Deconstructing cinema one frame at a time


The inherent overlap between practice and theory in the study of cinema and visual studies has consistently acted as an underlying motive in my academic pursuits. I hold a BA in Film (UNLV), an MFA in Film Production, directing (Florida State), and an MPhil Film and Screen Studies (University of Cambridge).

As an undergraduate I concentrated on Hollywood cinema (Burch, Bordwell) and political theory (Jameson, Rancière) to examine the tension between still images (freeze frame) and moving images. My senior thesis analyzed US presidential campaign commercials from 1954-2008, exploring how political advertisements appeal to voter emotion.

As a filmmaker, my films have been fortunate enough to be selected into over 30 international film festivals, winner of nine festivals, including best screenplay, best director, best short film, and a finalist for HBO’s Aspiring Filmmakers Contest. My education as a filmmaker has taught me the importance of production and the profilmic event; not only how to tell a narrative story, but also how to present and arrange visual images that can elicit an affective response from the viewer.

Throughout my work as a filmmaker and fledgling film theorist, shifting between film production, post production, classical Hollywood film theory, phenomenology, French film-philosophy and criticism, political theory, and film form, I have striven to break down visual composition, penetrating the image for content, deconstructing mise-en-scene, lighting, and editing, for a productive frame-by-frame analysis of film, while engaging with cinematic history proper, and connecting these interests to wider theoretical concerns in both film production and film philosophy.

The first area of interest, and one that I began exploring at Cambridge is how race represents or may re-present the visual image in black heroines and black culture in cinema, specifically, the new wave of black filmmakers (Steve McQueen, Ryan Coogler) who challenge current tropes and presuppositions of race in Hollywood cinema. Drawing on the reading of representation of Gayatri Spivak, (i.e. representation as a standing in or speaking for another), and pairing Spivak’s formulation against/with the reading of race often rendered as re-presentation to signal the deceptive, alluring sense of something being made present again as theorized by Michael Gillespie, Alessandra Raengo, and on the affective conception of the cinema theorized by Eisenstein and Bálazs, I would attempt to defend a practical conception that minority directors have reacted to racist stereotypes by centrally and complexly re-presenting their race through realist modes of filmmaking (style, camera movement, mise-en-scene, and editing), which draw on familiar, received, even stereotyped understandings of the visual.  I ask whether this approach fosters authentic images that challenge issues that critics find problematic in the (moving) image as it confronts expectations of realism, race, and representation.

My second area of interest concerns the bond between photography and cinematography. Taking Jean-Luc Godard, who once said, “Photography is truth. The cinema is truth twenty-four times per second,” I am curious how Godard’s use of “truth” opens up a myriad of questions regarding claims of visual accuracy and indexicality. I think that a truthful, authentic image depends on our recognition of an image resembling its subject.  I’m interested in exploring more deeply the tensive, yet harmonious relationship between still and moving images. I would attempt to analyze the style of cinematographers, Roger Deakins and Emmanuel Lubezki, who reference complex images from street photographers, Danny Lyon and Alex Webb,  to consider how they explore the medium of film through motion and stasis to capture not only the truth, but the complexities of nation and class.

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