1) How did you get into directing?
I worked a bunch of odd jobs after graduating college to buy my own camera gear and shoot little documentary projects here and there. After 4-5 years doing that, it led me into eventually becoming a director of photography on commercials, branded content, and feature documentaries, something I still enjoy doing. As a DP, you always have the camera between you on the subject, so there’s always that barrier between you and who you’re covering. Recently, I wanted the chance to break away from that and get more engaged with the subject and taking a break from the technical duties of the DP role for a little bit.
2) What is your most recent project?
I was fortunate enough to be selected to direct and edit a spot for Facebook, a short web film highlighting one of their most popular pages, “Human’s of New York” and its creator, street photographer Brandon Stanton. For two days we followed him all around New York, trying our best to capture his work, stay out of his way, and eventually share his unique story of success. I really admire the connection Brandon is able to create with his subjects and we did our best to make sure that came across in the piece as it’s really the most powerful thing he does with his work.
3) What is the best part of being a director?
Having the chance to be around and interact with people who are living inspired lives, and putting positive energy back into the work, and shining a small light on their accomplishments, it’s an honor. We sometimes take this production thing a little too seriously, so when you get a chance to meet people working selflessly for their community, it really puts what we do in perspective. I love having those moments of inspiration and awe that come with being around people who are living full lives, chasing their dreams, and giving everything they have to help others.
4) What is the worst part of being a director?
I can’t say there’s anything I really dislike about directing, but if I had to come up with something, it would probably be not putting all my energy into the director of photography role, something I’ve been working hard at for ten years now. When it’s the right project, I often DP/direct, and it’s a blast to do both, but it can be demanding trying to fill both roles.
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.?
I’m not trying to push what I do in any specific direction, I’m just trying to be a part of exciting and thoughtful projects, which often leads me to the documentary styled projects, telling stories about real people.
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’ve been really lucky to have worked with a good friend of mine Eliot Rausch, he’s a brilliant director and human being. By nature I’m a shy and quiet person, but he’s showed by example how to open yourself up, to allow yourself to be vulnerable, and how that helps you to better connect with those around you. It can be a useful skill, not just in directing, but in making meaningful relationships. I don’t think he knows I consider him a mentor, but if I were to follow his guidance, I should probably tell him that one of these days.
7) Who is your favorite director and why?
On the narrative side, I really enjoy the Coen Brothers. On the documentary side, there’s so many good filmmakers today, its really insane how much that genre has evolved just in the last 10 years.
8) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
My favorite film is a short film Eliot Rausch directed, called Last Minutes with Oden. If you haven’t seen it, you should watch it right now on YouTube or Vimeo. I just watched the documentaries Undefeated and 12 O’Clock Boys. I was blown away by how daring those film were. Hoop Dreams has been a film I’ve loved for a long time. Favorite commercial or branded content? Does ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary series count as branded content? If so, that would have to be it.
9) Tell use about your background (i.e. Where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I grew up in a tiny farming town in Upstate New York. My first job started in high school, running my little lawn mowing business. I used the money from that to buy my first camera after college and began shooting documentaries as soon as I could.