“Protest Photography” (short film)
What was your first professionally directed work and when was it?
My first professionally directed work was for a small cannabis grower and distributor called Private Stock Veterans. This was a pretty cool experience because I was sort of new to directing. We drove out into the middle of the desert somewhere outside of Los Angeles to this massive weed farm. Being from New York, I had never seen anything like this before. Also, the business was owned and operated by veterans and a portion of the proceeds went towards helping veterans in need –so it was quite rewarding as well.
How did you get into directing?
I got into directing through comedy. I’ve always loved comedy and have been performing improv, sketch and making comedy videos from a young age. Once I got out of college with a degree in film, I started performing improv in Brooklyn. I quickly realized that there were so many incredibly talented comedic performers around me and I immediately wanted to work with all of them! So I made myself available to the community as someone that would help them make videos (i.e., sketches, web series, short films) It turned out I was pretty good at it and I slowly evolved from “that dude with a camera” to director!
What is your most recent project?
I recently directed a comedic 30-second television spot for Nations Lending with Boathouse Agency. The spot featured, of all things, Dennis Rodman and a super cute pug. It was an awesome experience to work with Dennis Rodman, especially in a comedic capacity–the guy has great timing!
What is the best part of being a director?
Collaboration. There is nothing more exciting than seeing my ideas evolve and flourish in the hands of those that I am working with. When those around me ADD to my ideas and bring their own expertise/talent to the table – these are the most rewarding moments. An actor taking a character someplace I didn’t see, a DP with a genius camera move, an art director with a keen eye, etc, etc. Filmmaking is a team sport and when you have great teammates the whole thing is simply just a lot more fun!
What is the worst part of being a director?
This is an obvious one but budgets and timelines are probably the worst part. It’s essential to have “borders” on a project or else the places that we can go are infinite. But every now and then when a budget or a timeline gets in the way of something that I’m really excited about, it’s a bummer.
What is your current career focus: commercials and branded content, television, movies? Do you plan to specialize in a particular genre–comedy, drama, visual effects, etc.?
Continue to work in comedy. Of course, I would love to be the next Judd Apatow directing major motion pictures with huge comedy stars. BUT in the meantime, as I continue down my own path in comedic directing, I am focused on a little personal dream of directing digital shorts for SNL (if you’re reading this Lorne–call me.)
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?
The person that helped me to understand what it means to be a director was Cordy Wagner (a commercial director, and fellow NDS alum!) When I got out of college I worked for Cordy developing treatments and pitching commercials with him. He taught me the importance of communication, how to develop and design treatments, how to work with a production team, how to work with a client, and generally how the commercial production world works. Also so much more. I owe a lot to Cordy–thank you!
Who is your favorite director and why?
In this particular moment, I really like John Cassavetes. Cassavetes directed with such unrelenting freedom and in turn, has a creative voice that is so pure and clearly filled with love. It’s very difficult to approach one’s art in such a vulnerable way and I always strive to emulate that part of him. He also has a knack for letting humor play out naturally on screen–there is no punchline or joke count. The humor comes from a place of truth which I find is always funniest.
What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
I think that my favorite movie is Tommy Boy with Chris Farley. This movie was seminal in my interest in pursuing comedic filmmaking and it drove me to not just consume comedy but want to be part of it and create it. My favorite television show would have to be The Sopranos. And my favorite commercials are anything directed by Ian Pons Jewell–he is the master of commercial directing.
Tell us about your background (i.e., where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I grew up on Long Island in New York. I had lots of jobs growing up, working on construction sites, bakeries, a takeout fish spot, etc. I was terrible at all of them. Meanwhile, I would make comedy videos with my friends and post them on YouTube. At some point, my classmates started to take notice of our videos and we felt like stars amongst our tiny class of 150 kids. This is definitely when I caught the bug for comedy and filmmaking. While I was in college I would PA/Art PA and this is how I met Cordy Wagner. When I got out of college I continued to work with Cordy on commercials and produce, shoot, edit, direct, and everything in between for comedians around Brooklyn.
How has the pandemic impacted your career, art, craft, shaped your attitudes and reflections on life which in turn may influence your work, approach, spirit, mindset?
The pandemic shook things up in a big way, both good and bad. On the good side, I think that it created a lot of new opportunities for me and my peers. There seems to be new openings for fresh voices and perspectives, which is really exciting for everyone. On the bad side, it has made my future uncertain. As we seem to be coming out of this pandemic (hopefully) things are changing very quickly, making foresight and planning difficult. I haven’t known what the next month for me looks like in quite a while!
The pandemic also forced me to analyze why I do what I do. When it first hit, I was quite cynical. I felt like what I was making was meaningless in the grand scheme of what was happening in the world. But with some more reflection, I’ve come to find that there is meaning and value in what I do and that it’s found in the communities that I’m a part of. Whether it’s comedy or commercials, it’s the people that I get to work alongside that make what we create worthwhile.