Usher Morgan is an award-winning screenwriter, film director, producer, and studio executive residing in New York City. Morgan started his career in book publishing and later became involved with film production and distribution. He produced his first documentary film The Thought Exchange starring David Friedman and Lucie Arnaz in 2012, followed by his directorial debut, the award-winning short film Prego.
Morgan’s first feature film, Pickings was released to wide acclaim and received a limited theatrical release via AMC Independent in March of 2018. His directing style is influenced primarily by film-noir and spaghetti westerns. The Los Angeles Times calls Usher Morgan, “a talent to watch”.
LESSONS FROM THE SET
ABOUT THE BOOK
Lessons from the Set is a comprehensive filmmaking guide that takes a cinephile’s “Do It Yourself” approach to low-budget indie film production and distribution. The book is peppered with filmmaking tips and tricks, as well as valuable, practical insight into the process of writing, directing, producing, and distributing commercial feature films on a low budget – whether you’re working with $1,000 or $1m. You’ll learn how to write, direct, produce, and release your film to theaters, tackle festivals and handle press, create a marketing plan, get reviews, and approach the filmmaking process with both an artistic soul and an entrepreneurial mindset.
After releasing his debut feature film to wide acclaim, filmmaker Usher Morgan (Prego, Windblown, Pickings) decided to write a filmmaking book which detailed his approach to writing, directing, and producing his own work, as well as the steps he took to distribute and market his film, Pickings, and release it to theaters across the nation.
Lessons from the Set: A DIY Guide to Your First Feature Film, from Script to Theaters is the perfect gift to any aspiring filmmaker, it’s an essential guide for anyone who wants to tell stories and make movies for a living.
Q: How did you become interested in making films?
Film has always been an obsession of mine, ever since I was a kid – I always wanted to be a part of this world and to tell my stories in this medium.
Q: How difficult has it been to work as a documentary filmmaker?
I only produced one documentary film thus far, most of my work have been narratives (a couple of short films and one feature). I’m currently working on another feature film, but I’m sure I’ll end up coming back to documentaries at some point. As far as difficulty, I don’t think they’re more difficult to tackle, I think the process is just a little different. They’re primarily constructed in post-production, which is a challenge of its own.
Q: What traits or characteristics define you as a storyteller?
Good question. I love stories of empowerment and stories that throw characters into uncomfortable or sometimes dangerous situations. There are a lot of different themes that I want to explore in my lifetime, but I think that most of them revolve around that same premise. I don’t think I’ve been doing this long enough to have “trademarks” or noticeable traits, I’m still very much in the discovery phase of my career. What I want to be defined by is my writing, and I’m currently putting all of my focus on becoming a really good writer, so I hope that’ll will be the one thing that defines me in the future: a really good writer who makes movies.
Q: Which medium resonates with you more, film or books?
They both play a very important part of my life, and I can definitely say that I’m somewhat obsessed with both. I love movies because they are concise, a good movie is an effective one, and you can feel a lot of things in a relative short period of time. Whereas a book activates my imagination and allows me to visualize the story as I’m reading it, you don’t really get that with movies. So I’d say that the writer in me loves reading, whereas the filmmaker in me loves films; it’s a delicate balance.
Q: Has writing affected your creativity as opposed to working in the film industry?
Definitely, I’d say that writing has contributed greatly to my creative aptitude, it gave me the tools I needed to be a better filmmaker, because I think the two are intertwined. The more movies I make the more inspired I am to become a better writer.
Q: How long did it take to write “Lessons From the Set”?
It took me about 8 months to write Lessons From the Set. I wanted to write a book that present filmmakers with my own strategy to writing, directing, producing and distributing feature films. I feel like a lot of filmmakers are being taken advantage of when it comes to film distribution, and after releasing my own feature to theaters I thought: “why not write a book that teaches people how to do that on their own, like I did”. So I created a book that teaches people how to make movies and release them on their own. I’m very proud of the final product, it’s a great gift for anyone who aspires to be a filmmaker and make a living in this industry.
Q: What are you working on next? Can you give us a bit of a teaser?
I am currently in the post-production for an epic fantasy short film called The Last Frost with Katie Vincent, I am also in post for a short I shot a few months ago called Dual Action. We just wrapped production on another short film called Windblown, also with Katie Vincent, and we are hard at work on our next feature film, which I hope to film later in 2019. In addition, I’m working on a novel version of my latest film Pickings, which will also be released in 2019. You can follow me and my antics on Instagram @ushermorgan or by visiting www.ushermorgan.com
Link to book on Amazon: