Thursday, December 22, 2011

Filmmaker Sheldon Candis talks about Luv, moviemaking and never giving up

I’m a movieholic as well as a bookaholic and because I also write scripts, I keep a close eye on new film talent. Sheldon Candis is getting a lot of buzz for his new film LUV, about a young boy's coming of age in the mean streets of Baltimore, so I tracked him down and he very graciously allowed me to pepper him with questions. Thank you, Sheldon!

Can you tell us how and why you got into film?

For me, movies molded me as a child. My dad would faithfully take my mom and me to the movie on Sundays.  Also, when my mom wasn't around, he would show me rated R movies when I was 9. PURPLE RAIN and THE FLY altered me early.) That world on that screen was one that I wanted to be a part of, no matter how dark or heartbreaking the story! Also, my grandfather James Moore, aka “Mr. Fish” had a serious VHS collection in the 80s. I was always in front of Sears wooded floor model TV, watching movies over and over again. My uncle Charles McCaskill and I have seen THE TOY a few hundred times! (those OCD viewings came at our great Uncle Arthur and Great Aunt Doris’ house.

LUV is set in your hometown of Baltimore. What was it like filming there? Was this a place you wanted to escape when you were a kid or did you always know you’d come back and stick around.

Filming in Baltimore was great! Very surreal. I was shooting the movie in places where I grew up. We shot a scene in the pimlico horse track parking lot, right in the neighborhood where I grew up. My Uncle Tyrone Moore came to visit set that day, For part of my childhood, I slept in the basement under his room. We also shot down at the inner harbor and inside Lexington Market. M y grandfather would take me to the market, a very communal space where many of my cousins and uncles eat oysters there religiously

Did you want to escape Baltimore growing up?

Yes, I did. There were some tough times growing up off Cordelia Ave. and Ducatel St. My parents fought a lot. My uncle would come pick me up nights and take me driving through the city with him. It was an escape. I also grew up quickly because of the very adult things I was experiencing young.  My mom and I moving to North Carolina with my grandparents was the best thing that happen to our lives. We got to see the world outside of Baltimore and I was exposed to a lot of things that I wouldn’t have seen in the city. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown fonder of Baltimore and it has a special place in my heart. I love Baltimore because the rest of the world views it as this ultra violent place. Isn’t violent everywhere? I love that Baltimore’s nickname is Charm City. If you take the time to explore it and get to know it, Baltimore will win you over.

I’m always interested in structure. What made you decide to tell the story of Woody Watson, an 11-year-old boy during one day, rather than spread it out over time? What were some of the challenges of doing it that way?

I personally love movies that take place in one day, if done properly, it ups the stakes and makes the experience more visceral for the audience. DOG DAY AFTERNOON & TRAINING DAY are two of my favorites. My writing partner Justin Wilson and are branded ourselves as the guys who write DRILLERS. a hybrid genre of a coming of age drama with thriller undertones. We felt that it was very compelling for an audience to witness a boy's rite of passage, coming of age all in one day through the crumbling relationship with his fallen hero of a father figure. We thought, hmmm…we've never seen a story where a kid is exposed to violence for the first time. How does he react to that? Does it feel more authentic and present if it's all happening in real time in movie real time, where you don't give the audience time to catch their breath, where the child feels like he's present within danger.

I believe I read that it was 8 years and over 45 drafts to get LUV onto the screen. How were you able to keep from being defeated?

It was very challenging shooting a movie in a short shooting schedule with a child actor as the lead. Sean Banks, our co-producer, brought Michael Rainey Jr. to me and said, "I found him." he was so right. Michael is incredibly mature and self-possessed. He acts as if he's been doing it for years. The truth and vulnerability he emotes gives me chills. It's unfair that a 10-year-old kid has that many layers and depth. Michael is an "old soul," wise beyond his years!

I always saay: hear a thousands no's for that one yes. My producers Jason Michael Berman, W. Michael Jenson, Gordon Bijelonic, Datari Turner, Joel Newton, Derek Dudley, and Executive Producers Tom Fore, Michael Finley, Dwayne Robinson, Sandra R. Berman, and Mark G. Mathis sacrificed a lot to get this movie made and they believed in me as a first time filmmaker. Jason and Michael have been with LUV for the past 7 years. Jason and I had become like a feuding married couple. There's a strong level of respect and trust between us. I always believed Jason would get it done.

Gordon, Datari, Joel and Derek came onboard and made things happen during some critical moments. I've known Gordon for many years. He's a fearless and passionate producer who always fights for his filmmakers.

Executive Producer Tom Fore and his partner Sean Banks, our co-producer, energized the team and made things happen. They were on the ground every day actively working with the team to make sure the film would cross the finish line.  Your team must be fighting everyday to get your movie made. Every Day, do something to be working towards it being real: a phone call, writing, talking to someone. Don't ever stop working on it!

What’s obsessing you now?

Shame, Watch the Throne, Phoenix, Tumblr, Raven’s Football.

What question should I have asked that I didn’t?

What keeps me going? My faith in God, the foundation given to me by my mother, Minister Leslie Morrison, and my dad, Minister of Music Fredrick Morrison. They have always kept me up. God knows there have been some dark days in LA. Without them, I couldn’t do this interview right now. Without them, my filmmaking dream is not realized.


Nique said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nique said...

Excellent interview! We're all very proud of you, Sheldon and looking forward to greater things. Your family supports you 100%. Keep up the great work, nephew!