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Behind the Camera: Jarred McGriff Shares His Creative Vision

From film festivals to BET, director, cinematographer, and editor Jarred McGriff shares how he got his start in an interview with The Quintessential Gentleman.

During high school, McGriff developed an interest in storytelling and digital media in particular. Even at this early stage in his life, he recognized this path suited him and that directing could be a possible career. Growing up, his father took up photography as a hobby. Inspired, at age 14, McGriff accomplished his first wedding photoshoot. In addition to sharing his father's passion for photography, he also enrolled in video classes in high school, which taught him how to write and direct his own films. These experiences would help build the foundation for future success.

In October of 2016, McGriff joined BET as an editor and camera operator. And within a few years, he was promoted to senior editor and director of photography which led to him coming on board to work on the documentary series #FindingBet.

"So when #Finding came about, it was an idea from one of our producers and our editorial team, and they wanted to learn more about the nostalgia of music and artists that we haven't heard from in a while," he explained.

"And it just started with a question, 'Oh, what are they up to now?' And it developed into a series. So they brought me on pretty early to help them develop [it] in terms of the look and the feel. And what it would end up being, which is #Finding today. So that's how it first came across my plate. I was able to get brought on to edit the entire series."

Aside from working on #FindingBet, McGriff also directed a project titled The Now, which he entered in the Moet Film Festival during 2016 and won second place. The Now was a uniquely creative challenge that told a story in 60 seconds without words. A year or two later, he created a short film titled The Bag that he hopes to one day develop into a longer work.

When reflecting on the challenging aspects of being a director, McGriff said, "Leadership probably is the biggest challenge that I think every director faces."

In terms of directing styles, he favors the collaborative approach.

"I like for everybody on the team to feel like they can say something if there's something wrong or if there's something that doesn't make sense," he continues. "Hold me accountable the same way I hold everybody else, onset or the crew accountable."

Despite the challenges of being a director, the pros outmatch the cons for what is ultimately a rewarding experience. And for McGriff, it's all about bringing a story to life.

"I've been blessed to direct things that are both fiction and nonfiction," he said. "And so to me, it always comes down to the story. It comes down to being able to share or express or retell somebody's story and seeing it all come together at the end where they also feel like they're connected to their own story."

When selecting stories for a film project, he looks for relatability and an opportunity to feature people from underrepresented communities.

"I love working in stories that allow me to manipulate or mess with music," he states. "And that's a lot of the stuff I've done with BET. But even outside of BET, it's been really cool to work with music-based projects."

McGriff believes Black creative visionaries are needed in Hollywood and have many stories waiting to be told. Growing up in the suburbs, he didn't see a Black experience that reflected his own in films. And so, he strives to cultivate stories that showcase many cultural layers.

His dream project would be to create a series on Black Wall Street, which focuses on how the Greenwood district was founded, the burning of Tulsa, and how the Black dollar impacted Tulsa in the aftermath of desegregation.

In addition to the film projects, he has also worked with renowned brands such as TikTok and McDonald's for a Black History celebration.

"I was tapped to edit a few of their promotional pieces and stories that came out of that campaign," he recalls. "All of these have just come from people that I've worked within the past. So it all comes down to networking, and I just happen to continue to try to build that strong network."

McGriff encourages emerging professionals in the industry to network. He accredits networking as a factor for success in his career. He also believes that having a passion for the work that you do is essential.

Looking to the near future, McGriff has some exciting content that is currently in development.

"We're working on more branded content, partnering up with brands such as Fox, such as Netflix, and working on some of the content to help promote some other series that they are putting on," he said. " In terms of independent work, we don't have anything slated at the exact moment, but there's always stuff in development."


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