Hans Charles On Moving From Cinematograher To ProducingPosted by Wilson Morales
December 29, 2017
We’ve seen actors become directors, singers become actors, publicists become directors and so on. Making that transition from one field to another within the same industry is just matter of adding more duties. Any filmmakers would love to say that the more you can do for a film, the better you become in that specific area.
Hans Charles is an Emmy-nominated cinematographer and producer, best known for his work in Ava DuVernay‘s award-winning Netflix documentary “13th.” He recently added producer to his credits when he also shot and produced a film called “1 Angry Black Man,” an intense collegiate dramedy that’s a mix of 12 Angry Men meets Dear White People. Filmed entirely in New York this summer, the film will be making its debut at festivals early next year.
Blackfilm.com caught up with Charles as he talks about the film and doing more than just being behind the lens, literally.
Can you talk about going from being a cinematographer to producing films such as 1 Angry Black Man?
Hans Charles: The transition going from being a cinematographer to producing the piece, which was written and directed by my creative partner Menelek Lumumba. He and I have been creative partners for the last ten years. The transition is adding more duties and it’s been interesting. There are lots of different things that I’m learning and figuring out as a producer. I’m using the amount of experience and contacts I’ve made over the last 12 years to produce the project.
Why did I decide to produce this project? Well, a couple of years ago Ava (DuVernay) was telling me that she wants to see more narrative work from me and I told her about my partnership between Menelek and I and how we were trying to do our first feature. She gave me some advice and said that the first feature should be one location and the story should take place in one day. It would be easier to finance. The script to 1 Angry Black Man fits a lot of that criteria and the price tag also fits that. The script had me riveted. There are so many issues going on in college campuses and in society, especially about political correctness and police brutality and how that ties into black writers and their work on life in America. It’s an amazing piece of work and it was a lot of fun to do as a cinematographer and as a producer.
What are you learning as you make this transition to other film duties?
Hans Charles: Recently I had lunch with a ex-DP mentor of mine and I was telling him how I just adore shooting as a cinematographer, which is one of the best jobs in the world. There’s nothing better than being on set, collaborate with somebody and help put together a vision. In some ways, cinematographers are like producers by default. We know people and we know how to get certain resources. It’s not so much of a stretch in making the leap to producer. I’m just formalizing the mode that I operate in; but I love being behind the camera. Being behind the camera is sort of like being the quarterback. You can see the view and there are so many aspects of the project that you get to be a part of. All this comes from my background in terms of film school. It’s where I prepared to be an all-around filmmaker. One of my pet philosophies is that you want to hire crew members who are filmmakers. Your film is enhanced if all your team folks are into films and not just doing a job. Their energy and input brings fire into the story and I think it helps the project.
Was producing something you always wanted to do or was it after working with Ava?
Hans Charles: I think working with Ava, specifically on The 13th certainly helped me with name recognition. I had worked with her on three projects before The 13th and knew her for quite a few years before we started working together. I had been working with Bradford Young for seven years when he and I were complete unknowns in New York doing independent features and shorts. For people who know me, it’s definitely been a journey. The 13th certainly opened doors and possibilities. It’s good to have that breakout film that alerts the world to what you can do and then it’s your job to take the next step and “1 Angry Black Man” for me is that next step.
Where are you now with 1 Angry Black Man?
Hans Charles: We’ve applied to Tribeca, Berlin and Cannes. We feel strongly about finding a home at a festival, hopefully doing well at a festival and then get a distribution company to pick it up.