How did you get into directing?
Having grown up in a single family home with limited means, the movies were the one place where my imagination was fanned with the possibilities of living a life beyond my immediate experience. I got into directing when I was doing my philosophy honor’s thesis at UC Berkeley and one of the books I read for it was translated by Terrence Malick who I later found out was a director. It was the first time it occurred to me that directing could be a way of both earning a living as well being a means for an incredibly fulfilling life experience.
What is your most recent project?
My most recent project was a job for the US Navy, where I had the opportunity to film four Navy officers who had come from unlikely and disadvantaged backgrounds. They were stories about people who were able, through courage and fortitude, to rise above their difficult circumstances to become individuals with a sense of purpose and pride. I also just completed a cooperative branded campaign with Ford and the X Games featuring Motocross legend Brian Deegan. “Deegan’s Dare” challenged real people to rappel down the largest dam in Brazil and consisted of :30 and :90 second spots to drive viewers to a Ford-sponsored contest page on the X Games website.
What is the best part of being a director?
The best part of being a director is working with creative people that care, that help elevate a project, and bring out the best in everyone involved. I’ve found that directing is bringing two opposing forces together: vitality, vibrancy, and honesty versus structure, order, and fabrication. So much time is spent in preparation, making choices, anticipating problems, and designing strategies to capture unexpected moments. And yet the nagging dread is that things will feel overly worked out or completely predictable. There needs to be discovery, a notion that we’re onto something completely organic and constantly striving to bring real life into the mix, which can be magical of when it all fits together into something original.
What is the worst part of being a director?
Losing! Losing the light, losing the momentum, losing the moment, losing the energy, losing time, losing the spark.
The worst part of being a director is not having the tools or having the wrong tools to solve the problem. It’s being met with apathy or mediocrity and weaknesses of the imagination.
What is your current career focus: commercials & branded content, TV, movies? Do you plan to specialize in a particular genre—comedy, drama, visual effects, etc.?
I love telling stories about people and the things that matter to them. There’s an intensity and joy to working on a project for a short period of time and seeing it come to fruition in a matter of days, but I find the bigger the challenge, the more satisfaction from the work.
Have you a mentor and if so, who is that person (or persons) and what has been the lesson learned from that mentoring which resonates most with you?
I was a teaching assistant at UCLA for Richard Marks who edited Godfather II, Apocalypse Now and many James Brooks films and I learned a lot about the importance of performance, story, and directing from him. I also learned a great deal about where to place a camera for different effects from him and his class.
Who is your favorite director and why?
I’m a huge fan of Francois Truffaut. I love his playful techniques and his joie de vivre. So many of my favorite directors are influenced by him. He was a rule breaker and experimenter that pushed our storytelling skills to new levels.
What is your favorite movie? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
I love films or commercials that are deeply personal to the filmmaker. In telling a story, they are telling their story. Beginners, 8 1/2, All That Jazz, Mean Streets, Diner are a few examples.
Tell use about your background (i.e. Where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I grew up outside of both Washington D.C and Philadelphia and started teaching tennis at the age of 14 and also taught hang gliding during college. I was emancipated by the state of Pennsylvania at 16 and lived on my own during 11th and 12th grade. Later, I graduated Summa Cum Laude with High Honors with a BA in Philosophy at UC Berkeley and an MFA at UCLA’s Directing Program.