Roy Vongtama’s directorial debut “Crows” will premiere at this year’s Dances With Films at Hollywood’s Chinese Theatres on June 6th.
The short film stars Ty Granderson Jones, Taylor Grant, Venice Irvin, Jerrod Paige, Sidney Brown, and Chistina Moses in a story about a paparazzi who encounters a curious onlooker while staking out a preschool.
“Crows” was produced by Resonant Entertainment, a production company Vongtama founded. The script was written by James Harris based on his play. For more info, please visit: www.resonantentertainment.com
Vongtama recently answered a few questions about the film.
Tell us about your short film Crows.
Crows is a wonderful little film that was written originally as a play by James Harris, who has written several well-received plays. I saw a reading of it at Carol Gordon’s writing workshop (longtime writing guru and wife of Buddy Morra, Billy Crystal’s manager) and thought it would make a great piece for Resonant Entertainment, my production company.
What inspired you to make a film based on real-life events?
I seem to be drawn to produce stories that have a resonance in truth, and nothing is truer than real life. The story was based on true events centering around Julia Roberts, who used to have her kids go to the preschool where James’ wife Amanda works. They had a small problem with paparazzi. This is where the story comes from.
Tell us about your casting choices?
Well, funnily enough, I had cast myself as the lead, but I couldn’t find anyone who had the same vision of the film as I did. So I decided to direct it and recast the lead with the talented Taylor Grant. One of the themes that Crows touches upon is the role of racial profiling in our lives. Without being too specific- in watching the film, you’ll see that the role of race is subtly addressed via the casting choices and the metaphor within the story. I really connected with the second lead, Ty Granderson Jones (Con Air, CB4) and knew that my vision of profiling was going to be stronger with Ty in this role, even though the real life man was totally racially different. In casting the role of “the celebrity” and her daughter, Venice, I actually went away from “real life” again and cast Christina Moses and Venice Irvin, both of whom are mixed race. This completed the racial metaphor that I was looking to achieve.
What underlying themes or emotional responses did you want audiences to come away with after seeing the film?
I set out with a vision to tell the story as James had written it: subtle yet filled with layers. It’s a simple story, well told. For me, the impact thematically was that even in the most obvious of situations, there is complexity, and that should stop us all from assuming things based on face value.
What’s next for you as a director?
I am slated to direct/act/produce theater veteran David Singer’s first feature, Ivy, that is in preproduction for 2013. I’m really excited about that, being on both sides of the camera. That will be a challenge.
What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers?
One of my acting coaches, Joe Palese, always told me, “Actors act.” I have expanded this: if you are moved to do something, whether it’s acting, directing, or storytelling, just do it. Start and go forward, in the best way you know how, with the people you know, with the resources you have. So many of us artists want the perfect situation to appear because they are afraid their vision won’t come out to be what they thought it was. But in reality, this process is cyclical. I am working with a team called Gapzip.com, and they’ve taught me about the cyclical nature of process. Process doesn’t start and end. When you get to the end of one cycle, you just start it over again. Each time you do it, it gets better and better. That way there’s no “failure” and the stakes are much lower and you’re always better equipped when you start again.