Bittersweet Foundation’s “Love, Dad” (web content)
1) What was your first professionally directed work and when was it?
My first piece as a director was called “Un Architecte,” in the winter of 2015. It traces the will of one boy, Landry, to play football and the master craftsman who gives him the means to attempt that goal. Shot in Democratic Republic of Congo with the nonprofit StandProud, the story is emblematic of difficulties overcome by children and youth with disabilities in developing nations, and of those who can help them realize their dreams.
2) How did you get into directing?
I got started in the industry working mostly as an editor. I’m incredibly grateful to have started out there. Looking back it completely informed how I think about not only shooting, but storytelling in general, which just makes you a more well-informed director.
3) What is your most recent project?
It’s was called “THE LIGHT.” I worked on it with my good friend and talented DP Tim Sessler. We wanted to put a high powered LED on a drone and move a light instead of a camera. However, I wanted to take it a step further and try to make the light a character if possible. It was pretty terrifying at times, but an amazing experiment, and something totally new for the industry.
4) What is the best part of being a director?
Often times as an editor, DP, producer, grip, etc., you always have ideas about why a scene or concept isn’t working, or how it could even be stronger. As a director you get to the opportunity to make those happen. I think it’s a lot of responsibility that can be a double edged sword. If something totally falls flat, or is a total success, it’s on you.
5) What is the worst part of being a director?
Taking care of yourself. Finding time to rest—not even create—just rest.
6) 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’m obsessed with light and camera movement—that’s first. However, for the past year I’ve been really interested in the intersection of documentary and narrative. I love working with real people, in real situations, but focusing on directing them toward a narrative arc of some kind. So instead of shooting a documentary waiting for the action to happen, you’re crafting a narrative with them in it. It’s really challenging to do. I think the approach works virtually for any genre.
7) 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 with you?
My college professor, Kathy Bruner. She taught me to focus on the story, not equipment.
8) Who is your favorite director and why?
Alejandro González Iñárritu. I’ve been in love with this work since 2000 on Amores Perros. He just gets better and better every year. His work is so rich and complex, full of emotion. I think he understands people first, and then thinks about crafting a film after.
9) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
Film: In the Mood for Love – Kar-Wai Wong
Series: Chef’s Table
Music: Flying Lotus – Coronus, The Terminator – Directed by Alex Takacs, DP Pat Scola
10) Tell us about your background (i.e. where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
Grew up in Colorado, and Chicago. Both my parents are teachers. My sister is a therapist and my best friend. Before getting into this field I lived in western China—Qinghai, Xining—for a few years learning Chinese and helping start a coffee company. I’m a guidance counselor’s worst nightmare.
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