Directors play a crucial role in the filmmaking process. They take a film’s artistic and dramatic characteristics and present a compelling narrative. If a director can make you feel the soul of their characters, then they’ve made a movie that triggers an emotional connection with the viewer. Director Seith Mann one filmmaker on the rise that has crafted his characters to trigger this connection with his audience.
“I'm captivated by characters whose morality is defined by a code of ethics all their own, that may in some way fly in the face of conventional perceptions of morality,” Mann told NBC News.
Growing up in Silver Spring, Maryland, Mann was introduced to film at an early age.
“My parents were always taking us to 'the show' as they would call it. So as far back as I can remember movies were a part of my life,” he said.
Mann has always had a great admiration for Spike Lee’s work and it’s evident from Mann that Lee has been an instrumental part of his career.
"'Do The Right Thing' was the film that made me want to become a director. I'd say the seed was planted with that,” he said. “Working on independent film sets while I was college was where I discovered I actually liked the work of filmmaking and cemented my desire to become a director.”
Mann pursued film at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts where he was awarded the Spike Lee fellowship for his thesis film, “Five Deep Breaths”. “Five Deep Breaths” won a gold plaque for Best Narrative Short Film at the 2003 Chicago International Film Festival. It also won the Best Narrative Short Film award at the 2003 Los Angeles IFP/West Film Festival.
Throughout his career, Mann has directed over thirty episodes of television including episodes in series such as "The Wire", "Brotherhood", "Friday Night Lights", "Californication", "The Walking Dead", "Hell on Wheels", "Elementary", and "Homeland".
“I like to go places I've never been before. I think diversity, in front of and behind the lens, helps us get there.”
Mann’s latest project is, “The Breaks,” a VH1 original movie, which he has written, directed, and executive produced. Inspired by journalist Dan Charnas’ book “The Big Paycheck,” the film follows the journey of three friends united by their love of hip-hop as they work to make their mark in the music industry.
“I wanted to develop a historic piece set in the world of hip-hop. It was the first time I wrote a feature I directed so being able to take it from the page to set and ultimately to the screen was incredibly rewarding," said Mann. "There is something fulfilling about developing stories and characters from the early stages in the process until they're ready to live on screen.
“Working with our talented ensemble was one of my personal highlights. There was a sense among them that they were working on something special and you could feel that energy on set.”
“The Breaks” has a strong original score composed by rapper Phonte Coleman and record producer DJ Premier. Mann said the score was crucial to achieve the framing of the story.
“This movie would not be what it is without Phonte's lyrics and Premier's beats (both the track work and his original score.) The track 'Least Expected' is in a lot of ways the centerpiece to the movie. Without a truly incredible piece there, the whole story falls apart. And I couldn't write it. It was on Phonte and it was on Premier. They delivered way beyond my high expectations,” he said.
“The Breaks” is now on VH1 and available for viewing here.
There is no limit to Mann’s potential in the entertainment industry. As a rising black director who values diversity and introducing characters beyond the current cinematic landscape, Mann hopes to see more of the black community significantly represented in the industry.
“Diversity is of the utmost importance to me. Movies and television series represent opportunities to take their audiences into new, unexplored worlds with dynamic and surprising characters," Mann said. “I like to go places I've never been before. I think diversity, in front of and behind the lens, helps us get there.”