The filmmaker spotlight is on loren graves

January 5, 2010
San Francisco School of Digital Filmmaking


And….we’re back from Holiday Break. Back to business.

We jump right into it with filmmaker Loren Graves. Loren was in Class 6 of the SFSDF 1-Year Digital Filmmaking Program and is quickly making a name for himself in the Bay Area filmmaking community and beyond. Seemingly working on at least a few big projects and a handful of smaller initiatives at all times, Loren’s drive and wide variety of filmmaking skills keeps him busy – both creatively and professionally – on increasingly more complex and exciting endeavors.

What’s the most important thing you learned at FilmSchoolSF?

As cliché as it sounds, or maybe not, but SFSDF really emphasized the nature of film as a craft and a trade.  It dispelled much of the façade that seems to proliferate in other educational systems that tends to tag the filmmaker as a singular auteur. No one makes films in a vacuum and it’s a hopelessly rare achievement to make a film of any worth without a team. SFSDF lives and breathes in that atmosphere that teaches you to trust your team and teaches you to be a functional member of other teams.

Filmmaking is a vicious contradiction where highly independent, creative people have to put aside their egos and embrace ungodly hours of selfless manual labor for the sake of other people’s visions. And dammit, it’s a massive road of failure, occasionally soul crushing and socially divisive. To paraphrase a quote by Alex Lindsay:

“You’re going to make 10,000 mistakes as a filmmaker before you’re any good, so you might as well start now.

But when it works, even for one shot, and the fatigue and bickering give way to performance and story, then you get why you’re spending every cent and every hour you have on a gamble, because there’s absolutely nothing like it and nothing more worth it…

What are your long-term goals as a filmmaker?

At some point I’m going to sell a damn script. Whether it’s a pilot for a half hour sitcom or one of the four features that I’ve written. I naturally tend toward the producer role as I am much better at identify and corralling talent than I am at trusting myself to direct…self-esteem issues or some equally unattractive social affliction, who knows. At this point, I’m going to answer with a sort of nihilist metaphor in which I feel that as I achieve modest success in certain aspects of the industry and I head down this tunnel, I’m much more interested in seeing how fast I can run down the darker tunnels that split off it than I am in actually reaching that light at the end. I want to go after what seems the most fascinating, what ever forwards art and communication and story in this world, which is most likely going to mean continuing to write outlandish Ninja comedies, while volunteering with Rainforest Action Network and producing content for clean water startup companies, while taking the time to shoot the struggles of up and coming LA models for reality TV.

Long term is basically the urge to never slow down and never lose site of how limitless the power of this medium is. I sound like some motivational jackass, but it’s true, I could honestly see myself anywhere in the world in the next ten years, involved in just about any industry, but it’s going to be because of film and video.

You’ve had a lot of great experience since you left SFSDF. What has been a highlight?

Recently I’ve had the opportunity to work with some incredible people, from the producing crew of Survivor, to some of the most talented and unknown actors from all over the country who are making a living doing Broadway shows in Vegas to a close personal friend of mine who went from performance artist to writing a screenplay that got not only bought but made and released this year under the wing of Ivan Reitman. It’s a group that spans the spectrum of film and performance successes and they’re the most supportive and hard working section of inspiration that I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and working with. They live what to many is a dream or even “the dream” and the take away from that is that they truly are people who are in it because it’s what they love.

I’ve been making a concerted effort to live in the present tense and embrace what I have in front me lately. Maybe that comes with a recent yoga addiction or finding the validity in the return of Saturn. I’m not overtly spiritual by any means, and I definitely don’t push the evolution of my beliefs on anyone, but I have found recently, certain things that do spark me and as far as highlights are concerned, I’d say my recent trip Belize did a ton for informing my perceptions of film.

Leaving my HD rig at home and instead taking off with a $150 water-proof point and shoot to the Caribbean reaffirmed my belief that content will always be king and that current technology is an amazing aid to it.  Even a couple years ago, there is no way that I could have spent less than a days pay on a system that would allow me to free dive down thirty feet to shoot footage off a barrier reef with massive sting rays and sharks and sea turtles. Running out breath, surrounded by beautiful creatures that can kill you, armed only with a wallet sized camera that allows you to capture that feeling is a definite highlight.

Vook is a pretty cool idea. Tell us about what you are doing for them.

Vook is a sister company of TurnHere, the brainchild of our founder and from a kneejerk cynical perspective, an incredible risk. To make the assumption that you can take a book and marry it with video and distribute a visual representation of sections of that book over smart phones and Kindles to be viewed as supplemental and/or intrinsic material is a huge leap of faith. I spent time training their producers and running post production oversight of their content and it took some time for my skepticism to wane.

I had always embraced the internalized nature of books and the fact that all these worlds contained a personally derived mysticism that would be tainted by a filmmaker’s interpretation of content. We’ve all seen adaptations butchered on the big screen. But this has turned out to be a effective marriage of moving pictures and writing that is really the first to embrace the new digital environment that draws no lines between digital access, visual content and story. In an age when we want links to geography, characters and historical context and we want it to move and speak us to visually, Vook is setting a standard.

Check out some of Loren’s work:

Imagine H20
Audi & LA Design Challenge
– Stardust (novel) promotional video for Amazon.

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