Director of Photography - Los Angeles, CA
At the core of who I am as a filmmaker is my belief that a DP should always be an ally to the story being told and the director telling it. Often being an ally means originating and spearheading the design of the aesthetic, lighting and coverage. Sometimes being an ally means doing exactly what the director asks for, but being ready to advocate for changes that serve the story. The process is always collaborative, but being an ally always means getting onboard with the director’s vision of the story, however general or specific that vision is when you come on to the project. Being onboard with that vision and sharing the passion for it is what makes the work rewarding and great things happen on screen.
From an early age I was enamored with images in stills and motion. I learned photography first from my parent’s Canon AE-1 and later by shooting, hand processing and printing black and white film. I started in motion by making stop-motion animations with the family camcorder and continued with my own short form videos that I edited on a linear system before discovering the early forms of non-linear editing.
I studied Film, Video and New Media at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The cross discipline approach at SAIC was designed to help students build on theory and develop a process to take projects from concept to realization. My film education was primarily in 16mm and 35mm, which became very beneficial moving into a digital world. Having a clear illustration of the opportunities afforded by either digital or photochemical helped me to identify the individual strengths and weaknesses of emerging camera systems. The process forced by working with emulsion, when applied to digital, allows you to quickly get to the image that you and the director want, using a monitor as a tool rather then a crutch.
While an art school background is rich in theory it is lacking in technical. Coming out of school into the industry in Chicago I first set to closing the technical gap and eventually became the first In-House DP at Magnanimous Media, a rental house in Chicago. In addition to commercial shoots I also produced a number of gear focused videos for Magnanimous to test gear and educate renters on camera, lighting and support systems. I also hosted workshops on new camera systems and spoke at local film schools about gear and technique. My goal with each interaction was to not only to help people to understand how to use the gear, but also what situations or production problems the gear was best tailored to solve. My experience at Magnanimous Media helped me to marry technical solutions and film theory, allowing me to be the full resource that a director of photography should be in development and on set.
I continued on to freelancing as a DP and Operator in Chicago, New York, Detroit and Indianapolis, shooting commercial content for companies like The Onion, Pandora, ESPN, Red Bull and more. Narrative has always been my main focus, so I took every film, music video or interesting concept that caught my eye, shooting mostly on location, but also utilizing local facilities such as Cinespace and Essanay. In 2015 I relocated to Los Angeles to pursue a larger more competitive environment, ambitious directors and more interesting work.
When possible, I like to get involved with productions as early as possible. Even if the director has a very specific vision, the time spent early on is valuable in getting onboard, developing a rapport and getting started on a short hand. Being onboard early in development allows me to create a guiding concept for the film that informs every decision to follow from technique to gear selection. That guiding concept is the premise that we use to form the aesthetic and return to when we need to make the inevitable on set changes, which helps us respond to obstacles and opportunities quickly and effectively.
I’ve worked with a range of camera systems from DSLRs to the Alexa XT and eventually purchased a Red Epic Dragon. I’ve been asked many times “what the best camera is” and my answer is that there is no one best camera. The Dragon isn’t always the right tool for the job, but it works well for the projects I'm being hired for, what I want to do and in my experience it plays well with a huge range of warm, cool, sharp, soft, low and high contrast lenses. The Dragon can be built large and heavy when I’m running a big zoom on a hybrid dolly, but I can also strip it down when I need it to be inconspicuous, use a gimbal or run all day on a Steadicam.