TV One’s July movie offering is “Bad Dad Rehab” which premiered last weekend to great reviews and fantastic audience response. Directed by Carl Seaton, the film breaks stereotypes more commonly associated with black men in the media, instead portraying them as multi-dimensional men, flawed, imperfect yet human and decent, with the desire to be better.
Written by Keronda McKnight, who won the 2015 TV One Screenplay Competition, the film was based on her own experiences as the single mother of the 19 year old daughter, and her relationship with her daughter’s father.
After directing his first feature film “One Week,” Seaton has continued to direct independent films and TV shows, but “Bad Dad Rehab” represents his biggest opportunity in filmmaking to date. We recently spoke to Carl about the making of the film, why he was drawn to the project, presenting different views of black men and how he prepared for the tight production schedule for the film.
Sergio: So let’s start off with an easy one, how was your experience directing “Bad Dad Rehab”?
Seaton: It was an awesome, awesome experience. I couldn’t ask for a better filmmaking experience. “One Week” was my first experience and by that I mean we were running on pure adrenaline. The adrenaline was there, but the know-how and the craftsmanship wasn’t there, as well as the financial resources to make what we wanted to make. But we wanted to get it done; so to have that opportunity again it was great.
Sergio: One of the first things I immediately notice in “Bad Dad Rehab” is your growing confidence as a filmmaker. You’ve been in the game for a long time since your first film “One Week”, so do you feel you’re more confident, more assured as a director?
Seaton: Absolutely! I mean like even though we have had various degrees of success I was able to look at it and say: “Wow, there’s a lot I need to learn in terms on the craft of filmmaking”. I just can’t rely on a great concept and a great script to tell a great story. So it was still a learning process. So I had to go back to the lab to keep bettering myself as a filmmaker. I wasn’t going to be content with, “Well I did this and I did that.” The goal is to get better and improve my storytelling skills. And I still consider myself a student in terms of the craft of telling better stories and telling them in a better way. So there was a much better degree of confidence than I had in my previous work.
Sergio: So you’re a stronger director when dealing with actors – especially since all the performance in the film are excellent. There’s not a weak performance in the bunch.
Seaton: Well you know, man, it’s two things – learning to talk to the actors and getting to the point faster and second, a lot of it is casting. Casting is more than half the battle. When you cast very talented people, it makes your job easier and you can come to a level of understanding a lot faster, and to make sure there’s a level of authenticity. And I told my actors that my job wasn’t just to protect the integrity of the story, but also the integrity of their performances. So I was always looking out for anything that could come off as fake, false or not real. I’m really big on that because I love to hear those things – that there wasn’t anything weak about the performances. That’s what I really pay attention to closely. I was definitely mindful of that.
Sergio: But what was it about the script and the premise that attracted you to it?
Seaton: I had never seen it before. But let me say this: I know that the title could be a little off putting. I know because of the title some people will say: “Oh no it’s going to be one of those films bashing black men.” But when you look at it, it tells you a different side; a different perspective of fatherhood, of black men, and getting in touch with their vulnerabilities. So that’s what really appealed to me. That you could tell this story and show these black men in a way that hadn’t been seen before, that will also provoke a lot of discussion.
I look back at how my first film “One Week” would just play, but there would also be a lot of discussion by people who saw it and people would interact with each other and share different things and would have testimonials. So the way it affected me in that regard, I felt that this film would have the same effect on people. It would provoke people to talk about their relationships with their children, their parents, wives, ex-wives and to hopefully improve relationships overall.
Sergio: I’m glad you bought that up because for people who haven’t seen “Bad Dad Rehab”, it’s definitely no black man bashing film. The film takes its time to establish each character giving them depth and an understanding as to why they are in the situation that they’re in, and that they choose to change.
Seaton: I don’t have children, but I have a father and a brother who has children and I have friends who have children. So I did a lot of research and talked to a lot of men, really getting their viewpoints on their relationships with their parents and their kids. And in doing that, you start to get an idea of the level of vulnerability that a lot of men process, but not necessarily know how to express. And also looking at how society treats men of color and how we are forced to suppress our emotions, our vulnerabilities, so that when we do express ourselves, there is a degree of emasculation. So I wanted to tell a story where a man could express himself, show his feelings without being emasculated.
That was really important to me; that was one of my big objectives. To tell a story about men of color in an authentic way, and to see that they can be vulnerable, that they can show their sensitivities without being emasculated. I really wanted to focus on that. And since you have four different men where no man is like the other, I can show a whole different swath of men, and that we are not monolithic. We come from various different walks of life; we have very different perspectives, various different personalities and I really wanted to reflect that. That was something that I was drawn to. I love that concept of uniqueness among men and the brotherhood among men as well. Men can bond in many different ways. It doesn’t have to be pledging through a fraternity or through sports . We could go through some form of a hardship, through some evolutionary journey where you mature together, just like the men do in this film.
Sergio: By the way to get to the technical side for a moment, how many days did you have to shoot the film? We’re talking about a film made for cable TV so usually you don’t have a lot of time.
Seaton: We only had 15 days to shoot the film. 12 days one camera, 3 days two cameras.
Sergio: Wow only 15 days? We’re not talking a feature film where you have usually 8-10 weeks of shooting, and at least a few weeks of rehearsals beforehand. 15 days means no or little rehearsal, and that you have to hit the ground running. How do you even start preparing for a schedule like that?
Seaton: So like I said before I really wanted to learn the craft of filmmaking, and I really have to give a shout out to various members of the Director’s Guild of America. Because once I joined the DGA on my last film, I had the ability to be exposed to a lot of different directors, a lot of different workshops and I was really able to help cultivate my craft, and I was able to incorporate all this craftsmanship into my preparation for this film. So what it really boils down to is that I really did my homework. I was really prepared. There was no “Let’s figure this out”. We didn’t have time to figure it out. There was to be a specific vision and a specific agenda. And from the time I pitched my vision to the network, to the moment we were shooting, there was always a decisive nature involved in making the film. We couldn’t afford to just throw something on the wall, so to speak, and see what stuck. Everything had to be pretty much mapped out and executed. Because as you said, we didn’t have a lot of time. It goes back again to casting. A lot of the actors who were brought on, have been great actors for a long time, but had never before been seen in that light. All these actors can act, but we had never seen them act like this.
And because we didn’t have a lot of rehearsal time – actually we had no rehearsal time at all; but what I did have was the ability to have in depth conversations with each of the actors individually, and in having these conversations, we were able to establish their intentions, discuss their character arcs, and we were on the same page, all moving in the same direction. We were really able to hone their performances and to get it done in a timely fashion. In fact, during post-production, I had so many options to choose from because my actors gave me so many ranges of emotion, so many different variations, that I could choose from. That was the most difficult part during post-production.
Because, as I said, I had about two weeks to shoot and then I had about seven weeks to complete the film in terms of post-production, which, you know, is a huge undertaking because, usually, you get 3 or 4 months as a minimum for post-production. We had seven weeks, so we had a lot to do in a very short amount of time. But because I had so much great material, and I know that I had some magic, it came together very seamlessly.
Watch the first 30 minutes of “Bad Dad Rehab” below. It’s currently airing throughout the month of July on TV One. Visit the website scheduling.