Kent is a filmmaker from Richmond, Virginia. He's best known for his 2010 no-budget feature film, Bad is Bad, and his 2019 short, Will "The Machine", which both went viral with millions of views.
He is based in Los Angeles, where he also runs his YouTube channel, Standard Story Company, with over 100k subscribers. His goal on YouTube is to help filmmakers improve their storytelling at any budget level.
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BL Creators is a series of content pieces where we get personal with industry pros like photographers, cinematographers, creative directors and producers, among many other creative fields.
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1. Is there a single project, photo or video that thrusted you into the next level?Definitely. When I was 20 I directed my first feature film, a $6,000 home invasion thriller called Bad is Bad. I’d made a bunch of short films before, but for me this was a biiiig step up from those projects in every way. It was one of the first feature films to be shot entirely on DSLR and to be put online on YouTube/Vimeo for free. Today it’s been watched over 7 million times on different platforms. Check out the Bad is Bad trailer here.
2. What is one trade secret you are willing to share with the public?Maybe not a secret… but start your film with a bang or a question. Audiences today have too many choices and no patience for a slow opening.
3. How do you stay creative? What are things you do to get inspired?Watching movies, especially films from the 70’s get me excited to write and create. It was an era of bold, fresh filmmaking. And to create such amazing movies without the aid of the technology we have today inspires and reminds me that story and artistry are what make films timeless. Since I’m usually working with a small budget, I find that very comforting.
4. Do you feel threatened by all the chatter about Artificial Intelligence and image-making? What are your thoughts about the future of the industry?
It’s very exciting, kind of like the next evolution from analog to digital. AI video is already well on the way, and at the current pace I think in five years you’ll essentially be able to direct a movie in Microsoft Word. It will never take the place of human artists behind and in front of the camera, but it will be a means of further democratizing movie-making for those without the means to bring their stories to life. I think AI tools will especially make VFX more accessible to low-budget filmmakers.
5. Who are some notable people that you learned from? What did you learn?I studied creative writing at USC and had some great writers teaching me, like T.C. Boyle (who also taught Jason Reitman). Other than that I mostly learned from trial and error and studying my favorite films.
6. When and how did you know you wanted to be an artist?I’d been making short films with friends throughout middle and high school. At 17, a few of us got serious, hustled/saved to buy a Canon XL1 and boom mic, and made a big horror short film. We held a pretty packed screening in our high school auditorium, and after hearing the screams from the first jump scare I was hooked.
7. Please share recent work that you are most proud of. Why is this important to you?Probably my short film Will “The Machine”. Besides being my most professional and expensive film, it was a totally character-based story. We shot more than we needed, and it was really tough to find the balance we needed to make the story land. We ended up basically rewriting the ending in post, and finally it all worked as we originally intended. Also, my co-writer/producer/star was the guy I started making short films with back in middle school, and we shot it in our hometown of Richmond, Virginia. So for us to bring Los Angeles talent back to our hometown and make that film felt really full circle.
8. What is some bad advice you hear given in your field?That you need to buy this or that piece of gear for your work to look professional. You can make a great film on miniDV, it’s all about the aesthetic you choose! Also, you can put more money on the screen by just renting the specific gear you need for a project right here 🙂
9. What is something that you always have on set? Why?A red sharpie to check off my shot list as I finish each shot. So satisfying.
10. What is the most under-rated skill in your field? What is the most over-rated?Screenwriting is 75% of filmmaking. If you can’t write great scenes and stories for actors to bring to life, you can’t make a good film. But a lot of novice filmmakers focus on cinematography to the exclusion of everything else, which I think is a trap. Audiences forgive weak visuals much more quickly than weak storytelling or even audio.
11. What is something people in your field should try to avoid?Don’t focus on the results or the end goals too much. Find the joy in the day-to-day process of filmmaking. It’s a marathon not a sprint.
12. Who is someone you would like to spotlight for the audience?
My buddy Dan Chen directed an excellent documentary called Accepted that premiered at Tribeca and is out now. I’m excited to see what he does next. Find him on Instagram @thedchen
13. Anything you wish to share with the world wide web?Pleasing visuals are a commodity. Your voice as a storyteller is what sets you apart.
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