As the discussion surrounding inclusion in the film industry continues to dance around the dearth of African-American males, director/screenwriter Jerry LaMothe has simply been sitting back and awaiting his opportunities.
His film Amour Infinity won a fan favorite award at the Urbanworld Film Festival in 2000. Since then, LaMothe’s offerings have won Best Feature at the Jamerican Film and Music Festival, and the Audience Choice Award at the Hollywood Black Film Festival.
He's back in the mix with the brand-new Bounce TV drama, Saints & Sinners. The Shadow League sat down with him to discuss his new project, his creative process and much more.
The Shadow League: What are some of the characteristics you feel are indicative of your creative style?
Jerry LaMothe: I would say, even from the onset with my original film, what I try to bring with all my projects is a certain level of authenticity to it. A certain type of energy that gives it a gritty docu-drama feel that’s organic and that’s real. I think that’s something that I try to use as my template for anything that I do. Not just for my personal passion projects, or anything that I happen to be a hired gun on, like Saints & Sinners where I’m brought on as a hired gun to bring some kind of specific tone and look to it in the context.
TSL: I never envisioned you as a television director but always as a feature film director. What has the transition to been like for you?
JL: I have been looking to break into television for some time now. With this being my debut project as a series, coming on to helm the project when it was a pilot, that’s definitely been an honor for me and something I looked forward to the most. Television is what working directors are looking to do. Going back to your initial question, I was brought in to set a tone and give a look for this show that other directors will have to follow moving forward as the show progresses.
TSL: Can you explain the importance of tone?
JL: You can’t have every episode coming with a totally different look and style. Just like with any other hired gun work that you might get for a feature film, oftentimes producers and directors want to sit and meet with a variety of different directors to get a sense of what their thoughts are, how do they see this project, to be sure the producers and director are all on the same page as far as where you want to go with it.
From the beginning I always questioned what was the specific thing they were looking to accomplish with this show. The consensus was that they were looking for something with a little edge, but not too much. After all, it’s a soap opera at the end of the day. Yet, they still wanted something that had a little grittiness too it. Not be too campy, not too glossy. So, I think that’s something where I was able to come in and really be an asset on this.
TSL: Most creators have a well of experiences they pull from to craft their works. Is this the case for you as well?
JL: As far as my passion projects are concerned, I would have to say that the majority are coming from a place that is somewhat, semi-autobiographical. It all comes from a personal place and I think that’s what resonates with people. People try to figure out what connects them to the story so well. And, as opposed to it being autobiographical, I still know it’s coming from a real place. That always helps me.
I tell people that my stories are a combination of real life events, observations from the lives of friends and then I close it out with my imagination. Those are the three elements I use to tell my story. It comes in my sleep, I can just be somewhere and then dialogue, thoughts and scenes are usually what starts the process. I’ll write a scene, I’ll write a dialogue, I’ll even write a line and that will be the beginning of the process of telling a full story.
TSL: How do your ideas come to you?
JL: My stories come to me out of sequence. I’ll find that the ending will come to me first and I’ll always know how I want the story to end. I usually know how I want the story to start off. I start off from both directions and meet up in the middle, start up an outline in the midst of that project.
Second acts can be really tricky. That’s where it gets a little tough. That’s where most writers fall off if they’re not careful. I’ll do an outline at that point to make sure the whole story is fluid and flows from beginning to end. That’s usually my process.
Saints & Sinners stars Christian Keyes, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Gloria Rueben, Keith Robinson, Clifton Powell, Jasmine Burke and Afemo Omilami. It is slated to premiere March 6 on Bounce TV as the network's first hourly, dramatic series.