Unveiling the Directorial Vision Behind ‘Found’: A Conversation with Director DeMane Davis [EXCLUSIVE CLIP]

demane davis found

In the realm of storytelling that transcends boundaries and amplifies marginalized voices, ‘Found’ shines as a beacon of narrative brilliance. This groundbreaking series delves into the sensitive issue of missing persons, with a focus on people of color. We had the privilege of conversing with DeMane Davis, the visionary director who helmed the first two episodes of this season. We also share an exclusive clip from the second episode.

READ: Nkechi Okoro Carroll on Crafting a Much-Needed TV Series with ‘Found’ [INTERVIEW]

DeMane Davis brings a unique perspective to ‘Found,’ rooted in a personal childhood memory from Roxbury, Boston, that resurfaced during her work on the project. She discusses her approach to storytelling, challenges in connecting characters to Gabi, and standout moments from her episodes. We explore ‘Found’s’ essential message regarding missing persons, especially within communities of color.

Furthermore, we delve into the eye-opening experiences and revelations DeMane Davis encountered while working on this impactful project. Keep scrolling for this insightful conversation to uncover the layers of ‘Found’ and gain a deeper appreciation for its powerful directorial storytelling.

In ‘Found,’ which addresses missing persons, particularly people of color, what was your approach to highlighting their often overlooked experiences in storytelling?

When I was growing up in Roxbury (in Boston, MA) there was a clown that drove a van around and snatched Black children. It was never reported on the news. But everyone who lived in Black neighborhoods knew about it. One day I saw him. He was at the back of the van, it was milk chocolate colored with rust around the wheel wells. He had the kind of clown suit that tied in the back. I could see his dirty jeans and t-shirt peeking from under the cloth ties of the costume. I was about fifty feet away, alone. The clown closed the back doors, jumped behind the wheel of the van and drove off. This was decades ago but it all came back to me after I read the FOUND pilot. I remembered what I was wearing that day, the color and smell of the rubber ball I was holding…everything. I never told anyone except a couple of friends back then. While looking at that script I thought, if I could recall all of that so clearly when nothing truly awful actually happened to me- what were these characters recalling? How were they able to push their trauma down every day as someone who has been abducted must do in order to function? How could they possibly put their energy into saving someone else? For me that translated into constant movement – for them and then the camera. To be handheld, fluid. These characters have to keep moving not only because they’re trying to find someone but because, if they slow down, they’ll have to sit with their feelings. They’ll have to try to process the horribleness that happened to them. And they don’t want to do that. I also wanted to employ shadows – both in the daytime and at night- to convey that there are only a few spaces that feel safe for them. In their minds something is always lurking.

Directing episode one of ‘Found’ involved revealing each character’s connection to Gabi. What challenges did you face in balancing this without overwhelming the audience?

That’s really all Nkechi Okoro Carroll- the series Creator and Showrunner. She wrote both the pilot (and the second episode which I also had the honor of directing.) She’s incredible at devising distinct and deep characters. My part there was introducing them visually in a way that might let you in to them a little more (as establishing characters in a pilot is pivotal.) So Gabi (Shanola Hampton) is in an Extreme Close Up, coming off seeing her as a teenager. Dahn (Karan Oberoi) is explosive, bursting through a door and terrifying a bad guy. Zeke (Arlen Escarpeta) we see after revealing his sneaker collection and tech which is a huge part of his character. Lacey (Gabrielle Walsh) bends down into frame, smiling, as she walks a child to safety. Trent (Brett Dalton) is a little late, just a step behind Gabi, and Margaret (Kelli Williams) offers sustenance and displays kindness to Deron (Trayce Malachi) and later you find out why she is always this way, especially with children. Finally, of course, Sir (Mark Paul Gosselaar) is introduced with maximum cuts of other character’s reaction, to provide additional tension, and then comes out of the shadows at the end of the episode. The only real challenge was time. Making sure you get just enough of each person and moving on to keep the timeline realistic – in terms of them trying to locate someone – and the actual running time of the show. The real clock!

Were there specific scenes in the episodes you directed for ‘Found’ that personally stood out to you? If so, what made them special?

So many! Certainly all of the scenes with our young actors— Young Gabi (Azaria Carter) and Bella (Jasmine Washington) were wonderful together. Their scenes were heartbreaking. Charlotte Ann Tucker who played the Senator’s Daughter was four when we filmed. FOUR. She was off book and a total professional, we all marveled at her. Deron (played by Trayce Malachi) read the sides for the press conference scene that first day and said “I can’t cry. I just don’t think I can do it.” I tried to help release the tension he had about it – told him to feel his way into it and that whatever he did in the moment would be great and the cameras rolled and he just bawled. Every Time. He was incredible. And then Camilla (Chloé Flowers) was just sublime. When Gabi found her – that’s the moment that got me every time – the moment that people tell me made them cry. She has such power. I’m excited for what she’ll do next.

In the context of addressing the issue of missing persons, what message or takeaway do you hope viewers will gain from watching your episodes of ‘Found’?

That everyone deserves to be found. No matter who they are, what they look like or where they come from and certainly no matter if they have the income to hire a public relations specialist to attempt to get the story of them being missing to the top of the news heap. That’s what we’ve been reduced to – like many areas in this country- the people with the money get or pay for the most attention. But we’re all worthy. No matter what background you’re from – if you’re of color, LGBTQ, elderly or indigenous. You have the right to be safe. To be heard. To have joy. To be found.

What was the most eye-opening thing you learned while working on this project?

Before I interviewed and created a presentation and my take on this pilot, I had no idea that 600,000 people go missing every year and that more than HALF of them are people of color. I had heard stories – I think we all now know about the 45 Black teenagers from Cleveland who went missing in May of this year (that there appears to still be no more information about (!!!) but how did we learn about them? I only heard about it on Viola Davis’ Instagram account. Where are their stories? Where are the police? Where are the helpers? When I had my first meeting with Nkechi Okoro Carroll I asked her – “Can Mosely & Associates really exist? Can this be real? I’ll pool my money!” Found has action, mystery, it’s thrilling, it’s dramatic and it’s fulfilling to see Shanola Hampton bring this character to life with such passion, care and grace. Especially when she and her team find someone. It stings that it takes a fictional character to bring attention to a massive problem like this but I am so grateful Nkechi chose to tell this story at this time. And that she wanted me to come along on the journey to help make it.

Found airs on NBC, Tuesdays at 10/9c and available on Hulu and Peacock the day after it airs on NBC. Watch our exclusive clip below.

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