How did you get into directing?
I was born and raised in Maine and moved to New York in 2000 to attend the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. My thesis short, Vacationland, screened at film festivals all over the world, including the Student Academy Awards. After I finished film school, I began working as an editor, cutting documentary and narrative features, including Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture. In addition to working on movies, I began editing broadcast commercials and long-form content at Washington Square Films. In 2010, I had my own film project accepted into the Sundance Screenwriters and Directors Labs, which lead to its eventual production in February of 2102. After Bluebird took off, I transitioned into directing full time.
What is your most recent project?
My most recent directing project was Bluebird, a dramatic feature film which opened the World Narrative Competition at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival. The film was awarded the Annenberg Feature Film Development Grant, the Richard Vague/Chris Columbus Production Fund, and The KRF Grant from the San Francisco Film Society. Bluebird stars John Slattery (Mad Men), Amy Morton (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf), Louisa Krause (Martha Marcy May Marlene) and Margo Martindale (Justified). Indiewire called Bluebird “Subtle, nuanced and absorbing… a remarkable first feature” and the Hollywood Reporter said it was “a gentle, soulfully acted drama with its own distinct identity.” Bluebird will travel the international festival circuit and will be released theatrically. I have also been busy directing commercials, including a new project out of Publicis Healthcare.
What is the best part of being a director?
I think it’s enormously satisfying to start with something abstract, an emotion or a mental image, and then see it evolve into something concrete. It’s the art of translating dreams into something tangible, which feels a little bit magical every time.
What is the worst part of being a director?
There is never enough time.
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’m currently developing several film projects while attempting to expand my work as a commercial director. My films tend to be grounded in character and atmosphere and my focus in the commercial world is no different. I’m most excited by capturing life as it unfolds and finding poetry in the everyday.
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?
Bluebird participated in the Sundance Screenwriters and Directors Labs, which is basically a structured mentorship program. I had many advisors at the Sundance Institute who helped guide that project. I have also benefited from working with seasoned indie film veterans like Christine Vachon (Bluebird executive producer) and Susan Shopmaker (casting director). I learned a lot from them simply by watching them work. In the commercial world, I learned a lot from Jonathan Schwartz at Washington Square Films. He really taught me the ropes of advertising, which is very different from my roots in indie film. Also at WSF, Josh Blum taught me how to integrate all the different elements of my career.
Who is your favorite director and why?
There is no one director I would deem as my “favorite.” I’m excited by a lot of different work for a lot of different reasons. In the film world, I’m most attracted to filmmakers who tackle complicated emotions with a visual approach and aren’t afraid to fail. Robert Altman, Claire Denis, Terrance Malick, Mike Leigh, Monte Hellman, David Lynch, Michael Haneke, etc, etc, etc.
What is your favorite movie? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
I don’t have a favorite film, though in the past I’ve rotated between each of the mid-career Kubrick movies. The language of commercials evolves so quickly that it doesn’t make much sense to canonize any of it. It’s more ethereal and fleeting, which is sort of what is interesting about it.
Tell use about your background (i.e. Where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I grew up in a small town in Maine were I worked in restaurants and gas stations. Now I live in Brooklyn. I’ve interned for filmmakers like Todd Solondz and Jim Jarmusch, worked in postproduction for Season 4 of HBO’s The Wire, and edited dozens of commercials and feature films. I’ve only recently begun directing ad campaigns, including spots for Nationwide Insurance (Mckinney), Chevy (Mother) Allegacy Bank (Wildfire), and Blue Cross/Blue Shield (Campbell Mithun). As an editor I’m represented by Sheldon Prosnit in LA. As a writer/director I’m represented by CAA and Washington Square Arts Management, and for commercials I’m represented by Washington Square Films.