1) What was your first professionally directed work and when was it?
My first professional job was a short horror film I made with 20th Digital Studio called Jane. It was recently released on Hulu. It explores the strange, mystical and very human science of forensic sculpting.
2) How did you get into directing?
I’ve always been very curious about the people I meet and the places I see. Over time this curiosity transformed into filmmaking. I like to reimagine these people and places within genre films and to use established genre conventions as tools to explore subjective experiences. My first student film, UFO Days, was shot on location at a UFO festival in Wisconsin and starred a real-life UFO conspiracy theorist named Bill Johnson. The film imagined a science-fiction narrative in which Bill was visited by an extraterrestrial at the festival, immersing him in the ufology he espouses. My AFI thesis film, Fort Irwin, challenged action film tropes by placing a real combat veteran into an obviously fake military reenactment, but photographed the reenactment like a Hollywood blockbuster.
3) What is your most recent project?
My most recent project is a short documentary called Fire Season about the 2017—2020 California wildfires. It is a documentary centered around the bizarre and darkly comedic crowds of onlookers that gather to photograph and observe fires. Like rubbernecking a car crash, but more apocalyptic. I hope to release it later this year or in 2021.
4) What is the best part of being a director?
Filmmaking is a great way to escape my subjective, insular experience, as well as a tool I can use to project my imagination onto others. Writing and directing films allow me to reimagine elements of myself and the individuals who have influenced me. Filmmaking, like any form of storytelling, requires creating an alternate reality — one that resembles objective experience, but is peculiarly influenced by its author or authors. My creative journey is driven by an unwavering desire to express my experience and imagination.
5) What is the worst part of being a director?
Sometimes I drink way too much coffee.
6) 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.?
I’m attracted to odd yet human stories inspired by real people and places. With those ingredients, I’m excited to work in any genre or format. I like to create things with a fast paced rhythm, so I hope to work more in branded content and television to play around with shorter, less conventional story lengths. I also work as a freelance compositor, so I try to direct work that is visually dynamic with subtle yet unique VFX.
8) Who is your favorite director and why?
David Lynch is my favorite director. He tells remarkable stories about unassuming people who are reshaped by sublime or uncanny events. He makes his audience feel a cocktail of emotions that is both unsettling and enlightening.
9) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
I think the entire Twin Peaks franchise is the best. I’m also inspired by the commercial and music video work of Chris Cunningham. I love creators that can make strange but accessible work.
10) Tell us about your background (i.e., where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I grew up in the Bay Area and Los Angeles. During undergrad I worked as a production assistant and assistant editor at PRETTYBIRD, which was a remarkable place to learn about the professional world of filmmaking. I then attended the AFI Conservatory and have spent the last year working as a freelance director and VFX artist.
11) 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 has pushed me to be more disciplined and driven in terms of trying to generate my own work and opportunities. It has also been a wake-up call that the world we live in is not as stable as advertised, which is both terrifying and inspiring.