Gene Blalock of Seraph Films: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became A Filmmaker

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“Get comfortable with uncertainty.” — There are so many moving parts in filmmaking that you have to be comfortable with the fact that things will change and things may not always go according to plan. For example, during the production of “Keepsake,” we had a shooting location fall through at the last minute, and we had to scramble to find a new location. It taught me the importance of being flexible and adaptable.

As a part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became A Filmmaker”, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Gene Blalock.

Los Angeles-based Director, Gene Blalock, is known as much for his touching, heart-warming films as his eccentric horror vignettes. Bringing a decidedly human perspective to each of his projects, Gene’s works reflect our common humanity — reflecting reality back as through a mirror of compassion — enabling us to examine and consider ourselves. In every genre, Gene’s work rings true in a thought-provoking way. Gene is the founder of Seraph Films, L.L.C.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?

Thank you for having me! I hail from a small town in Virginia, located in the heart of the Bible Belt. Growing up, I was in foster care, and I think it definitely shaped who I am. The community I was a part of saw art and creative pursuits as mere hobbies rather than something that could lead to a career. There was always pressure to figure out a more traditional career path, but that never sat well with me. I initially pursued studies in Philosophy and Psychology, but I knew deep down that a 9–5 job just wasn’t for me. It wasn’t until later that I discovered that an art career was a viable option, and I decided to pursue it by attending film school.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve always been drawn to creative pursuits like music, literature, and art, and that interest extended to filmmaking. It started with shooting videos for my skateboard team and progressed from there. While in university, I started a band that took off, and music became my main focus for several years. But after a grueling tour, I decided to take a break and revisit my love for film. I only intended to take a few months to make a few short films before returning to music, but as I delved deeper into the craft of filmmaking, I realized that it was my true passion. One thing led to another, and here I am today, grateful for the winding path that brought me to this point in my career.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?

There is never a dull moment on a film set. There are always interesting and funny stories that happen during production. I recall one instance when we were filming at a large office building in Los Angeles. We were trying to be discreet, but despite our best efforts, we accidentally set off the fire alarm. We were worried that we had triggered the fire department and that we would get in trouble, but it turned out that the building was a bit sketchy, and the fire alarm wasn’t even connected to anything. It’s possible that it’s still going off to this day, and no one even knows! Other funny moments on the set include the crew trying to figure out how to get a drone out of a tree or trying to stifle laughter during a take because someone’s performance was just too funny. These are the moments that make filmmaking both challenging and enjoyable.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with countless fascinating individuals in the industry. Every person has their own unique story of how they found themselves in this profession, and I find it inspiring to hear about their journey. Working with up-and-coming talent is always a rewarding experience as well, as I get to see their creativity and passion for filmmaking firsthand.

One interesting story that comes to mind is from when I was working on the film “The Nightmare Gallery.” We were working under a tight schedule and often had limited takes. Often my producer told me that I could not have another take, but if Amber, the lead, wanted one, we could do it. Amber and I came up with a scheme that if I signaled her, she would request another take, which allowed us to get the shots we needed. It was a unique and creative solution to a challenging situation, and it just goes to show the ingenuity that can arise in the midst of film production.

Overall, I feel incredibly fortunate to have worked with such talented and interesting individuals throughout my career in film. Each interaction was unique and memorable, and it’s those experiences that make filmmaking so rewarding.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I owe a great deal of gratitude to the many people who have supported me throughout my career. From my closest friends to the hardworking crew on every set, their contributions are what make my work possible. One of the keys to success is to surround yourself with people who share your passion and understand your unique needs as an artist. With their support, it becomes easier to stay focused and driven while still allowing your creativity to flourish.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One quote that has followed me throughout my life comes from the book “The Little Prince,” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Most people view it as a children’s book, but it’s so much more.

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

That quote continues to stick with me to this day. Listen to your heart. The entire story is about never growing up. No matter how much older I get, I refuse to ever grow up. I think this has helped me continue to find the magic in film and storytelling.

I am very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

I strongly believe in the importance of diversity in the entertainment industry.

It reflects the real world: Our world is diverse and multicultural, and it’s essential to represent this on screen. By featuring diverse characters and stories, we help audiences see themselves and their experiences reflected in our work.

It promotes empathy and understanding: When we see characters who are different from us, we have the opportunity to learn about their experiences and perspectives. This can help us develop empathy and understanding for people who may come from different backgrounds or cultures.

It encourages creativity and innovation: Diversity brings new ideas and perspectives to the table, which can lead to more creativity and innovation in the industry. By embracing diverse voices, we can create new and exciting stories that push the boundaries of what we think is possible.

Overall, I believe that diversity in film and television has the power to affect our culture in a positive way by promoting inclusivity, empathy, and creativity. It’s up to us as filmmakers to champion diversity and create stories that represent the richness of our world.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

At the moment, we have completed filming for two of my latest films, “Alone Time” and “Keepsake,” and we are in the post-production phase for both. Apart from that, we are in the development stage of “Big Sky Quiet,” which I’m hoping will be our next big project. Although it can be frustrating to be in a holding pattern, I am looking forward to seeing these projects come to fruition.

Which aspect of your work makes you most proud? Can you explain or give a story?

One aspect of my work that makes me most proud is being able to collaborate with a team to bring a story to life on screen. It’s a truly rewarding experience to see all of the hard work, dedication, and creativity from everyone involved come together to create something that entertains, inspires, or touches an audience in some way. Being able to communicate my vision and have the crew understand and help create it is really special.

One experience that stands out is the making of a single-one-shot scene in my film”Alone Time.” It was a challenging shot where the entire set had to change in real time, and it required the collaboration and expertise of the entire crew to make it possible. When we finally got it, there was a sense of accomplishment and camaraderie that came from successfully working together.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

“Get comfortable with uncertainty.” — There are so many moving parts in filmmaking that you have to be comfortable with the fact that things will change and things may not always go according to plan. For example, during the production of “Keepsake,” we had a shooting location fall through at the last minute, and we had to scramble to find a new location. It taught me the importance of being flexible and adaptable.

“Take care of yourself.” — Filmmaking is a grueling and demanding process, and it’s easy to get caught up in the work and forget about your own health and well-being. It is something I still struggle with. Make sure to take breaks, eat well, and exercise regularly. Many times during production, I neglected my health and ended up getting sick, which caused delays in the editing process. It taught me the importance of taking care of myself and how it can ultimately affect the project.

“Communication is key.” — Filmmaking is a collaborative process, and it’s essential to communicate effectively with your cast and crew. Think about what you want to say and be clear and concise with instructions and make sure everyone is on the same page. In one shoot, we had some miscommunication about the shooting schedule, which caused some stress and delays. It taught me the importance of clear communication and how it can save time and frustration in the long run. Just make sure everyone knows what is expected and what they will receive in return.

“Build a network.” — Filmmaking is not a solitary endeavor, and it’s important to build a network of contacts and collaborators. Reach out to other filmmakers, attend festivals and events, and build relationships with industry professionals. When I was first starting out, I felt isolated and alone in the process. It wasn’t until I started working with others that I began to build connections that led to future projects.

“Be true to yourself.” — It’s important to stay true to your vision and voice as a filmmaker. Do not compromise your artistic integrity for the sake of pleasing others or conforming to industry standards. During the production of my first feature, I was pressured to do everything by the book, not to get creative, but to be more commercial, and I think it really hurt the film. It taught me the importance of being true to myself and my artistic vision, even if it’s not always the easiest path.

When you create a film, which stakeholders have the greatest impact on the artistic and cinematic choices you make? Is it the viewers, the critics, the financiers, or your own personal artistic vision? Can you share a story with us or give an example about what you mean?

As I mentioned, with my first feature, there was a lot of pressure to do what the producers and financiers thought was best. I think that really hurt the film, but it taught me a valuable lesson: I believe that my own personal artistic vision has the greatest impact on the creative choices I make in a film. While feedback from viewers, critics, and financiers can be valuable, ultimately, it’s important for me to stay true to my own vision for the project. I don’t really think about what others may like or what will make a project more commercially successful. I want to do what is best at that moment to capture the emotion of the scene.

I let the producers and finance people worry about feedback from viewers and critics, and I always try to listen to constructive criticism and take it into account for future projects. But at the end of the day, I believe it’s important to have a strong artistic vision and to stay true to that vision as much as possible.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I don’t know how great my influence is, but if I could start a movement, it would be one rooted in kindness. It is easy to get lost in the daily grind and focus solely on ourselves, but we must not forget that we are all interconnected and that our actions have a ripple effect on others.

Incorporating small acts of kindness into our daily lives can create a domino effect that can lead to a more compassionate and harmonious society. It doesn’t have to be grand gestures, but simple acts of kindness like holding the door open for someone, giving a compliment, or even just smiling at a stranger can make someone’s day and contribute to a more positive environment.

As the philosopher Lao Tzu said, “Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” By incorporating kindness into our daily lives and making it a movement, we can truly create a world that is more loving, compassionate, and harmonious for all, animals and humans alike.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

That’s tough; there are so many. Film-wise, Steven Speilberg or David Lynch. On other fronts, Richard Dawkins or Amy Mainzer — all for the same reason, I want to listen to their wisdom and guidance. Knowledge is a powerful tool.

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This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

Gene Blalock of Seraph Films: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became A Filmmaker was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.