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Chicago Filmmaker Keith Purvis: National Exposure on BET

June 13, 2011 | By | 1 Comment

Nykeya Woods

Keith Purvis

With less than 25 lines in his first short movie, Keith Purvis has managed to land national exposure on BET’s Lens on Talent competition. Purvis said the exposure has helped open doors to industry professionals in order to further create engaging visual stories.

“I think a lot of films are too chatty. I think people mistake films for plays,” Purvis told Chicago DIY Film Magazine about his movie ONLINE. Just under nine minutes, ONLINE piggybacks on the Internet dating idea but taps into the silent era movies by playing up gestures, facial expressions and costume designs.

“A film is a visual medium,” he said. “The great thing about silent films is that they knew how to tell a story visually.”

Despite earning a degree from Columbia College in graphic design, Purvis has spent most of his life allured by the “mystical” cinema. “Film was an escape when I was little. When things got stressful around the house, we would leave the house and go to the movie theater,” Purvis said. “And we watched everything.”

When the VCR came out his father would bring home weird movies—anything subtitled, from another country, or anything off the beaten path—for the family to watch. Purvis ended up watching Italian horror flicks, German comedies and tons of science fiction. In addition, the family owned an 8mm video camera. Unfortunately, there was no tape for the camcorder. That didn’t stop Purvis.

“I would run around the house with an 8mm camera looking through the viewfinder pretending I was making movies,” he said. “Two and two still didn’t come together; I still didn’t understand that people made movies. I thought it was some mystical thing that somebody did.”

It wasn’t until Purvis crashed an alumni night at Columbia and ran into producer and director George Tillman that things finally clicked. Purvis said Tillman encouraged him to take advantage of Columbia’s resources and pursue film if he was serious. Purvis was nearly done with his graphics design degree but decided to add film classes to his course load. He knew he had made the right decision when he was given a 16mm camera the first day in class.

Still from Purvis' film "ONLINE"

Also, when the class had to watch core movies, Purvis realized he had already seen them with his father. He added that when he began to learn about film aesthetics, he already knew them. It was an “aha moment” and Purvis became devoted to learning the craft.

“I just became immersed in film,” Purvis said. “I sat in the library and watched movies and went to Facets.”

Purvis said it was when he was watching his favorite move, Seven Samuari, that he really began to understand the mechanics of making a film. Akira Kurosawa’s two-hour subtitled Japanese flick is often at top of movie critic lists and credited with influencing many movies.

“I could see how it was all put together and why. Nothing in that film was extra,” Purvis said. “Everything he did in that film was pointed toward trying to tell a story. That was the first time that everything kind of gelled; I said okay.”

Purvis plans to use Kurosawa’s blue-print when he focuses on his first no-budget independent horror thriller.

“It’s a combination of everything that attracts me,” Purvis said. Purvis, along with production partner Darryl Parham are looking at two options for the film. They would love to add a couple of names to the production. But if all else fails, the pair plan to do what Purvis did with ONLINE: produce it themselves.

Independent production has worked out well for Purvis with his production company, The Junction Group. Besides BET, ONLINE was featured in the Texas Black Film Festival and the Black Harvest Film Festival. Purvis has also produced and directed music videos for underground artists Rita J and MC ADäD. He has created video and commercials for Organic Root Stimulator and the National Urban League.

While he waits to finalize financing for his feature, he working on a web series called “Afro America.” And it’s not what you think.

“It has nothing to do with African Americans really. It’s a place in the world where anything can happen,” he said.

ONLINE The Movie from keith Purvis on Vimeo.


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Comments (1)

  1. How exciting, Congratulations!

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