1) How did you get into directing?
Growing up, my parents used to take my sister and me to the movies all the time. I fell in love with films and started shooting videos with friends in high school. We made music videos and weird short films.
After graduating I originally wanted to study biology or astronomy in college, but an extremely encouraging teacher made me realize that I might actually have some talent as a filmmaker. I decided to get a film degree instead, and spent four years making quintessentially embarrassing student films. After college I moved to Chicago to study improv comedy. I continued to shoot music videos, sketches, and short films, and eventually landed a job at Optimus as an assistant editor. After working in post-production for a few years, I began directing for One at Optimus and have been directing commercials and branded content ever since.
2) What is your most recent project?
I just wrapped shooting a 6 episode web series featuring a lot of great Chicago improvisers and I’m currently shooting and editing a documentary about remote control car racing the Midwest.
3) What is the best part of being a director?
The best part about directing is watching the seeds of pre-production come to life. I do love the process: collaborating with creatives, putting together a great cast, working with set designers and art department, and developing a shot list with a cinematographer is always fun. But to be on set and see all those elements that, for weeks or months, only existed as abstract written ideas come together is incredible. It’s like your favorite birthday party and your best recurring, non-sexual dream all happening at once.
4) What is the worst part of being a director?
The worst part of being a director is the night after a shoot day. Once I’m off set I start thinking back on everything we shot that day and I begin to panic. Did I get all the coverage I need? Were the performances believable? Should I have shot that closeup that we decided to cut because we ran out of time? That anxiety after shooting and before I see an edit is just terrible.
5) 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.?
Right now I’m focused on commercials and branded content. I’m working on a few potential pieces for TV, so we’ll see how that goes. I specialize in comedy, but I dabble in documentary the occasional dramatic piece as well.
6) 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?
I never really had a mentor. I’ve learned a lot from so many different people, from my first video production teacher in high school to my screenwriting college professor in college, family, friends, and artists I admire. One of the best lessons I received was from a cousin who emailed with me after I graduated college and was trying to figure out what I should do. She reminded me that I have to create, not out of obligation, but out of the need to create. It’s a necessity that I can’t live without.
7) Who is your favorite director and why?
Currently my favorite director is Andrei Tarkovsky. I just discovered his films this year and I was blown away by his style. He approaches filmmaking like no other director. His book Sculpting in Time gave me a whole new perspective on directing: crafting performance scene by scene, the idea of shots having their own internal rhythm that dictates editing, his use of music, and the way his camera explores and reveals space.
8) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
If I had to pick one movie, I’d say Ran by Kurosawa. Favorite comedy would probably be The Royal Tenenbaums. For commercials, I’ve always had a soft spot for the Starburst Berries and Cream commercial. I also love the K-Swiss Kenny Powers series.
9) Tell use about your background (i.e. Where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I was born in Hawaii and grew up in Arizona, save for one strange year my family lived in Louisiana. I’ve held jobs as a park recreation leader, a barista, a front desk clerk at a hotel, and a day-long stint as a door-to-door salesman.