As told by Jamara Forbes & Darryl Ayles to Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador
Darryl Ayles is rarely seen without Jamara Forbes and his orange hat. Put all three together and you have Orange Hat Film Productions, an independent film company based out of London, Ontario. Recent grads of Fanshawe College’s Advanced Filmmaking Program, Jamara and Darryl are working on their biggest project yet: Look What You Have Become, a novel and a mini-series and they want you to be a part of it!
What is your job?
Jamara: I currently work retail during the weekdays and on weekends I lead my second life as production manager, writer and director at Orange Hat Film Productions (OHFP).
Darryl: I am basically just working on Orange Hat business as my full-time job. So I’ve been working behind the scenes day to day, keeping everything up to date. I’m also the Director of Photography and part-time Director for our upcoming project.
What do you love about filmmaking?
Jamara: I think what I love most is the camaraderie that grows when working in small crews, independently. More recently, I have found the writing/producer role to be extremely satisfying. There is something so incredible about watching [the] characters you’ve developed literally come to life and tell your story.
Darryl: Honestly, I really think being there every step of the way, from when my idea is just a pipe dream to when I see it projected in front of a crowd, that’s the best part.
What path did you take to get where you are?
Jamara: Fresh out of high school, I applied to Music Industry Arts at Fanshawe College to pursue my love of editing/mixing music. After being waitlisted, I figured film editing would be the next best thing. I could incorporate all that I wanted to with music only with a video track on top. I fell in love with film noir, theory and filming and never looked back.
Darryl: Well, it all began back in grade 10, when I believed – as any child does – that they are destined to be the lead actor of every film ever. After discovering that I had no acting talent, I began to work behind the curtain. There, I received what I would like to call a college-level education in theatrical lighting and sound. After many years, and many friends, I decided to continue the path and apply for college. That’s when I chose Film Studies as a backup. Although my backup may not have been my first choice, it ended up being the right one. After only a few classes, I knew that I wanted to be behind the camera-- and on top of it all, that I wanted to be in charge. After completing Film Studies, I entered and completed Advanced Filmmaking, (AFM) which has been one of my biggest accomplishments to date. Finally, through a classmate, I started helping on an independent film based out of London called Theories and I was able to make a lot of connections. Not only with a lot of actors that ended up in the mini series, but with a couple producers, Mike Tyrrell and Dayna Pearce who have been a huge help as we move forward in production.
How did Orange Hat Film Productions start?
Jamara: OHFP started officially the day of last year’s Advanced Filmmaking “First Take Film Festival”…. we were no longer confined by project outlines and creative constraint from profs or peers. Our first OHFP short film was Conscious, which we filmed in three days on our own time. After AFM taught us the filmmaking formula and steps to follow, we’ve easily adapted this style to all our following projects.
What makes the two of you a great team?
Jamara: We make a great team because of the time we’ve spent learning the same material. We are able to communicate with fluidity about paperwork, production, and post-production. We speak the same language thanks to the three years we spent with wonderful Fanshawe College profs who drilled everything into our heads….
Darryl: We started dating one year before Orange Hat was established and our great communication and love for cinema just fit. Together, we tag team every process and trade off when the going gets tough.
How did you come up with the Look What You Have Become mini-series and book?
Jamara: We graduated August 26, 2014, and the first version of our script was finished September 17th. We had a blast during the last semester of school filming four short films with friends. The loss of school really gave us a kick in the pants to keep the constant flow of filmmaking going strong. After Darryl wrote the outline we each took turns writing the screenplay and three seasons later, we’re still writing and developing. Adapting the screenplay into a novel started as my side-project, but soon [it] showed more potential than we anticipated. It turned out that film—being a visual language—translated effortlessly into novel format and the voice of Shadow Sellers, [the main character] is quite a strong one.
Darryl: ….I didn’t really feel the need or urge to film anything any time soon…. About three weeks [after graduation], the urge set in and I found myself coming up with crazy concepts for storytelling…. I had developed a backwards-style story and the basic concepts of how I wanted to write, film and release it.
Why did you choose to shoot the mini-series in black and white?
Darryl: Well, it was not an easy decision by any means. I had a meeting with our producer, Mike Tyrrell a couple months before going to shoot and we talked about all the pros and cons of shooting it in black and white. Soon enough, the pros were heavily outweighing the cons, and by the end of the meeting, I was more than confident in solidifying my decision. Some of the main reasons we stuck with the choice were to save time and money, especially in post production. The camera we chose to use allows us [to create] small file sizes, making our episode turnaround time shrink dramatically. This would all not be possible working with the cinema standards of today…. Instead [we’ve] created a … project that will be perfect for viewing on anything from a mobile device to a home theatre. Above all else, I like to think, “What if we were doing this exact project ten or fifteen years ago before digital was acceptable?”… Without a big production company backing us, 35mm film (theatre standard) would not be an option, and to complete a demanding mini-series on a low budget, there would only really be one choice: 16mm, black and white [film]. I like to believe that our 16:9 1080p files are a perfect digital substitute for the size and feel of 16mm [black and white film].
What are you most excited about with Look What You Have Become and where can we see the mini-series when it’s complete?
Jamara: I’m most excited about our plan to screen all seasons in succession at London’s Hyland Cinema Theatre. I think it’s a wonderful idea and when the time finally comes, I can’t wait to sit back and watch our story come to the big screen!
Darryl: I’m honestly just most excited to receive a response—not only from the novel, but episodically, every single week and be able to pinpoint where we succeeded and where we failed in a more specific way than ever before. One risk in particular is that we are shooting everything in black and white. I’m a little nervous about how it will look from time to time, but I have faith it will turn out in the end. In addition, I’m so excited to break away from short films and music videos, because taking on a project of this size is kind of like my final test to know that I can handle the responsibility of directing a full-length film in the near future.
Jamara: When we complete this project it will be released episodically online, either on YouTube or Vimeo. I mean, the dream for us right now is Netflix, but there’s nothing wrong with dreaming big!
Darryl: ...I think that it’s a matter of people seeing this material regardless if they’re paying or not. That’s why I think the YouTube approach is the smartest for our mini-series.
Where is the mini-series being filmed and how can people get involved?
Jamara: The majority of filming will take place in London, Ontario with a few days for out of town shooting. Please, please, please get involved! Submit to us any artwork, music, graphic designs and we would be honored to feature your works in an episode or more! My main goal was to make this project a collaborative effort from all my friends, peers, associates, and neighbours. We want our story to speak to you in a familiar voice.
Darryl: If you are interested in being a camera assistant, PA, gaffer, stills photographer, or script supervisor, we could always use an extra helping hand on set. We have a great team right now but sometimes an extra hand is needed. Please email us at email@example.com. We would love to get in touch.