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Zeke O’Donnell | SHOOT New Directors Showcase Event
Zeke O’Donnell

Chalk Art

Zeke O’Donnell

1) How did you get into directing?
I grew up in a isolated area without access to much television. The family camcorder became a focal point of my youth. I started by making my own music videos of songs recorded from the radio, claymation, newscasts, etc. It was all very lo-fi. The way I’d edit is by starting and stopping the camera at just the right moment. In school, whenever I could I’d work a video into a project. Fast forward some time and I’m an editor at Fluid in New York. I love editing, but I’d still get the urge to be involved at the onset of a project. When an opportunity came in to direct and edit, I jumped at it.

2) What is your most recent project?
I’m working on a short about a real story from a bartender. We (collaboration with Peter Sabatino) wanted to re-enact a story, but in a very stylized way where we turn our shot footage into sort of an animation, breaking it apart and adding other layers of abstract video to it. The story is documentary, but visually it’s stylized to the max.

3) What is the best part of being a director?
The obvious answer is that you get to tell your own version of how a story is told. The part I enjoy most is seeing your footage in an edit environment and realizing it’s working. It always feels like magic when the shots actually fit together and tell the story. Even though you know that on paper it’s going to work, seeing all the parts together is when you truly know what you’ve got.

4) What is the worst part of being a director?
The worst parts of being a director are the budget and time restraints. A one day shoot is a race against time. Anything that doesn’t go according to plan can upheave a shoot and create stress and chaos. This is why I love projects that can be stretched out a bit and the editing isn’t necessarily at the tail end of production. There are often moments in post where you have an additional idea for a shot that would make the concept work better. I love the times that grabbing that additional shot is attainable.

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 somewhat of a jack of all trades. I’m an editor. I’ve had my hands in all sorts of genres as a director. This is an industry that likes to compartmentalize creatives into a specific type of work, but if I were to have my way, I’d be able to play genre-hopscotch. I’ve done a lot of time-lapse and stop motion, but If I were to have to choose, my favorite milieux is comedy.

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 with you?
I do not have a mentor, although I am currently accepting applications. As an editor, I’ve worked with a great deal of directors and I love hearing about the challenges of production from them. It’s often a great relationship between a director and an editor and I very much enjoy being a part of that problem solving team. Through every edit, I feel like I pick up a couple tidbits of production best practices. So I guess that yes, I do have a mentor, in every director I get the pleasure of working with.

7) Who is your favorite director and why?
I’ve always had a fondness for Michel Gondry, specifically his music videos, for his innovative techniques and incorporation of kitschy layers of childhood nostalgia in his illusions. I had a collection of his videos and would watch them over and over. I terms of filmmaking, his stuff has been inspirational to me.

8) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
Trying to choose a favorite movie makes my brain explode. It would vacillate based on my mood. I loved Midnight Cowboy, Rushmore, Requiem for A Dream, Unforgiven, and Donnie Darko. Those came to mind off the top of my head. I love Honda’s “The Other Side”, the double sided story. Having two stories told concurrently with essentially the same shots is an amazing concept and the interactive aspect of being able to switch stories makes it an incredibly personal experience.

9) Tell us about your background (i.e. where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I grew up in Monmouth, Maine: population 4000. By the end of high school, I’d had my fill of rural life and have been in or around New York City since. I attended Vassar College and after graduation moved to Brooklyn. I interned with Morgan Spurlock during Super Size Me, and found gainful employment with Fluid where I climbed from the vault to an edit suite. I’ve worked at Fluid for over 10 years now and love how the flexible business model has allowed me to stretch my wings and venture out of the edit suite. I currently live in Croton-On-Hudson with my wife and two children.


Laura Relovsky
Executive Producer