Director • Cinematographer • Storyteller

Interviews

MAX COLE DISCUSSES  ALONE AT MIDNIGHT (SHORT FILM)

What inspired this story?

First, a total of 240,411 minorities were reported missing in the United States (out of 627,911 for all races) between Jan 1, 2013 – December 31, 2013.

316,435 of the missing happened to be women according to blackandmissinginc.com. You’d be surprised how often people go missing in this country. It’s very [expletive] up. So, I wanted to take a different approach to an abduction story.

Second, I am a big fan of riveting mystery, thrillers, and suspense movies. So, from a genre standpoint, it’s right up my alley.

Lastly, I watched an incredible meteor shower on Mulholland Drive a few months before shooting this film. Ironically, I was able to capture a great Instagram photo of two bright meteors that zipped over my head. It’s fairly difficult to catch those moments. So, I thought it would be cool to add that element to this film. While watching this meteor shower, I realized that Mulholland Drive provided a cinematic, unique vantage point. I have to admit… it is peaceful, yet it’s somewhat unnerving up there. No more than two minutes had passed before I realized that this was the perfect place for this film.

Now, the primary inspiration for this film originated from a story I read about an African-American female that went missing after a date with a guy she met on Instagram. The story creeped me out, so I decided to create a fictional short film based on it.

Is this based on a true story?

Yes.

What was it like working with Cyann Ribeiro and D’Kia Anderson?

Fantastic would be an understatement. I enjoyed working with Cyann Ribeiro and D’Kia Anderson. They are professionals.

What did you enjoy most while shooting this film?

There were many enjoyable moments:

The dynamic sound of crickets on Mulholland Drive and the terrifying sound of a pack of coyotes howling and attacking prey during our shoot. Moments like that put life and nature in perspective. The concept of predator and prey relates to the plot.

Shooting a film on Mulholland Drive. It wasn’t easy, but it was a moment that I will never forget. It’s breathtakingly beautiful up there. Very serene and peaceful at night. The lights overlooking the valley dance. In many ways, they tell a story of their own. I had to make sure we captured the beauty of the moment in this film.

What was the most challenging part of shooting this film?

Trying to create a short film that encompassed everything that I wanted with a shoestring budget.

When you’re working on a shoestring budget, everything must be well-thought out and meticulously planned. Your screenplay can’t be larger than your resources. You also have to realize that you won’t be able to do everything that you intended to do during and after the filming process… and grow comfortable with the result. Sure, there are a billion ways I could have taken this plot. I decided to keep it simple and left little room for the viewer’s imagination.

Max Cole discusses ALONE AT MIDNIGHT at Capital City Black Film Fest.

What are the most pivotal moments of the film?

It’s a fast-moving mystery, so every moment is essential. The plot, although short, builds.

What’s interesting is that Cyann’s character, Ashley, in many ways, sets the stage for impending doom for D’Kia’s character, Candace. She also shares a different perspective about dating than Candace.

I don’t want to give too much away, but Cyann’s character (Ashley) makes a vibrator reference that’s funny. She suggests to D’Kia’s character (Candace) that the sex toy is safer than meeting strangers on the Internet. Ironically, a few film festivals turned it down because there is a vibrator in the film. Lame right? American culture is often very hypocritical in regards to realizing that we live in a sexual society. I am willing to bet that a vibrator is the safest form of sexual contact a woman can have. A woman is not going to get abducted using a vibrator. Although that would probably create an interesting story. [Chuckle]

Anyhow, strange things happen when we ignore our instincts… There is a moment at the approx. 5:36 mark in the film where I wanted audiences to hear Candace’s exhale as she clutches her key chain. That is good cinema. Feeling like you’re there with the character. I can’t imagine how terrifying that moment would be if I were in her shoes.

This film has a cinematic quality to it. Discuss the vision behind the outstanding visuals that we see on screen.

I have a strong editorial and cinematography background. So, I have always appreciated cinematic storytelling because I am a visual storyteller. When I reached out to our cinematographer, Tali Litmanovitz, she read the script and loved it. We shared a variety of great ideas together in pre-production. We knew we wanted to make a short, suspenseful film, and we both wanted to use as much natural evening light as possible. We shot in a parking lot at night. I want viewers to feel like they are with Candace… Alone at midnight.

Any recommendations for the best viewing experience?

Yes, movies in this genre are meant to be watched in an environment that produces excellent sound. A good set of headphones and an open mind, usually provide an excellent viewing experience. Viewers need to HEAR the crickets. They need to feel like they are alone with Candace on Mulholland Drive at midnight. Viewing this film on the Internet doesn’t do it much justice unless you have a good set of headphones. Viewers need to experience this movie in a theater-like environment. I am sure every filmmaker feels this way about their film.

If you had to summarize this film in one word, what would it be?

Important.

Will this film stimulate discussion?

One can only hope so.

Does this film have the possibility of being a feature film?

No. Short films are my way of managing the restlessness of not having the resources necessary to create a full-length film. I see a lot of value in keeping viewers engaged for seven minutes. Especially, if I’m still able to put the Max Cole creative spin on the story.

What will make writing and directing this film a success for you?

I’m not sure. I try to create the type of short stories that I want to see and hope that others find my films entertaining.

As for this short film expression… If I have peaked your curiosity and made you want more, then I’ve done my job. Stories about female abductions are necessary. This was a fresh opportunity to create an entertaining, creepy, suspenseful, meaningful film. I’ll always wonder if my little small budget films will stand a chance in festivals against films with large budgets. I have to work with what I have and make the most of it.

I hope audiences appreciate this film. In my opinion, society doesn’t seem to care as much when African-American women go missing. Stories such as these are spooky. They are often not very far from reality.

How can we watch this film?

Film festivals.


MAX COLE DISCUSSES  THE DECISION (SHORT FILM)

What inspired this story?

I have always been interested in telling a story about George Jackson and Angela Davis. The Black Power Movement is intriguing. It’s an important period of American history. People gave their lives for justice and equality. We recreated a fictional snapshot of the potential issues these two may have experienced during that time.

What was it like working with Alikhan Lochin and Joi Liaye?

It was great! I LOVED working with these two outstanding actors. Alikhan and Joi have the ability to captivate audiences because they’re ridiculously talented and illuminate the screen.

What inspired you to cast them for this film?

Their auditions were excellent. I appreciated the way both popped on tape and screen.

What did you enjoy most while shooting this film?

The writing process between me and the co-writer was great. The material resonated with us. We both are very aware of the historical importance of Angela Davis and George Jackson. So, this story was imperative for us to create and share.

What was the most difficult part of shooting this film?

As a creator, it is always difficult when there are so many potential plots worth exploring preceding this important moment of history. Recreating a fictionalized portrayal of Angela Davis and George Jackson was challenging because… George Jackson spent a significant amount of his time in jail writing letters to Angela. So, my co-writer and I created a scenario where we could explore a fictional portrayal of their relationship, specifically from a college student’s perspective, during the heart of “The Movement.” I felt it was important to explore the challenges both faced under difficult circumstances in the film.

What are the most pivotal moments of this film?

When George and Angela realize they have reached a turning point in their relationship. They share different perspectives regarding their response to injustice So, there is conflict.

If you had to summarize this film in one word, what would it be?

Substance.

What would make writing and directing this film a success for you?

Reminding viewers of the complex challenges that earlier generations faced during an important moment in American history due to racial and social injustice. Every week there is a new case of police brutality and social injustice. It’s important that we do not forget those that helped liberate us and the challenges they often faced.

How can we watch this film?

Film festivals.