“Karim” is a short film that deals with the issue of senseless violence and the many people it directly affects. “Karim” was born out of anger. The anger at the senseless violence that is plaguing the youth in our country and the powerlessness I feel in regards to it. I’m not a preachy self -righteous kind of guy and I realize how powerful the medium of film is. It touches people on a cerebral level.
The idea had been an abstract notion in my head for a little while but after reading about countless youth being murdered for a host of superficial reasons last summer is when the story began to take shape. Creating a film with social impact is only half of my story. The other half is the battle I face as an independent filmmaker.
Independent filmmaker: (n) Defined as a person with no safeguard that will do anything and everything to tell their story cinematically.
It always starts with the story. A filmmaker has to be educated on the structure of story in order to make a compelling film. Figuring out the theme, the beats, and emotional hooks of the piece arms you with the clarity to know when something works with or against the piece. Then the script has to be written, revised, and rewritten. This is the foundation of the project.
When making a film, money is always a major issue, so you quickly learn to cut corners.
“Karim” was an experience like no other film I have ever done. The film was shot on the Canon 7D, using Prime lenses. My cinematographer/ editor/ and cousin Cameron Turner shot it. He is a young and talented guy who is hungry to create. Because he owned the camera and editing capabilities, he was the catalyst in making this film a reality.
I am listed as the writer and director, but I also served as the producer, driver, production assistant, location scout, assistant director, prop manager, wardrobe supervisor, assistant director, craft service, and security. I’m listing these titles because I want it to be known that when you are making a film, you do whatever it takes to make the film. No job is too big or too small. When making your film, you are your greatest resource and with that being said, rarely can a film budget afford a huge ego.
When shooting a film with no money, you always have more time than money. Preparation is key. Plan, plan, and plan. When you are done planning, I suggest that you plan some more. Planning enables you to cut corners and move with a high degree of speed and accuracy. Before you begin shooting, you always have to ask yourself, “How bad do I want to do this?” I say this because as filmmaking goes, you will be called upon to do many questionable things, things that could easily be viewed as illegal. The standard protocol is to obtain permits to shoot everywhere, and get insurance for the cast, crew, and equipment. If you have the fiscal ability to get these things by all means please do…. But in the event that you don’t, please refer to the definition of an independent filmmaker.
The locations were selected for a certain visual aesthetic that complemented the tone of the film. I knew I wanted to shoot in some places that I could not afford to shoot so I would walk through them with mini test runs to gauge how I could best execute my shots. I studied which train stops had high traffic patterns and which ones were desolate. Because of the advancement of technology, (God bless you, Canon 7D) all we had with us was the camera, a tripod, and talent. When we did get on the train, the shots had already been selected and everyone knew what they had to do so it was just a matter of shooting.
I have to give credit to the largest component in making this film: my cast. My cast is comprised of several solid actors who I have known for years. I have seen them in other films, plays, and even auditions. They are all my friends, but when the film started to evolve, I took it very seriously and they matched my seriousness. Remember guys, YOU set the pace of your production. If you are focused, the team will follow your lead. If you are stressed, they will be stressed. However you handle the film will infuse the way your cast and crew handles it.
I met with my cast and discussed each character with them then let them breathe life into each character and the outcome totally surpassed my expectations. My lone actress, Butterfly Elise, is a very talented young girl that I have worked with before. Her ability to focus and her mom’s assistance was a big factor in our execution. I had night shoots so I had to schedule my scenes in a way so that I didn’t have her out late especially on a school night. My lead Fred Thomas Jr. was focused, humble, and gave me incredible nuance. They all gave me their all, as we found ourselves in wet, cold, pissy smelling locations, and no one complained. I was humbled by their commitment and I am genuinely proud of my cast. There is nothing more rewarding than working with talented, good people. My biggest desire is to see them all working more.
I shot the film over the course of two eight-hour days, and the budget of the film was about $200. “Karim” was the first film that I ever shot that allowed me to get every shot that I conceived. I gave myself a personal challenge in that I wanted to shoot the film without any dialogue. I’m a huge fan of graphic novels and I love how they say so much visually. My goal was to make a film that would convince the audience to invest in the story without saying a word and to reintroduce myself as a filmmaker serious about the craft of filmmaking.
When you are making a film, you want to align yourself with people that are all moving in the same direction. The lack of politics on this film was probably the most refreshing aspect. It was a return to genuine good old fashioned run and gun filmmaking and I loved every bit of it. Rain delay? No problem, swap an interior scene until it stops raining! Missing prop? No problem, $.99 store has everything. Cops coming? Run!
This is the first film that I have directed in four years. “Karim” reminded me as to why I wanted to make films in the first place. Once you get into the industry, you quickly learn about the business of filmmaking. This business has a way of robbing you of your enthusiasm. Don’t let it. Remind yourself as to why you make films. Watch that film that inspired you or revisit that moment that made you jump out here in to this chaotic world of filmmaking and hold on to it. I’m saying these things because this is what I had to do. It is easy to get to Hollywood, immerse yourself in the business and get jaded. In fact, you have to fight to keep your enthusiasm. Covet it, protect it, and don’t let anyone take it.
There are three things I hope to leave with any filmmaker that will read this. These lessons I paid dearly for but now I choose to give them to you for free:
- Utilize your resources
- Pay attention to details
- Never take anything for granted
In terms of distribution, I had planned on just posting it on the Internet, but the response to the film has caused me to consider more options.
HollyShorts is the first film festival that I have been a part of since digital became a dominant aspect of filmmaking. During my last film festival, 35mm and the Avid still ruled over most films. All of that has changed dramatically. I am so excited for this experience and thank HollyShorts for this opportunity.
I just went to opening night last night and it was great to see so many filmmakers. I have been reinvigorated, re-inspired, and motivated to make more thought provoking, and compelling films.
Carl Seaton Website: www.wix.com/carlhseaton/ceetoneswix