My co-creator and partner on this project is Paris Jones .
The Inner Circle Pilot was written by myself, Shiek Mahmud-Bey, and Steven Williams. Steven is a brilliant writing partner and I am grateful for his commitment to helping establish a solid foundation for the stories we want to tell.
Paris and I set a goal of shooting The Inner Circle Pilot in its entirety, in only four days. There was no compromise in accomplishing this goal. We did not want to just create a sizzle reel. We both were willing to take a chance and were very clear about our mission. We knew the specific look of the show and desired to create an opportunity for local Detroit talent.
In order to make this happen our preparation would be key. After locking the shooting script, we searched for the right Director of Photography. Craig Harmer was our guy. Craig is visual, creative, fast, smart, as well as a team player. Then we needed to secure our sound. David Fienup was chosen and I could not think of anyone better suited for the job. David kept us all up and laughing during those long, long nights of shooting. He and Craig were brilliant and a joy to work with in post.
Then there was casting. We casted the show in two days. We were very specific. I needed actors who could take notes and were committed. The chosen actors were given scripts and had two weeks to prepare. During the actor's preparation period, Paris and I were introduced to Mr. Andre Johnson, CEO of Detroit Recovery Center; an introduction made possible by actress Whitney Johnson. Mr. Johnson being a huge support to us, arranged for the cast to go to group meetings and talk to people who are in recovery. Additionally, Mr. Johnson provided several locations for us to shoot. Dr. Ben's recovery house was one of the locations that Mr. Johnson provided. As Director, I wanted to create an environment where the actors could live as the characters. It was imperative that the characters portrayed were genuine ,and that the actors feel confident enough to trust their choices. So Paris and I asked Mr. Johnson if it were possible for the cast to live in the very house that we shot in. We were granted our wish. Everything was set, locations, cast, crew, script were all locked.
Then as we were starting production I was introduced to a local actor named Charlie Newhart. Charlie is an amazing actor and soon after our introduction, Paris and I decided that Charlie had to be written into the script. Now everything was in place and it was time for me to prepare for my role as Dr. Ben Taylor.
Mr. Johnson recommended I talk to Dr. LaSonia Barlow, LLP, LPC, RAC, Diplomate Forensic Psychologist. Perfect choice. Dr. Barlow not only helped me prepare for my role but she also was the Psychological Consultant for the show. Having her presence on set was invaluable for providing authenticity.
Once the show was complete it was time for post which was a fun but tedious process. Craig and I collaboratively edited from 3 cities because he was in Detroit, while I was traveling between New York and California. Scott Maggart, who scored the show, gave me a new respect for scoring. I must admit that scoring was the most challenging part. I knew I wanted a jazz feel but it had to be right. When Scott and I nailed that feeling we rolled right through scoring.
This was the very first time that I have ever directed in conjunction with acting in a film and The Inner Circle was one of the most exciting shoots I have ever been a part of. It moved like a well-oiled machine. Four days and six locations. The Inner Circle met and exceeded the expectations of my vision.
I'd like to personally thank all the cast and crew for blindly trusting the vision and being committed to the process. The Detroit family and friends that believed in Paris and I, donating their homes, their time and their talents. In particular, I want to acknowledge Mark Phillips for coming on as a Producer and picking up the slack along with my right hand man and First AD, Andre "Dre" Ray who had my back when I was Dr. Ben. To Andre Perez - Script Supervisor, Jason George - Associate Producer and Karen Mattson - Production Manager, "Thank you" to you all for keeping us organized and running strong and to my girl Dynasty for coming up with The Inner Circle theme. Most of all, "Thank You" to my partner and Co creator Paris for pushing as hard as I do. We both wanted it and went in full force from beginning to end.
Shiek Mahmud-Bey, Director