Adaptoys’ “Play Without Limits” (web short)
1) What was your first professionally directed work and when was it?
It was a PSA with Cyndi Lauper, just a couple years ago. On set, she called me Cecil B. DeMille, because I wanted the camera at eye level and she wanted it much higher. Needless to say, it was a really good lesson in politics.
2) How did you get into directing?
I started as a DP, but I was naturally drawn to story and characters. One day, a producer friend of mine asked if I wanted to direct a scene, and I was immediately hooked. While I moved up the production ladder in a more traditional manner, my first opportunity as a director came by chance. Just before graduating, a teacher who I greatly admired, addressed the class and said, “Most of you will never, ever direct another thing in your entire careers.” I don’t know if he was right, but I feel very lucky to be in this business and doing what I love.
3) What is your most recent project?
I just finished a project with Kahlua. Their brand is really willing to take risks and have fun with the creative so it was exciting to film. I’m also currently in post for a short documentary I started over the winter. It’s definitely a passion project of mine and we’re very close to the finish line!
4) What is the best part of being a director?
Meeting people from all walks of life, and telling their stories. I’m passionate about socially conscious projects and giving people a voice. If you can shift your audience’s frame of mind and show them something unexpected, that’s when the work becomes meaningful. Also, traveling is pretty cool.
5) What is the worst part of being a director?
Losing out on a job, of course! But it comes with the territory. I can’t imagine anything else I’d rather be doing.
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.?
Right now I’m really focused on commercials and branded content. The dream would be to make a feature documentary and/or a feature film, but that’s down the road.
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?
There was a cameraman (I’ll call him Tim) who really gave me my first chance. He was an old-school, “put the camera on your shoulder and let’s go” kind of DP. I learned a lot about what it meant to hustle. He taught me that your imagination can make a frame a lot more compelling than money can. That lesson has stayed with me throughout my career and has given me the confidence to pull off riskier ideas when I’m on a job.
8) Who is your favorite director and why?
All time, it would have to be Scorsese. His work has been a part of my life since childhood. Currently, I really admire the work of Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Sicario). His soundtracks are incredible. There are also commercial directors like Eliot Rausch and Martin De Thurah whose work I always go to for inspiration when pitching for a project.
9) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
Favorite movie has to be Raging Bull. Annie Hall, The Deer Hunter and City of God are my runner-ups. Television: Freaks and Geeks. Favorite commercials, two-way tie between Nike’s “Find your Greatness” campaign and Leica’s “100.”
10) Tell us about your background (i.e. where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I grew up in New Jersey, but I’d spend a lot of time in New York because we lived so close. I was a scrawny, redheaded kid but being one of four siblings, I learned to develop a tough skin and was super competitive. I graduated from NYU and I’ve been in New York ever since. From an early age, my exposure to such a diverse culture has shaped my affinity for the personal stories I love to tell today in my work.
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