We had the good fortune of connecting with Thorn Daniels and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Thorn, do you have any habits that you feel contribute to your effectiveness?Jean Luc Godard once said “everything is cinema”.
A year and a half ago, I made the life change decision to sober. I was an alcoholic and a drug addict. When I look back on it, I’m surprised I was able to create. I think it was true my own unhappiness that drove me to use. Rather than the excuse, I’d say, I work so hard on projects I need to blow off steam. Junkies will always come up with excuses, and I was no different. My old routines when it came to my creative process were a cylce of self-destruction. My work is extremely personal, and I believed I had to stay in a dark place to create, thinking completing the next project would make me happy or fill some hole I have in me. I’d start by smoking weed, then maybe some Adderal or coke to get me into an almost manic creative state. If I got anything done, it was usually a jumbled, incoherent mess id have to re-write so many times I probably wasted time just getting the structure when I should be working on tightening dialogue and the other elements of my scripts. Slowly but surely, I was starting to slip, and I saw it. Filmmaking is everything to me; it’s my whole world the only thing I want to do or even feel qualified to do, and due to my addiction. I knew I was never going to reach my goals if I didn’t get my shit together. Being hungover all the time or coming off a weekend coke binge, my creative process felt like pulling teeth. Now being sober, I always describe my creativity as a muscle that I can rely on every day to use, rather than my old process that would come in flashes and burst. During quarantine, I learned what worked for me. Routine, working at something every day. First, it starts with working out in the morning; I’ve found my brain is almost charged up and able to flow freely in my thoughts. Next is a cup of strong coffee, usually Cuban, because what kind of Miamian would I be if I drank anything else. Then comes the work every day. Some days are better than the rest; not every day I’m going to be able to write or edit anything decent, maybe a page or a 30-second clip. But unlike my old life in the deep dark hole of addiction, I’m able to get things done, think clearly, and actually follow through with things.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I started out in a career in journalism. I liked doing video work but I was never confident in myself to actually go for it. In my undergrad program, I won, what was called a correspondent scholarship where I went to japan to follow a study abroad group, and shoot a mini-documentary. As a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain, I jumped at this opportunity. Sometimes I think it’s important to get out of your element to really take stock in your life and realize where you want to go. Japan was a life-changing trip because I never looked at the world the same again, and I realized I wasn’t happy. I was completing a degree in a program disliked. I was in a relationship that was going nowhere and I knew journalism wasn’t exactly booming or steady work. I mean neither is film to be fair but remember you are on my side here so just go with it. People always say you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. It’s a cheesy overheard line, but it’s true. Nobody got anywhere by playing it safe. So when I got back from Japan in January, broke up with my girlfriend, and applied to get a master’s in film in Miami at the New York Film Academy. It was a busy first week back I’ll say that. I was never a film nerd, I was just somebody who enjoyed the film. I’ve found in the film world, the question of what movies have you seen, knowledge of the minute details is really just a dick measuring contest. It was intimidating going to the school where others have been watching and making movies since they were kids, and here I was in my mid 20’s jumping into something. But I dove into it because this was what I wanted to do. I will always recommend the New York Film Academy over traditional film programs at university because the matter of fact is instead of focusing on the academics you learn by doing. The first semester was intense basically learning from scratch all the elements of filmmaking, it was challenging also due to the intensity, which weeds out the ones who don’t really want it, and I was not going to be the person that quiet because things got hard. I also found I loved the pain of it. I became addicted to the sleep deprivation, long days on your feet, shitty set food, and having no life outside of what you were doing. I love every aching minute of it, but most of us filmmakers are psychopaths like that. One of the few academic classes I enjoyed was a sort of film history, taught by Dr. Woods. We learned about the beginning of filmmaking, from the silent films to the big-budget films of today. I soaked it all in. I was influenced by the early filmmakers like Jean Luc Godard and the others in the french new wave movement because not only were they firm in what they wanted to do with their films, not going with what was seen as “marketable ” but the fact they made amazing things on a shoestring budget. A lesson every student filmmaker should take to heart. I took these elements to what I was doing in film school, to today when creating my art. I’m an all-around stubborn person when it comes to creating something, it can bite me in the ass sure, but I know when i look at what others are doing and run in the opposite direction and be true and authentic to who you are, what you would want to watch. Then it creates a more genuine film. You need to have to confidence to say “fuck what other people think” Having amazing people to work with who understand what you want and are willing to work with you on it is very important too. Julia Basques, owner of Baskoir films is somebody who I work with so often because she has a magical ability to take my jumbled mess of a thought pattern and translate it into something that people can understand. Not only is she my producer and cinematographer, but she’s a close personal friend who I can rely on to be vulnerable enough to open my guts up and put them on the table to create the most authentic work for myself. Everything in my life has influenced my work Putting things in my films that some people would be pissed I put out there on blast. Failed relationships, my own early childhood trauma, my battles with addiction, and mental health. all are themes in my work because it’s what I feel is right. I know if I keep to what I know and do what I want to do, I might not always succeed but I stayed authentic to who I am not only as a person but as a filmmaker Then nobody can tell me I shouldn’t do what I want to do with my art.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Miami is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It’s America’s Casablanca, a city that feels on the edge of the world, people seem to just wash up there, escaping whatever troubles they had before. Exiles, gangsters, celebrities, and just people who want to start a new life seem to be attracted to Miami, and I was no different. South Beach was my first home in Miami, and it’s a neighborhood I’ll always love. It’s weird, it’s a weird place to live, you’ll see Hassidic jews and men in speedos and roller skates standing next to each other on the street. It’s like the matrix is broken, when I look back on it know that it was a place that gave me an endless source of inspiration. Between the architecture or the fact you need a little Spanish to survive, Miami on a whole isn’t white bread like the rest of the country and that’s what I love. The fact is there are so many different cultures that have a strong presence in the city that give Miami its unique flavor, and the food reflects that. From Versaille in Little Havanna to Chef Creole in Little Haiti, living in Miami exposes you to so many cultures and people it changes your world view. A lot of people think Miami is all club douchebags and superficial showing off, it is, but If you scratch the surface a little you’ll realize that theirs so much more. A city with a heart and a culture unlike anywhere else in the US
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Instagram: @thorndaniels @filmsbythorn
Other: Check out my latest upcoming film, “hi8” and a music video short film film “Honey” with music by Artemis Orion