Meet Tremaine Etheridge, the founder of PHOND. He would like to inspire and motivate everyone reading this. Back in December 2020, while in a period of depression, he started filming. Soon he met musician Mo Woods through Instagram and the team grew into a trio when they brought on photographer Trevor Saniano in October 2021. They started on the Phond web series Flowtin’ while pushing their creative boundaries and are releasing their full-length film called Phases this weekend — based on a double EP called Seasons and Seasons Change by Mo Woods. They came by the studio to discuss it all with us.
ed. note: Tickets for the premiere of Phases this weekend at the Chrysler Museum are available HERE!
Tremaine Etheridge: I am the founder of PHOND, which started in December 2020, and officially launched in either March or April with the first video.
2020 was a pretty transformative year for a lot of people. What inspired PHOND?
Tremaine Etheridge: So after film school, I kind of fell out of love with creating and into a depression. You know 2020 was kind of a crazy year, so I was like, let me let me do something to get me out of depression. So I just started filming and just had this idea: “What if we made everyday creatives look like superstars?” I studied different aesthetics and ways of filming and used my knowledge — and some YouTube research to make it happen.
The name PHOND is kind of a play on words. I just thought because we’re all creators, a lot of times we make things for ourselves. However, at the root of what we do, we always want someone to like the work that we do. You always want others to be fond of the things that we create. So I just kind of did what I wanted to do and didn’t follow a set idea.
Yeah, a lot of people used 2020 to reevaluate themselves. How did you meet these guys? And who are these gentlemen here?
Tremaine Etheridge: Let me start with the origin story. I met Mo on Instagram through a mutual friend in December 2020. I didn’t have any photos or a profile picture at the time, but I just hit him with a message saying I liked his music and we should work together. We officially started working together in March 2021.
So he was one of the original members of PHOND. Mo, as a musician and now an actor, what did you like about the initial idea and what were you going through at the time?
Mo Woods: In 2020, I just graduated and wasn’t sure what to do next, but I knew I wanted to be a part of the music scene somehow. I was producing and singing at the time. So when Tremaine approached me, I was a little apprehensive since he had no profile picture, but us having a mutual friend gave me the confidence to take a chance.
So you were in the first video and just continued to help out?
Mo Woods:Yeah, our relationship grew strong just through our creative collaboration. It was really easy to work with each other and our relationship grew from there.
And then you met this man over here.
Tremaine Etheridge: I met Trevor in October 2021.
Trevor Saniano: We met at a networking event. That’s where I actually met both of them at the same time.
Tremaine Etheridge: So we connected initially through his Instagram and I stalked him online. I like to see how people operate and their personalities. So I watched him for a few months before reaching out. I said, “Hey, you’re great at taking pictures. Do you want to shoot video?” He replied, “Yes!” [laughs]
So were you already shooting video and photography before he met you, or did he push you into it?
Trevor Saniano: He introduced me more into video than what I had already taught myself. I’d been taking on my iPhone for four years, just going out and having fun with my cousin. But I never really took the initiative to get an actual camera until last year.
I always took pictures of my cousin going out, but I never really knew what I wanted to do with them. I just had fun capturing the moments. But meeting Tremaine and Mo sparked everything I needed. I was going through a tough time, having lost my dog and grandma back to back and began to feel a lot of guilt. When Tremaine reached out, I was ready to stop taking pictures altogether. But it reignited my passion, and here we are.
I went through a similar process in 2020, like “how much time do I have? If I want to do something, I need to start doing it!” So, how did you guys make the jump from doing 1 minute shorts for FLOWTIN’ to making a full-length movie?
Tremaine Etheridge: The movie is called Phases. We wanted to challenge ourselves creatively as a team. Plus, we had already been shooting videos for another project, a double EP called Seasons and Seasons Change, which Mo released in November.
That surprised me. I remember working with you last year on RVAMAG TV, and all the stuff you were doing were real short, then you tell me you have a film. I was thinking 10 minutes at most, but it came out of nowhere.
Tremaine Etheridge: Most of the things I do come out of nowhere for people. But that’s how I like to work. We always liked our FLOWTIN’ episodes, but I wanted to do more and challenge ourselves. We started shooting just because we work and have fun at the same time. By October, we had four videos shot. What if we shot 10 videos, tying all scenes together to make a film?
Sounds like a visual album.
Tremaine Etheridge: Everyone sat there for a minute and said, “Okay!” We had episodes of Flowin stored away for the next two years. We just wanted to show that you can make whatever you want.
Interesting. So the movie is inspired by your music Mo?
Mo Woods: Essentially, yes.
And the film and trailer title suggest that your album deals with love, right?
Mo Woods: Yes, it deals with the presence and absence of love. Seasons is about being in love, while Seasons Change is about its absence. The movie follows this sequence, which covers relationships from 2017 to 2022. That’s about five years of material, which is what the music is about.
Was the film based on one specific relationship or a general theme of love?
Mo Woods: It’s based on a general theme of love, covering about four relationships through the two projects, Seasons and Seasons Change. They were all turning points or big learning points.
So, how did you guys go about co-directing? Did you take turns or work together on each one?
Trevor Saniano: We just kind of work off each other.
Tremaine Etheridge: Our ideas interweave. I’ll have an idea for a video, then Trevor might suggest something and I’ll bring my technical skills to the table to make it happen. We’re not really working, it’s more like hanging out and having fun.
Yeah, it was Mo who has to do the work! [laughs]
Tremaine Etheridge: [laughs] He worked hard!
Trevor Saniano: But yeah, he played his part too. We all come up with wild ideas and then turn to each other and Tremaine, wondering how we’ll make it happen. But everything we create is intentional and we put our all into it. It always works out in the end.
Mo Woods: Running scenes [laughs]
Tremaine Etheridge: I was going to say, running scenes!
Mo Woods: There were a lot of takes within the one running scene that everyone gets to see in the preview. That scene was done four times.
And you were really running. [laughs]
Mo Woods: Yeah, I was running! I had no choice.
Tremaine Etheridge: That was also the second running scene Mo did, because I scrapped the first one, I didn’t like it.
The trailer shows some great shots – lots of drone footage and environmental shots, and then some intimate scenes with just a couch in a black room and a single light. Where did you shoot these scenes?
Tremaine Etheridge: We shot across several locations – New York City, Baltimore, DC, The Blue Ridge Mountains, Moseley, Richmond, Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Hampton, and Newport News.
Wow. And how long did the shoot take? Seven months? That’s impressive. The first showing of the film will be at the Chrysler Museum, right?
Tremaine Etheridge: Right. Afterwards, the plan for the film is to submit it to as many film festivals as we can, and as many that will accept our project. We’re also in talks of doing a film screening/performance event in DC and hopefully taking it to different cities.
Will that be Mo performing the songs along with the film playing behind him or doing a performance before or after the film showing?
Mo Woods: I will perform after we show the film.
Tremaine Etheridge: The film tells the complete story and people will be able to appreciate the performance more after seeing the visual.
Mo Woods, photo by @tr.v.a
Final question, what else do you have in store for this year? Feel free to answer individually or as a group. Will you be releasing more music this year?
Mo Woods: I plan on releasing more music, not too much this year, but definitely some more.
And beyond the film?
Tremaine Etheridge: I’m working on a new performance series and developing a scripted television show. I might even be working on another film next year.
Mo Woods, Tremaine Etheridge, and Trevor Saniano, photo by Kimberly Frost @kimberlyfrost
All right, that’s great. You don’t need to reveal everything! Everyone, look forward to more amazing projects from PHOND. Is there anything else you’d like me to add?
Tremaine Etheridge: I would like to leave everyone with an inspiration.
Is that inspiration specifically related to the film, or for anyone reading this article?
Tremaine Etheridge: For anyone. My mom always tells me that you can achieve anything you want. And with this film, we just wanted to inspire creatives here that may think that doing a film is hard. Yes, it’s difficult.
It is for really real.
Tremaine Etheridge: Yes, it is real. However, you can do anything that you want to do. You just got to do it.
I love that message. And I think a lot of people can relate to that. Thank you for stopping by guys.
Give PHOND a follow on Instagram: @phondco
Find out more information on PHOND: phond.co
Tickets for the premiere of Phases this weekend at the Chysler Museum are available HERE!
Main photo by Kimberly Frost @kimberlyfrost