On Sunday, I had the opportunity to see filmmaker Shaka King’s debut film, “Newlyweeds,” at the Sundance NEXT WEEKEND festival.
The NEXT festival is a mini Sundance film festival in Los Angeles. There were screenings all over the city, informative workshops, and parties. You can learn more about the festival by clicking on this link: http://www.sundance.org/next
Several things stood out to me as I spoke to Shaka about his film. I love his organic approach to screenwriting. As he described his process, I automatically thought of sculpting.
Secondly, I really love the fact that Gbenga Akinnagbe assisted with this project. If you remember, I interviewed filmmaker Dehanza Rogers a few months ago, and he not only starred in her film, “Sweet Country”, but he helped produce it as well. I’ve never met him, but I’ve heard some amazing things about his spirit as a performer and producer.
We’ve covered “Newlyweeds,” on the site, and posted about it here and there; however, we’ve never actually interviewed the man behind the film. I got a chance to chat with him briefly after his film's NEXT screening, and below is a summary of that conversation.
Shadow and Act: Congrats on the film! Can you tell us about your after Sundance experience?
Shaka King: Overall, I’ve experienced some highs and lows. We sold the movie there to Phase Four. I got an agent there. I came home thinking it would be easy, but I had no money. I did have all of these requirements that I had to fulfill for my film. So, I had all this work to do, but I was not going to get paid to do it. And I’m the type of person, if I am not creating, I get depressed. So it was difficult for a while, but I then saved myself by getting back to my writing.
Shadow and Act: Was this film inspired by your personal life?
SK: It was a combination experience of my life experiences; my neighborhood. I was inspired by relationships that I’ve had, and the relationship that I am in.
Shadow and Act: So the lead of the film, Lyle, was all about you?
SK: I think Lyle and Nina have a bit of me in them. But, I would say that Lyle has an old man type of solitude about himself that I definitely have. Amari did a great job portraying that.
Shadow and Act: What is your writing process?
SK: I wrote the script over the course of three years. The early versions of the script where very scattered. It took me a long time to structure the story. When I did piece the story together, I solely used my creative intuition. After I got my story, I broke it all down scene by scene. I then asked myself what am I getting from this scene? If I don’t get anything, I scratch it out. So, once I had the characters speaking to me, I think about how I can dramatize the interactions. I did that with the film, step by step.
Shadow and Act: How did you assemble your producing team?
SK: I assembled my producing team in 2009. Michael Matthews was the first producer that I brought on board. He and I had collaborated on short films at NYU. I have great respect for his mind. Even before I had him attached to this project as a producer, he was someone that I’d send my script to in order to get his feedback. Jim Wareck, was the first producer to put in capital and put a deadline on project. He gave us a year to complete the film; and we met our goal. The last producer that was added to the team was Gbenga Akinnagbe. He helped greatly with casting and much more.
Shadow and Act: Can you tell us about the selection of your cinematographer?
SK: Oh, Daniel Patterson is a friend a mine. We worked together on a music video. He and I just clicked. We both like to get started early. We started working two months before production had begun. I created a shot list and then he did his shot list; and then we merged our lists. When we got on set; we blended well together. At times we had some improvisation with our cameras; because he was so familiar with what I desired.
Shadow and Act: Was it all shot in Brooklyn?
SK: 90% of it was shot in Brooklyn; One day the Bronx, and one day in Long Island; the jail scene.
Shadow and Act: Did you have any difficulties shooting in New York?
SK: We didn’t have any problems. I wanted to shoot my first film in the city. I’m from New York. And strategically, it’s the place where I’d get the most help. We shot in my parents’ house, and on my parents block. We received favor after favor.
Shadow and Act: What’s next? Tell us about the script that you are working on.
SK: I’m working on a script that I plan to shoot next year. It’s called, “Liquid Courage”, it’s about a former child star; that’s now in his thirties. His career is about to get resurrected. And I’m working on a TV show.