As filmmakers, particularly documentary filmmakers, it’s our job to do the digging. It can be uncomfortable and it’s never clean, because the truth is never simple. This is why documentaries are so important—they offer the time and context needed for the truth, as long as we can extract it.
Welcome back to our second article in a series exploring The Commercial Directors Diversity Program, or CDDP. In this installation, we had the opportunity to speak with Vanessa Black and Jane Qian about the specifics of their productions and how they overcame challenges to make them a reality.
For many filmmakers, branded content is a tough code to crack. With variables including — but not limited to — product, budget, timelines, and internal politics, it may seem like a game not worth jumping into. But, allow Scott Ballew, YETI’s Head of Content, to simplify it for you.
Filmmaking is an act of courage, a leap of faith, no matter what role you play in its production. It takes vulnerability and strength to believe all of these pieces will come together and make something that’s good, not to mention something that actually connects with people.
What do you do when you’re sitting in the same room with quite possibly the most legendary filmmakers of all time? Well, you listen to every word… Every word.
There is a painting in France that historians believe is 32,000 years old. The oldest surviving film, on the other hand ⎯ incidentally, also French ⎯ is only 128 years old. A film called Roundhay Garden Scene. 2.11 seconds long. Filmmaking has obviously come a long way since 1888; but compared to painting, it’s still in its infancy. There’s plenty of new territory to explore. It’s only fitting that a painter-turned-filmmaker is one of the people breaking new ground — for example, by creating a documentary about a New York street football team in the style of a Beats by Dr. Dre ad. That’s what Bennett Johnson set out to do, and the result ⎯ Coach Pamz ⎯ is a beautiful statement about life, sports, and the brotherhood of amateur athletes.
The best stories are often the ones we find by accident while we’re working on something else. We don’t force them into being. They already exist. We catch sight of them and can’t get them out of our head. They’re a gift. Or, in Diego Contreras’s words, “a miracle.” And he would know. It was only after abandoning two fully formed concepts and scouting a completely unrelated project that he came upon the subject of his recent short film, The Sandman. Pound for pound, it’s one of the best films we saw last year. And it was a total accident.
Writing about authors, Annie Dillard warns: “He is careful of what he reads, for that is what he will write. He is careful of what he learns because that is what he will know.” It seems there is such a thing as useful ignorance. It is possible for artistry to be spoiled by intellect. Or maybe what we’re trying to say is simply this: Be careful what you learn in film school.
We’ve been fans of Diego Contreras since before his breakthrough film Islands nabbed a Vimeo Staff Pick in 2013. Since then, his career has been on the rise, taking him briefly through one of the most well-respected ad agencies in history (BBDO), and more recently into the realm of professional filmmaking. Not long ago, he directed two stunning short films for The Lincoln Motor Company, Bloom and Open Your Eyes. And he’s done it all within two years.