Two weeks before he came back to William & Mary for the start of the new school year, aspiring Hollywood director Roman Dent ’12 had all but hung up his hat on his summer plans. With projected L.A. shoots on at least three music videos failing to pan out, Dent remained hopeful that something good would come his way.
“I was patient, I didn’t get discouraged, and I kept meeting new people,” He remarked. “And eventually it paid off.”
For the College junior, that payoff was far bigger than he had expected. Dent and Billboard Top 40 artist Jessie James had a mutual friend in a young musician named Alyssa Bonagura, whom Dent had been planning to shoot a music video with. While the shoot with Bonagura never happened, she happened to be talking with James at the same time that James was looking for a director on her new single “Dear John.” Bonagura put Dent and James together, and within weeks the video had been shot, posted on Vevo, and viewed more than a quarter of a million times.
While Dent concedes that this is perhaps the biggest job he has landed so far as a director, it is by no means his first foray into the world of filmmaking. Many years ago, while at a concert in his hometown of Nashville, Tenn., he was able to make contact with some Los Angeles natives, and has since been able to travel out to the west coast several times “just by keeping up with those connections.”
Some of the past projects he’s been able to work on include a film called “Beneath the Blue” and a first assistant camera job on “The Price,” a film which stars Carlos Gallardo of the “El Mariachi” trilogy.
However, Dent maintains that his interest in film began even earlier than that, saying that he has known since he was six years old that he wanted to be a Hollywood director.
“It’s an unrealistic goal. It’s a competitive goal. It’s a star-struck goal, but for me not to at least go for my dream and my passion would be a lot more cowardly move than taking the easy way out,” he said.
Dent, a psychology major, mentioned that he’s always been interested in telling stories, shaping events into stories, and viewing the world around him through a camera lens. Perhaps, he theorizes, that’s where the interest in his major comes in.
“I was always interested in epistemology, and why people think the way they do. I’m fascinated by perception,” he said.
That concept of perception played a large role in the video Dent shot for James. The song’s lyrics intentionally borrow from musician John Mayer, and the song itself stems from an incident that occurred at a hotel party between the two artists.
“According to tabloids,” Dent recounted, “John and Jessie were at a hotel party together. And apparently he kept texting her all these one-liners. I guess this is kind of her response video to that.”
As a result, Dent said that he tried to make James look as enticing and unattainable as possible in his video. Aside from using numerous editing techniques and a variety of different shots to lend the final product a “surreal memory feel,” Dent says that ultimately, “I just tried to make her look as good as she could possibly look.”
The director said he was he very happy with the final outcome of his efforts, and also extremely pleased by what his contribution means for the business. Dent shot the video on a Cannon 5D Mark 2, which is primarily a still camera with a video function. The junior said technology has changed the nature of the music video industry by making it easier “for kids going out almost guerilla style and shooting their own stuff to look completely and totally professional.”
While he is very happy with how the music video turned out, Dent’s goal remains to make movies in Hollywood. He’s continuing to work his way up through jobs on various shoots and is currently working on a screenplay for a short film with one of his friends. Mostly, Dent said, he’s searching for new and innovative ways to tell stories.
“That’s what it’s about,” Dent said, “and you can tell stories in three minutes, you can tell stories in 90 seconds, you can tell stories in 120 minutes, but it’s all about finding your knack for telling a story.”