1) What was your first professionally directed work and when was it?
About two years ago I directed a piece for a United Nations initiative. It was a project where all of the impact and meaning came directly from the framing, so it was a really good fit for a first directing project. The experience really helped me to see how my cinematography background could translate into directing.
2) How did you get into directing?
I had been a professional cinematographer for about 15 years, and a photographer for longer than that when I started directing. A friend of mine was at a local production company and he had been urging me to turn director/DP for years. I think I held off because I was afraid of starting over. After the UN project I sort of realized that I wouldn’t be starting over – just building on everything else I had been doing all along. Starting to direct tabletop and visually focused branded content was a much more seamless transition than I ever could have imagined. Once we made it official and got the ball rolling, things moved pretty quickly.
3) What is your most recent project?
We just wrapped on shooting a year’s worth of content for Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Rye. We did videos, photos, and social, so I got to be the Director and the Photographer. As a new product in the JD family, it was a lot of fun to establish a visual treatment that is going to stick with the brand.
4) What is the best part of being a director?
As a tabletop director, I get to create all kinds of fun visual worlds in front of the lens. A lot of people think that tabletop is boring but I think it’s exactly the opposite. Ours is the business of creating extraordinary images from everyday objects and that can be a whole lot of fun for a visual human like myself.
5) What is the worst part of being a director?
If I had to call out the “least fun” portion of my job, I would have to say it’s all of the long phone calls and time spent hunched over a computer writing. Getting everything lined up and approved before the job begins, is an essential part of the process, but I much prefer when we are actually on set creating images together.
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.?
Before I ever started directing I found that I really liked working in the commercial world the best. There is a lot of variety and dynamism in the day to day, and way more creative opportunity than people might think. No two projects are ever alike, and I love the challenge of starting fresh on each project. As a director, tabletop has been a very good fit for me so far, but in general, I really love visually focused projects that require specialized problem-solving. This tends to specifically include tabletop and post heavy projects, but I find that this can manifest in all kinds of unexpected and exciting ways.
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?
A benefit from my tenure as a DP is that I got to spend a lot of time working with different directors. I saw a wide variety of approaches and personalities, and I learned something from each director I’ve ever worked with, both good and bad. I like to think of all of these directors as my collective mentors. There are many lessons that resonate with me, but I think the most important is the need to maintain perspective and constantly step back to look at the big picture. Sometimes the things that seem important at the time are not- and sometimes the smallest details can change everything. Whatever the case, there is never a need to freak out, and positive on-set energy is key.
8) Who is your favorite director and why?
Coming from a photography background, I grew up idolizing famous photographers more than directors. Of those photographers, there is something that I really love about each, so it is hard to pick a favorite. Duane Michels got me to think less about what limits your world. Henri Cartier Bresson taught me the magic of the decisive moment. The photography of David Hockney was an important catalyst in my transition from stills to motion.
9) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
Favorite movie? City of God Favorite TV program? Any of the newer series presented by Sir David Attenborough (Planet Earth, The Hunt, Blue Planet II, etc.) Favorite commercial or branded content? Taco Bell: “Breakfast Routine Republic”
10) Tell us about your background (i.e., where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio and was exposed to photography early in life. I built a darkroom in my basement and I spent a lot of time walking through alleys in bad neighborhoods taking pictures. I was one of those “Art Star” kids in high school- applying to every photography contest I had access to and actually winning a lot of them. There were a few of us like that, so when the English department got a shipment of video equipment they asked us to take over the technical side and learn the gear. This exposure to video production really caused me to re-evaluate my path. Instead of taking a scholarship to RIT, I ended up at Columbia College studying Cinematography and Photography. As the largest film school in the US, it was a great place to shoot a TON of projects. My path has been a lucky one.