Born in Greenwich, CT, owner and operator of DeCon Films Brian DeContreras was and raised in Apex, NC where he lives today. The son of a business consultant, Brian was raised on stories of business successes and failures and found himself enamored with the work his father did. He says he always knew he wanted to do something similar when grew up, so it was natural to have found his way into the business side of film by working in commercial projects. Brian brings a wide variety of skills to his productions, writing, producing, directing and editing, but says he is working toward narrowing his focus to writing and directing.
How long have you been a filmmaker?
I started working in the industry as a PA (Production Assistant) about 6 months out of high school. I worked as a PA for about 3 years before gaining the skills to start working in different departments. My first love was camera, for a period of time I thought I might make a run at becoming a DP (Director of Photography). I also frequently would Gaff small corporate shoots after amassing a quite effective Grip and Electric Kit. DeCon films has been producing commercials for only about 2 years although they have been a busy 2 years.
Which artists have most influenced your work?
Vincent Laforet and Kristi Jacobson. They influenced me technically and procedurally. Process and discipline is incredibly important to me, Vincent and Kristi taught me a lot about how to run your project, technically and on set.
I went to Vincent Laforet’s Directing Motion Tour when it stopped through Charlotte. The whole seminar really revolved around when, and when not, to move the camera. He masterfully dissected numerous famous movie scenes illustrating proper visual discipline for effective storytelling. I try to keep His lessons in mind on every project.
Kristi Jacobson is an incredible Documentarian that I had the pleasure of working for the last few years on her latest project which is set to release this year. From the beginning, my experience was that larger than life egos were a norm working on film, TV and Commercials. Most directors and DPs think they are some kind of gods. I remember as a young PA being discouraged not finding the magic in film I had hope there would be. Kristi and her crew turned that around for me. She is the most charismatic and respectful film maker I have ever worked with. Her care for her crew, subjects and just generally other people when making film is the best way-point for the kind of director I try to be.
How do you start a project?
Seeing as all my projects are commissioned by a client, it starts with following leads, talking to prospects, conceptualizing, pitching and then selling. Once we have an approved budget I immediately get my story boards drawn and then use those boards to make a very detailed Animatic. With my animatic done I can brief my DP, VFX super (if needed), SFX super(if needed) and 1st AD on what we will be doing. From there everything will take shape.
What’s one thing you wish you would have known before starting your filmmaking journey?
Shut up and listen.
I’m sure this is true for anything in life, but, I have finally realized after years of climbing the ladder the key to growing and getting better is to just listen to the ideas and opinions of anyone and everyone. It’s hard leaning any trade, and once you start getting the hang of it, it’s only natural to reject the opinions of those that “aren’t in the industry” or “don’t know what they are talking about”. Some of my best revelations have come from talking to people that are unaware with what I exactly do. Have a problem finishing a story? Go ask Mom, her lack of expertise to screenwriting techniques and rules will be just what you need to circumnavigate you problem.
Filmmaking, independent filmmaking in particular, can be tough. What keeps you motivated?
My addiction, the feeling of capturing shot after shot just as perfect as I had imagined is a high like none other. Every day I’m not on set, I’m working hard to get back on set.
What is the one mistake most filmmakers make, regardless of experience?
It’s hard to speak on behalf of every filmmaker but I think a pretty obvious one is budgeting. I know a lot of productions that don’t budget nearly enough for the proper crew and the don’t budget nearly enough for professional equipment. That is one huge thing I have learned, just spend the freaking money! I know this is the exact opposite route most producers take but it is important you have the crew needed and its incredibly important you have the right gear for those professionals to do the job you hired them to do. Listen to your department heads, if they say they need a piece of gear, they probably need it. Just get it! This is the reason at the end of every project I don’t make nearly as much as I should be making. It’s an investment in my company and my name. Money will come and go but you die with your name.
When inspiration is waning, when you feel creatively drained, what do you do? How do you stay fresh?
Kaitie Hendrickson is my creative partner and love of my life. She works on every project with me. She is my creative right hand woman, she thinks of everything I don’t think of, caches everything I don’t catch and fixes everything that is broken. In dark times she builds me back up so I can continue the fight. By trade she is a painter and photographer, she has a strong creative background but her lack of background in film allows her to address problems in a different way than I do.
When you think of the word “successful,” who is the first person that comes to mind and why?
My dad is the first person I think of, he came from very humble means, kicked butt in corporate America, made a great life and now owns a great business. I definitely look up to him.
Is there a time or place that you feel most creative/have the best ideas?
Talking to Kaitie, just about anywhere, but over sushi helps…
How do you balance your filmmaking life with your personal and professional lives?
I don’t have a real strategy, I have never really thought about it. But every now and again it is good to go camping and get away from it all.
You’re stuck on a deserted island with a Cineplex that only shows three movies. What would you want those movies to be and why?
I cheated here are three shows: Rick and Morty, Breaking Bad and Sherlock
What’s your favorite app/tool/web app filmmaking tool?
I would say (Adobe) After Effects, I make all my animatics in after effects and I truly believe I could not make anything with out Pre-Vis.
What book do you gift most often?
I hardly ever read but right now I’m reading Positioning by Al Ries and it is blowing my mind. Great marketing book!
What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers?
Start as a PA, work for a few years, you will never regret it no matter where you end up.
We thank Brian for sharing some excellent production and business insights. You can see some his work for clients like Campbell University on the DeCon Films Youtube Channel and on the recently redesigned www.DeConFilms.com site, so be sure to check it out.