An Interview with Tyshawn Bryant, Daniel Sol & David Branin – By Duane L. Martin

Daniel and TyshawnOk, first things first. Let’s have you each introduce yourselves and tell everyone a little about your backgrounds and what you’ve done in the past.

Tyshawn: First of all thank you Duane for giving Dave, Daniel and I an opportunity to share our short film with the world. My name is Tyshawn Bryant, and I hail from New Britain, Connecticut. I’ve been living here in Los Angeles for five years and have been professionally acting for three. I do quite a bit of television and commercial work. You can catch me on the TV show, Grey’s Anatomy this upcoming January.

Daniel: Well, my name is Daniel Sol. I am from Miami, Florida, born and raised, and I decided to move to LA five years ago, to pursue many interests, not really acting, but I have had the pleasure of working with Dave on all of his work, and we have a great working relationship and friendship, being that we both love basketball and films. Dave and I have many common interests. All of that has lead to me acting in Dave and Tyshawn’s projects. Aside from that, I am working on a film festival that I am co-founder of, called the HollyShorts Film Festival.

David: Please let us thank you and Rogue Cinema for taking time to chat with us and learn more of our story and our current film. My name is David Branin. Unlike many filmmakers who knew they wanted to make movies since their adolescence, I had no such aspiration. Over the years I have learned that I have a passion for stories and for inspiring people. There is no better way to mix the two then with film. I moved to Los Angeles from Connecticut in 2000 to pursue the film business. Tyshawn, myself and two other friends had been working on a feature script we believed we would be able to sell to get our careers started. Didn’t quite work out that way. Now, one friend is running a profitable business, and the other has found success in radio, Tyshawn has turned to acting, and I have turned to writing and directing. Prior to our current short film, “Shoot-Out” I made 4 no-budget, improv comedic short films. They were done for fun and for learning experience and can be found on IFILM.

Where did the basic idea for Shoot-Out emanate from?

Daniel: Dave, Ty and myself had been discussing doing a basketball movie for some time, since we all have played in either High School and College, and I have also coached basketball, it was an easy idea for us to work on a good basketball story.

Tyshawn: Dave is the genius behind that. I’ll let him take the floor.

David: I have written all kinds of stories, but have always believed that at some point or another I would tell a basketball story. I am a passionate basketball fan and every now and then, I jot down basketball ideas looking for the story I would like to tell. I didn’t want my next project to be a comedy. I then started thinking of a dramatic basketball story. I believed filming action would provide an additional challenge. I knew the story would be low-budget so I made it a story of two men playing basketball 1 on 1. Didn’t want it to be boring, so decided to give it the highest stakes I could imagine, two men playing for their lives. I knew with the stakes set high, that would provide a platform for Tyshawn and Daniel to showcase their talents.

How long did it take you to write the film, and what were you initially looking to express with the story? Also, did your original idea differ at all from the finished product when all was said and done?

David: Really wanted to create a story that people wouldn’t soon forget. Wanted to take my filmmaking and storytelling to a new level. This is my first film with a script., as mentioned my earlier works were all improv, so I wanted this to set a new standard for myself. With this story I wanted to keep the audience engaged, provide true basketball action with actors that can actually play (Tyshawn and Daniel are college-level players). After that I wanted an ending that made the whole story worth it.

The story certainly evolved from its first draft. There were several drafts written. I had script readings and rehearsals with Daniel and Tyshawn and I would be able to see what was working and what wasn’t working. I was also open to feedback and took a lot of suggestions that Daniel and Tyshawn had. The main thing for me was I wanted to story to be engaging and realistic.

On the DVD we have a “practice” film we made a week before we shot “Shoot-Out.” When you see that version of the film you see how far we moved along from where we were a week earlier. There are a lot of subtle changes and a few big changes that occurred leading up to our shoot and even while we were shooting. We of course made additional magic happen in the editing room to further improve the story.

Tyshawn: My idea with shootout was to create a movie that all types of people could enjoy. Not just a stereotypical basketball or sports movie but a movie that non-sports fans could enjoy. I would say that the original idea did indeed slightly differ from the finished product. When you’re filming a movie sometimes you think you know exactly what you want until you come across an idea that is better.

Daniel: As far as the story, I think we all wanted to make an entertaining drama, one that incorporated good basketball, real basketball, because most of what we see on TV and in movies, to be blunt, sucks! (From a realistic b-ball standpoint). Plus, our previous works were comedies, and I feel that it was a goal to get away from that and make something different.

Daniel Sol looking sharp.How long did it take to complete this film from start to finish? Did you run into any problems that caused delays in the production process?

David: Started working on the script in late January, 2005. Had a rough draft ready in February but it wasn’t quite ready. Kept working on it off and on for a few months. In April had a script reading with Tyshawn and Daniel, then used their suggestions and feedback to improve the story. From there we had a test shoot in May and started gathering a crew together. We ran into trouble because we were looking to shoot in 24p or High Definition yet had no money. This went on for a little while as we searched for a DP who would volunteer on our project. In the end we were able to secure a little money and hired a DP to shoot the movie for us. We shot it in two days in July but we did not get all the footage we needed to finish the film. The ending was rushed and we knew we would have to shoot it over again. We had a pick-up day in August and we were able to shoot the ending we wanted. We finished editing the film a couple of days before our Premiere on September 17th. Tyshawn called our editor the day before our premiere to see when he could pick up the screening copy to learn that our editor’s computer had crashed, but not before he was able to burn a copy.

Tyshawn: Problems always occur but fortunately for us there weren’t any problems on the production side of this film. I’d say that were very fortunate to be able to cover all that we did in the amount of time that was given. Our biggest hurdle was shooting outside and working around the “Sun’s” schedule

Daniel: On our pick-up day, I needed to cut my hair to the same short length that I had it during the initial shoot dates. The problem was, when I started cutting my hair that morning, my clippers broke! My hair was half cut, and were supposed to shoot at 9am, so we had to wait until a Supercuts opened up at 10am. I cut my hair and we went on to film quickly that day, thanks to my procrastination.

Where was the film shot, and how did you go about selecting the location?

Tyshawn: Dave our fantastic Writer/Director and location scout, found this secluded basketball court in the steaming hot San Fernando Valley of California.

David: I went on a scouting mission. I had a list of 30+ parks throughout the valley. I had faith we would shoot at one of those parks. Spent all day driving around and looking at over 20+ parks. The one we chose was actually one of the first 5 that I saw. I knew when I saw it that it had the elements we were looking for. Three sides of the court closed in by the chain link fence. It was lofted up high on a hill and it would give us some intimacy and privacy. It was isolated, and upon my many trips to the court prior to shooting, there weren’t many people playing there, which was what we needed. I drove around to all the other parks on my list looking for a Plan B location. We’re very fortunate it worked out at the location it did because none of the other locations would have worked.

Since the film was shot on a basketball court, did you have any problems with people showing up and wanting to play while you were shooting? Also, did you have any problems with people wanting to hang around watching the filming and interfering with the shoot?

Tyshawn: We were very fortunate with the location because it wasn’t a location where many people would even know of, better yet want to play. Playing basketball in 110 degree weather isn’t the average person’s favorite thing to do. We just had a few people few come to play while we were shooting but they gave no resistance when they saw the production equipment. Dave has some humorous stories he tells on the Commentary of the DVD.

David: It was a public basketball court. We were fortunate that it was in a quiet neighborhood. Most people from that neighborhood would rather be at the beach, or swimming than playing basketball. Even so, there were people that would pass by. We had a few that showed up expecting to play and we would kindly let them know we were filming and they respected that.

The scariest moment occurred within the first hour of the first day when a police car was circling the neighborhood. We were shooting without permits (at least real ones) and it looked like we were going to be busted. We had equipment all over the place, 10 crew members and there’s no way could shut everything down fast enough and hide, so I figured just keep filming and deal with the police when they show up. We must have looked professional enough as the police just drove up and down past the court without ever stopping.

Daniel: Funny you ask, because we thought this would be a huge problem, especially shooting on weekend dates, but to our surprise and delight, we hardly encountered anyone coming to play at the court. As far as people watching, we had some on-lookers everyday we shot, of course people were asking questions about what we were doing, but only one person really hung around and kept asking questions about where our film was going to be sold, this guy was really persistent.

David BraninYou shot the film in black and white. What was the intention behind that decision? Was it to add to the intensity of the action in the film?

Tyshawn: So we tossed the idea of having it in color, until the day came that our editor rendered some footage in black & white and suddenly that solidified our decision. Black & White was the only way to go. The film has an eerie, unpredictable tone, therefore the black & white effect plays that into that enigmatic aura.

David: Let me add to what Tyshawn is saying. Originally, the idea was to have the final version of the film in black and white. We shot the movie in color because it gave us an extra option. It’s easy to switch color to black and white in post-production. Not so easy to switch black and white into color. Then while viewing all the footage and editing in color, we really fell in love with the look of it. Ultimately several factors helped us go back to our original idea and select black and white in the end. 1) It made the movie look more like film. 2) It gives a darker tone right from the opening of the film. 3) It helps balance out a few shots where there are minor lighting discrepancies.

Daniel: With all that said, our movie trailer is in color and there is the alternate color version on the DVD.

Did you run into any issues with shooting the film in black and white? Things like lighting issues, overcontrasting, etc…?

David: Of course we ran into difficulties. The entire film was shot outside. A no-no for independent low-budget films. What makes it difficult is that the sun provides different lighting every 15 minutes. Shots you can shoot in the morning, you can’t shoot later when the sun has shifted. We are just thankful for our talented and hard-working DP, Ivan Rodriguez.

Daniel: Ivan was amazing. Anyone reading this, I recommend him highly! He worked very hard to collaborate with us on accomplishing one goal, instead of just being a camera-man. He took on the project as his along with us. We had issues with the harsh sun on the pavement, but Ivan, along with Dave, worked out how and when to shoot scenes around the harsh light and the shadows of the court and the hoop, that was a big issue, matching shots with the direction of the sun.

What about sound issues? Did you have to deal with any outside environmental sound issues like cars, animals, planes, people, etc…?

David: We had to deal with airplanes flying overhead constantly, a few motorcycles and some cars. There was another shot we were trying to get that was delayed because of a jackhammer in the background. It could have been a lot worse.

Tyshawn: Sound is always an issue especially if you do not have the highest budget and you’re filming exteriorly. Wanted to add WEED WACKERS and BUZZ SAWS. Fortunately for us, that didn’t impede our process that much.

What has been the general response to this film, and have any of the reviews or write ups surprised you in any way?

David: We are proud to say that the initial response to our film has all been positive. Our initial screening was in front of 60 friends and industry folks and after it was over, everyone there was talking about the ending for the rest of the night. It was great to see people talking about the film and hearing their different interpretations of it. Since then we have had it reviewed by a handful of critics, yourself included, who have overwhelmed us with their insights and positive words. The film screened at the Eureka Springs Digital Film Festival in November and we are awaiting word on some upcoming festivals in the New Year.

This is the first movie I have made based on a script that I have written. It is also the first movie I have made that has any kind of budget. It feels great to have to receive any sort of praise for “Shoot-Out” because we all have worked so hard to move forward. This is a big step us for us and there is a lot more to come.

Tyshawn: Well the reviews have been the biggest surprise to me personally. A few of the reviewers weren’t sports fans but they really liked our work. That was my personal goal for the film. One reviewer, who compared our movie to Paul Haggis’ “Crash”, went into detail about our use of
Black & White symbolizing the racial overtones. The funny thing to me was that I really didn’t think about that. But it goes to show you that 100 people can view your work and each person can see something different. But thus far we have received nothing but positive reviews so I’m happy.

Daniel: The response has been very positive, and we are very pleased about that. Obviously, some write-ups are better than others, yet all have been good. Plus, there was a screening of the film and everybody spoke very highly of it. People were talking about their interpretations of the film, and everyone has a different take on the end, which is good.

Tyshawn BryantI personally find short films more intense, concentrated and easily watchable than full length features. What are your feelings on short films vs. full length features?

Tyshawn: Before shooting our film I really never appreciated the skill and time commit that is needed to produce a successful film. Be it short or feature length. I now will be a student of all films. In the past I preferred features because I thought that a movie needed an ample amount of time to develop it’s plot. Now I know, that’s not true. If the movie is going to be boring, then it’s just going to be boring. Some 10 minute shorts feel like 10 hours and some feature length films take 2 hours to for you to find out that the movie wasn’t interesting.

David: I know what you mean. I believe it really comes down to the storytelling. I have seen plenty short films that make me wonder what the point was in telling the story. I have also seen 2 hour + movies that have me so engaged I wish they would never end, that I could just keep watching and watching. The main difference is, if you watch a bad short film you feel like you’ve only wasted a few minutes, a bad feature film and you’ve wasted a few hours. For us filmmakers it’s a lot of fun to make short films, the drawback is there hasn’t been a market where you could sell short films.

Daniel: I love short films, but I am biased, because I run a short film festival. I also love a good feature length film, because when done right, viewing a great character driven movie that draws you into a story and the people it entails can be life altering. Short films can do this as well, but in a different way, because, and this is what I love about short films, when done right, a short film can entail an idea, a philosophy of a director, much more effectively and quickly than a feature. Basically, short films can explore topics that cannot be worked on in a feature because of the constraints of backstory and plot points that feature films must explore. Short films tend to be very creative and different, while some or most feature films can be predictable. For these reasons I support short films and directors because good, young directors can make a difference with their filmmaking ideas, new and refreshing, and all they need is a chance to get their films in front of audiences.

What’s next for you? Do you have anything in the works now, or are you still working on getting this film out there?

Tyshawn: You can find me on Grey Anatomy this on the January 15th episode, as well as three national commercials I just shot over that past two months. (TJ Maxx, Miller MGD, and Sherwin Williams). We are currently putting the finishing touches on our DVD and it will be available on our website www.dreamregimeproductions.com early 2006.

Daniel: Two things, one, working on getting this film out there, as we speak the website and DVD are both being put together. Two, I am working on next year’s HollyShorts Film Festival. We are looking to add more films and new contests, and as I now am learning, a festival might be once a year, but working on it is a year round job! For more on the festival and screenings, visit www.hollyshortsfilmfestival.blogspot.com

David: Our priorities are to get our official website (www.dreamregimeproductions.com ) up and running, until then updates can be found at www.dreamregime.blogspot.com and it is now looking like we will ship off the DVD to a replication house in January. Once the DVD is complete we will continue to push the movie. We have a full marketing plan that we are excited to execute.

Our 4th no-budget improv comedy has made it’s debut on IFILM. It was shot over two years ago. It’s entitled “What Happened to the Toilet Paper?”

Since “Shoot-Out” we have shot and edited two other short films that will also find their way to the internet in the upcoming months. We’re keeping those under wraps until they are released.

I am also working on two feature scripts, one inspired by “Shoot-Out.” In addition to that there is another short film Tyshawn and I are looking to make based on a script I wrote a couple of years ago. We will have to see first what opportunities are opened up by what we do with “Shoot-Out.”

Tyshawn making his move.Do you have any advice for would-be filmmakers out there that could help their first projects go a little smoother?

Daniel: Expect the worst to possibly happen. When it does, one will be ready. Things always come up, one has to fight through them and believe in what one is trying to accomplish and it will work out.

Tyshawn: Find a Director, a Director of Photography, and actors that all share the same vision. If everyone can treat your project like it was their own, you will see people step up in ways you’ll never expect. And finally take risks. In order to be successful you must be willing to take risks.

David: I still have a ways to go, yet for me the key was getting myself to take action and get that first project completed. It was a no-budget, home-video camera movie done with some close friends. There was no script, just an idea for an opening and an ending. My point is, don’t let circumstances hold you back. Find a way to make a movie if that’s what you want to do. The experience is what matters most. You will learn more and more as you move along. If for some reason you are still not making a movie, then seek out others who are, and volunteer to help them on their movie. Learn from them, gain experience and move forward. You might make connections that will help you get your movie made.

Is there anything else you’d like to talk about before we wrap this up?

Daniel: Thanks for the opportunity to discuss the film. Also, I would like to thank Dave and Tyshawn and everybody that helped with the film, because we couldn’t have done it without them. And I would like to thank Rudy Mangual for his amazing score. The film feels the way it should feel when you watch it, and this is a reflection of Rudy’s music.

Tyshawn: Once again I just like to thank Duane for giving young filmmakers a chance to showcase their talents. I wish you much success in all your future endeavors. Take the road less traveled. See which way everyone is going, and go the opposite way. AND I’LL SEE YOU ALL AT THE TOP!!!

David: Love you Mom! Also wanted to thank your readers for getting this far and wanted to point out to your readers that they are lucky to have you. You are dedicated, hard-working, top-notch and professional. Thank you for that and thank you for having us. We appreciate it.