Guest Post from Gregory Earls, Author of "Empire of Light"

About Gregory Earls

When Gregory Earls isn't eating at Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles, he pays the bills by taking up space at 20th Century Fox in the Feature Post Production Department. He's a proud graduate of Norfolk State University and the American Film Institute, where he studied cinematography. He's an award-winning director who has amassed a reel of short films, music videos, and (yes) a wedding video or two. Steadfastly butchering the Italian language since 2002, he hopes to someday master the language just enough to inform his in-laws how much he loves their daughter, Stefania, who was born and raised in Milan, Italy. Gregory currently resides in Venice, California where he goes giddy every time he spots that dude who roller skates and plays the electric guitar at the same time. During football season, he can be found at the Stovepiper Lounge, a Cleveland Browns bar in the Valley where he roots for the greatest football team in the history of Cleveland.

Visit his website at

It's been ages since the last time I stepped behind the camera as a director, even longer as a cinematographer. Hollywood has a bad habit of killing off its young, and it almost got a hold of me right out of the womb! I was barely into my twenties when I got a call from the American Film Institute informing me that a spot in the new class had opened up. If I wanted it, I had two weeks to haul by my butt from Beachwood, Ohio to the bright lights of Hollywood. I greedily snatched up the opportunity.

The AFI only accepted a scant thirty students a year. The average age of a Fellow was about thirty years old, most having already spent some years getting their feet wet working in the industry. I, on the other hand, had merely completed my senior project- a little five minute black and white Super-8 film. The night before the first day of class, I was a wreck, full of anxiety and insecurity.

However, the day started off brilliantly, with the administration showing us its Alumni Reel. A fantastic piece of propaganda, it featured the works of David Lynch, Terrence Malick and Edward Zwick. The cinematographers included my two heroes, Robert Richardson (Platoon, JFK) and Caleb Deschanel (The Black Stallion, The Right Stuff). It was like being drafted by the Yankees and your first day with the club they showed you a video of Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle and Maris.

"Man, I'm in the big leagues," I thought to myself.

The cinematographer instructors were two old lions of the field, Howard Schwartz and Harry Wolf. They handed out the course syllabus, and I was stoked that they intended to start at the very beginning, teaching the very basics of the craft. However, this class was too damn talented for the fundamentals. It included Wally Pfister, who would go on to win an Academy Award for Inception. After a bombardment of technical questions that would put optics scientist to shame, Harry decided tear out the first four pages of they syllabus. Six minutes into the year and I was already two weeks behind!

The insecurity born on that day chased me a bit, as I graduated from AFI and began my career in the film industry. As guys like Pfister and Janusz Kamiński (Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan) found wild success, I've let the industry get the better of me, and it's been years since I've even held a camera. However, I think I'm ready to get my feet wet again.

This past September my first novel was released, Empire Of Light, a coming of age story of an insecure film student who finds his confidence during a miraculous journey through the streets of Europe. Not only was writing the book cathartic, but now I'm kind of eager to have a book trailer produced, to target all the young film students out there who might need to find their footing as well.

So within a few weeks, I'll be lighting and directing again, starting with the basics, on a trailer that will be run no longer than thirty seconds.

Look out Wally and Janusz. I'm back!

About Empire of Light

Empire of LightEmpire of LightJason Tisse is in over his head. As a young black cinematography student at LA's notoriously tough American Film Institute, he's got the vision, but not the balls to battle the ruthlessness that is Hollywood. After a failed year at AFI, which includes nearly electrocuting a fellow classmate, Jason embarks on a trip to Europe to hunt down the works of his favorite painter. Armed with an enchanted camera gifted to him by an eccentric film professor, Jason is prepared to master the art of light and shadow as depicted in the infamous baroque artwork of the original Emperor of Light known to the rest of the world as Caravaggio.

What Jason doesn't expect, however, is that the innocent-looking Kodak Brownie camera he's been given holds remarkable powers, capable of miraculously bringing his idol's artwork alive with each snapshot. Caravaggio's work, packed full of sex, religion, violence and some outrageous hilarity, explodes to life and sends Jason spiraling from one escapade to the next. Spanning the bright lights of Paris, the grand churches of Rome and the cutthroat alleys of Naples, Jason must overcome his inhibitions-even at the risk of life and limb-if he is to one day rule his own Empire of Light.