1) How did you get into directing?
I didn’t go to film school. When I moved to New York after college from Cleveland, Ohio, I started in the edit room cutting other people’s features, commercials, and short-form projects. Many times, I would tell myself, I can do better. I learned by constantly making stuff. I would come home from work, (and still do) and start producing my own short films, music videos or spec commercials.
While my professional directing career has only been a few years, I think I’ve always had a filmmaker’s brain. Like a lot of kids who love movies and gadgets, when I grew up in small-town Ohio, I always had my hands on a camera.
2) What is your most recent project?
My most recent project is an exclusive branded web series for Hulu, fueled by Hyundai. The web series is hosted by Mario Batali. It was a very intense, but fun project to work on. We had to shoot 6 12 minute episodes in about 4 days. That’s basically like shooting a feature in 4 days. Plus, it featured some big talent so it was definitely challenging, but I think it was worth it.
Just before that, I directed a film for Caterpillar that recently went viral. We played the world’s largest game of Jenga with 5 Caterpillar machines moving 600-pound wood pieces. That was another intense shoot, but the results were incredible.
3) What is the best part of being a director?
It might sound trite but I think fully seeing your vision come alive is the best part. There’s nothing like seeing that vision on the screen - if you get it right, of course. It’s a very rewarding process. And it’s tangible. The same way a carpenter is satisfied after building something, I too feel that satisfaction after a shoot. I think second to that is being able to work with such amazing people - DPs, line producers, creative directors, sound guys and of course actors and actresses. I’ve learned from everyone and I really love meeting new people, many of which have become my closest friends.
4) What is the worst part of being a director?
There’s not too much I don’t like (yet), but I think maybe the worst part is dealing with notes from clients and having to explain the vision multiple times. This is especially true with branded content projects where the line is a little blurred and you think you can take more chances.
5) 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.?
My focus right now is really on short and long-form branded content. I’m not terribly interested in TV spots (though, I would take one, trust me). I think this space is extremely exciting. Filmmakers are being allowed to tell actual meaningful stories with, generally, very low brand involvement. Outside of the ad world, my focus is on features right now. I am in the midst of getting my debut feature narrative off the ground. As far as genres, I tend not to pigeonholed myself, or even think about it. The best movies, to me, are often hard to even categorize. That said, I’m not interested in any finite genre, but rather, all of the above.
6) 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 don’t have one mentor, per say, but I have had a lot of people in my life that I have learned from.
Executive Producers, DPs, actors, even grips and electrics. I think if I had to choose one lesson that has really resonated with me since I’ve been doing this is,”just make stuff.” Constantly innovate; constantly be making stuff and learning.
7) Who is your favorite director and why?
It’s kind of like asking me who my favorite band is, it’s a hard question to answer but I will say what kind of director is my favorite, and that’s someone who constantly reinvents him or herself. Those are the directors we remember and I personally connect with - the ones that are never satisfied with one style, genre or story. They’re constantly evolving and trying new things. That’s the kind of director I hope to be. But, here’s a few favorites, which are likely everyone’s favorites: Lynch, Fincher and Kubrick.
8) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
I wasn’t sure how to answer this so what I did was look in my DVD drawer under my TV and randomly chose one: Adventures in Babysitting.
9) Tell use about your background (i.e. Where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. I started out writing white papers for the CEO and CCO of TBWA and eventually started editing and producing internal projects for the global network. I was recently was hired by Ogilvy’s internal production company, Eyepatch, as filmed content director.