What goes into a perfect kiss? You need skill and technique, and a lot of communication with your significant other. Everybody's personal preferences are different, but the moment of the first kiss is often one of the most romantic memories of a couple's entire relationship.
Although there’s no guaranteed instruction manual on how to entice your love interest, the art of great kissing has inspired award-winning filmmaker and author Thembisa S. Mshaka to write, produce and direct a short film, aptly titled "First Kiss." The nearly four-minute clip follows two characters, played by Loren Lillian and Nelson Estevez, as they experience the moments leading up to their very first smooch.
In celebration of Valentine's Day, we caught up with Mshaka, who is also the founder of the production company SEEIT Films, to talk about the making of "First Kiss," and how to direct the perfect Valentine’s Day kiss to ignite a fire.
How would you describe the creative process behind "First Kiss"?
I wanted this film to be all about the unspoken: emotions, body language, anticipation. So there's no dialogue, which leaves plenty of room for the viewer to experience sweetness and intensity, which is what first kisses should be all about!
While writing the film's script, were there any memorable personal experiences that inspired you?
Not really; my first kiss with my husband was very different! I was inspired by my desire to see and show real love between people of color who are young, flirtatious and in no way broken. Their feelings are coming from the heart, nothing external or political. I also wanted to put a modern-day Afro-Latin gentleman on the big screen, and Nelson Estevez delivered big-time.
Were there any challenges while filming?
Yes. We actually lost the film due to technical difficulties the first time we shot it, so we had to call that a dress rehearsal and shoot again a week later. Everyone was very good about it. I was the most stressed in the crew, but it turned out for the better because the chemistry between Loren and Nelson was locked.
What prompted you to use Jill Scott's track "Making You Wait"?
I love the lyrics of that song and how Jill is at turns coy, sexy and definitive. Women are complex, and that song communicates that beautifully. I also wanted a song whose rhythm I could edit to. If you watch, everything happens to the beat of her song.
If you were asked to film a couple's first kiss, anywhere in the world, on Valentine's Day, what pointers would you give them (as a director) in terms of setting the mood and creating a memorable first kiss?
I'd want to film that on a picturesque beach at sunset with just enough light to see them. I'd tell them what I told my amazing actors: to relax, forget I'm there, be in the moment, and don't think about when I'm going to say "cut."
What's next for you?
Several projects that couldn't be more different. For me, it's all about illuminating compelling stories. I just completed my first romantic comedy feature, "Islamic Speed Dating." I am producing a family action skate drama, "Skateboard, Skateboard," with director Tank Burt, who won third prize for the film in this year's Sundance pitch competition. I'm also executive producing an LGBT docu-series on men of color in the ballroom scene, called "Throwin' Shade: House of New York."
Check out Thembisa S. Mshaka's "First Kiss" in the clip above.