KEVIN: Before making Traces, I started a production group called BoahVille Productions with my friends. We were all in the Media Communications program at August Martin High School and just gravitated toward each other. This was around 2008.
We started by making two short films titled Just Business 1 and 2 and a documentary for our media production class. Once we graduated from High School we went on to create several projects including a web series titled For Colored Brothers and several music videos. I have served as director and editor on many of these projects and have my own documentary series.
During this time I also studied Film & Cinematography at The City College of New York where I earned my Bachelors in Fine Arts.
KEVIN: Traces was actually conceived all the way in 2010 after we finished filming Just Business 2. Though I love the Just Business films (mostly because they were our first attempts at telling a story), I felt that they were very amateurish and lacked character depth. With Traces I wanted to reach for something big and create an interesting story with interesting characters.
One day while bouncing ideas off of Ebony Ruth (another BoahVille member), we realized that a mystery drama would create numerous possibilities for an interesting story and from there we just ran with it.
At the time I was watching a lot of film noir and that really influenced the lighting style of Traces. The memory loss aspect was inspired by Christopher Nolan’s film Memento.
The writing process was very interesting because the plot of the film morphed greatly from the original draft. We always had the same premise, but each character’s actions and motivations greatly evolved throughout the writing process.
This is because I never felt satisfied with the story. When I finished the third draft of the film, I felt that while the plot was great, the characters fell flat and were not interesting. So during the fourth and final drafts I focused heavily on enhancing the characters and their interactions. I’m really satisfied with how it came out because each of the main characters, for selfish and selfless reasons, have something on the line or something to protect in this film.
Can you talk about how you raised your budget, how you managed your Kickstarter campaign and your financial plan for recouping your costs?
KEVIN: Our budget was primarily raised through the Kickstarter campaign. The rest of the budget actually came from scholarship money that I received from school.
The Kickstarter campaign was a fun project because it gave us the opportunity to really bring a lot of attention to BoahVille and Traces. I was constantly updating and spreading the word about my Kickstarter campaign. From blog sites to social media, I used everything I could to promote and bring attention to it.
I’m really happy the campaign was successful because the equipment that we purchased truly added to the quality of the film.
What kind of camera did you use to shoot the movie -- and what did you love about it and hate about it?
KEVIN: We used a Canon 60D DSLR camera with a shotgun Rode mic mounted on it. I love this camera for several reasons. It has great quality, shoots well in low light, and is very convenient when it comes to shooting in small spaces.
There are some drawbacks though; the camera lacks several things that would greatly help when filming. For instance the LCD display does not have a sound monitor. So instead of just shooting a given scene, we would have to do a practice run of the scene while monitoring the sound to make sure the levels were good, and then film the actual scene after that. This is a great waste of time on any set.
Luckily we found ways around that and were able to seamlessly film while monitoring the sound.
KEVIN: I believe the smartest thing I did during production was figuring out how to continue the story of the film while omitting what I considered to be a major part of the plot. We needed a location for an important scene but the cost of the location was way out of my budget. So in the middle of production I had to figure out how I would be able to continue the story without this scene in a way that made sense.
So I spoke to David Cole (Michael in the film) and we found a very unique way to make the story work despite the absence of that scene. Unfortunately I can’t go into detail about the solution we came up with (don’t want to spoil the story) but I believe we did a great job of finding an organic way to get the point across without that scene.
The dumbest thing I did was to rely on the LCD screen to make sure my lighting was good. This led to me filming a whole scene and believing that the lighting was perfect. When I reviewed the footage later I noticed the entire scene was dark and we had to shoot it all over. Never made that mistake again.
KEVIN: I truly love Traces because it was an experience that taught me so much and helped me grow as a filmmaker. I believe the most valuable lesson I learned from this process is that it is extremely important to pay attention to the ISO when filming. I never knew how much the ISO could affect the quality of the image until I worked on this film.
I also learned how to manage time well and stay organized when creating a film. Everyone has to be on the same page and kept up to date with scheduling, weather, locations, etc. Communication and teamwork are very important.
Even though I love Traces and am certainly proud of it, I find that part of me isn’t satisfied with it. But I believe that is a good thing because it shows that I have grown from this experience.
When I watch Traces now I think to myself “oh I could’ve done this to make the scene better” or “I could have shot this from a better angle.” I like to see the flaws in my films because it makes me a better filmmaker. I learn from these flaws and take these lessons with me to my new projects. And I can certainly see an improvement in my skills with every project I do.