USA National Hockey’s “Who We Are”
1) What was your first professionally directed work and when was it?
My first professional job as a director was a :60 spot for USA Hockey on the Paralympic Team, released summer 2018. Prior to that I had directed a few short films in longer form.
2) How did you get into directing?
Films were always important to me growing up. The experiences I had with films helped shape my values and identity. In my early twenties I spent several years making snowboard films and I left that to pursue a career as a cinematographer. Eventually, I realized I wanted to express some of my own ideas/feelings and began directing.
3) What is your most recent project?
In the last month I had two back to back commercial shoots. One of these was a series of 3 portraits centered around the everyday struggles of individuals who have found genuine ways forward despite difficult circumstance. We had really strong, open relationships with the participants the stories centered around, and I’m very proud of how that work is coming out. My most recent short film was titled “Mike Mollo Prepares for a Fight”. The film follows a day in the life of a boxer as he trains for a fight and discusses his views on fighting.
4) What is the best part of being a director?
Self expression. Having the privilege to take what often starts as a small Idea and be on set with a large group of skilled people who are there to support and grow that Idea. Between all the chaos of shooting a project sometimes there are small moments when you connect with how special it is to be doing this.
5) What is the worst part of being a director?
The stress and anxiety that comes along with being the front person of a film production. There is a whole team of people who are invested in the project with lots of technical and logistical things to consider and worry about.
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’m interested in the space that exists between documentary and narrative filmmaking. I’d like to bridge this gap, bringing cinematic language and technique into stories that are founded in real lived experience. I plan on continuing to make short films and make feature length work in the future, but am also looking forward to working in the commercial space and growing my body of work.
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?
I’ve learned a lot from friends both in and out of the film industry. As of late, watching friends find success after years of difficult work has taught me a strong lesson about persistence. Any real worthwhile endeavor takes an enormous amount of dedication.
8) Who is your favorite director and why?
Most anyone making work that expresses a strong voice inspires me, those who challenge conventions and bring new ideas. Any director who can make you feel something that you haven’t felt before is worth admiring.
9) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
Koreeda Hirokazu’s Shoplifters, Josephine Decker’s Madeline’s Madeline, and Chloe Zhoe’s The Rider are a few films from just this past year that really resonated with me. The Rider applied narrative film techniques to a real story with non-actors and was very beautiful.
10) Tell us about your background (i.e., where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I grew up in Chicago. My dad works as a photographer, and when I was 13 or 14 I started asking about taking pictures. Eventually I got interested in filming my friends skating, and then, snowboarding. I went to film school in Vancouver, Canada to get close to the snowboard industry and left to pursue a job opportunity. I spent 4 years traveling while making snowboard films before leaving to pursue a career as a DP and then Director. I live with my partner and wife, Joanna, and our cat, Mika