Van Buren’s work has been screened in North America and at Cannes Film Festival. Marvin has shot and directed projects for companies such as MTV, Esquire, VFiles, and CNN. He strives to push the boundaries of visual content with inspired perspectives and concepts. In addition to being a filmmaker, he’s also a Facebook Live expert and works at Hearst Media on Facebook Live and other projects for brands such as Elle and Esquire.

How did you get into filmmaking? What’s your background?

My background is very eclectic. In high school, I did stop motion animation and short docs which I filmed and directed. Once I got into college, I studied computer and finance for my first few semesters and switched to film production. During that time, I shot and edited promos for VH1 and MTV, and even had the opportunity to write for some of their blogs. Like most film production majors I made a short thesis film; which taught me the essentials- how to work with a crew and the different stages of producing a project. Shortly, after I was brought on board to The Wall Street Journal as a digital assistant for their video department. After college, I directed and produced projects for fashion companies such as VFILES. I spent some time bouncing around different media companies while freelancing on sets as an assistant camera and cinematographer.

And you also went to Cannes recently with one of your short films. What was that like?

Cannes was a great experience. I met so many talented young filmmakers, saw some great films, and had the opportunity to travel. Cannes also showed me that the festival is for the top one percent of the industry and the quality of creativity it takes to get in. My short film “Solace” was a proof of concept for a feature film I am still developing. It was a great project and I am so proud of that film; it was the first time I was on set directing something and telling myself “this is working”. Making the film was such a blast, things just worked and led me to more opportunities as a director.

What advice do you have for filmmakers who are sending their films to festivals for the first time?  

Do your research. A lot of these festival organizers screen certain films, because they have certain tastes. If you make a film about kittens and the festival has a history of screening films about elephants than your chances of getting in are pretty slim. Also, don’t spend too much on festival fees by submitting to every festival. The truth is a lot of these festivals are simply a business and they want your money.

If KitSplit ever runs our own film festival, we will always include films about kittens. But that’s great advice! What are you working on now?

I’m currently wrapping up post production of my narrative feature film “Contents Under Pressure”. It’s the epitome of a micro budget film; which I wrote, directed, produced, and shot. 

I’m also prepping a music video for an independent artist.

And you work at Hearst, too (in the same building as KitSplit)! How did you land there and how has that experience been?

I heard about my current Hearst job through an online video community. Hearst wanted to increase their video output and wanted someone to execute live internet broadcasts on Facebook (Facebook live). I have experience with live internet videos and now I’m making content for brands like Esquire and Cosmopolitan. Thus, far my experience working at Hearst has been interesting. I‘m learning how to make content that speaks to different audiences and how to deliver it. I’m not used to waiting around before getting permission to create. It’s a very corporate environment and find myself at times trying to prevent people from breaking gear more than creating.

How would you describe your style?

How would I describe my style? I try not to suck, I’m just kidding (not really). Music videos inspire me. I incorporate a lot of music video elements, like slow motion, blending formats and aspect ratios. Hip Hop culture – down to how characters’ dress and speak. Obviously, music is a huge part of my style, where it’s placed in a scene or shot is an extension of my personality.

Can you tell us about your process?

My process involves a lot of pre-production. I like doing scouts, if the budget doesn’t allow for scouts or any pre-visits I’ll normally find a way. As for writing pitches and scripts, I outline everything with detailed bullet points (pages worth) before I write a dock or script.

What kind of gear do you usually use?

The type of I gear I use varies. In terms of cameras I used to switch between RED and Alexa with Optimo zoom lenses or Cooke primes. I’ve never shot anamorphic (no interest) as a DP or director. Since working at Hearst I shoot on the Sony FS7 with canon glass 24-70 and 70–200 mm lenses. That camera output is fine for internet compressed video.

What’s your absolute favorite gear?

My favorite piece(s) are definitely the Alexa XT with Zeiss ultra-primes. I still haven’t worked with the Alexa mini yet (I know).

What filmmakers inspire you?

My favorite filmmakers are Barry Jenkins, Cary Fukunaga, Jeremy Saulnier, Trey Shults, Taika Waititi, Edgar Wright and Terrance Malick.

What’s the best advice you got when starting out?

The best advice I got starting out is from one of my childhood friends and family. They told me to become more technical and have an open mind.

What advice would you give to filmmakers just starting out?

Don’t be afraid of taking “money” jobs. It’s doesn’t matter if you’re a bricklayer or janitor (I worked both jobs), you are still a filmmaker. Don’t scoff at a 9 – 5 video job at Buzzfeed: that gig finances your personal projects. It’s about sustaining independence; it’s also about surviving.

And: stay humble and know that it’s a privilege to work in this field.

Check out all of Marvin’s work on his website or follow him on Twitter, Instagram & Vimeo.

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