Director’s Process: Sons of a Beach

A Short Film, written and directed by Danathon James

10 min readDec 11, 2021


Hey, my name is Danathon James. I’m the director of the short film, Sons of a Beach. I also play the character, Jerome, and I’m going to discuss my creative process in making this piece.

It’s definitely an abstract film; I knew that going into the shoot. It was filmed in one day with no budget, we had a low end camera, and a mic with a taped together broken boom stick.

I consider this the first short film I created.

In this article, I will talk about:

  • My Background and Philosophy as a Director
  • My Inspiration
  • The Creative Process and The Choices I Made
  • My Thoughts and What I Would Have Done Differently

Background and Philosophy

“I’m more interested in a storyteller who doesn’t know anything about where to put the camera than someone who knows everything about the camera but nothing about the story process.” — Steven Spielberg

I remember hearing this when I was young, and it resonated with me, so my vision as a filmmaker has always been focused on the story process, the crafting elements of the story itself. I am heavily inspired by Literature.

Inspiration for Sons of a Beach

I have always had this giant imagination, and I love to build worlds where my characters can live and go through their respective story arcs, but ultimately, this story is about isolation and grief, and handling the loss of a loved one.

I wrote this script the week after my great grandmother passed away, and that hit me expectedly hard, and I really wanted to use that as an inspiration to create something more hopeful rather than depressing, and the main character, Maurice, played by Jacob Rodriguez, is the character I use to bring those themes to life. I consider this an abstract visual poem rather than a narrative.

The Creative Process

Jacob Rodriguez as Maurice

The story, at least on a surface level, is that Maurice has a new job with the Cryptid Coalition, which is essentially like this secret undercover organization that spends their livelihood protecting the lives and habitats of all things Cryptid, mythical or rumored creatures that may or may not exist, and that’s brought up through the Bunyip.

And we find out in the train station, the reason that Maurice acquired this new job was his sister, who recently passed, helped him get it.

Maurice is this character who lost his sister, has a new job, and as Jerome says when they meet, he saw Maurice’s picture in the email, so right there we know that the only thing that they know about their future partner is their picture from the email. So what are they? They are rookie agents of the Cryptid Coalition, and on the beach, right from the beginning, Jerome is dealing with the Bunyip, as he’s jumping off the ledge, we hear the big roar, and Maurice isn’t doing anything. Jerome, even if overbearing, has a job to do, and he’s struggling to do this alone. And I use both the Bunyip and Beach Jerome as a literary tool to portray the worries and anxieties of Maurice not being able to handle this new job, with this new partner, who for all Maurice knows will be this incredibly obnoxious character, who he can’t stand, right after losing his sister, who he thought he was going to be working right alongside, and have her assistance in transitioning into this new life.

The 3 Different Scenarios

There are three different scenarios on the beach, and originally I was going to have each small scene on the beach be presented as a different day, and I kind of dropped that real early because it presented a measurement of time, and I didn’t want the story to be told that way. I like the idea of the scenarios on the beach happening simultaneously with one another rather than one after another.

There’s a line in the script I wrote:

“Maurice faces the wishful yet wretched waters waiting for something ineffable to happen”

That’s how I chose to portray the shock and denial aspects of loss, and in each of the three scenarios, Maurice is looking out into the sea, away from where we know the Bunyip is located based on the direction that Jerome was jumping away from, and this was important to me because I needed to visually show that Maurice was rejecting something that he knew he needed to do, but couldn’t muster up the strength to do it.

In each area, Maurice is being berated by Jerome, and when Maurice is all by himself, and Jerome finally finds him, he’s looking down on him, and this is when the story starts to really change. Maurice isn’t going to be able to stop life from happening, no matter how much he wishes everything could just pause. Jerome, or the new life he’s about to begin, isn’t going to stop just because Maurice needs the world to revolve around him, and up until this point, the story has revolved around him. Jerome’s been in the background this entire time, we’ve been up close and personal with Maurice, and then we have the 360 shot, where we orbit around him, and literally the world is revolving around him.

And then he snaps.

Maurice letting his frustrations loose on Jerome.

He releases his frustrations on Jerome, however this is the first time Maurice acknowledges Jerome’s existence more than just a few words because he’s forced to confront him. Nothing else matters, he’s going to attack him relentlessly, and that’s what’s on his mind. And then the Bunyip roars again, this time much more ferociously, and every single area that we’ve explored has Maurice, for the first time, looking away from the water. And that’s when it hits him. He finally lets it all in, he’s forced to acknowledge the Bunyip because it’s now too loud to just ignore, and he passes out onto the sands of the slums of a Beach.

The scene immediately following gives hope, as Maurice starts to have more energy in his words, and Jerome gives something with an obvious importance to Maurice, which ultimately snaps him out of whatever trance he was in, leaving us at the train station, where Jerome isn’t just this imaginative character anymore, he’s right there with Maurice, and not straggling far behind in the background like he was on the beach.

Jerome (left) and Maurice (right) meeting at the train station.

I really wanted to capture the moment of the two of them officially meeting, and I specifically wanted it without any cuts to portray who these characters really are and have the awkwardness and the idea of both characters being extremely present in the moment as opposed to the exclusion of time when they’re on the beach, and while Maurice obviously is still in the healing process, he’s now open to being more optimistic as he is about to board the train, effectively accepting that the next chapter of his life is about to begin.

I really like intro title sequences, to let everything sit and really paint a picture of the world you’re about to invest time into. I played with this idea in the beginning of another film short, Drive: A Christmas Story, and I really wanted to show the beach and the fact that it’s not this tropical island of a beach, it’s more of a slum. Kind of disgusting. And I used this shot to establish a few things, first, the obvious, the location and the type of beach, but I really wanted to put focus on the shoe in the beginning, and that’s when the actor credits pop up to help make that image, the shoe, stand out.

Different times I use Shoes

I used shoes a lot, to direct focus, camera movement, and even the characters themselves. In the script, I wrote:

“Shoes attached to an unenthusiastic pair of legs sit upon a solid piece of tree that no longer has a home.”

This is how we meet Maurice, by first seeing his lifeless energy in his shoes. Jerome is shown to be barefoot contrasting the differences between the two of them, and the first thing we see of Jerome at the Train Station is, yet again, shoes, the first time he’s seen wearing them, this time in a nicer pair of Chelsea boots.

First Appearance of Jerome at the Train Station with Chelsea Boots

Putting focus on the shoes also allowed us to use them more creatively. The plain white shoe on the rock we were able to use a few times, established in the opening credits, the long shot directed our eyes to the background, and then again at the end of the 360 shot, it brings us to the moment that Maurice snaps.

Sunset behind Maurice for Lighting

The scene after Maurice releases his frustration, he falls onto the sand, and I planned out the day specifically to be able to catch that scene during the sunset, to have the darker orange sun behind Maurice to dramatize the moment he finally allows himself to begin to move on.

Different Color Grading, Hot and Cold.

The color design was one of the first things that I came up with when writing the script. I definitely wanted the scenes at the beach to be drastically different from the train station, and I wanted to give the impression of being as physically uncomfortable as the characters possibly could be, so I wanted to make it look like it was scorching hot, and I told Simon Puckett, the editor, also created our original score, that I wanted it to have a similar color scheme as Mad Max, and then the train station have the exact opposite, cool, a lot of blues, kind of a Fire vs Ice vibe, a created world vs the real world.

And that’s Sons of a Beach.

My Thoughts and What I Would Have Done Differently

Finding my voice as a Director was something I definitely needed to work on. I needed to be able to explain what I wanted more clearly, and get more takes if necessary.

We didn’t have an editor, something that has plagued a few short films I’ve done after this as well, so we had Simon Puckett, who created our Original Score, also take on the duties of editor as well as Color Grading. Not having an editor or budget for an editor is something I will never have happen again. The Color Grading is rough because of this, but in all honesty, I’m okay with it because I think that the idea of the Hot colors on the beach, and cold at the train station came off very well, and for a first time Color Grader, Simon Puckett still exceeded expectations.

The introduction shot is too long, and it’s super shaky. We definitely could have used some more equipment for this one, but shooting more takes and me being more vigilant could have solved this issue.

I wanted Maurice’s face to be shown right after the camera moves up from his initial shoe budge so that Maurice is the first person’s face we see. The earlier takes had this, but somewhere around Take 4, it stopped happening, and it’s something I should have been paying attention to more.

Second Scenario on the Plateau. Jerome (Left), Maurice (Right)

The wide shot in the second scenario up on the plateau we only were able to get a few seconds worth, only one take. I didn’t verbalize enough during the filming, and I think at this time we were all getting antsy to get to a lunch break. The rest of the takes are closer up on Jerome, and it’s unfortunate, because this is my favorite shot of the short film. I’m a sucker for a good wide shot, and I believe this is going to end up being a staple shot in a lot of my films.

Barefoot Down Hill

Our camera man, Shane Douglass, came up with the idea to catch Jerome running down the hill after finding Maurice sitting on the wooden plank, and that paired incredibly well with my already established Shoes vs Barefoot theme because I got to focus in on the Barefoot side again.

The 360 shot could have been planned out ahead of time better, but I liked the idea of circling around Maurice to get more active movement to raise tension for the snap.

I love the Bunyip. The roar really is the climax of the film.

Maurice at the Train Station

I’m real happy with the transition to the Train Station. I used the Flash Cut with Maurice’s eyes a good amount in this one to help lead into it.


For the most part, I’m super happy with Sons of a Beach. It was a great stepping stone for me to learn what type of Director I’m going to be on set. Immediately after filming and looking at the footage, I could feel the experience, and what I would do the next time.

Yes, there were some rough shots, but I was able to understand why certain things didn’t work the way I wanted, and would be able to improve on them in the future with relative ease.

I knew going into it how abstract it would feel; I consider it more of a visual poem. I really can’t push this enough. It’s extremely metaphorical with a lack of narrative, something that I normally wouldn’t have done, but the writing was done through my grieving process.

My ultimate goal is to direct Feature Films; I prefer more narrative in my films with long form story arcs, something I will hopefully be able to share with everyone.


You can watch Sons of the Beach on Youtube.

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Follow @DanathonJames on Twitter.




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