A Conversation with Conrad Glover…

Conrad Glover, filmmaker.

Welcome back to filmmaker Conrad Glover, currently on set in Las Vegas filming his series “Shades of Sapphire.” I’ve been following Conrad’s work in film ever since he hired me to do some set photography for a horror feature he was directing. (2005’s Woods of Evil.) Since then, he’s been doing ever bigger and better things with his production company, JOCO Films. He’s in the middle of production and all the craziness that entails, but he stopped by to answer a few questions and give us some quick peeks into the world of Sapphire.

“Shades of Sapphire.” The Series. Sapphire, Arlo and Mack discuss their plan of action on the rooftop of the club. Photo by Danwen Li.

Q (Infamous Scribbler): What is your current project?

A (Conrad Glover): Sapphire St. Clair, known as Queen St. Clair, has a heart of gold, but is the most feared woman in Las Vegas underworld. This is her story. She is the great granddaughter to Stephanie St. Clair, who was the right hand man to Bumpy Johnson, Harlem’s notorious gangster and crime boss. This is how Sapphire learned the street game that was passed down to her as a small child.

Once released from Danbury federal prison after doing a 10 year stretch, Sapphire St. Clair moved to Las Vegas to start her own criminal enterprise. As Sapphire’s success grew in her many businesses, this brought on unscrupulous attention from dirty law enforcement who tried to stop her, all for a piece of the wealth that they knew Sapphire obtained from her illegal dealings.

“Shades of Sapphire” is a crime action/drama that is full of plot twists and turns. Las Vegas will serve as the backdrop of this web series. The show will be shot at a high production value. The WIRE meets POWER type of story, but with more action!  

Q: There are tons of filmmakers out there, trying to bring their project to life. How did you get yours off the ground?

A: I was able to get this project off the ground after talking with my distributor Doug Schwab, CEO of Maverick Entertainment. We have had a long working relationship for over a 10-year span. We talked about “Shades of Sapphire,” he liked the concept, so he decided he wanted to come on as the Executive Producer on the project.

“Shades of Sapphire” The Series. Sapphire handles Ms. Bowdon for wearing a wire on her. Photo by Danwen Li.

Q: What are some of the challenges you have faced doing the project? How did you overcome them?

A: The biggest challenge with this project I would have to say is scheduling the day-to-day shoot. Shooting a series is much harder than doing a feature film, because you’re casting more actors, and you’re constantly on the hunt for new locations for each new episode. It can be very stressful at times. 

Q: You are working in a bit of a stylized genre. What do you do to keep the project aligned with your vision? 

A:  This project is more of drama/action. I think what’s different about this project is that the female lead is black for one.  Second she’s running a crime organization in the heart of Las Vegas. Plus no one is squeaky clean in this series. We have all types from the Russian mob, Italian mob, street thugs to the Mexican cartel, etc. 

“Shades of Sapphire.” The Series. Venus takes out a trick for Sapphire’s Organization. Photo by Danwen Li.

Q: What are some aspects of working with actors that you find integral to the process?

A: I love working with actors. Acting is where I started in this business. I love being able to speak the language of an actor, knowing what strings to pull to get the performance I want from them.  (IS Note: For more of Conrad’s insight into the craft of acting and film, check out my 2013 interview with him on filmmaking and the work he was putting in to his career.)

“Shades of Sapphire.” The Series. Sapphire sits with her psychiatrist Dr. Brown to deal with her many problems. Photo by Danwen Li.

Q: What is the next step in finishing the project? What comes after that?

A: Post- production, which usually takes two months if everything goes as planned. Once that’s done, the project is sent to the distributor to be cleared. Then it’s just a waiting game on a release date. In the meantime, it’s back to writing and preparing for the next project. 

Q: Anything to add?

A: Anyone thinking about becoming a filmmaker? Learn to write, write, write, I can’t stress this enough. Everything starts with a good script. Also learn to write stories with a budget you can put your hands on to make your movie. I’ll close this out by saying…. Always follow your dreams, never give up.

Conrad Glover, filmmaker.

A Conversation with Conrad Glover

I first met Conrad Glover in 2004 when he hired me to do some photography on the set of his independent horror film, Woods of Evil. At that time, I had done a little set photography and enjoyed it for the unique mix of aspects of photojournalism and fine art photography that capturing a work-in-progress film entails. In addition to that, I had a blast working on set. Conrad has a gift for bringing together a dedicated, talented group of people – and then working hard, but still having fun while putting together an independent project.

When I started this feature, I contacted Conrad and he agreed to talk a little about his experience, his films, and other aspects of the creative life. With tolerance for my habit of asking three or four questions at the same time, his thoughts can be found in the conversation below.

Q (Infamous Scribbler): You mentioned in your bio that you’ve done a variety of acting, writing, etc. How did you get into independent filmmaking?

On set and in character, with fellow actor Jaime Velez.

On set and in character, with fellow actor Jaime Velez.

A (Conrad Glover): My acting coach, Florence Winston, would always advise me to create your own projects and not wait on some casting director to call you in for a role. One day in class, she challenged me to write a one-act play, which I did. To her delight, she discovered that I had a gift for writing good dialogue and that I could tell a story. That lead to me going from writing one-act plays to writing screenplays, which continued for the next 8 years, helping me perfecting my craft along the way.

I had the opportunity to get my SAG [Screen Actors Guild] card in early spring of 1995 which put me on many movie sets as an actor, extra and doing stand-in work. This gave me the chance be on set for months working on various TV shows. I have to say this was my film school. This gave me the chance to watch and learn from some of the best directors in the business.

That’s when I decided I wanted to make my first feature film. So, I purchased my first camera and some editing equipment. The funny thing is, I didn’t know much about cameras or editing.  I researched and read everything I could get my hands on.  In may ways, I am self-taught, aside from what I learned from my observations.

Q: Of the movies you’ve directed and produced, which one was the most challenging to work on, and why?

A: …I have to say Woods of Evil gave me the most challenges. This was my second film and was intended to be a horror. However, of all the genres, I was least knowledgeable in horror. In trying to stay true to the genre so the film would appeal to horror fans, we did our best, but in hindsight know now we missed the boat on a few things to include suspense, and the shock and awe effect. But you live and learn, like with anything, and I am better because I accepted that challenge.

Conrad behind the camera on the set of "Woods of Evil."

Conrad behind the camera on the set of “Woods of Evil.”

Q: Who are some directors you look up to? What do you admire about them? What do you hope to emulate about them?

A: Quentin Tarantino, Spike Lee, Steven Spielberg.

They each take risks.  They do not do the same thing over and over – they each have an array of films in varying genres. I do not like to be pigeon-holed. I do not like to be defined by what I do. I want to be a filmmaker who will take on almost anything, if I like the project, of course.  I don’t think we grow as artists when we do the same thing over and over.

Q: Have you had any formal drama coaching or film school experience? If so, what? Do you feel that such is necessary to succeed in the field? Why or why not?

A: I began acting lessons in 1992. I felt so strongly that this is what I was meant to do, I traveled two hours into NYC, attended an hour long class with my coach, then traveled two hours back home. It was tiring but absolutely necessary as I began my career as an actor.  I trained formally with my coach, Florence Winston, until 2004, when I had to part ways for personal reasons.  A part of me wishes I never left, as I believe actors can always learn and improve upon their craft.

Is it necessary? No. There are many people in both fields that make it. Does it help? Absolutely. I think the best education is learning and watching from others, an on-the-job training, if you will. To an extent I believe the industry undervalues the formal education and formal experience when it hires people because they have a name versus having any credible training or background.

Although Hollywood may be the entertainment capital of the world, I truly believe American filmmakers and actors could benefit and learn from their European counterparts.  I find European actors to value their craft by studying it and placing a huge value on the stage experience. Stage work makes you a better actor, I truly believe. European filmmakers fall outside our cookie-cutter mold. Sure we have a few, some of whom I mentioned above, but for the most part, our filmmakers cater to the studios’ idea of what a film should be – I call it sanctioned censorship because the artists lose their independence and creative control. But, they have the money.

Q: When an actor/actress comes in to audition for a role, what are you looking for? Do you have any tips for people who are just starting to audition – or perhaps have been auditioning without success?

A: It is important for the person to be true to the character and live in the moment. The person has to become that character, in every way – voice, expression, mannerisms. This is why a person can gain much from formal training.

Q: What is one of the most satisfying parts of being an independent filmmaker?

A: I never lose creative control.

Production still from Woods of Evil, with Jaime Velez and Christopher Farmer.

Production still from Woods of Evil, with Jaime Velez and Christopher Farmer.

Q: If you were to assemble your dream cast and crew to produce your next film, who would be some of the names on the marquee?

A: Daniel Day Lewis, Gary Oldman, Giancarlo Esposito, Obba Babatundé, Leonardo DiCaprio, Angela Bassett, Viola Davis are a few.  There are many I admire and respect and with whom I would love the opportunity to work.

Q: Do you have other creative outlets besides filmmaking? If so, what are they?

A: I also write novels. I love to read and essentially keep the creative side of me busy. Recently, I got back into the gym and this helps me re-group.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your next project?

A: I am working on a few projects – they are in development at the moment. I hope to make one later this year.

Q: Anything else to add?

A: You live life once so it’s important you live it to the fullest.  Pursue your dreams.

 

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Find out more about Conrad’s future projects – “like” Joco Films on Facebook!