Philly Creative Guide

Creative Personality

Deron Albright | Philadelphia-based film and videomaker and Assistant Professor of Film and Video at Saint Joseph's University

Interview :: Deron Albright
by Ruth Weisberg, 1 Jul 2006

This month's Creative Personality is Deron Albright, a Philadelphia-based film and videomaker and Assistant Professor of Film and Video at Saint Joseph's University. He has written, directed, and produced over a dozen short films and worked professionally as director of photography on several others. He can be reached at 610-660-1488.


PCG: To use a cinematic metaphor, what's your back story? What/who were the early influences that fueled your passion and experience with movies?

DA: I didn't have a TV for much of my childhood, so when I started really consuming images, I was intellectually at a place to demand more from them than I might have otherwise. The first film I can really remember making an impact on me was Kubrick's THE SHINING. It was, perhaps, my first real conscious understanding of how form impacted meaning. This issue--form and meaning--has since become one of my central concerns as both a scholar and a filmmaker. I also fell in love with the New German Cinema. Wender's films from the 70s in particular revealed how space was allowed into the narrative in a way Hollywood would never accept. I also really respected the humanism of Jean Renoir, and how his respect for character allowed me greater access into the world of the story. More recently I've been a big fan of Wong Kar-wai, and returned to the always dependable Howard Hawks.


PCG: As film and video have evolved through the years, how has the academic curriculum in multimedia similarly changed and responded?

DA: Certainly the shift in methods of acquisition and delivery will impact what we teach, but the basics are still the same - composition and lighting, framing and movement, sound, plus solid intellectual and/or narrative development. Whether or not you shoot on 35mm film or a cell phone, these are the central concerns. The substantive shift in product--which often flies under the radar--is in new media, and how things like interactive DVDs, gaming, and on-line communities effect narrative into something less linear and more multi-faceted. I joined the faculty of Saint Joseph's University in 2002 to start the program and design the curriculum here, so we are still in our infancy as a film/video program. We offer video production courses from basic image gathering to advanced editing, sound, and cinematography; short and longform screenwriting; and film studies ranging from intro to aesthetics to specialized topical courses. While I dabble around the edges of new media, I view myself as more traditional - if still experimentally biased - filmmaker.

Deron Albright, Philadelphia-based film and videomaker and Assistant Professor of Film and Video at Saint Joseph's University

PCG: Any film/video projects you've worked on that particularly resonate with you, your students, or the multimedia community?

DA: I shot a piece, "Medio Tiempo", that was on Showtime back in September 2001, so nobody actually saw it, I think! It was a huge undertaking, crewed entirely by my students at UNLV (Las Vegas), but it built a community of people working toward a common goal, and all for non-mercenary reasons. That's the beauty and the benefit of working with students, because they're not yet in the work for the money, and are enthusiastic about just being a part of what is often a very dull process. When I shot "The Legend of Black Tom," I also used a much smaller student crew, who were really beginners. I had to lead a lot more than I would have liked, but the sense of accomplishment everyone felt was really tangible. "The Legend of Black Tom" has been on the festival circuit this year, showing at over 15 festivals and garnering 10 "Best of..." awards. That film was a return to narrative production following a series of short video-only projects, an experimental exploration of Las Vegas in my video installation "Vegas Suite."

".. the point is, there's a market for those 'outsider' narratives, but only if the industry would encourage it further."

PCG: What's your take on the meteoric rise of the indie film movement?

DA: I'm really down on most 'independent film' at the moment. It seems to have become nothing more than a boutique 'brand' for studios to have in their portfolios, and what seems to get made is more or less low budget versions of big-budget movies. I'm hopeful that things can shift, though the industry will certainly follow success, even small ones. Two smaller films I've really admired in the last year — "Hustle & Flow" and "The Three Burials of Meliquades Estrada" were successful, despite or maybe because of the industry backing in one way or another. Put another way, they never would have gotten made or distributed without John Singleton/Tommy Lee Jones. But the point is, there's a market for those 'outsider' narratives, but only if the industry would encourage it further. That, of course, is a longer discussion!

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