How did you get into directing?
I didn’t get into directing, it’s always been a part of my life. When I was a kid, my family used to go to my Aunt Marlene and Uncle Bob’s for Christmas Eve. They had an old VHS shoulder-mounted camcorder, and though I was only seven, they’d let me lug it about and shoot the festivities. It was too heavy to carry on my shoulder, so I used to set it on my lap or push it about the on the floor. I was hooked, and they noticed. When they bought a new camcorder, they gave that old monster to me. Best day of my life. And I haven’t stopped making movies since. I’ve been through decades of education and experience, but the spirit of discovery and creation I had then is still pushing me forward.
What is your most recent project?
A 30 second spot for Sprint shot in Baltimore. It was a great production all the way through.
What is the best part of being a director?
First and foremost: Bringing ideas to life. You are literally taking an idea and making it real, making it palpable and shareable. It’s that creation process that I love. Something that only existed in your mind or on paper suddenly enters the world and can be experienced by others. I enjoy directing as a craft of creation. But filmmaking is not a sole endeavor, and that’s my other favorite part of directing: Collaboration. It’s an incredible feeling when you put your trust in someone else and the end result transcends your expectations. It does make you vulnerable, but working with collaborators is that much more fun and rewarding.
What is the worst part of being a director?
The worst parts of directing are the same as the best parts. Bringing your ideas to life is amazing, but that often comes with self-doubt or second-guessing. But conquering those doubts and fears makes the creation process worth it. Those thoughts keep me honest and fuel my creativity. It reminds me that I care. The same goes for collaboration. You trust others to care and execute the same as you do on a project. When they do, the idea elevates, and that’s where the magic lies in filmmaking. But when collaboration fails, that’s the nightmare. But this tightrope of fear and elation, of trust and failure is what it’s all about. On that rope, art is born.
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 want to keep cutting my teeth on commercials, branded content, and shorts. While I eventually want to write and direct my own feature, I consider myself extremely fortunate to be making a living doing this. My seven year old self would be proud. I just hope I continue to get interesting projects that challenge me. The feature will happen, it just needs to be the right idea at the right time with the right people by my side, and made for the right reasons.
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?
My mother was my first creative mentor. An artist and illustrator, she immersed me in all the arts. She taught me about the beauty in both human expression and the natural world. My undergrad professor Terrence taught me to be fearless and my professor Joan grounded me in craft. But the greatest mentor in my life has been my friend Ken. He taught me that experience and drive is what makes a filmmaker, not expensive schools or money. I learned how to shoot on his camera, how to light with his lights. He produced all my early work, was always there for me on any production and is still there for me today. I owe any success I’ve had to his support over the years.
Who is your favorite director and why?
I have dozens and the list grows every year. They are all craftsman, excellent storytellers, always try something new, and have a unique and personal vision.
What is your favorite movie? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
Tell us about your background (i.e. Where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I grew up in Inwood, NY, a small, working class town nestled between JFK airport and Far Rockaway. I’m the son of a NYC police officer and an art teacher. I’m grateful for my humble upbringing; my parents showed their love to me, didn’t buy it. My initial path was to be an illustrator, but I switched in highschool to focus fully on filmmaking. I attended Adelphi Honors College for undergrad and received a B.A. in Moving Image Arts. Then I got my M.F.A. in writing/directing fiction from CCNY. After graduating, I spent some time as a working cinematographer. But my true passion and experience was in writing and directing, so I tried my hand at spec commercials. I found myself a year and a half later in Super Bowl XLVI with a Chevy spot. It’s been quite a ride.