Raising An Olympian-Henry Cejudo

Phillip Montgomery

How did you get into directing?
Began in high school. I would often ask my teachers to let me make a short film in place of projects like book reports and labs. More often than not, they would let me, but they didn’t have a clue how to grade the films. Thank god, or my GPA would have been in bad shape.

What is your most recent project?
Most recently we saw the theatrical release of my feature documentary film #ReGENERATION, produced by Anonymous Content and narrated by Ryan Gosling. It explored the state of activism in today’s youth culture. I also finished my two first commercial spots for GE that looked at their involvement with our country’s veterans and their work in the non-profit sector.  I had the pleasure of working with BBDO New York on the pieces and it was a really great experience getting to work on that level.

What is the best part of being a director?
My favorite part is collaborating with other creatives and bringing compelling stories to life.

What is the worst part of being a director?
Seeing projects go away and not getting the chance to direct them.

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 see myself working in the vein of mostly dramatic visual works, but who knows. I have a real soft spot for Will Ferrell movies.  As for the form, I look to put my energy in both film and commercials. Simply whatever avenue is best to tell a good story.

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 have had lots of mentors through the years who have taught me some really invaluable lessons. Perhaps the first I can remember was my old Boy Scout leader. He told me something that I live by today which is “a leader serves those who follow them.” Particularly as a director, it’s easy to get caught up in the power trip of “do this, do that.” Sure, sometimes we have to be stern and stick with a decision, but it’s a collaborative process with lots of people looking to achieve the same goal which is to make something great.

Who is your favorite director and why?
Oliver Stone has been someone I have always been inspired by. Particularly his early work. He has taken some incredible risks despite all the controversy. In fact, he invites controversy. That takes some gusto.

What is your favorite movie? Your favorite commercial?
Favorite film? Depends on my mood and the day. Most recently though, I could call out Alejandro G. Inarritu’s Facebook spot titled “The Things That Connect Us” as one of my favorites. I thought it was beautiful. It took a big risk taking a rather esoteric concept about “chairs”, but it works. I thought it was brilliant.

Tell use about your background (i.e. Where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I grew up in the suburbs of Minneapolis/St. Paul. Started college at Drake in Des Moines, Iowa for Vocal/Opera performance, then got out of dodge and went to NYU Film and am now based in Los Angeles. My first job was as a clean up guy at a local butcher shop. I’d come in, in the afternoons, and clean the equipment after the butchers finished their work. It could be rough as you might imagine. It taught me a few lessons though, and has helped me as a director immensely. I think every director can still have those days where it seems like our job is to clean up after the butchers and make everything shine.