Embarking on the filmmaking journey of ‘Predawn’ has been an experience like no other. Set against the picturesque backdrop of Covington, GA, this project wasn’t just about creating a film; it was a voyage of discovery, teamwork, and serendipitous moments. As I sit down to share this tale, I find myself reflecting on the myriad of emotions, challenges, and revelations that shaped our narrative, both on and off the screen
The Wrap-Up of ‘Predawn’: A Moment of Reflection
For someone speechless, I am about to share a whole bunch of words.
It’s 12:36 EST. For five days, we’ve been shooting ‘Predawn’ in Covington GA as planned and we finally wrapped at exactly 4:44 PM 5/24/23. Funny thing about that time. You ever look at the time, or wake up at the same time so frequently that it just didn’t make sense?
Time’s Peculiar Patterns: More than Just Coincidence?
For the past year, I’ve been waking up at 3:33 AM or 4:44 AM. Not every day, but often enough to notice it. Or when driving, I would catch a gas station with the current gas price of $3.33. Throughout the day, the same thing from 1:11 straight up to 12:12 or variations of it. Even took a picture of it a few times. Mentioned it to my daughter and even she thought it was weird. See the pictures below. These are screenshots from my phone. Me waking up in the middle morning and one day later in the middle of the afternoon when I remembered to catch it. Last year.
I’ve come to understand and associate these coincidental observations with moments of time that I was doing something, or thinking about something right. I know — it sounds like I’m crazy. You have to walk with me through my life to get why wrapping at exactly 4:44 PM – the very last shot of the film — after the whirlwind year I’ve had to prepare for this shoot — means to me. Think the end of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. The bell jingling in the last shot of the film.
Wings were gained somewhere.
This blog post is not about time. Then again it is.
The Essence of Teamwork in Filmmaking
It’s also about listening and when you have the right combination of souls, you can let go. This comes from a profound introvert that will be the first to decry his disapproval of teamwork. All my life I couldn’t understand the terms ‘teamwork makes the dream work’ or ‘there is no I in team’. Never could get it when people have, and always, disappointed me.
This was my first ‘real’ film. Executed with perfection that only could only be seen in hindsight. Only after I learned to shut up and let the universe — let God — work the magic.
I think I mentioned at some point that I know God was not in the business of ‘movie making’. I totally got that all my praying for a successful film wasn’t directly connected to world peace and the almighty doesn’t take a section of his time just to make sure my call sheets were in order.
However, I have come to understand the things we do individually are for the benefit of thinking, teaching, helping, and showing others’ ‘a difference’, which puts those people we interact with in motion to think, teach, help, and show others a difference as well. And so on, and so on, and so on. Thus, if all concerned are thinking, teaching, helping, and showing to each other, the project and ambitions of that group form the right ‘team’ to accomplish the ‘work’. It’s not about just throwing random people together and forcing them to work together. It’s more about natural, gravitational perfection. People who are supposed to be there doing what they were supposed to do at the right time.
To get there, you have to have the right ears and insight to sort out who works for the project. You can’t sort out who you can work with and who needs to go by your own ego. Nope. It won’t work. Imagine this: a guy needs to pick a team of people to climb a mountain. He picks only people that he thinks look good for the covers of magazines when he promotes his team to climb Mount Everest. Then when most of them don’t come back from the climb, you would think it was about him not selecting experienced climbers.
I’ve come to understand it’s not just about whether or not he selected sexier climbers versus experienced climbers. I am convinced God allows us to hear who we should connect with and who we shouldn’t. The wrong experienced climber could have messed him up as well. For instance, let’s say he selected the beautiful blond experienced climber, but that person continued to fail to come to meetings and always had a situation for not showing up to important safety processes. But the lead climber continued to keep that blond on the team straight up until that same blond caused a disaster.
You can look at that scenario and say ‘Well, obviously the blond was going to be a disaster’. I say to you, it’s never that obvious in the middle of your ego.
Adapting to Challenges: Rain, Reschedules, and Revelations
You can be determined to keep a person or a plan no matter how often the signs are telling you to divert or let that person or plan go. We get into this ‘do or die’ thing to reach our goals when, maybe, we are being told to shift gears and people before it’s too late.
A real-time example: Predawn had a five-day shoot. For four of those five days, it did nothing but rain. We were delayed often and had to shift gears when to shoot scenes and totally cut a sequence in another location. I could have been adamant about packing us all up and driving to Union City in the middle of the night to get that perfect shot. Some cast members were even willing to do it. But I took a moment away from everyone, and prayed privately. Not for an answer, because I already saw the answer was not to go. It was more like: ‘Allow me to continue to hear the answer’.
As a result, I received some new ideas when I slept that night. We shot a bunch of new sequences the next day that not only worked but worked better.
And just like that, I just described the entire Predawn experience. However, it comes from the perspective of learning to have ears and insight.
Let me address the elephant in the room: I NEVER had the right ears and insight until maybe these past few years. I picked up on what prayer and doing ‘what I am ordered to do’ since maybe 2020 when we landed in our first home during the pandemic. I challenged myself to repeat the lessons learned to do the unthinkable, as far as I was concerned: actually finish a film.
Somewhere in this blog, Game of Chess: The Building Blocks of a Good Film I have mentioned that my biggest challenge, over the many years trying to get a film project off the ground, was never the story. Writing stories is water to my fish. I dream about concepts all the time. The problem was always the execution. The processes needed from A to Z to accomplish a project.
A Tribute to the ‘Predawn’ Family
Up until 5/24/2023, at 4:44 PM, I have never ‘wrapped’ a film in my life. Short or otherwise. There was always some problem. Something incomplete.
When it did happen, I was centered among the greatest cast and crew members ever. People that will carry on to do even greater things.
To think, it all really started with a failed attempt to get a casting director. She ignored me and my calls. I stopped chasing her — then the perfect cast and crew found me.
This film was ONLY made possible …
‘say again last’
ONLY made possible
by the amazing talents of this specific cast and crew:
Wynter J. Davis
and Stacy Dori!
Introducing Co-Director Angie Lynch of Iris Faction Media. She expanded the vision of this film in directions I just never would have thought of. I was blessed to meet her and she is a prime example of me keeping quiet and allowing the universe to move the chess pieces. Thank you, partner. It only goes up from here.
Liam Bradbury – Music Composer whom I’ve been working with practically since day #1. Just wait till you hear his soundtrack!
Brianna “The Brave Cat” Spires – Production Assistant – thank you for your dutiful work on the production
Russell Burkes – Production Assistant – thank you for kicking off our day one!
Sariya Burkes – Wardrobe Stylist – Thank you for getting the whole cast dressed and looking great!
Antalya Suazo – Makeup Artist especially for providing on-set ‘sweat’ whenever we needed it! Always patient and always ‘right there’ when we needed her.
Jarid Coronado – Sound and all-around ‘save my ass’ perfect crew member. He pointed me in the right direction more times than I can count. Thank you, sir. If I’m not working with you on the next film, I might just have to wait until you’re available. That’s just the way it has to be. Thank you so much.
Javanshir Shukurov – Computer Graphic Artist who helped set the ambitious tone Predawn was going to go in.
Allen Mitchell of KIG Films – Drone Operator that made Predawn look like it had a bigger budget than it has with his aerial footage. Thank you, brother.
My Wife Donna Burkes, on-set Nurse – She provided daily safety meetings and a laundry list of support when I was losing my mind and self-confidence an hour before the cast and crew call.
Peter McKenzie for providing some of his incredibly talented soundtracks to the picture.
Franklin Mross – For animal Wrangling (i.e., potential snakes) and a fantastic education.
Monroe and Sharon Osborne for the intended use of their location. Too much rain prevented us from using it but I’m reading a universal directive that we weren’t supposed to be there. Because right after we adapted and changed the story, it stopped raining. I accept that and love you both for opening your home to the production regardless.
The mothers of Izzy, Madison, and Wynter: Jamie Davis, Theresa Matos, and Nicole Miller. Thank you for sharing your bright and extraordinarily talented children with this project and our home. Extra special thank you to my little sister Wynter. You see, this was her first film project and this was mine also. I told her we had to stick together because everyone here had more experience than us. She was to be my little sister through all of this. When I was struggling every night with self-esteem issues and lack of confidence that I can do this film, Wynter came in every day and performed her lines — even new ones — like a seasoned confident professional. I needed her to be my North star. If my little sister was able to get the job done, I knew I would too.
Looking Ahead: The Silence Before the Next Storm
It’s now 3:21 AM.
It usually doesn’t take me this long to write a blog post. With all the light edits and tears, I’m a little delayed.
The house is uncomfortably silent. I miss my Predawn Family.
Still, I think I told them the resolution to that empty feeling I’m having right now is to just do another film!
Writer, Director, Producer, Father