Shooting Awakening Giants in Liberia, West Africa

The fall of 2018 took me to the Motherland and gifted me with unimaginable personal insight, human connection and field experience that leaves me forever changed and more inspired than ever.

Awakening Giants is the title of an emerging new docuseries and online platform from Executive Producers Spryte Loriano and Robin Bersson of Legacy Life Productions.  I came on board as the Director of the third episode in the series following the two preceding episodes that were shot in Ecuador in San Diego.  The series enlightens, illuminates and entertains by leading young entrepreneurs and select business leaders into challenging acts of service and humanitarianism across the globe.  The cast engages the local population on multiple levels from rural communities to government officials and the lines blur between whose teaching whom.

This was my first visit to Africa and I vow, by any means necessary, to not allow it to be my last.  I felt as nervous as I was excited upon touching down in the wee hours at Lungi airport in Sierra Leone.  Only passengers not continuing on were allowed off the plane so I waited patiently and stared wide-eyed out of the window of the giant KLM airliner until we were again in the air and on route to our final destination of Monrovia, Liberia.  In the case you don’t know the sorted and direct relationship that the United States shares with LIberia here’s an article to give you a little background on our “sister-nation” and our unique relationship.  Just recently our illustrious forty fifth President Mr. Donald Trump made a play to do away with some special considerations for immigrants to the USA from Liberia since the end of a 20-plus year civil war that leaves behind it tales of child-soldiers, rape, dismemberment, terror and dismantled families and a dismantled nation.  A civil war that can be traced back directly to American influence.  Here’s another article for more on that.

The country of Liberia is visually awe-inspiring.  I was constantly bombarded, embraced and engulfed by brilliant colors, texture and contrast.  So much contrast, so much texture, so much magic.  At one point I was walking behind a line of people as we moved equipment from one location to the next and I think I received a glimpse of the power that attracts so many to this land and seduces them to a point of desire that then morphs into lust and greed.  Africa is a photographers paradise.  The land itself struck me immediately as a palate of RGB.  The Red dirt, Green land and bright Blue sky is reminiscent of our own great state of Mississippi.  Another key land  in the great Afro-American narrative.

This was my first venture with the production and I am thoroughly moved and inspired to be a part of a series that contains so much potential.  Potential to entertain, to illuminate, to inspire and to inform. At the time of writing this post the material is still waist-deep in post-production as the story and episode structure is still being determined and refined.  But I am optimistic about where this series can go and where it can take everyone involved and everyone who views it.

My tools were always at the ready during the 2.5 weeks on the ground in Liberia.  We shot the series at UHD resolution on Sony Fs7 Super 35 digital cinema cameras and a single Panasonic GH5 package courtesy of Eastside Camera Services (Los Angeles) and (Tennessee); and I enlisted my trusty Canon 5DMkIII to capture stills along the way.  The concert of digital imaging tools was a perfect combo for my small crew which included two local additions that offered great teaching and learning opportunities for both us and them.  The 5D images became the ingredients to what turned out to be my first ever full color photo book.  I’m super excited to share the photo book and the images with my inner circle, the cast and crew who were with us in Liberia and my extended circle within the film/tv community back here at home.

(L-R) David Bowsky, Sharon Turay, Jabu Msomi, Yudawhere Jacobs, Charles Little II

See the full set of portraits and street photography from LIberia, West Africa  here.

The greatest gift in life is to be alive in concert with other living beings.  Human beings, animals and plants of all sorts; all connected through our beloved mother earth.  I am excited to share this full color photo book entitled Awakening Liberia* to grace your coffee table, office foyer, creative space or personal collection.

*All books are made to order.  Please allow 15 days for delivery to US and Canada (UK, Africa, Australia or other locations may incur longer shipping times).

"Going Off" at RadicalMedia™

So, after a pointed referral, a bit of email-campaigning and a healthy portion of sincere desire; I find myself in the cutting room at RadicalMedia.

I’ve had my crosshairs set on collaborating with the folks at RadicalMedia since first taking in their Iconoclasts series for the Sundance network way back in 2007.  Sure they’re a commercial house but its been their cache-rich mini docs, television series and music-driven content thats attracted me to their brand.  But what’s even more fitting for me about RadicalMedia as a production company is their ability to create across any platform, any genre, any medium; and that is a practice to which I most definitely subscribe. The combination of  the ocean-cooled weather, the company-sponsored lunch on Friday, the harmonious coexistence of Media Composer and Premiere Pro NLEs and the uber-cool and uber-talented pool of producers, editors and executives with whom I worked and played each day really inspired me to give myself  wholly and enthusiastically to the process of cutting this show; which after all is why I get up every morning — to do what I love! I was confident from the initial contact with the project’s Exec Producer, Dave Sirulnick and Show Runner, Lindsay Panell that this would be a unique opportunity to really express myself in the editor’s chair on a reality…oops, I mean, an unscripted series.  The characteristics that really made an impact on me directly were the ample amount of autonomy allowing editors and producers to discover and shape the material, realistic delivery expectations and the entire post crew was committed to sharing ideas, approaches to challenges, supporting one another and each editor owned their respective episodes; allowing each episode’s individual identity to express whilst still serving the series common theme.   That’s really cool in this day and age in my humble opinion.

Salute to the entire #GoingOff post team including (Editors) Ted Woerner, Jesse Overman, Joel Marcus, Charles Little II, Jeremy Lusk, Ravi Subramanian, Eric Freidenberg, Kevin Lavelle, Julie Drazen, Patrick Perez and Taylor Alexander Ward (story producers) Claire Degrass, Jamie Hardesty and Lauren Schwartz (Post Supervisor) Gabriel Savo (Assitant Editors) Dennis Castello and Ryan Isbell (Associate Producer) Arly Montes and (Post Coordinator)  Maru Buendia. Let me not forget the comfortable and meticulously maintained production facility that I occupied for almost 3 months – The Digital Difference I simply cannot thank nor recommend Kevin Hearst and his team highly enough! It was an added bonus to get to chop it up a bit with Tricia Miranda herself.  She knows her world, her brand, her students and she was on it when it came to making sure the show content was true to all of the above.  Thank you Claire Degrass for snapping these pics!

A few Tricia Miranda-isms that you'll be stuck repeating after watching this show: "Live Your Life", "Whoom", "Boomziggywhaat", "That's Major", "Say It", and of course "Lies".

(L) Charles Little II (R) Tricia Miranda

VRLX Magazine - Welcome [Back] To Chicago!

You ever come into contact with a group of people and you just kinda…well, “dig ’em” straight away? Yeah, well that’s what happened when jet-setting-wine-whisky-and-ready Freddie Baez dropped by my pad with Eva, Sofia and Danielle of Verluxe.

I think I just respond to where they are as emerging artists; as they remind me of similar moments in my own creative and professional journey. Creativity is just extra special when it’s raw, uninhibited and authentic, which is what I love about Verluxe.

I know what it means to be an innovative young Chicagoan, as I left my own indelible impression on the world from the streets of Chicago in the 1990s.  From Wicker to Rogers Park from Cal City to The Heights and the west side to the wild hundreds.  The Verluxe ladies are out there doing them…and it’s all jammed into this mag to see.  It’s basically like a big Verluxe brochure, LOL!   I love the double page spread of chicago rappers shooting music videos in front of Harold’s Chicken. There’s a sort-of old-school, or better yet, true-school feel to the imagery in this zine.   It’s refreshing to see Chicago portrayed in this light versus what had seemingly become the norm during the Chief Keef age; which I do hope has run it’s course.

These dope little “slice-o-life-collages” in the Photo Diary section, are great little pieces of where the VRLX crew has been, the paths they’ve crossed and the dots they’ve connected along the way (yes, I peeped the sliver from my back patio…word ladies!).  But yo, the real word that I gotta use when I talk about VRLX magazine is: REFRESHING. Refreshing and diverse; and oh how diverse it is.  Black, white, gay, weird, alien, hip, geek, skinny, sexy and artsy-fartsy.  Chicago is such a unique city, with it’s own vernacular, swagger, history and style; and VRLX mag is all up in it!

The articles are on interesting people and just brief enough to keep it moving but still be insightful.

The writing, styling and imaging is constantly evolving yet stays true to itself; and there’s no fluff or gratuitous bullshit to be found in any corner.  Hell, even Paris Hilton is quoted in an editorial piece, and it’s intelligent!  Shit ladies, mad respect!  Mad love to mi hermano boric Freddie Baez, I need to get my fam Yung Swerv Divine in front of a Verluxe camera as soon as is humanly possible!  Keep blazing your own path ladies.  Chicago loves you for it.

You’re welcomed.

Flatline x James Benton x Joan Holly Padeo

Flatline is my second collaboration with R&B sensation James Benton

and my first experience with dancer/choreographer Joan Holly Padeo (courtesy of the incomparable Robin Aren, thank you Robin!). JB and I have been working together since 2012 re-imagining his brand and his music through the medium of moving pictures & synchronized sound. We went at this one with a little less pre-production and decided to allow space for the viewers’ imagination to accompany the story while it unfolds. The motivation was to explore the territory of passive-aggressive communication, which seems to take place between humans more often than we care to admit. Often times our mind is saying one thing whilst the words from our mouths are telling a different story; but always with just enough of the truth woven between the lines. I intended to keep this video clean and simple and actually wanted it to rely more heavily on longer takes, but it IS a music video after all. The electrocardiogram add-on was the go-to visual effect; but just how to implement it was the question.

After a bit of trial and effort I came up with a visual effect that I felt was subtle enough yet impactful enough to do the job.

JB and Joan meet at a familiar place and share a two-sided dialogue that’s completely unspoken as JB plays the standard role in R&B as the consummate lady-killer. LOL. I for one am looking forward to more songs about LOVE and less about SEX! Stay tuned for more from JB and I as I think we have one more single to get out before JB begins collaborating with other filmmakers and photographers as he continues to cultivate and develop his brand and his career. You can keep up with JB via following his moniker #jbnext1. In the words of a dearly departed soldier: “Love is all we need”.  Watch the video HERE.

Under The Electric Sky (3D Documentary)

Tonight I just completed a 3-week editing stint working on the trailer for a new 3D documentary film entitled: “Under The Electric Sky”;

from Producers: Insomniac Events, Haven Entertainment and Magical Elves, Inc. This is my third project with Magical Elves’ Directors Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz this year; and I’m definitely a fan of the projects that they curate and their first rate facility, which is home to a brand spanking new ISIS media server. In the words of my favorite Pet Detective: “Mmmmmm, Like A Glove!”

The film was shot with an array of digital cinema cameras including the Sony F5, F55 and F65 3D rigs; along with Canon DSLRs the C300 and 5D. I wasn’t on hand for the shoot, but judging from the beautiful images I’ve been swimming in as of late, I’d be very interested to see what particular lenses the camera bodies were outfitted with. I’ll refrain from making any idle assumptions here. The over-cranked frame rates gave a beautiful density and “weight” to the imagery; as well as great color and latitude! From ariel to timelapse to handheld cinematography, there’s no shortage of stunning eye candy and visceral techno, house, hard house, tech house, trance, dubstep, drum n bass, oh and yes, ravers galore to keep you thoroughly on the hook once this film takes a hold of you. Avid Media Composer 6.5.x is the editing environment that’s played host to a team of editors working tirelessly in 2D and 3D since principle photography wrapped last month; following the immensely successful 2013 installment of the annual Electric Daisy Carnival. Many thanks to the incredible team of Magical Elves producers, editors and assistants with whom I collaborated through the month of July.  I’m off to a bit of traveling while the summer is still in fill swing and then on to more series work. I’ll be excited to see the film once it makes its way to the big screen.

Singha Transportraits Wins A Telly

Gertrude Inc. kicked off their Singha Transportraits campaign in Los Angeles and featured world-renowned visual artist Retna.

At the behest of Gertrude, Inc. Co-founder, Creative Director and Head-Ninja-In-Charge: Otis Gibson, I caught up with Retna to get inside his interpretation of Singha’s Mythical Lion and the origins of his own unique form of artistic expression in this docu-short which received a bronze telly at the 33rd Annual Telly Awards.  Learn more at 

Shooting Nude

Okay, sooo if you think I had a blast pointing my camera at a trio of beautiful women with no clothes on while basking in wrapping soft light…yep, you guessed right!

Chicago-based R&B traditionalist James Benton is one of my favorite young soul slingers these days.  Okay, let’s be honest, he’s also my first cousin.  I’ve known James his entire life and it was a complete honor to begin the process of merging our individual mainstay expressions into a single cohesive piece. James and I went around the concept for a while because we didn’t want to simply just “try and shoot some naked sex-shit”.  I mean, the song is what it is…but it’s not about sex as much as it is about worshiping the perfection of the female form.  Our mothers, daughters friends and foes.  The female form has the power to crumble kingdoms or to inspire a hero.  It’s with this sort of mindset that we approached shooting NUDE.  The models who played alongside JB in the piece, granted after some convincing and detailed pre-visualization, were completely present and really embodied the sentiment that we were after.  Even the Gods played along and delivered an overcast afternoon complete with a modest amount of rain.  Just enough to help this piece illustrate the lyrics in this tune that much more effectively. We had a wonderful time on set led by Master Cinematographer Pete Biagi and Producer Eric Almond transforming JB’s tiny apartment into a sound stage for the day.  Enjoy the video here as well as the imagery and cover art all derived from footage shot on the day.  It’s exchanges like this that solidify my understanding of my “greatest gift” and the blessing it is to be able to give it.  Check out the behind the scenes video for a more visceral account of the process of Shooting Nude.

Director: Charles Little II
Producer: Eric Almond
Dir. of Photo: Pete Biagi

Behind The Scenes Video by: Nick Brazinsky

Additional Content

Shot on Canon 7D w Nikkor 35mm f/1.2 AI-S
Cover art from the forthcoming EP: Love Sex & Parties

Is The Housekeeper Here Yet?

Not every thought makes the journey from page to screen; and such was the case with this deleted scene from King Fantastic’s Why Where What video.

Intended to set up the story for the viewer, the scene does a great job of introducing our stereotypical L.A. power couple and streetwise protagonist; but, at the end of the day, KF just wasn’t convinced that viewers were interested in listening to all that talking. We really couldn’t argue. Starring Kristina Rose, Woody Thompson, and Amy Williams.

"Peace" Music Video Wins Best Editing Award

Today marked my first public accolade in the filmmaking world as well as a union of great potential as The Luminaries’ music video entitled: “PEACE” was honored with the Elevate Film Festival’s Best Editing Award.

The festival is the world’s largest single-screen film festival and challenges filmmakers to produce, shoot, post and deliver a completed film project in just 7 days, while each film’s premise is devoted to subject matter which is enlightening and beneficial to the planet and mankind.  The festival is executive produced by Daryll Merchant and Mikki Willis of Elevate Films.  The Luminaries’ “PEACE” video was Directed by Justin Thomas Ostensen, photographed by Director of Photography Gabriel J. Lewis and Produced by Aaron Krinsky and Marc Salomon.

Elevate Film Festival Best Editing Award Winner