How did you get into directing?
I’ve always loved film but truth be told, not growing up around it, I didn’t know what a director was until high school. Once I learned the role of a director, I began to look for avenues that would get me there the quickest. I was good at computers and a total film geek so I drove cross-country to Los Angeles after my freshman year of college to find an internship and a job to get my foot in the door. I ended up at Digital Domain and one of my first tasks was to organize their ¾” tape library of director reels. I took advantage and by the end of the summer I knew basically every director and their work by heart. That was really an awakening and the start of my progression to learn and try to move up.
What is your most recent project?
A commercial for Nike’s new Flyknit technology called “Biomorph.” It was client direct and one of the best experiences so far. Nike gave me their initial concept, what they want to showcase and then really let you have your vision. They are amazing to work with because they don’t micromanage the little details as long as the spot great and communicates their message.
What is the best part of being a director?
Taking a creative idea from concept through completion is definitely the most rewarding. I love taking an idea from paper (or someone’s head) and figuring out a way to fill in the blanks. There is just so much possibility–seeing a project evolve and come together from inception to delivery is incredibly rewarding.
What is the worst part of being a director?
Compromise. At the end of the day you’re creating a film for someone else and it’s difficult to let go. But it’s a part of life and especially part of being a director. Sometimes it hurts when it happens because you feel like it could be better, but you deal with it and move on. It’s a huge part of the job…but it doesn’t mean you have to like it.
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 like to think that my ability spans genres and I’m not really interested in specialization. I’m really focusing on getting better as a director. I’d like to transition into films eventually but right now I’m intent on making good creative work. I think we are all constantly learning and whatever opportunity comes at me, I’ll try to push and make it great.
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?
My mentor is definitely Ed Ulbrich (Digital Domain CCO). He was the one that gave me almost every opportunity and mostly just believed in me. He’s been one of my biggest influences. He knows so much about the industry and comes from the agency world so he’s been an enormous help throughout. He’s an incredibly creative and honest person and I feel very lucky to be where I am at now and that can largely be attributed to Ed.
Who is your favorite director and why?
I am a complete visual geek so I am a fan of any director that makes good work. I respect a lot of different directors’ work for a lot of different reasons. When I was a creative director at Digital Domain, I did shot design and previs for the guys like David Fincher, Joseph Kosinski and Carl Rinsch so I’ve learned a ton from them. I have been incredibly lucky to learn up close and personal from the best of the best and I admire them all, among many others.
What is your favorite movie? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
I love movies and commercials in general so it seems like I have a different favorite constantly. Film is my religion–there is so much greatness out there and they are all so different, it is difficult to single just one out. I will say that if I’m watching TV and The Shawshank Redemption comes on cable, my afternoon is shot.
Tell us about your background (i.e. Where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I grew up in New York and moved around a lot–13 different places in New York, from the Bronx to Manhattan to the suburbs. I went to college in snowy Syracuse before eventually making my way to California to live the dream. When I first came out, I had three jobs–PA-ing on set, interning, script coverage; basically doing anything that could help me get my foot in the door before I finally landed a job at Digital Domain. I was the art director of commercials for a year and a half before becoming the creative director and then finally to directing for Mothership.