“How taken aback was I? I think my first words were: ‘Well, shit.’”
When Carey Head’s directorial debut, Clocking Out, won the grand prize at the 2015 48-Hour Film Festival, he and his team were stunned.
No one reacted for several seconds. The stage remained empty, the announcer holding out the trophy, waiting for the winner to collect their prize. After all, this was Carey’s first film. He and his team, titled “The Queen’s Miscreants”, had just beat out a number of experienced filmmakers; how?
“One of my favorite things about Clocking Out is the simplicity with which it tells a basic tale: it’s a story about a man struggling to maintain his inner joy in the most mundane of circumstances (work), until he is free to find his own happiness at the end of the day.”
The story of this short film is definitely one to which many can relate. And Carey Head is no exception.
Who Needs Employability, Anyway?
Carey’s always been a storyteller. As a teen, he and his cousin would make “simultaneously terrible and incredible” short films with his grandfather’s VHS Camcorder. “I think we created ‘Sweded’ versions of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Rambo twenty years before Be Kind Rewind came out. Sadly, the movies were taped over by my mom in favor of Remington Steele.”
In college, Carey continued to grow creatively, becoming involved in theater acting, directing, and stage production. Then, the journey came to a halt. For twenty-three years, Carey found himself working in I.T., the result of an all-too-familiar need to “be employable”.
“I felt incredibly stifled during the nine to five days. I still had ideas and a strong desire to create, but felt stymied. My love has always been for the collaborative and comedic, and it was impossible to get anyone to join my madness.”
On his fortieth birthday, Carey made a bucket list for the year, which he titled, “the Four-Oh Project.” As a result, he took a beginner improv class in April of 2013 with Charlotte Comedy Theater (CCT).
Screw It, We’ll Improvise!
By the fall of 2013, Carey was performing improv as often as possible. He was inspired to return to the creative fields he had studied in college. But now, he had two more decades of life experience behind him, as well as the skill set he picked up at CCT.
From improv, he’s learned “to be less critical and concerned about where things are going”.
“I didn’t write for years and years because I hated my first drafts. What I know now from having created countless stories on the stage is that, no matter where you are in the story right now, there is always an opportunity to find an interesting character, relationship, or story arc.”
From Stage to Page to Screen
In the audience of the 2014 48-Hour Film Festival, Carey remarked to his wife that, “too many [of the films] seemed to give the story the short shrift”.
“I felt the improv theater folks could do a good job at the competition, since we were experienced with creating great stories on the fly.”
However, Carey never really intended to sign up. “After all, I didn’t know anything about filmmaking, and I’ve always struggled with doing anything where I might end up looking foolish or incompetent.”
Motivation came from an unlikely source; Amy Poehler’s book, Yes, Please, inspired him to take a chance. Within the first 24 hours of declaring his intention to enter the festival on Facebook, Carey had fifteen people from CCT volunteer to join him.
“The Queen’s Miscreants” is a team of improvisers with an improviser as its lead, so they do what they do best.
Their process? “We got the team together and used improv skills to quickly run through and build off of different ideas until we came up with a concept we liked. It literally is a group effort.”
Carey’s a fan of character-driven stories, so that is where he always begins: with the character. “I get a strong sense of my main character and his relationship to the environment, and then let things play out as they will.” It’s an approach he regularly hones on the CCT stage.
Since winning the 48-Hour Film Festival, Clocking Out has screened at a number of festivals in Georgia and North Carolina.
“Going to these festivals has reinforced my perception of independent filmmakers as an incredibly supportive and exciting group of people to be around.”
Between festivals, Carey and “The Queen’s Miscreants” have been busy. For the One Hundred Words Film Festival, the team created BRB, a short horror film. After that, Carey was independently chosen to direct the web series, Dick Kelly (coming soon!)
But what lies aHead?
“I could think of any number of career goals for myself at this point: show runner, full-time director, etc. I think, however, that I prefer to just follow my passion for creating the best stories I can right now and see where my own story takes me.”
Carey’s advice to fellow would-be creatives?
“Each moment is the beginning of the next chapter. It doesn’t matter how long you waited to get started, that you didn’t go to film school, etc. It all starts when you prioritize your craft and start creating and sharing.”
All this just goes to prove, this Head is full of great advice (Puns. Sorry I’m not sorry).