As part of Canon’s “Project Imaginat10n” campaign, five influential celebrities from five diverse disciplines will direct short films under the tutelage of two-time Academy Award winner Ron Howard, with the finished products to be shown in the first photography-inspired film festival in 2013. The “10″ in the title represents the ten storytelling elements (mood, time, goal, obstacle, relationship, backstory, the unknown, setting, character and discovery) that photographers can submit images under, which will then inspire the stories for the films that will be shot on Canon equipment.
Collider: What’s it like to be a part of Project Imaginat10n?
JAMIE FOXX: It’s so exciting! When I watched the commercial awhile back and I saw Ron Howard, I thought, “Wow, what is this incredible project?” The commercial was so dreamy and angelic, and I was like, “Wow, that’s hot!” And then, the next thing you know, I’m actually a part of it with other people that are also fantastic in their fields. It gave me the opportunity to reconnect with Ron Howard. We were together during the inauguration in 2008 for President Obama, so we connected and he ended up being in a video of mine, called “Blame it on the Alcohol.” So, it was great to reconnect with him, in a different situation, and get the tutelage of him, as a director, and also work with these great Canon cameras, which are just amazing. I’m excited about the process.
Having been in the business for awhile now, how exciting is it to find new ways of creating? Is it something that stimulates your own imagination and inspires you with what you’d like to do in the future, as well?
FOXX: Yeah. What’s great about it is the fact that you get a chance to stretch. When you’re an actor or actress in this business, usually the natural progression is to direct, but a lot of times, we don’t get a chance to get to it. Myself, I really want to get into it. I want to be the person who eventually doesn’t have to be in front of the camera. I can be behind the camera and really change things cinematically, and this is giving me an opportunity to do something behind the camera, which I really want to maximize.
In a world where photography has changed so much and Fuji recently announced that they’re no longer going to be making film, do you think that people need to be reminded that they can express themselves creatively through photographs, just by looking more closely at the world around them?
FOXX: Yeah, that’s what’s great about it. The process of having the pictures inspire great writers is how it all comes together. A lot of times, people don’t get the chance to see that process. They only see the finished process. It will be exciting to see how it goes from a seed to a flower. That’s what I’m really excited about.
Is it reassuring to know that the first round of this, with Ron Howard and his daughter Bryce Dallas Howard, was so successful, as far as the amount of photo submissions they got, so you don’t have to worry about no one actually submitting any images for you?
FOXX: Yeah, I think Canon did a fantastic job with the campaign. When I saw that commercial with Ron Howard looking at those pictures, it was just like, “Okay, what’s happening?” And then, Canon decided to open it up and take advantage of how the world is now. We’re all connected. To have people who are in different corners of the world who are talented, but might not be able to travel to Los Angeles or New York or Miami, now have an opportunity to send in images from their home and get a chance to be a part of the creative family.
Do you know when you’ll be making the actual film itself?
FOXX: I think around February or March. That will give us an opportunity to get the right writer and make sure we take time on our process. I really want to knock it out of the park.
Have you already been thinking about these 10 themes that you’ll be selecting photos for, or are you waiting until all of the photos have been submitted?
FOXX: I just want to wait for all the photos. I don’t want to jump the gun on anything, so I’m waiting on all the photos. I emailed Quentin Tarantino, who’s cutting his movie, and I said, “I hope your movie is speaking to you like a friend.” That’s what you want. I want to see these photos and see how they’re going to speak to me.
Is it exciting to know that you’ll get to show your finished product at a special film festival in 2013, and are you anxious to see what the other filmmakers do as well?
FOXX: Yes, I am. You’re not in competition, or anything like that, but you want to see how people interpret the world. That’s what’s great about the arts. Everything inspires you, and you get a chance to grow from watching other people and how they do their work.
You don’t seem like someone who gets nervous or intimidated by things too often, but in taking on something as culturally significant as the subject matter in Django Unchained and working with Quentin Tarantino, did you feel any extra pressure?
FOXX: With Django Unchained, when you’re dealing with slavery, it’s like a gymnastics routine with the highest amount of difficulty. Quentin Tarantino is not going to do a movie that’s just going to lay there and be safe. There’s going to be twists and flips. There will be a triple-double whatever, and it was up to us to land with our feet solidly on the ground. That was the challenge. What was intimidating was, how do we now take this great script with these great actors and not blow it, and how do we really make it the best it can be? I think Quentin did a great job by hiring Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson and Christoph Waltz and Kerry Washington. Now you know that you can lock the camera off and feel safe with an actor or actress who can hold their own and be one with the director and the whole process. Of course, it’s intimidating, but if you’re in a war or a battle and it’s about getting the art right, you want those types of soldiers on your team.
What most surprised you about the experience of working with Quentin Tarantino, as a filmmaker, and what most inspired you about working with him, especially now that you’re looking at directing yourself?
FOXX: You can’t look at Pulp Fiction, and see those performances by Samuel Jackson and John Travolta, and not go, “Man, if I could just work with that dude and say those types of words.” He’s a wordsmith. Coming from my background with Oliver Stone, Sam Mendes, Taylor Hackford, Michael Mann, Antoine Fuqua, F. Gary Gray, and all these other great directors, I needed all of that experience to be able to sit with Quentin Tarantino and get all of his tutelage and be able to be an actor with that discipline. And then, at the same time, Quentin was like, “Don’t come in here, Jamie Foxx-ing it. Come in here and really be the character.” I thought that was fantastic for a person to take you back to school and really get to work. It inspired me because now that I’m going into the Canon project, it allows me to take what I’ve learned from Quentin and put it to use. That’s what you do. You grow when you work with directors like that. So, I’m going to dive into these Canon cameras and see how I can make something cinematic. That’s what’s great about Quentin Tarantino and the other directors I’ve worked with. They are able to make things cinematic.
Have you always found yourself paying extra attention to the directors that you’re working with?
FOXX: In looking at Hollywood and its structure, the director controls the medium, and I want to be in control of certain things. I want to be able to get my own ideas and my own feelings out there, and the only way to do that is to be behind the camera. So, when I started working with Oliver Stone and all these people, I would take notes and be around and ask questions. Being just an actor, sometimes people are like, “Hey, man, we don’t wanna see you no more, in front of the camera,” and I don’t want that. For me, it’s just a natural direction and I’ve got a good feeling about it. I can do a lot of different things, as far as sound design and coming up with my own music to go with my images and feelings. I’m really, really excited about what I can get out of this project with Canon.
You’ve gone from having Kerry Washington play your wife in Django Unchained to now having Garcelle Beauvais play your wife in White House Down. What do you enjoy about getting to work with such strong women, and how does that influence you creatively?
FOXX: Kerry Washington and Garcelle Beauvais have this light. They’re fun, they’re energetic, they love the arts, but at the same time, they’re smart and they bring such strong female qualities to it. It’s hard to explain, but you want to be able to work with people that you have that comfort level with. When I’m working with Kerry Washington, we make jokes and have a good time. When we were doing the Quentin Tarantino movie, there were scenes in there that were not friendly, but I knew that that was my friend, so I was able to support her in a different way. With Garcelle Beauvais, when it came to White House Down, I was like, “Please, please, please let her be my wife!” We look like Michelle and Barack [Obama], after I put this wig on. You want to have relationships like that, when you’re working.
Are there any actors you’d really love to team up with, in a movie?
FOXX: Oh, man, all of them! Denzel [Washington], Eddie Murphy, [Robert] DeNiro, Halle Berry, Charlize Theron, Kevin Spacey, Jesse Eisenberg, and all of those people who I look at their acting and go, “Wow, if there was ever an opportunity to work with them, I would love to!” There are a few people out there that I can’t wait to not only be in a film with, but direct.