Severn Lang is a talented, driven director from Urbandale, Iowa. Growing up in a small town in the Midwest, life was a constant struggle for him. At a young age, Severn’s brother passed away and he was diagnosed with extreme dyslexia, making school much harder for him than his peers. Because the education system in Iowa was unable to accommodate Severn, he turned to other, more creative outlets to learn, grow and find his voice. Severn preferred hands on learning to the classroom, and was able to find solace in the Boy Scouts of America, art, music and mechanics. He became an Eagle Scout at sixteen and learned patience and leadership skills that he still applies to his directing and film endeavors today.
After graduating from High School, Severn got a modeling opportunity to work in both New York City and Italy. Working as a model, Severn found that he enjoyed the hustle of being on set, getting his first glimpse into the film industry through modeling for commercials.
In 2002, Severn got into a life altering car accident, causing him to have amnesia. Needing time to heal and regroup, Severn returned to his hometown in Iowa for a few years, before attending The Professional Cosmetology Institute, located in Ames, Iowa. During his modeling days, Severn would often help hair stylists on set and he discovered that he had a knack for the artistry in it. Severn graduated from cosmetology school in 2005, before moving to Las Vegas, NV for work.
While in Las Vegas, tragedy struck again when Severn’s father passed away. He turned to alcoholism and fell into a depressed, dark place. Fortunately, he was able to overcome his addiction though, finding strength and comfort in God, his faith and support from the friends of Bill W and Messengers of Recovery MC. From there, Severn was offered a job working for a salon in Beverly Hills, CA, owned by renowned stylist, Jose Eber.
Severn moved to Los Angeles in 2009, where he spent ten years working as a hair stylist, while simultaneously pursuing opportunities in film. Being in such close proximity to Hollywood, Severn’s passion for film intensified and he eventually accepted a spot in LA Film School’s Film Production/Film editing program. He quickly switched to the directing department, however, realizing that his skill set was much more geared toward those of a director. Severn fell in love with the hands on, creativity of directing. He found that, in this particular field, his dyslexia and the hardships he endured growing up, worked to his advantage. The unique way his mind works allows him to view and approach things in a brilliantly different way; his past struggles enable him to identify with characters in his films and inspire his actors to do the same.
Severn graduated from the LA Film School in 2020 and he currently resides in Atlanta, GA, where he continues to direct films. Severn believes that film is a way for anyone to create something out of nothing and he finds that it is the perfect outlet for him to express his thoughts and inner demons to the world in a wonderfully beautiful, complex way. It is our pleasure to speak to him about the making of his latest short film, Innner Peace.
What was the inspiration behind the making of your film?
Inspiration for inner peace is based off of the idea of normalcy between all walks of life. To create equal a mutual understanding of one's inner dialogue an exterior actions.
What is the most challenging aspect of working in this genre?
I had to say the most challenging part about the genre drama is to bring true feelings and true emotions from the actors onto the screen and not look like it's forced so it's timing it's patients it's about how to mold an actor into their own emotions from the characters standpoint.
When did you realize that you wanted to work in media and make films?
I definitely wasn’t a young child or a teenager wanting to make a movies. I just wanted to survive those years. 2016 July 26th, The anniversary of my brothers death, I was lost on what is next in my life. There’s a little backstory that you need to know. At the age of 25 I promise myself I turn 40 and I am not an owner of a salon I will move to a different career. In 2016, I was 37 years old. Three years from then I would be 40 and there was no chance I would be an owner of the salon. So I decided to get ready to change my career. What path it was unclear until I was sat down with Gary Anderson who recently retired from “WB studio” Director of photography. This man has seen the film industry change over 40 years. I took everything to heart when he speaks about the industry and about my self when it came to my new career change. “We need people like you on set, you are driven. But Sev, you don’t have direction on what to do.......(later in convo) College/school/classes can help to find your path.....at your age, you don’t have time to be a P.A. for years as most young filmmakers. I can tell you are a leader and driven. Prey on it.”
After I talked with Gary, I had a long moment by myself. This is the moment where I decided to watch a French film called “The city of lost children”. The funny thing is I have trouble watching foreign films, because of the subtitles. I would have to watch a foreign film 2 or 3 times to read the subtitles. Because of severity of my dyxlcia (dyslexia) I couldn’t match the words to the pepole (is the right way to spell it phonetically.... people = pe-ople is the wrong way...... haha welcome to a dyslexics mind.) moving on....
The city of lost children and talking with Gary Anderson was the moment and the biggest inner spark to give 110% to become a filmmaker. I wanted/want to make an English version of the film or make a tv series based on the French film “The City of lost children”. But I didn’t know at what capacity or direction of role I would be in the film industry to full fill this new dream and goal.
And what was the first film project that you created as a director?
The very first film I ever tracked it was a 48 hour film contest for school in my third month. This was an eye-opener of knowing that I do have the capability of directing a group of 20 students to create a short film based off a very little information or experience of filmmaking. This is the first time and I learned that my leadership skills and education in the past have benefit me the most even though I like the experience of filmmaking. I knew how to lead others to create something that they have no experience in. It's all about problem-solving and teamwork.
How did you choose the cast and the crew of the film and what was the most challenging aspect of production?
Oh boy... yea so.. Covid-19 lock down happen. I did the normal online casting websites. But in COVID everyone backed out. I got desperate. Craigslist...... yep... and I found one off of Instagram.
I didn’t have Auditions...some what. It was more who is willing to film in Covid-19 lock down. The 4 you see are the ones who was willing, well not all true there was a 5 he didn’t respect the COVID problem and in short after an hour I let him go...aka fired him. That was a hard proses to do as a filmmaker, as well as a person. Ones the actors parked, I explained exactly what was going to happen ones they out of the car. The studio is/was my living room, set was very simple but with sound blankets and dampening mats.
Ones they are setting I would talk about the project. They had the choice to pick to act in character or be them selfs. Ones they agreed to how to more a head I would interview them about there life and experiences as the character or there own life. Then ones filming, I would use there life experiences to bring up the feeling of emotions I was wanting. In short it was a emotional time with every actor and actress. I was looking for improv skills, maybe half had a small skills in improv naturally. As a Director I find it thrilling to work with beginner actors. For I am able to use my full skills as a Director. At the same time I didn’t want to be apart of the cast but one must do what they need to do get things done and to get the best results for the film.
Originally I had a different project that would involve about 10 crewmembers and up to 20 at times. But due to Covid project change and the crew went from 10 definitely to one, myself. The stresses was very very high and unclear exactly how to execute without support of a team. But with a plan of taking small steps at a time you see the project before you.
And what was the most challenging aspect of production?
The most challenging aspect of this project with Covid. I shot this completely in lockdown. Coming up with the idea and executing it solo was challenging. Moving from Los Angeles to Atlanta Georgia without my support team was also a challenge as well. But with good mentors, good friends in my professors from The Los Angeles Film School to bounce ideas off my thesis film in our peace is a success.
What genre of filmmaking fascinates you as a director and which genres do you prefer to work on?
I get asked this a lot what genre film making do I like to direct. It's not a genre that I like most each genre has their own unique style and circumstances and problems within a script and to direct. That's what I find most fascinating is circumstances and problems that a character or the crew or the film or the Director myself come across. I don't wanna be stuck in a genre and be known as Severn he's a great you know action only Director. I feel in every genre there is elements of all style of films within it.
How can cinema change the world and have an impact on society?
Cinema has always been a life-changing experience for every individual who have seen a movie or television even a commercial and now in our time of age social media. It can change hearts and minds of the wicked and of the innocent. It can change the willingness of the the hardened heart. It can change one single life to fulfill the destiny to change the world for the better.
What is your next film project as a director?
Right now when I'm up to the developing three original scripts right now, first script is a live action, Second script is a drama and the third script is a murder mystery thriller. I am in development and all three by the end of the summer I'm planning to be pitching to producers and production companies.
At the end of this year I hope to be writing a sci-fi script as well.