With experience on set as an actress and filmmaker since her late teens, Lisa Bonet is no stranger to being in front and behind the camera. She’s directed music videos such as Lenny Kravitz’s "Let Love Rule" and Milla Jovovitch’s "Gentlemen Who Fell," and the short doc, "Waking Compton."
With "Freedom," Lisa continues her directorial journey, and her vision for this project is brought to life through the collaborative effort of a majority women crew. Featuring mesmerizing choreography, and shots filmed in a tightly packed night club setting, the audience is drawn to the video through the synchronized choreography of dancers in pastel colors, alternating with shots of Angel and Dorothy on stage.
In this interview, Lisa shares with us her experience directing this project, and what she’s learned along the way in her journey.
You’ve spent more than a decade on TV and film sets. Seeing the physical production process from multiple perspectives, how have these experiences shaped your craft as a director?
Lisa Bonet: All of my life experiences have influenced my perspective. This is what gives me my unique voice. I think the greatest advantage of working so long in the industry is the comfort and familiarity of being on set. It could feel daunting and overwhelming standing at the helm of any production. But with years of experience, this lends an ease.
You’ve previously directed Lenny Kravitz’s "Let Love Rule" and Tony! Toni! Tone!’s "It Never Rains." How did this video push you into a new direction as a director? Was the scale of the project challenging in thinking about how to bring all these elements together while working with the different creatives?
This was the first of anything I had done that was primarily dreamed, organized, and made possible by mostly women, so this colored everything. The ease of collaboration, kind communication (and still getting shit done), belief in the vision, and seizing the opportunity to work together on a project that was in alignment with our values.
"All of my life experiences have influenced my perspective. This is what gives me my unique voice."
The scale of this production appears to be large. Considering what it takes to cast and dress the dancers, also filming in the nightclub, how challenging was it to deal with a production of this size?
I think often when one takes on any big project—from something like this to, say, cooking a thanksgiving dinner— you have to stay in the moment and tackle each demand as it comes. The grand scheme can overwhelm. And then, one must have amazing partners, sidekicks, sous chefs, as the support is totally necessary. This was a massive collaboration, and I had the pleasure of working with many of my best friends, all of whom excelled in delivering their expertise. The result for us was like sharing a beautiful feast.
Katarina Gleicher directed the choreography for this video. How did you bring your creative forces together to work on the overall vision? Was there an initial rehearsal, or was it all shot on the go?
Oh no . . . Katarina is one of my teachers. She has brought great joy to my life through dance. Much of the vision for the video came while in class and living the joy in real time and wanting to share that with others—and then bring the joy and unstoppable force of women united to our deeply wounded world. We honed in on what would capture the power of the dance, the expression of freedom, and the beauty of women dancing together. We needed to make the dance accessible and relatively easy to learn. We put together a video tutorial to make the learning as easy as possible. Ultimately, it was about a feeling, not perfection.
There are lots of close-up shots of Angel Haze and Dorothy interspersed with the dancing outside. Does your process involve storyboarding, or is the framing of your shot more spontaneous during shooting?
I think every director’s dilemma is not enough time or money, and we weren’t spared these challenges. Storyboarding helps, because it’s efficient and minimizes the “oops” factor that can take place when relying on so many people to translate your ideas. It also demands the verbalization of the vision.
"Spontaneous beauty always welcomed—that’s the magic."
How difficult is it to get the right shot at night versus shooting in the daytime as seen with the dancers?
We had minimal daylight to work with, because that pretty light only exists for a few hours . . . so you feel the pressure. We had next to zero rehearsal time with all the dancers together at the same time, so this increased the pressure with our rapidly disappearing light, but we prevailed, and then had to make do with the light changes—some glorious, some worked out in post!
The video also features your children Lola and Wolf. What was it like to direct them in this project?
Both my son Wolf and daughter Lola did make it in the video. I told them they made the cut not because they were my children, but because they BROUGHT IT. This is much of the answer to healing our wounded world . . . a wakened younger generation not afraid to stand for what is Sacred, their light undimmed—their innocence protected.
Do you have a creative or spiritual process which helps you prepare for your shoots or working on sets, which notoriously can be mentally tasking?
"The beauty of directing for me is that it is in absolute alignment with my soul’s mission. My purpose is to help deliver Love’s message."
All my work will reflect this message in some form. My prep and process is generated by the values I live by and the teachings given to me. This minimizes my struggles, freeing my energy to manifest fully my vision, with the help of my awesome team.
On this project you worked with a crew primarily led by women. How did that impact your decisions directing on set?
The safest and most welcoming environment can only lead to one’s best work.
What advice would you give to young directors, based on your years of experience in the film industry ?
If you are called to this industry, hopefully it is because of your special gift to offer to the world. Grow your gift.