A Director’s Responsibility – “Mad Love” by Louis Mayo

December 2nd, 2017
A Director's Responsibility – "Mad Love" by Louis Mayo

My name is Louis Mayo, and I’m from Escondido, California. I’ve been able to craft a career creating diverse content for an equally diverse clientele keeping my dream of storytelling alive.

Name: Louis Mayo.

Currently based in: Los Angeles, CA.

Language(s) spoken: English.

Occupation: Director.

How did you get started in our industry? I moved to LA for college with only my savings and not knowing a single soul. During the UCLA Producing Program, I landed a pretty cool internship with Legacy Entertainment where I directed my first commercial with actor Eric Roberts (Julia Robert’s brother and actor in The Dark Knight). I even got to film a celebrity yacht party! That turned into many opportunities of filming red carpets and extending my network. I met a few people around town who also were into film (surprise), so I started creating short films for little contests here and there and even won a small prize from American Airlines!

Since my savings was running out quickly, I got a job at a local production company immediately after completing the Producing Program. Working there for about 6 months, I had to quit before the poisonous environment and culture of deceit, obsession over power, and immoral behavior set in. As you can imagine, quitting the job put me in a financial predicament and I was running out of money fast, but failure wasn’t an option. Putting my ego aside, I decided to apply for part time jobs at the local malls for very little pay. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough hours to pay the bills, so I decided to throw in the towel and move back home to Escondido by the end of the month. With the little money that I had left I decided to pay for a retreat at my local church. It was the best $40 I’ve ever spent! I came back recharged and ready to accept the departure from my Los Angeles dream and then a miracle happened… I got a phone call for my first paid gig! That was in November of 2011, and I’ve been working in the industry every since. Oh and yes I still live in Los Angeles!

Current assignments: Oh boy… Currently, I am in pre-production for 4 music videos, producing premium content for Crunch Fitness, filming a Live award show, on call for Playboy’s film department, and am in post-production for 3 videos that I filmed prior.

What types of productions do you mostly shoot? I operate under my production company Viewbility creating content in many different genres for a diverse clientele. My portfolio is as diverse as it gets and I like that.

What is your dream assignment/job in our industry, and what are you really passionate about?  With today’s constant news of hate and violence, I truly believe it is a perfect time for filmmakers like myself to make a positive change. Today, fame, fortune, excess, and violence rule the media and are used just for the sake of entertainment. I don’t think any of these anecdotes of storytelling are inherently wrong, but the majority of the media’s execution of these attributes are empty and do not allow the audience to really understand the repercussions of such vices. And that is irresponsible. 

I believe motion pictures have an unmatched ability to influence the masses and the director has a responsibility to use that power for the greater good. I envision the trajectory of my directing career will continue to gain momentum as a turnkey filmmaker creating thought-provoking Hollywood-quality films with other like-minded storytellers, studios, and brands. Just like today, each project no matter how big or small gets seen by the right people, other challenging opportunities emerge, and the process repeats. This trajectory has proven to be quite valuable as it has allowed me to create stories for many different perspectives, giving me a wide range of skill sets rather than being put in a box to choose one genre to specialize in.    

In the work that you are presenting us, now that it is done, what would you have done differently throughout the production? It’s hard to decide what I would do differently with Mad Love now that is finished and released to the world. The process was very organic, rich in passion and fulfilling, so I find it hard to imagine wanting the process to be any different than it was. I guess the easiest answer would be more crew and two locations. But like I said: the process – although daunting and intimidating – was very rewarding to warrant any change or modifications.

What current camera, lenses and sound equipment do you use? That’s a tough question to answer! I have many different production gear to fit the story or tasks at hand. For cameras, I currently own the Blackmagic Ursa Mini Pro, Blackmagic Ursa Mini 4.6K, Blackmagic Ursa V2, Kinefinity Kinemax 6K, Panasonic GH5, and Sony A7s (with Atomos Shogun). For lenses, I own the Sigma Art 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, 18-35mm, 50-100mm, and Tokina 11-16mm. For audio, I have the Tascam 680 MkII, Sennheiser ME66 with K6 Modulator, Sennheiser G3 Lavelier Kit, and Rode Wireless Filmmaker Kit.

For Mad Love I chose to film with my Blackmagic Ursa Mini Pro using my Sigma Art 18-35mm and 50-100mm lenses, Easyrig Minimax for handheld, Atomos Shogun for monitoring, and a Benro H10 tripod.

You chose to shoot your project with a Blackmagic Ursa Mini Pro. Can you please describe why you chose to use it, what was your workflow, were you happy with the results and will you ever go that way again? I chose to use my Blackmagic Ursa Mini Pro over my other cameras for its relatively small size and weight, 15 stops of dynamic range, 4.6K in 4:1 Raw, and clean high frame rates without line skipping.

As far as workflow on set, I film to CFast 2.0 cards and transfer the first batch of dailies onto SSDs in my system and then to an external drive to ensure that the media is offloaded and immediately ready to be re-used. Fortunately, my laptop has two MSata ports and two SATA ports, so I am able to have four SSDS internally while still maintaining a somewhat slim build similar to the pre-Retina Macbook Pro thickness. My laptop also has an Nvidia GeForce 980M graphics card with 8GB of Vram so I can play back and color dailies in real time to make sure everything is looking good right on set.

I used the DaVinci Resolve clone tool to archive dailies on set, edit, sound mix, color, and render. Being able to keep the entire post production workflow in one software is fantastic – round tripping is a whole job in itself and skipping that lengthy step saved me so much time and headache especially with the overcranked cuts. Fortunately, I was in post-production during the time DaVinci Resolve 14 was released, so I was able to use the new Fairlight audio tools which really helped optimize my sound design and efficiency. I would definitely use this workflow again and have been using DaVinci Resolve for post-production for a few years now.

What’s your favorite light equipment and why did you choose that kit over other solutions? I used three of my Westcott Skylux as key for interiors, and four of my Aputure LS1s as key for exteriors and set lighting. I chose the Skylux as my interior key lighting due to its mono light form factor which allows it to be softened and controlled better than the panel form factor of the Aputure LS1s. I also really like how the Ursa Mini Pro translates the Westcott Skylux’s color rendition. The Aputure LS1s was also very crucial to our lighting setup because I not only used them to compliment the Skylux’s by filling in sections of the set, but used it as key lights for our exteriors thanks to its battery operation and raw power. I even used them to shoot through a garage window for both day and night scenes, as it is that strong and versatile. I must say my favorite light right now is my newly-purchased Rayzr 7 300D. It is a 300watt LED Fresnel light that can flood the set or shoot from a mile away while still letting you plug in more lights into the same circuit. It has a 98 TLCI color rating and can dim all the way down to 1%, a feature that is oftentimes overlooked but can be a real time saver when you want one fixture that can do it all.

Do you use drones or gimbals in your productions? If so, what is the most effective way you’ve found to deploy them? It’s funny that you asked – I’ve owned a DJI Ronin MX for almost a year now with the ring grip, dual batteries, thumb controller, and custom case, yet I still choose to fly my Glidecam 2000 with Panasonic GH5 w/V-Log. Very often on set, time is scarce, and the Ronin MX involves batteries and software to worry about in addition to rigging and balancing it. With my Glidecam, I just pull it out of my bag already built and balance it in a few seconds without worrying about software calibration or whether my batteries are charged. Plus, the many years of experience perfecting my technique and the better z-axis control make the Glidecam a better choice for me. Now that I have purchased feet for my grip ring and saw that Ikan and DJI have thumbwheel focus systems, I just may start using my Ronin MX more, but I still have to figure out a simple and efficient solution for that Z-Axis…

I do own a drone: a 3DR Solo with a GoPro Hero 4 Black with modified lens to remove the fisheye distortion. I love the smart functions of the 3DR Solo, which allow me to execute very complicated shots in repetition. However, there are caveats to this drone like its inconsistent gimbal, unstable float and lack of the kind of safety features found on DJI’s newest offerings.

What editing systems do you use? For editing at my studio (bedroom), I use my custom-built PC. This might be nerdy, but may be helpful for those looking to build their own. The system consists of an Intel 5960X 8-Core CPU, three AMD Radeon Fury X GPUs (not in crossfire), six SSDs in 3 separate RAID-0 arrays (Media 1, Media 2, and Scratch), two 7,200RPM HDDs in 8TB and 3TB for redundant archiving and plug-ins. My CPU and GPUs are all watercooled for obvious reasons. Fortunately, DaVinci Resolve utilizes every piece of gear that I have to its maximum potential.

How much of your work do you shoot in Log and what is your preferred way of colour correcting? I shoot just about everything in Log. I’ve been coloring for quite a few years now and I feel more comfortable knowing that I have more flexibility and control over the final aesthetic of my images. As far as color correcting, I try to categorize adjustments in separate nodes so that it is not only cleaner, but also allows me to easily fine-tune each correction. I prefer not to use LUTs as I haven’t found any that gives me a near-finished look. I figured I’d be able to color the footage on my own from scratch in the same amount of time it would take me to adjust a LUT to my taste. Every film requires a different look of course, but if I had to pinpoint my style I’d say I try to keep my color grading subtle, where the images look like a more tasty reality rather than a heavily-colorized image. There are definitely times for thick color grades, but I haven’t been in too many situations where the story called for it, so it seems I have developed somewhat of a look with my films.

How frequently do you travel, and do you have any tips when it comes to packing your gear? I’ve actually traveled more this year than probably any other year combined! The best tip I can give to anyone flying with gear is to keep all of your camera gear with you at all times. DO NOT check in your camera gear! The last straw was 2 years ago when I checked in my 2-camera package (A7s and GH4) in a Pelican 1510. Once I got to my destination, I saw that not only had the very tough Pelican 1510 received a huge blemish, but also the EVF cushion on the a7s cushion came off the camera, and the lens cap of my Sigma Art 18-35mm had dislodged into the lens element, bending my step-up ring in the process. Never again.

What I recommend is to build a camera package that can fit in a carry-on sized case – preferably a hard case. For example, my Pelican 1510 can fit my Ursa Mini Pro (with top, side, and V-mount plate attached), top handle, lens support, 15mm rod adapter with rods, Sigma Art 18-35mm, Sigma Art 50-100mm, Tokina 11-16mm, two V-Mount Chargers, a Pelican C-Fast case holding up to six cards, three V-Mount Slim Batteries, a regular-sized V-mount battery and a small bag of miscellaneous gear. For my Kinefinity Kinemax, I just got a carry-on sized case from SKB that has an included soft case inside it, so that I can remove it if an airline insists that I check-in the hard case.

The way I look at it, if all the gear I checked in gets lost or damaged I can at least still capture an image. It wouldn’t be an ideal situation, but still gives me a fighting chance to deliver a product versus not having a tool to capture an image at all.

If you want to see more work from Louis Mayo, head over to www.Viewbility.com, or check out his YouTube channel.

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