A Q&A with 16-year-old North Little Rock filmmaker Corbin Pitts
We talk with North Little Rock-based actor and filmmaker Corbin Pitts, who premiered his feature-length film “Salad Days” at a sold-out screening earlier this week, hosted by the Arkansas Cinema Society. It stars Matthew Maguire and Aiden Roberson, and features Corbin Pitts, Brooklyn Courtney-Moore, Kenzie Burks, Triston Hardrick, Mijo Luckey and Raul Dallas, and Pitts will release an accompanying EP of original music from the film, with music from Cliff & Susan, Mijo Luckey and others. Pitts just finished his sophomore year at North Little Rock High School, where he plays drums in the jazz band. Starting at 5 p.m. today, you can stream the film here, at the website for Heroe Productions, a film company Pitts launched when he was 11 years old.
I know you’e worked for years as an actor and now, a full-fledged filmmaker. How did it come about?
There wasn’t like, one day, where I just decided I wanted to make films. It was a slow, gradual thing, I used to grab throwaway cameras from the store and I would walk around my house looking through the viewfinder, and I would use crappy DLSR cameras from the 2000s, and my mom used to record me doing crappy videos with my friends. So it was always kind of a thing I was doing, but when I was 11, I decided I wanted to try dipping my toes into this different world. It was fun. And I’m still doing it right now! Every day, there’s something different to learn.
How do you approach your professional relationships with folks who are older than you? Do you feel like you have to earn their trust as a writer/director?
Fortunately, I’m surrounded by a ton of people who take me seriously, and don’t use my age against me at all. And I have a lot of mentors older than me. Also, you have to remember, I’ve been acting since I was four years old. So the way I approach it is that I don’t even acknowledge it. If you acknowledge it, then it becomes something. But if you just walk into the room and do what you want to do, it’s kind of irrelevent. If you’re good at making films — if you’re good at doing anything — then your age doesn’t matter.
It’s interesting to me how mature the tone of what you’re doing is in “Salad Days.” Watching the trailer, it’s clear that there’s a lot of experience informing it. What would you say to someone who’s like, ‘How can you make this film about these experiences you may or may not have even had in life?’
If someone were to say that, it’d be a pretty ignorant statement. Just to say that because someone’s 16 or something — I get where you’re going with this, by the way — but I’ve known a lot of people who have experienced the subject matter in the film, and a lot of directors use experiences from friends, experiences of their own and meld it all into one big story. And the reason why I like doing more serious films is I gravitate to more grounded-in-reality stories. Stories that could happen.
So, about “Salad Days,” I think most times when we hear the words “dark comedy,” we feel like that’s pretty adult territory, or maybe a genre that gets explored by people with tons of life experience. Why are you drawn to darker comedy over, say, something more fantastical or fairytale?
I like writing about my surroundings. I like writing about what I know. I know a lot of people who have — I say real life stories, but they’re riveting stories — and I’d rather write those than something that’s completely made up. I find it more … connecting when you’re telling a more common story, and the way that you tell it is what’s unique. If you’re telling a type of story that’s been told a thousand times, it forces you to be a lot more creative.
Is “Salad Days” a collage of those kinds of experiences?
Yeah! So “salad days” means someone’s inexperienced days, you know, when they’re young. And obviously that goes along really well with me because I’m only 16. I’m still young; I still have a lot of life to live. A lot of experiences to experience. I just felt like it represented the film.
You’re screening the film in front of a live audience; what is that like for you, to be in the room as people are reacting?
It’s the most nerve-wracking thing as a creative. Because it’s not like selling a newspaper, it’s like selling yourself. If people don’t like it, it’s like they don’t like the most vulnerable parts of you. So whenever anyone’s nervous about that, it’s understandable. I’m very excited, though.
What are your favorite movies of all time?
I don’t know if I can really answer that because there’s so much out there. It’s kind of like, “What’s your favorite song?” I love Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom,” which was a heavy influence on “Salad Days.”
I can totally see that! Like your camera angles that aren’t always at eye level, but maybe further down.
I love “The Hateful Eight.” And I’m gonna say it, I love “Titanic.”
How do you balance school demands with something like filming, where schedules can be so tight and so difficult to manage?
I’m half-virtual and half in-school. So I go up for class every other day. And my agents send me auditions multiple times a week, so that can get a little cluttered with filmmaking. The key to everything is time management, which is something I’ve been working on — making sure I had a schedule for the next day so I can do everything I want to do. And it also kinda keeps me sane. I’ve actually thrived during COVID. Boredom is actually really healthy for the mind and body. It starts to spark creativity.
Have you thought about life after graduation – do you want to do film for a living, or is this the first of many careers?
Just kinda depends. As of now, I’m going to go to college and get a degree and all of that. But it just depends. I want to be a filmmaker. It’s not that I want to be one — I am! So I’m kind of already doing what I want to do when I get older. I know for a fact that I want to do it for the rest of my life. So now it’s just about time. You know what they say: the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. So I’m just gonna keep kicking at it and doing my best.
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