What was your filmmaking background before making Don't Marry Griff?
STEVEN: Before I made the film Don't Marry Griff, I was working on short films. I was trying to find my unique voice that sets my films apart from others on the market.
Where did the idea come from and what was your process for writing the script and getting the script ready to shoot?
STEVEN: The idea for the film came after watching an episode of the web series on YouTube. I was intrigued by one of the main actors and I wanted to work with him.
I thought about a story my grandmother told me when she was young and how my deceased grandfather would physically abuse her. She was strong enough to move out of the house and move to another city with relatives. She started to create a new life. I wanted to tell her story but in my own unique voice.
I love taking a serious issue such as domestic abuse and adding my own unique comedic & romantic twist. I decided to write this film Don't Marry Griff because I wanted to also tell the story of gay black men who are living in a world outside of homophobia.
I wrote the film in twenty-four hours and it was a 20 page script. My scripts are different because they don’t follow the traditional Hollywood format. I like to write only four or five powerful scenes and the rest of the film is improv based.
What was your casting process like and did you adjust the script at all to fit the cast?
STEVEN: I reached out to Christopher Deloatch Sutton and I had another actor to play Griffith. Due to scheduling he had to cancel two weeks before so I was left scrambling to find a new Griffith. I reached out to Chris to see if he knew anyone who might be interested and he referred me to JR. I met JR, he read for the part and I knew immediately that he was my Griffith.
Initially, I was going to play the part of Lyodell because I had another actor cast for the role. I spent time training with him, but he also had to drop out due to scheduling.
You wore a lot of hats on the production. How did you handle producing, directing, writing, shooting, acting and editing the movie?
STEVEN: I enjoy it. It’s a hard job, but the end result is worth all of the blood, sweat and tears. I love what I do and I know that I am creating something that could potentially help to save someone’s life.
I like to have control of my projects because I’ve spent so many years as an actor hearing the word “no" that I’ve decided that I’m going to create a production company telling the stories that I, and people like me want to see. I control the ship during the production and I get a thrill out of it because I work best under pressure.
I love the production aspect because it’s similar to an artist with his/her paintbrush. They see it and they draw it on canvas. I see it in my mind and I do my best to get it enacted for camera.
I am a very small production company and I do not have the resources to pay employees, but with enough success I can employ people to help me bring my stories to life.
Can you talk about your distribution plan for recouping costs?
STEVEN: My film was one hundred percent self-financed and I plan to distribute it through my website.
I love living in the digital age because we can stream our own videos and make a profit while gaining our viewership. The best part of online streaming of your own independent film is that you get to keep 100 percent of the profit. The funding from the viewers allows me to make more films and to pay my talent and crew.
What type of camera did you use and what did you love (and hate) about it?
STEVEN: I used a Cannon 7D to shoot this film. I love the picture quality from this camera; it gives my film a more professional and cinematic look.
Did the movie change much in the editing, and if so, why did you make the changes?
STEVEN: No. What you see in the film is exactly how it was filmed and written. Many of the film’s scenes were also shot in one take.
What was the smartest thing you did during production? The dumbest?
STEVEN: The smartest thing I did during production was to find a random apartment building in Jersey City for the opening scene.
The dumbest thing would have been to work out more and get a different haircut.
And, finally, what did you learn from making this feature that you will take to other projects?
STEVEN: Firstly, I’ve learned how to be a project manager. Secondly, I’ve learned how to be patient and know that when things happen in the final hour you can always fix it.
I’ve learned how to trust in myself and my instinct.
Lastly I’ve learned more about how to use my camera.