1) What was your first professionally directed work and when was it?
My first real gig as a director was for Def Jam Records. They asked me to document Alessia Cara’s very first concert in June of 2015. It’s funny looking back now, we were both so young and nervous. She was seventeen at the time and had never left Toronto before; yet there she was playing for a hundred diehard fans in Brooklyn. And there I was working with a label I absolutely revered with full access to a young artist with a pretty wild story. Instead of paying myself, I took my entire rate and hired a producer and rented a RED because I knew that when I saw a finished piece, I wanted to be able to say I gave it my all. I saw her two years later at an event, she ran over to me, gave me a huge hug and said its still her favorite video.
2) How did you get into directing?
I grew up in a very art-focused household. My dad has always been into music, art and movies and when I was a kid, I got a pretty dense education in the classics. As I got older, I started getting into skateboarding and BMX and I think because of my early education in it, I start filming things just because I was curious. That all funneled into theatre and art where I really started learning about how to tell a great story. I went to film school at NYU and came out as a DP. I shot for a couple years and realized my skillset was far better suited to be a director and the rest is history.
3) What is your most recent project?
I recently made a short interactive film called Holy Night. I’ve been developing an interactive series using a technology a couple buddies and I developed a couple years ago and Holy Night is our most recent effort. Holy Night tells the story of how a preacher, a grandmother, and a teenager all struggle to stay connected to their community during Christmas despite their destructive relationship to prescription drugs. Our technology allows viewers to switch between characters storylines at any point in real time by swiping on their phones or pressing A, S or D on their keyboards.
4) What is the best part of being a director?
I’m a big basketball fan (I’m actually watching the playoffs as I type this) and one day I realized that I idolized the coaches more than the players. I think being a great director is like being a great coach. My job to guide the franchise (or in this case, the project) to victory and help the players on the court (or in this case, the cast and crew) perform at the highest level possible. I get to work with so many incredibly talented people every day; seeing them smile and perform their best is what keeps me going. The best part is that I get to call all of them my friends.
5) What is the worst part of being a director?
There is no bad part. If you find it, let me know.
6) What is your current career focus: commercials and branded content, TV movies? Do you plan to specialize in a particular genre—comedy, drama, visual effects, etc.?
I tend to really gravitate to the projects that don’t fit into a box. I’ve turned music videos into documentaries, commercials into GIFs, branded content into television, etc. It sounds cheesy, but I just enjoy telling a story. Right now, my dream is to be in television but I’d love to dip my feet into working on the right commercials and branded content for me. Up until now, I haven’t been lucky enough to find the right organization that understands what work is best for me.
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?
When I was in college a professor give me the best advice I think I’ve ever gotten which is, “don’t be an asshole.” Terse as it may be, it is great advice. It’s on par with Google’s famous company policy, “don’t be evil,” but “don’t be an asshole,” has this certain NY attitude that I just loved. Cheers, Michael Carmine, I still use that one.
8) Who is your favorite director and why?
David Fincher for craft. Spike Jonze for inventiveness. Scorsese for pure mastery.
9) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
Do The Right Thing is the film that made me want to be a filmmaker; it will always have a place in my heart because of that. I’m an absolute diehard fan of The Sopranos, that show (and David Chase by association) changed my life both as a filmmaker and as functioning member of society. As for commercials, there’s nothing like W+K’s storied history with Nike. Pick a spot, they’re all masterclasses.
10) Tell us about your background (i.e., where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I grew up in Washington, D.C. and spent most of my time eating pavement on my bike or skateboard. Years later, at 26, I still get out there and eat pavement for breakfast. I like it, it makes me feel human. Only now I go to the skatepark at 7:00am and have more ice packs in my freezer.
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