JC: After graduation I took the LSAT and did quite well, but I soon realized I didn't want to attend law school. So I enrolled in the Telecommunication Arts graduate program at University of Michigan because the other programs weren't accepting any more applicants.
SM: So you ended up in filmmaking by default?
JC: Yeah. I sorta fell into it. And for my final thesis, I had to make a film. So I made one in Nicaragua, after the war, and fell in love with making movies.
SM: That project jump-started your career as a director?
JC: Exactly. When I started out, I really wanted to direct. I pushed in that direction and I made my own documentaries. At the low budget range, directing means you have to do everything--shoot, write, direct and produce. I had a tremendous amount of creative control which I associated with directing. For almost ten years, I pursued that. As I progressed though, I realized that to be a commercial, sought after director, you have to constantly do innovative, new, on-your-own-nickel spec stuff and I hated that.
SM: Because you were taking personal risks?
JC: Huge risks. As a low budget director, you live or die by your creation and you get hired once every three or four months. I eventually realized (because at the time, I was both directing and producing) that I can produce and work all the time--every day at a much higher rate and I didn't have to do spec work. I did paid work. So I kinda got addicted to the cash flow and gave up the creative--not the producing creative side but the directing creative side.
SM: And you were okay with that?
JC: Honestly, I like it better. It's not as whimsical on your talent. I'm still a solid director. I understand story. I understand character and camera. I can craft visions in my head in sequence and see the cut before it ever gets to post-production, but I use it to communicate with creatives and translate that directorial vision into dollars.
SM: That directorial context must seem hugely advantageous in your client's' esteem.
JC: The advantage I've found, particularly in marketing films, commercials and branded entertainment, is that translating the creative vision of the director to the client in a way the client can understand from a financial standpoint (in terms of why they should spend money on it) is truly necessary. Because they might otherwise cut out something that could very well benefit them or else keep something in that has little value--and waste a lot of money on it.
SM: What are your current projects?
JC: I'm working on two shows right now. The fourth season of Verses and Flow. It's a show that I'm very proud of which goes directly to TV One. One musical artist does two pieces and there are usually three poets; it's essentially spoken word and rhythm and blues. And it's terrific. The other one is The 365 Black Awards--an award show that celebrates a 365 day per year commitment to the African American community.
SM: There are endless networks. The industry has radically changed in the last several years. Barry Levinson shot his last film on an Iphone. Zach Braff is crowd-funding projects. David Fincher is going straight to Netflix. What's your attitude toward huge industry changes and how have those changes affected your work?
JC: My attitude is, embrace it all. Technology innovations cause hiccups to the industry and throw the wave scales out of whack. They make it possible for young people to do things that haven't been done before. But it's always been changing. It's a technology-based industry and I'm an early adopter. I was one of the first people to shoot digitally and was done with film the minute file-based systems emerged though I wasn't huge into tape--it acted like film but the quality wasn't there. But in the end, it doesn't really matter if you're using the newest, hippest thing. Because having the newest hippest thing doesn't necessarily mean it adds to your creative aspect. People ask: do you have Final Cut or Avid? And to be honest, I don't really care because in the end the question isn't 'what software are you're using'. The question is, can you edit?