The Rise of Shawn Downs
BY CYNDI GREENING, ARIZONA, USA – Shawn Downs, the gaffer and sometimes cinematographer on the FilmZambia projects, is completing his thesis film at the LA Film School. You can view the trailer for THE HUNTER on YouTube. It is visually compelling, a nice piece of filmmaking. Often, beginning filmmakers think the dialog is the most important part and spend all of their time shooting actors talking. (Hence the horrifying descriptor, a Talking Heads Movie. Woe the director who makes a talking heads movie.) Shawn was never confused about the fact that filmmaking was telling stories with pictures and that it is different from, well, audio books or radio. Shawn's moving pictures are moving. I like the rack shot with the arrow (a tad faster would be swell but perhaps he'll speed that up in post). The choreography of the fight sequences looks very Wong Kar Wai-ish. Lyrical. And, I do love the sound effects. That chilling sound of the blade being pulled from the scabbord is chilling at the end. Okay, I am not keen on the opening graphic and hope that doesn't make it to the final but, heck, if I had a bunch of money, I'd be having him direct something for me. Wouldn't you?
Congratulations to Shawn. Since we returned from Africa, it has been an intense year for him. He has dedicated himself to filmmaking and, like several of the other Zambia crew members, he has taken the necessary steps to make his life line up around his goals. Of course, I think the goal of visual storyelling is a noble one. Gifted filmmakers give viewers access to people and places they might never see, propel them to have thoughts about relationships or quests they might never have had, perhaps even to relax and be entertained after a gruelling week. Shawn is beginning his quest and he's making a strong first step.