Last week, it was an honor to share the insights of filmmaker Kiyun Sung (you can watch a portion of his interview here) and, this week, the fourth featured artist of What's Your Story? is Sean Lea, a New York/New Jersey based musician and aspiring filmmaker. Listen to one of his musical pieces here. Connect with Sean on Twitter @xelsior. Now, in Sean's words:
1. In a short paragraph, please tell us a little about yourself, your background and your work.
My name is Sean Lea. I’m an Englewood, NJ native. I’m an indie filmmaker enthusiast. I studied at New York University. I produced and directed an indie test film entitled, “The Beer Runner”. It involved casting several of my friends and co-workers. I directed and did the film editing. I also composed the entire film score. It gave me my first taste of directing. I really wish I had a better camera for the recording of the film. But it just showed the potential I had by using a $60 Kodak camera and iMovie on my Macbook Pro 13 laptop. Also, with that same camera, I filmed a documentary on the after effects of Superstorm Sandy when it hit the North New Jersey area. That project was a self directed and self recorded documentary.
2. What are the most challenging and most rewarding aspects of your work and why?
The most challenging aspect of my work has always been finding participants to include in my projects. Any time someone hears that it is low/no budget, they run like the wind in the opposite direction.
3. How do race and/or gender and/or diversity play into your work?
In my film The Beer Runner, I had Caucasians, Puerto Ricans, Syrians and African Americans in the film. I think any film should be reflective of the society in which we live.
4. What are the best and worst things that have happened to you, within the context of race or gender issues in entertainment, and what did you learn from them?
Any negative feedback. Or maybe perhaps getting the “brush off” from entertainment people has usually been a money/ success/ experience issue. I would try not to make the determination that my race would have anything to do with it. But it’s not something I would rule out.
5. If you could share a single sentence of advice or insight for others in the entertainment business, what would it be?
Be original and be unique.
6. As you know, AAFL TV promotes works that seek to effectuate positive and constructive social change through the medium of film. Do you think filmmakers have an obligation to create diverse and/or morally and socially conscious content? Why or why not?
Yes, I think it’s an entertainment industry objective. After all the fiction that is produced, it’s always refreshing to have a project that deals with reality as we encounter it.
6B. What are the biggest challenges you face as a filmmaker and how do you deal with them?
I find just trying to find content to produce is a challenge. How many films can I make of New York City, or animals in the park, or traffic on the streets. I need better equipment (I’m saving money) and I need to find other like-minded creative people to collaborate with.
7. What are the most sage words of advice you can offer to new and emerging filmmakers?
Work outside of the box. Don’t worry about taking something that’s already been done and trying to perfect it. Create, create, create!
8. Does your advice change at all if I ask you to focus on women and/or minority filmmakers? If so, why and how.
No, it doesn’t change. Simply because I believe the fact that a woman or minority filmmaker proves what we already know. When you watch a film/tv show/commercial that is entertaining, you don’t typically say, “Hey, this film was created by an Asian, a woman, a gay citizen, a minority, an atheist, an ex-convict.” It does however prove that good quality entertainment can come from any creative person.
9. What is the single most fun moment you've experienced in the entertainment industry?
It was more of what “might have happened” instead of what actually happened. A film producer in NYC asked me to meet with him to discuss doing a film score and soundtrack work on an upcoming film. Auditions were held for the film and everything. However the producer fell ill, suffering a stroke and the project was postponed indefinitely. But just for the several weeks of doing my independent work for this project was very exciting.
10. What is the single most obnoxious moment you've experienced in the entertainment industry?
Having to fire my entire crew (of friends and co-workers) for losing interest in finishing my film, The Beer Runner. No budget/no pay seems like it meant, “Well, we can work on this film whenever we feel like it. Even if it takes 5 years to finish it.” I fired the entire crew, then realized that I would have trouble finding more people to complete the film.
11. What lies ahead for you in terms of the entertainment biz?
Trying to get better equipment and branch out for more people to see my work/talent/skills.
12. What does the phrase "Ethical Is Beautiful Be Beautiful" mean to you and your work, if anything?
Be true to yourself and in doing so be true to humanity. That’s a beautiful feeling.