My interest in filmmaking began at an early age while watching a documentary on “Behind the scenes of Return of the Jedi.” It was then that I realized that great films don’t just happen, but there are hard working, creative people that bring them to life. I began devouring as much information about filmmaking as I could find in my small town. That mostly consisted of Cinescape magazines and “Movie Magic” episodes on the Discovery Channel. I remember watching “Bladerunner” on TV, and for the first time I realized what people meant by “Lighting.”
With encouragement from some friends, I began writing many Sci-Fi and action adventure stories and drawing my own comic books. Soon, I began shooting my own short films with our home video camera, but in those early days, I had to do all editing “in camera.” I filled my later years of high school with many art classes. When it came time for deciding on my college path I had to decide between Graphic Design and Illustration with hopes of being a comic book artist, or studying filmmaking.
The latter won out, and I enrolled at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh where I earned an Associates Degree. They offered a Major in Video Production, which I was told was the same as film. I realize that I was misled, but filled my course load with as many Film electives as they offered. It was at this time that I took classes in Lighting, and we discussed “high contrast” styles such as The X-Files. This was my favorite television show
at the time and I watched it religiously to absorb the style of lighting. I began working with a tight-knit group of students who shared my interests and visual style. We approached all of our assignments with an eye toward lighting.
After graduation, I used my videography skills to shoot depositions for a court reporting agency, but after two years I found it very uncreative and boring. I knew it was time to move on and follow my dream of filmmaking, but I felt I was still lacking some of the vital skills needed for cinematography.
In July 2000, I moved to Los Angeles to attend film school at Columbia College Hollywood. Word of my talent for composition and storytelling, as well as my mechanical skills with cameras and equipment, traveled quickly and it wasn’t long before I was the “go to guy” for cinematography.
These skills also led to my internship at the school’s Equipment Center. After graduating from film school, I was hired full-time as an assistant in the Equipment Center at Columbia College Hollywood. After a year, I was promoted to Manager.
As a cinematographer, I have worked with a multitude of directors on projects including narrative films, commercials, documentaries, and music videos. My approach to any project is to first read the script, and get an idea of how the scenes relate to each other. To me, it is important for each scene to have its own feel so that we know where we are in the story, but still keep a consistency throughout the entire film. Then I will discuss the film with the director to help him find the best shots to tell the story, and to develop a specific look for the film. On set I usually employ a lighting set up that will give overall coverage of the scene and only requires minimal adjustments for each following shot. This allows the production to move fast while keeping continuity to the lighting. I give each film its own look, and try to incorporate new techniques into each project. I may use a cold greenish lighting style for one film, and warm earthy tones on another. Sharp lines and hard contrast may be right for one film, while soft filtration may work best for another.
When describing my style I would have to say “constantly evolving.”