28 Leo Preps His Sound Equipment

My First DIT Gig on a Feature Film

Film editor Rachel Pearl, one of my past professors from LMU, recommended me to another director this summer. Rachel had gotten me the gig working with her on Courting Chaos last summer, and now this summer we had the chance to work together again. Aminah Bakeer Abdul-Jabbar was directing a feature, Muslimah, and I got my first opportunity to DIT a feature film.

First, a little information about Aminah, who I really enjoyed working with. She has a great directing style and kept the production moving efficiently while still making a point to inject lightheartedness throughout the long shoots. Her father, who came to the set a few times, is Donald Bakeer. He’s an author and much more, so if you don’t know his name you should. He wrote “South Central L.A. CRIPS” (1987), the novel that became the Oliver Stone produced and critically acclaimed film South Central and I suspect this was a factor in Aminah casting two actors from that film in Muslimah.

We have an amazing cast that includes Ebony Perry, Kareem Grimes, LaRita Shelby, Kimberly Bailey, Edward Tillman, Dion Lack, BT Kingsley and, of course, the awesome Glenn Plummer. Kareem’s first acting role was in John Singleton’s Boyz n the Hood (imagine that!) and I had a great time talking to him about working with Singleton on Boyz and again on Baby Boy.  Kareem has appeared in several features and TV shows since then, including a recurring role on The Shield. Ebony Perry, playing the lovely title character Muslimah, has done several films and just wrapped a Tommy Lee Wallace horror feature called Helliversity. Kimberly Bailey has done film and television work for years, as well as a great deal of voice work including most recently in The Call with Halle Berry and something from my childhood as the voice of the sheep in Babe. LaRita has a long list of credits in movies and on television, including the film South Central starring Glenn Plummer.

Hopefully you all know who Glenn Plummer is and if you don’t, I’m sure you know some of his performances. You may know him from his television appearances in recurring roles on Sons of Anarchy or from several seasons on ER, but it might be more likely that you know him from his film work. His film credits are too many to list, but as previously mentioned, he starred in South Central. He’s an amazingly expressive actor, and although it was a small part, I’ll always remember him as the Jaguar driver in Speed because he OWNED that scene.

As a DIT, my job is very important.  I am responsible for making sure all of the footage and audio we capture is organized and loaded on to the primary drive as well as a backup drive. This is all done on location as we’re shooting. Early on, we devised a system where one of the ACs would hand me each memory card wrapped in its camera report. The camera report is something the ACs fill out to help the editor distinguish what’s what later on. It’s my job to make sure it all gets organized, backed up, and given to the editor. I think a lot of people really dislike the monotony of DIT and assistant editing work, but I personally don’t mind it at all. Maybe that makes me well suited for post-production work and explains why I’m planning to start my career in film in the editing field.

This was an intense production that I really appreciated working on, despite some very long, hot days in the sun. I learned my lesson last summer while filming on Venice Beach — this time around, I invested in a big hat to protect me from another nasty sunburn. There are, of course, lots of other external forces that can delay or interfere with an entire production. On this picture, we had to contend with the constant interruptions of low flying airplanes because a couple of our locations were in close proximity to LAX.

While I did do some generic PA work, my more prominent role as DIT kept me away from much of the action (which explains why I didn’t take nearly as many pictures after the first day of shooting). Well, DIT kept me away from MOST of the action anyway. You see, one thing that’s relatively common with low budget indie films is utilizing the crew as extras. It’s happened to me on every feature I’ve worked on (except one, and that film consisted of only the two lead characters) and it happened on Muslimah too.

So, one morning when I arrived on set, I overheard a discussion about “the blowjob scene.” Since I hadn’t received a copy of the script, I wondered who would be receiving said blowjob. Later in the day, the AD called me over and handed me a baseball cap to put on. Turns out we were shooting “the blowjob scene” and I was to be the recipient. I can’t tell you the details, so you’ll just have to wait and see the film — assuming I don’t end up on the cutting room floor, digitally-speaking.

Now that shooting has wrapped, I helped Rachel sync the footage we captured with the external audio. Anyone who’s done this before knows how tedious and repetitive it can be, particularly in Final Cut. But again, it really doesn’t bother me. To me, it’s like the first stage of watching the movie come together in the way it will on screen. I think I agree with Steven Spielberg who once said, “I love editing. It’s one of my favorite parts about filmmaking.”

Muslimah was a fantastic project to work on thanks to a talented cast and crew! I’ll keep you updated on its progress, because it looks like it’s going to be a very funny film. In the meantime, take a peek behind the scenes of Muslimah

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