Pride On Film: The Black Harvest Film Fest Filmmakers Profile – Darious Britt

A Man & A Camera, One on One with Darious Britt was originally published on November 15, 2013. We found it befitting to repeat it since the film “UNSOUND”  will be shown on Tuesday August 12 at 8:30 PM and Wednesday August 13 at 6:30 the 20th Annual Black Harvest Film Festival.

Photos Courtesy of Darious Britt

Writer, director Darious Britt became a filmmaker because he loved telling stories as a child. The Jacksonville, North Carolina, native attended film school at the University of Arizona.  He spent four years in the United States Air Force before attending college.

In Seafood Tester, Britt tells the story of a son who resorts to extreme measures to confront his mentally ill mother. The

Seafood Tester was well received on the film festival circuit. It screened at the Hollywood Black Film Festival, San Diego Black Film Festival, and at the Aspen Shorts Fest.  He created as the film as a sampling for the feature length film Unsound.

short film was his senior year thesis film. It is inspired by events that took place in Britt’s life.

PrideIndex chatted with Britt about his influences, why he chose to make a film about mental illness, and what he has learned about himself in the process.

PRIDEINDEX (PI): When and where you formally trained as a filmmaker?

DARIOUS BRITT (DB):  I went to film school at the University of Arizona and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in theater film and television production in 2012.

PI: Why did you become a filmmaker?

DB: I became a filmmaker because I love engaging audiences in storytelling. As a child, I loved to draw and had aspirations to be a comic book artist. Those aspirations followed me all the way threw my military career, but when I finished my four year tour in the Air Force, I realized that the comic book format for storytelling was too confining for me and looked to film. I’ve always loved watching movies and the possibility of telling stories in that medium excited me! I wish I could say I’ve held a video camera ever since I was 16, but that wasn’t the case.

PI: Name at least three people who have most influenced your artistic style.

DB: Ingmar Bergman, Christopher Nolan, and Chan Wook Park are three directors that heavily influence my style.

PI: Briefly describe your filmmaking style.

DB: When it comes to filmmaking style, I rely heavily on collaboration. I don’t care for flashy camera moves unless there’s a legitimate reason to do so and it moves the narrative forward in some way. I would consider myself an actor’s director because I like to rehearse with my actors when I have the time and I love to use improvisation. My acting experience informs my direction when I deal with actors.

PI: Seafood Tester covers themes of mental illness why did you choose this subject matter?

DB: Seafood Tester was my senior thesis film in film school. The short film is inspired by events that have happened in my life. My mother has lived with schizophrenia for a large portion of her life which has lead to some very dark chapters in our family history. Due to a few incidents, she was unable to live on her own and I had to step up to the plate and take care of her. Our relationship has almost reached a breaking point several times in the past, and I felt that by sharing my experience with the world it may help others who are going something similar. Mental illness is a topic that I don’t feel has been accurately represented in the entertainment industry, and I wanted to create something that reflects the realities of caring for someone with mental illness.

PI: This story is based on your own experiences with your mother. What were her thoughts about this film?

DB: At first, my mother wasn’t wild about the idea of my making a film about our history. She thought I’d be “airing our dirty laundry,” but once I completed the film and showed it to her, she understood the potential that our story had to help others and inspire conversation. In many ways, watching our story played out on the screen, has allowed her to deal with her past and accept many issues that she has avoided.

PI: Tell us about your filmmaking experience to make this film from a short to a feature length film.

DB: The feature length film Unsound was written before we shot the short film Seafood Tester. The intent was to shoot Seafood Tester as a short film that could both stand alone as a completed work and also serve as a promotional tool for the feature length film. I spend a year and a half working on the script for Unsound and we started shooting the feature length film one month after we all graduated from film school. Principal photography lasted for 15 days. It took a year to completely finish shootingUnsound as there were certain events and scenes that we had to wait to shoot.

PI: Why did you decided to change the name from Seafood Tester to Unsound?

DB: The feature was originally titled Seafood Tester as well, but we changed the name to Unsound later on in the process because as we were touring the short film (Seafood Tester) around on the festival circuit, there were quite a few people who got the wrong idea about what the short film was about based off of the title. People either thought it was a comedy movie or it was about someone actually testing seafood for a living.

PI: Talk about any significant challenges you faced during production and what you did to overcome them?

DB: When shooting the feature film, one of our toughest tasks was finding a hospital location. Usually most hospital scenes that you see in movies are all sets because it’s extremely hard to use a real operational hospital for obvious reasons. Every hospital and clinic that I asked said no even a few places that could double as a hospital. Finally, there was one clinic that agreed to let us shoot in their location after initially telling us no because the manager of the clinic had seen our short film and loved it so much that he wanted to help us in any way he could.

PI: You’re the writer, director, producer and star of Unsound, why did you choose to wear so many hats?

DB: I wrote, produced, directed, and starred in Unsound. I had to wear so many hats to make this film because when making your first feature film as an independent filmmaker, your resources are extremely limited and there aren’t many people who are willing to take a chance on you. I didn’t want to act in the film but I had to because I couldn’t find another African American who fit the demographic in time. When it comes to African American actors in Tucson, Arizona, the pickings are extremely slim!

PI: How did you meet Toreenee Wolfe? At what moment did you decide she was right for the lead character?

DB: When casting the film, I spent an entire summer looking for the lead actress. I didn’t have a very big selection of African American actresses who fit the age range that I needed. Toreenee Wolf was recommended to me through another actress that I had auditioned. I was looking for something very specific out of the lead. I needed an actress who was fearless, confident in her abilities, and understood the world of mental illness on a personal level. When I first laid eyes on Toreenee, her physical appearance was almost the opposite of everything that I was looking for, but she had a presence about her, and the way that she carried herself immediately struck me. When I auditioned her, my gut feelings were confirmed. She really got the character and the material and I could tell she trusted her own process enough to completely give herself to the role.

PI: What projects are you working on next?

DB:  I’m currently producing a YouTube channel called D4Darious. The channel is sort of a documentary/vlog that chronicles our progress with our feature film Unsound.  We offer tips for filmmakers on marketing, film promotion, social media, film festivals and distribution. We pretty much cover everything that happens after you make a movie. I got the idea to create the channel because as we enter the final stages of our journey with our film. I searched online for information on how to do certain things like promote my film, and I barely found any how-to’s or resources.

I’ve written a few scripts and I’m also assisting in the production of a short film entitled Grace of a Stranger.

PI:  What have you learned about yourself as a result of making this film?

DB: Working on Unsound has taught me that anything is possible. Since we’ve started the project, we have received some support from places that I never would have imagined possible. If you have a project that you believe in and a story that you think deserves to be told, then do everything you can to make it happen and let the chips fall where they may.

To  see Darious’ work visit D4Darious channel click here.

To see Seafood Tester short film click here.