it, and moved on
without a care. He reserved his sympathy for his ex who he dissed me for
numerous times. He didn't think of me as a person with feelings, just
another girl he dated who he didn't fit with. But she was special though.
I was just another girl though. Not her though. So the death in the film
in my mind is symbolic for a death of a love I once had for him, a death
of trust I once had for him because he lied to me and then bragged
publicly about the lie; and a death of this image I had of him for many
years, thinking he and I were special when we were not; not to him. It
was the death of the image I had in my head about this man for so long.
He was in a bad spot and used my passion for him as an advantage to get
what he needed from me at the time: help, as opposed to embracing it and
taking it seriously. Then he caused the breakup, became the victim in
the end, moved on and continued chasing his ex, if not some other exotic
model/actress. Didn't care about hurting me. Told me to leave him alone.
He didn't care. And he never apologized or felt bad. He's always the
tragic victim and is never responsible for anything. He was never mine
at all. He wants me to think good of him yet does things like that. You
have to earn my respect. Treat me like a human being and I won't think
unfavorably of you. So, I dedicate the death in the film to him and his
cold, black heart.
Not in Love being
completely dialogue-free, to what extent is that a challenge regarding
story-telling, and in what way may it also be liberating?
It's not challenging for me. I feel a story with dialog is more
difficult because then you have to work with the actors to say their
lines in an authentic tone. When I work with actors on a film that has
dialogue, like Wrath City and my webisode for
One Law, I have and had to
work with them on the tone of their voices, the pitchiness in their
voices when they speak. In real life, there is a way people speak, and
so in a film you can tell when an actor is not believing their lines and
is in their head too much based on the way they're speaking. For
example, in real life, when people talk, they're more flat. They end a
sentence on a flat note as opposed to a high note. In a lot of films I
see, the actors will end their sentences on a high note, and that's not
how people talk in real life. So I basically have to do a voice training
with them if there's lines in the script. That's a lot of work. With a
film like Not
in Love though, I don't have to do all of that. All I need
to do is work with them on their facial expressions and body language at
that point, so it's much easier. The tough part about working on facial
expressions and body language is, getting them to relax their faces
because in real life, people's faces are relaxed and natural, even while
upset. The pain will be reflected in their eyes more so, not in the
face. So the face needs to be relaxed, and their body language needs to
also be subdued, and if they're speaking, their vocal tones need to be
relaxed and flat. Those are the keys for me when working with actors,
with or without dialog, it's a process and very important to getting a
convincing performance on screen. And I feel I do often get that.
in Love is centered around a song, namely 10cc's I'm Not in
Love - so to what extent did that song influence your directing, and
was that song always going to be part of the movie, or did it only slip in
at a later date?
The song was always going to be a part of the film. The story and visuals
are directly based on the song. No other song will ever do for this
story. Everything from the story, the shots and angles, the editing and
the movement of my camera is directly based off of the images I see in
my head when I listen to the song. This story would not be without the
song; it's directly based off the song so no other song will ever do for
this film. I remember when I was on a ferry with a friend telling her
how the whole film would go down, and a year later, I'm shooting it in
LA with actors I just met. It was an amazing experience. This film is
the most creatively fulfilling experience I ever had. It's my most
favorite film I've done so far, personally.
What can you tell us about your
directorial approach to your story at hand?
My directional effort was purely musical. I wanted the story to feel and
move like music, like the way I experience music. The beginning when the
song is just beginning and we're pulling in slowly on Danna, and as the
vocal wall increases its intensity in the song, her memories begin to
consume her, and there is a double exposure her face straight on, and an
image of her husband who died. All was purposely done to the beat and
tune and pace of the song. My favorite part of the film is the middle,
when Danna is walking away from Tomas on the Santa Monica beach. That
part of the song is a shift in emotions for the singer. During the whole
song he's saying he isn't in love. He's showing musically why he is
denying his love for the person he's singing about, finally in this
moment of the song. In the instruments you can hear sadness, doubt,
insecurity, fear. The bass-line, the crystal sfx, the whispers "Big
boys don't cry", the piano; he's in his head, he's feeling anxiety
and anguish; it's a very powerful moment in the song and it sounds
distinctly different from the rest of the song. So I wanted that moment
in the film to be powerful, emotional and distinct. I wanted her, while
walking away, to be subdued in her emotions and body language while
walking away. I wanted to focus on her just walking, never looking away
from her. Just holding on this shot for a few seconds. The subdued
reaction in her? That's realistic. That's how humans behave in moments
like those. That's just an example of the way I think about music and
how it affected my direction and everything else.
about your cast, and why exactle these people?
Danna Deyon Leary I found on
as well as Tomas Otero. I had never been to LA before and I cast them
off that site, flew to LA and met them the first day I touched down.
They looked close in age, they made a cute couple. Danna, she had a
natural look to her. I wanted a black female lead who looks like me, who
I can identify with. I thought her performance was awesome and so did a
lot of people that watched the film. I got the same feedback about
Tomas. He was a first-time film actor. But when he applied for the job,
what got me was his face. He has a very soulful, expressive face. He has
a lot of feeling and emotion in his face and eyes. And I was able to
capture that at the end of the film when he's standing outside the
girl's apartment, staring off into nothing as he's realizing he's just
been ghost-dumped. Being ghost-dumped is NOT fun, y'all. He looks
heartbroken in that scene, and part of what really sold that scene is
HIS FACE! His face naturally looks that way! And Sean Brown, we work
together on my films a lot. He starred in my last film Wrath
he was amazing so working with him again was incredibly easy. I wanted
her to have a black husband, to show people that there are black men and
women that do marry one another and have respectable careers and
relationships. Judging by commercials and TV shows, movies, you'd think
they don't marry or fall in love with one another - *eye roll* - not true.
words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
It was really easy and a fast shoot. Everyone worked really well
together. And it was incredibly fun to walk the Santa Monica Pier, even
though we didn't get shots of it for the movie, which I still regret.
$64-question of course, where can Not
in Love be seen?
On my Vimeo at
What can you tell us about
audience and critical reception of Not
People loved it. I've gotten awesome, incredible, inspiring, provocative
and engaging; and that I'm a really good cinematographer. Many said the
acting was powerful, which is the #1 important thing to me in my films,
and the proof that I did what I was supposed to do. I got comments on
how much they loved the editing of the movie, from a filmmaker, too.
While I was trying to get permission to use the song, I submitted the
film to many publishing companies, and one I submitted to LA, Harvey
Lisberg, 10cc's former manager, saw the email, watched the film and called me to say he really
liked the film and that he'd be okay with me posting it. He had even
expressed interest in working with me. People really liked it.
Any future projects you'd like to
I wrote and directed a webisode of the new webseries One Law
that’s coming out. My webisode is a black female’s perspective on
feminism and the 2016 election. I was influenced by 12 Angry Men
(1957) when I wrote it. The producers of the webseries say the entire
series will be released this year. I'm getting an update on the exact
release date from them right now.
I am also shooting Woke, a film for fake woke people who
get freedom and self love confused for allowing themselves to be enslaved
by their own race. That film will be dedicated to guys like Tariq
Nasheed, a man who stays hating on me, and Umar Johnson.
Also later this year The Richest Woman in Foolope County, a short film
that seeks to enlighten people on generational wealth–building and
real estate investing, but also the ignorance of perceived wealth. The
film is told as a fable, and I was influenced by The Twilight Zone
when I wrote it. In November I will be packaging Wrath
City and The
Richest Woman and taking them as samples to the American Film Market
in Santa Monica to pitch a television series idea.
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Anything else you're dying to mention and I have
merely forgotten to ask?
If anything, this film teaches to let go. I really want to be happy and
find something that makes me feel loved. I want to be happy. I hope you
will use this film and interview as inspiration to finally let go and be
happy too. You deserve to be happy. Don't end up like the girl in the
film. Or worse, your ex.
Thanks for the interview!