Respect the Light Production Journal #1

Welcome to the first entry in the Respect the Light Production Journal. Since last July, when we first rolled cameras, I’ve wished we had a detailed look into any projects that have successfully produced, pitched and distributed a documentary film/series themselves. We’ve found nothing, so in the spirit of independent cinema, we’re doing it ourselves.

Who are we?

I’m Gerard Clarke. I’m a filmmaker who grew up in Miami, FL. For the last 15 years or so, making and studying movies has been my primary interest. I never really had the courage to take the leap and move across the country to LA to try to find my way. Consequently, Respect the Light is the second project that I’ve produced with my good friend Gregory Kerrick. Unlike me, he studied film at Full Sail in Orlando, FL and as soon as he graduated, he went straight to Los Angeles and actually found a measure of success becoming, as you’ll see in Respect the Light, a very talented cinematographer. When there’s work, he freelances as a Director of Photography with Red Bull Media House. He also worked as a Director of Photography on the Emmy nominated docuseries, “Undrafted” that aired on NFL Network. Last but certainly not least, is Rashielle Teape. She’s worked as a marketing professional for nearly a decade in the environmental/non-profit space. Rashielle is kind of like the Chris Bosh of our group. Her expertise isn’t in filmmaking, but without her we wouldn’t really stand a chance of taking our content to the broadest audience possible. She finesses our press releases, social media, graphic design and general marketing activity with an efficacy and expertise that Greg and I simply don’t have. She’s also a great producer because she’s a storyteller, albeit the kind that uses a pen rather than a camera. 

Our project, Respect the Light, has gone through significant change since it was first imagined as a 30-minute documentary. This entry is going to detail preproduction from a germ of an idea through to rolling cameras.

Co-directors Gerard & Greg shooting in Miami.

Co-directors Gerard & Greg shooting in Miami.

How it all started

In Spring of 2018, I reached out to an old friend Sebastian Mattar. He and I used to work together and at that time, he was interested in pursuing a career in stand-up comedy. I was curious about the potential of covering the comedy scene in Miami and figured I could gather some intel from him about it. After an initial phone call, I was reminded how charismatic and optimistic Sebastian is, so I scheduled a video chat with him and my coproducers. That conversation went well, and we decided to push forward on a Miami comedy project and booked airfare to head back to our home town to begin production. Honestly, purchasing flights might’ve been a little premature because we knew we wanted to identify at least two other subjects. A hurried search began.

A quick on-the-fly interview with Sebastian Mattar after a set.

A quick on-the-fly interview with Sebastian Mattar after a set.

We wanted a diverse cast of characters and it turned out that Miami was a great city to find that. We asked Sebastian for a shortlist of comics in the area and used the investigative powers of YouTube to identify potential subjects. The finalists who were under consideration came down to Nicolas Souffrant, Kyle Grooms, Julie Baez and Manny Garavito.

Time was running out. It was Friday night and we were supposed to begin filming on Monday. That night, we realized Manny produced weekly comedy shows, making him a unique perspective. This was the first in a series of several truly remarkable (bordering on spooky) developments throughout the course of production. We sent Manny a DM on Instagram around midnight Saturday morning expressing our idea and timeline. He responded positively, so we scheduled a call that afternoon and locked him in as the next subject with about 36 hours left to go.

That Monday, we began production on what would become Respect the Light but the project wasn’t done changing yet, largely due to our financial limitations. Self-financing films is hard. It gets even more challenging when you have no money, and while we weren’t starving…let’s just say our resources were limited.

In the next installment of the Respect the Light Production Journal, we’ll cover the seven days of production in Miami. Have you produced a film or series? What were some of the challenges that the preproduction process presented and how did you overcome them? Thanks for joining us on this journey & leave a comment below!