In this episode, I speak with the cinematographer Alex Disenhof about his work and career.
Alex Disenhof is an American cinematographer whose work has earned him an ASC nomination in 2017 for Best Cinematography in a TV Pilot, two Camerimage nominations (2009 and 2014), and inclusion in Variety’s annual Below the Line Impact Report in both 2014 and 2016. Source imdb
Show Notes & Resources
You can find Alex’s work here – http://www.alexdisenhof.com/
So I think it’s a common human problem, right? Who’s the best? Who’s the most successful human who’s having fun? Who’s having the, you know who’s who’s doing the best things for other people like no one values that.
Welcome to another episode of the next level filmmakers show where we interview filmmakers from around the world to explore their pathway to success. That worked, what’s working now, so you can take your Korean business to the next level. I’m your host, Clarke, Scott. And I believe that having the right systems in place is the difference between taking your career and business to the next level, or just being another dude or dudette with a camera. So if you’re tired of hustling for one off projects, the undervalued and underpaid, I’d like to invite you to an exclusive free training I’ve put together for filmmakers, just like you where I share the exact strategies I’ve used to grow my own video production agency. Just go to Clarke, Scott education.com. That’s Clarke with an E. Clarke Scott education.com. forward slash free training. That’s Clarke, Scott education.com. forward slash free training and start your journey to becoming a next level filmmaker today. Okay, Mr. Jason Huff, would you like to? Would you like to kick into this? Yeah, let’s do it. Alright, so first question I asked everyone is, how did you get your start?
Sure. I got my start. As a production assistant, originally, I knew what I wanted. I was one of the very lucky people in this world who really had a clear idea that I wanted to be a cinematographer. at about the age of 14. My high school teacher told me actually that I was going to be cinematographer. At the time I didn’t know what that was, but I was alright. I was in the darkroom doing photography, what my grandfather had a darkroom and like six years old, developing photos. And so it kind of was an organic kind of linear progression for me. And I went to Emerson College in Boston, should a great film school.
Hang on before you before you get into the college. So this this teacher said, like, how did I pick you as someone that would be like, it’s difference between being in a darkroom? Shooting stills? Yeah. And saying, you’re gonna be luck. I mean, that’s 24 stills a second, right? So,
yeah, well, so I was, um, we had a TV production class very rudimentary, okay, on the production class, and I just, you know, I was always interested in the photography aspect of the filmmaking, you know, learn all of the skills, we had a little editing Bay’s. We had a little TV studio was great. But I was just, I had this natural inclination to, to use images to tell a story. I was also really into extreme sports at the time, I was filming every day after school and my friends, you know, I build videos. And yeah, exactly. So, you know, it was kind of a, it just was, it was a very natural progression into film. And so I went and studied it. I got an internship here in Los Angeles. So Emerson’s in Boston, they have an internship program, came over to LA to do an internship with this French production company called partisan. They’re based in their main offices in Paris, but they have offices in LA and New York. And it’s laundry. Yep. Yeah. So I was, you know, doing everything you can imagine filing paperwork and making coffee, making coffee and, you know, making runs to the bank for the company, all sorts of, you know, everything you expect. But for me, it was like, wow, okay, I’m in. I’m in the film business, you know, and it was truly It was a dream come true. It felt like felt good right away, even though I knew I wanted to follow a certain path. I wasn’t on that path yet. But I felt like I was around people who could help me make that happen. Okay, I did, how did you actually get the gig as a PA? So Emerson, actually that my college has connections with all these different companies in in the industry, essentially you they’ll set you up with interviews. So you interview I interviewed a few different companies and partisan was the one that wanted me. And so do you remember the interview? I do. I do remember the interview. Tell us about how the interview went? Sure. It was with a young woman who was only a few years older than me who was the office manager at the time of their office in LA. She had experience with college kids who were looking to have experience business and, you know, I came in and told her Listen, I’m, you know, I want I’m here to learn I want, I always look well, hard worker, I was, you know, good students and, you know, passionate about filmmaking and so you know, I just kind of, I just laid it all out there, I said, You know, I will do anything you asked me to, I just feel like, I’d be lucky to work here. And I truly felt that way. And I think the thing that ended up setting me apart and continue to set me apart in that workspace was kind of my, my positive attitude. I never, I never took the time to think oh, man, this sucks that I’m filing papers for eight hours, like I really didn’t, I was like, Oh, these are this is interesting, I’m actually getting to see some of the background of the financials of how films made or I’m reading, you know, the scripts that weren’t, you know, accepted. And but I was learning, you know, I was seeing how everything kind of, you know, how the inner workings ticked the gears, you know, and all that. So, and there was a sense of, you felt privileged to be there. And that was manifesting in your physical behavior, which the bosses were seeing, obviously, and even in the interview, the the the girl obviously went, well, this is the best person for this role at this point.
Yeah, that’s, so they didn’t they didn’t ask to see your work. You probably didn’t have much at that point, anyway.
Yeah. I told them though, I wanted to shoot and actually that came very quickly after was essentially when I moved out to Los Angeles, I started this internship, but I didn’t stop working with my friends. And I ended up doing a feature film that summer, the summer after my internship kind of ended, but I was still doing, they were still hiring me then as like a production assistant. And I took five weeks and I went back to New England where I’m where I grew up with some friends. And we made this little tiny movie that, you know, based scrounged money together for their identical twin brothers really great directors, now Emmy Award nominated writers and we made this little tiny movie and end up going to South by Southwest, and we were 23 years old. And then a guy at partisan this who just happened to work there. He wasn’t the director or anything but he worked in their vault. He he wanted to a short film, he saw that I shot a little bit. So then I did that with him. And then kind of the big kicker came when Michel Gondry was in LA and looking for people to help on his music videos that he was doing. And I you know, I was like, you know, a mere, you know, pick me up. I started out doing again, you know, here I had shot a feature film, as a cinematographer. I had done a bunch other work now. But I said, Please, just I’ll be your intern on the shoots, I’ll do anything. And that’s when I was I began shooting on Michael bolex, his six millimeter film and
how did you get to actually ask him that question, or they’ll make that statement?
Sure. It was mostly through his producer who ran helped run the office in Los Angeles and who I had done hours of filing papers for and just being the gofer, you know, I had been, they never, they were great to me, because then even though I was there, you know, essentially their, their intern their, their go for, they never treated me like, I didn’t have potential, like they, I think they saw in me that I was willing to do whatever it took. And also I was, you know, I was I was smart, I was sharp, I really tried to give everything you know, my best effort and so they gave me a chance when I asked for it, and I was I asked for it, you know, I said, Hey, you know, I really love to be in a camera department.
I’m interested to know that so first off when you’re working a partisan the so
was it paid or unpaid work? unpaid? Okay. It was unpaid. For the first a while I was a student, it was an unpaid position. And you know, what they actually at the end of my internship, they offered me the office manager job. And at the time, you know, it was a really difficult choice for me because
starting out the film business, you know, I heard us Small sums of money for a year contract and but at the time, it was more money than I could ever hope to make freelancing in my first year and, you know, on my own. And, but I took my time I thought about it. And ultimately, I turned them down. And I said, You know, I know what I want to do this, isn’t it. And I know that, you know, a year from now I’m going to be in this exact same position, wanting to do exactly what I’m setting out to do. But now it’s a year later. And yeah, I have a little bit more money in my pocket, but I’m still exactly where I am now. And that’s not what I want to do. So I turned them down. And they were gracious enough to say, Okay,
let me let me just stop you there. And and congratulate for congratulate you on doing that. Because I think that even in their eyes, they would have gone. Wow, okay, this this, this kid is going to, he’s going to go somewhere because it’s not just about the money. He’s not interested in what’s safe. He knows what he wants. And we’re partisan, and we just got turned down by you know, it’s kind of a big thing. Right. So and the reason why I wanted to stop you is that I wanted to say that before you tell us what happened next, because how did that happen? When they you said that you went on to say that they were gracious about it. But what happened next? Did your career take off from there?
Yeah, I mean, what ended up happening was Michel Gondry hired me to shoot his next movie. There you go. There you go. Oh,
actually, Alex, you’re the internet’s seems to be.
And let me see one second. Can you see me? Yeah, yeah, I’m here. I’m going to close out of everything else real quick. We’ll see if that helps. I don’t know what it’s weird. I it’s been a little weird lately. Um, let me just close out everything. Oh, you know what? I just realized I have Premiere Pro running in the background.
Ah, there you go. It’s going to help. Yeah, it’s cooling in this cooling back app to home base. Did he pay his bill? Yeah, he’s bill.
Yeah, right. Okay. Let’s see. Um, let me just make sure everything else is close. And hopefully that will help. my computer’s on its last legs. Let’s see, I don’t think I need any of this stuff. Okay, everything is closed, except for a quick time and zoom. So hopefully we’ll be in better shape. What do you think?
Yeah, well, I think if we if we have continued to have problems, we just work through it. It’s It’s, uh, it just makes the edit a little bit harder. But that’s okay. No problem.
Okay. So where should I start back at because I don’t know where you lost me. Michelle Gondry
hired you for his next feature.
Yeah. So basically, that’s the short version of it. But essentially, what happened was, I continued to pa I continued to shoot my friends projects, little things here and there. And then Michelle had this small movie. for him. It was very small was like, less than a $3 million budget. And for me at the time, it was the most well Marvel blockbuster knows that
what was the distance between the time the time between when you turned partisan down and, and Michelle said come and shoot my, this tiny little feature?
It was about a year so it wasn’t that long. Yeah, basically, in that time, I just kept shooting I kept working with him a little bit on as an assistant on videos. He we kind of CO shot a music video for his girlfriend on both Alexis together. He You know, he gave me a chance and his producer really just woman named Julie Fong was the one who was my real champion. She said she kept telling him No, he’s you know, because Michelle has his people. And yeah, he has great dp that he works with a lot Sean Kim, who allowed me to be his intern for a while and just on some of those shoots, you know, and and, but long story short, Michelle had this movie that he wanted to do that was with all real kids in the Bronx. Anyone just shoot it very documentary style, all on a moving city bus. And they were like, they were like 40 teenagers. Essentially, it was the script. It was a fictional script that he had co written With a guy who was only a few years older than me at the time, and who was the main liaison to these, these kids who are part of this kind of art program in the Bronx? And, you know, he was looking for someone to, to do the film who could be comfortable around these kids who can make kids feel comfortable, you know, and I was basically, you know, only a few years older than these kids were and his, his producer really said, You know, I think Alex would be a great choice for this. And I took about four or five months of shoot, I shot like, I rode around with my friends on some la city buses and shot some tests and did everything I could show them that I could do it, I kind of seem to get my head shot some school bus scenes in my first movie that had gone to South by Southwest. And so I compiled a little reel, I paid for a color session at company three on my own to like color correct footage that I shot on buses, in everything I could to kind of show him in his and finance ears and everybody that I could do it. Hmm. And yes,
I think this is, this is an example. So I often rail against people that say, the difference between being successful, not as your work. If you look at what you’ve done, the strategy behind every part of your career, from when you were in Boston, you’re at college, all the way through, it’s always been, you’ve always been thinking about how can I make this, this next step? How can I level up? It’s obviously the work has to be good, like, no one’s gonna hire you. If you can’t fucking shoot, right? The work has to be good. That’s a given. But it’s not a work that gets you more work. It’s all stuff like this, the producer, Michelle’s producer, What was her name? Again? Julie Fong. Julie Fong and Julie Fung saw something in you beyond the work, the work is a given you have to be able to shoot but there’s something beyond that. Um, so I’m finding that’s really interesting to hear that you you went and did this, these tests, and you’re basically just proving yourself. But yeah, no one asked you to do that. Right. You did that off your own your own back.
Yeah, I desperately wanted this job. You know, Michel Gondry was a hero of mine and wanted to shoot movies, you know, and I had done a little movie, I’d also been nominated for an award at camera image, my that I something for I actually do that in college that had just come out. And all of a sudden, I was a camera image for music video. And now that was my only thing I had on my reel before the movie. And so I really only had two pieces on my reel. And they were both pretty solid for someone my age but, but ultimately, it was more of a leap of faith of my my ability to kind of convince them that I was no one was going to work harder, you know, and No, I wasn’t going to let them down no matter what happened. I wasn’t.
Yeah, I think that’s that’s the big thing. The at the end of the day, I can see what Michelle’s done, he’s gone. He’s thinking, let’s so obviously a young kid that had the script has come to him with with a either one sheet or an idea or maybe a fully kind of fleshed out script, pitch team on the job. And he’s gone. Okay, so it needs to be, we need to change this scene and that scene, and this needs to happen. And so he gets a he gets a co co writer credit. And then he
it’s the whole thing. Yeah, he he’s a really interesting guy, because he has a ton of ideas. And the one thing that I really admire about him is that he makes basically all and so this actually came from him. Oh, okay, cool. Yeah. So he had donated computers to this program. And when he went, like, met some of these kids, he was just inspired by these kids and their stories. And so he, I don’t know how he and his co writer Jordan met, but basically he had Jordan, me continue to meet with these kids to collect their stories. And they co wrote they wrote it into this cool little tale of the last day of school for the summer. Everyone’s on the bus. And as each kid leaves the bus, they leave the story and it’s, it’s, it’s a really interesting little film and then ended up going to the Cannes Film Festival. Yeah, with fortnight and, and but he it was all from him. You know, he really is a, but he put the whole
thing together. Like he’s put a whole bunch of young guys and girls together on a bus, including those behind the camera. I’m sure the whole crew was all young as him and a whole bunch of young people. Yeah, because he probably drove him a little crazy. But yeah, so there’s, there’s a lot of strategy behind what he’s doing. He’s trying to he’s trying to create a feeling a mood. And he doesn’t want kind of traditional filmmakers to get in there and fuck that up basically. So let’s get a whole bunch of young guys. Yeah,
yes, that was a big part of it. He he railed against even like, it was kind of a battle we fought and eventually I kind of won and he later thanked me for it but but he wanted it to be as intrusive in obtrusive as possible and if that’s a word, unobtrusive Thank you, unobtrusive as possible and in so he wanted to shoot, like on cell phones and five days and I was like, you know, I really don’t think that’s a good idea because the motion of the bus is such that yeah, it’s gonna be, you know, it’s gonna be pretty jittery, especially in those days when it was like a seven D or five D and rolling shutter galore. And yeah, so I can include a shoot on a red epic. I didn’t get it just come out. And for a while it was you know, even that was too big for him. He photoshopped. I sent him a photo of my assistant holding the camera and he like sent me back a picture of the thing photoshopped three times its size as you know, he brought Okay, he didn’t like the idea that it was that he wanted the filmmaking part of it to be out of the way but eventually we still got it there. You know, we got it out of the way. We we treated it like a documentary. How did you lens that? So I had the ingenue short zooms, I was gonna say, yeah, put some short zooms on it, you should be okay. Yeah, and I found some, like, we looked everywhere we looked for, like the vibration isolator pads that I found for telescopes, actually, that were in Ohio of all places, and use that for our tripods. I had installed an extra two sets of rows of lights in the bus, because we had all the actors with pretty much black with bright backgrounds. We couldn’t attach any lights to the outside of the bus, like that. Um, so yeah, we I mean, we kept it very simple. And really kind of, we shot two cameras, a lot of times, we rolled and rolled and rolled and rolled and let the kids
have their kind of freedom. Yeah, was the I haven’t seen the film, but I’m imagining, I think it was a good call not to deal with five days, although it could have been done. But the the atmosphere, the atmosphere would have been different because because of rolling shutter. It would have just made it feel really brittle. Yes, it’s cameras doing this right? Where the epic just smooths that out. Which, if it’s a fun movie, it has that kind of vibe, that bring that brittleness of the of rolling shot would have made it feel quite edgy. And change the feeling of the movie.
Yeah, well, and that’s part of why we, you know, I tested all that I did as part of my testing process. And, you know, I also wanted the dynamic range of the epic because I a big part of what he wanted was to see out the windows as well you know, and there were the only way we were ever gonna be able to see out the windows on in August in New York with black actors inside of us is a lot of pretty significant dynamic range and well and and, and I added the lights inside but even that was still just barely enough. And yeah, I mean, you know, we we we really let it be natural but but it’s because you know, the camera system let us be a little bit more natural than if I had been trying to somehow you know, compress our dynamic range. Yeah. Okay.
What What happened next? So you’ve you’ve shot that movie, you’re now a feature film dp that’s on the CV, what happened?
I got a call from my agent. First time,
how long how long between the the the release and the call from the agent.
I don’t remember it was pretty quick. It might have even been for the room. It was probably around the time it was released. And I you know, it was a great experience to be able to have someone calling me and the the kind of the next steps were difficult for me though, because I here I was at this point, I was 25. So very. I have done two movies. They’re both from New both had success in the indie space. One of them is with an Oscar winning director. I did a tiny little movie that Michelle and rectum like Michelle knew the producer of right after, like, immediately after Michelle’s movie in new Work that really didn’t go anywhere. It wasn’t a great experience. But essentially, I didn’t know what to do next, because I didn’t have the connections yet to be getting all the good scripts, you know, or my agents. At the time were gracious in the sense that they, you know, they saw me as a young up and coming filmmaker,
if I get any work. No. So that that’s a classic example. I mean, how many times have you heard the story where someone breaks out? And immediately there’s sharks at the door, right? Like, let’s grab him. So we can get at 10 15%? Before you know, and all they have to do you just have to sit on their books to Simon the director world, right? When you get ripped, you sit on the books, then your agent has to get, you know, a percentage of what you earn. But they don’t actually have to market you don’t have to do anything. So I’m not surprised that you didn’t get any work. But isn’t it amazing? And now I’m talking to the audience, that someone like Alex can be working with someone like Michelle gundry on such a cool project? And then, you know, it’s like, you hit the pause button. It’s a crazy industry.
Yeah, I mean, I think it was also a timing thing. And, you know, I actually think the agents at the time, did the best they probably could with Lady but I was very particular and very careful. Because, you know, the scripts they were sending me was the scripts they thought I could get, which were to be honest, pretty crappy, became very careful. That’s kind of was my next step of my career was, I understood that no one on IMDB knows how old I write they, what they what they do see is I don’t have a lot of credits, but the credits I had were pretty good. And I basically told myself, okay, you know, the scripts that you’re done getting on now are scripts that I’m interested in, was the tempting to just go and say yes to everything and make, you know, movie after movie after movie. Totally. But I think that, you know, this, my agents, in fairness to them were working hard for me, but I think it just wasn’t that much to work with. I didn’t have my own connections, besides the big, very specific people who weren’t doing a movie right away. And I was young, you know, I, they brought me into the rooms, but oftentimes, you know, I get in the room, and they’d be like, Oh, you, kid, you know, I’m, so I was patient. And I waited for my next project that I felt was the next step up from the next, the experience that I would want next after doing, you know, a film with Michelle. And it came in the form of a connection that I had from my school days at Emerson. Hang on before
that, before you go there. I just want to ask, so yeah, it seems to me like you’re very thoughtful person. Like clearly and and the thinking is very, is very strategic. Would you say that you’re a strategic thinker as a general rule?
Yeah, I think I always have. Yeah. Okay. So this applies to work either, I think, yeah. No,
I, and life as well. Yeah. But that being careful is, is that So just to be clear on this, what happened was, you’ve shot this great movie, you’ve done a one after that, after Michelle’s movie that wasn’t so great. So you’re kind of going, I don’t want to do that again. So I need to be more careful about the movies that I pick. Your agents are bringing you scripts, and they’re like, I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to do that. Don’t want to do that. Then they get you a good one. You walk in the room and they’re like, Oh, shit, he’s 25 he’s not gonna be able to do this. So you’re not winning the jobs? Is that what I’m hearing? Yeah.
Okay, that’s pretty much it, you know, and, and I, yeah, I mean, that was kind of what it was. And at the time, I was starting to build a little bit of a commercial career. So I was told the least living you know, and I didn’t feel the pressure to necessarily just take another movie because I needed to afford whatever life I was living granted, I was living a very frugal existence, you know, so in my 20s, I had roommates, I, you know, I was, I was single, I was very much like, living on basically nothing. So, I had very little you know, pushing me to do the next film except for the fact that I wanted to make a good movie, you know. And that opportunity came along. Again, it was kind of serendipitous because I there was a there was a guy who I didn’t know but I knew had gone to Emerson as well. My college, get dropped out, but we had mutual friends and we were like friends on Facebook. And he did a short film called fishing about nets. In 2011, I believe and, or it’s 2012 2012. And you you lens that to the gym? Yeah, I did, I did the feature. So he this was the short Ah, okay. So how I got the film was essentially he did the short film by himself with his two buddies. And he shot himself, he did everything himself, they went to Kenya for three months, they almost died 100 times, and they came back with a film. And it was the short, they wanted the best short film at Sundance that year. And he then there was a bit of a bidding war over who’s gonna do the feature version. He’s this kind of amazing guys and Renegade type filmmaker, and he chose fights who had never done a feature before. But vice media, you know, basically said, we’re going to give you whatever support you need, we’ll give you, you know, a few million bucks. And we’re just going to send you on your way to Africa, and
soda, and a bunch of bodyguards to auto imagine.
Yeah, it was pretty intense. So, um, but we had a friend of a friend, and I saw that he had done the film this short, and I watched short and was blown away. And I said, this is the next one. This is the next one. And I saw that he was doing a movie feature version of it. And I reached out to a friend. And meanwhile, he was looking for a dp and saw my work. And we reached out basically for the same fret. And so we ended on each other over coffee. We had already been Facebook friends for like 40 years, we never met in person. And you know, it was like love at first sight. And we run off Africa and made the crazy movie to was 77 days shoot over two trips, wow. $3 million budget. It was crazy. But it was the experience of a lifetime. And it truly felt like the next special project. And, you know, that ended up winning Sundance Award for Best Director, and it got me a few, you know, nominations and awards and kind of shows about five years ago. Something like that was 2000. Oh, gosh. Yeah. When was it? November? 2008? Well, just 13 I don’t remember what it I can’t remember when I went to Sundance.
I believe it was 2014 was the year that uh, ones. Yeah. You would have been there in 2012 2013. Yeah. Okay.
So no, I think we might Yeah, it might have been the winter of 2014. Like the first, you know? Yeah, that sounds about right. So, um, it felt really good to be able to find the one that I felt like was creatively. the right fit for me, it was an event, why was that important? Um, you know, I’ve always wanted to, I always wanted to make movies. But I’ve always been particular about the kinds of movies that I wanted to make, I’ve always wanted to, I’ve always wanted to make movies that said something or they had some, you know, something to them that spoke to me. And that’s not always the case, I’ve learned that sense that you can’t always just have that right. But at the time, it was so important to me to be able to just be very particular about finding the right project that was that because I wanted to kind of stake my claim in this business as someone who did good work and did tasteful work and who know was known for projects that were thought provoking away or, or just had something that we connect with other people. I didn’t want it I was really trying hard to avoid the kind of horror just for pure popcorn type, you know, stuff. And this, this project was, you know, it was a complicated story about Somali men and, you know, essentially take Captain Phillips and turn it on its head, and it’s about the Somali pirates, and it’s about why they do what they do and the complications that come from the destruction of the
story, the stories, the stories, a great story for sure. Let’s not get into the story, though, because I’m interested in the, I’m interested in the film for sure. It’s a great film seen it. The I’m interested in what I’ve got for prepping for today’s interview, I went and had a look at a bunch of your commercial work as well as your feature stuff. And it all, it seems to me that all of it has an edge. The the kind of the adjective that came up to me was that the images, images aren’t soft. None of them, none of them are soft. There’s, there’s almost. So it’s interesting that you would see that show that that sorry that that film as something that would show your potential, like you mentioned putting a stake in the ground. What are you doing to support yourself? Because, obviously, that is, it’s an aesthetic that’s kind of popular these days. And obviously, you’ve gone on to do a lot more work in a similar vein, but at that point, were you still you still doing kind of shitty commercial work? The stuff that wasn’t? Your energy wasn’t really stuff that you wanted to do that you actually prefer to not show? And I got plenty of that kind of work. stuff that you don’t want to show anyone? Will you still doing that? Totally, totally.
And I’m still doing that? Like, I mean, I don’t do it in the in the narrative world, but I still do commercials for whatever, you know, yeah, like stuff that you never show anyone? Yeah, of course. Yeah. I mean, you know, that’s, that’s part of how you make a life for yourself. And that allows you to take the movies that you feel passionate about, you know, I, I think I promised myself that from a very young age that I would never put myself in a financial position to have to take a movie, you know, because we needed to make the money, right? And it’s become a harder promise to keep as the years go by, you know, as you build a life for yourself, but especially at that stage of my career, I was living on the my living expenses were so and yeah, I was doing mean, you know, really crappy commercials. And occasionally, I’d get a really good one, you know, and you’d sprinkle in the good with the bad and, but I always and I still feel very lucky to, to have worked, you know, yeah. Working in some, even if it’s a, you know, a diaper commercial, all, you know, literally a shitty video. So,
the reason why I brought that up is that I wanted to show balance, I think that, um, I think you were clearly a really smart guy, a very strategic thinker, which is, to me, is incredibly important in our business, because it’s not just about doing good work, or just about getting that good work in front of people, you, you’re someone that’s got your work, that is good work in front of the right people. And yet, you’re still having to do this other stuff over here, which you don’t have to tell anyone about. But that then allows you to do all kinds of things like hone your skills, like shoot in different ways that you can then parlay that into, or just use that in, in feature work. But at the same time, you’re very, I liked the way that you said I wanted to put us and you actually did that I wanted to put a stake in the ground, here I am, this is what I do. And by doing that, it’s almost like Lord of the Rings kind of making a stand, you know, when it’s like, you will not pass it’s that kind of this is who the fuck I am. This is what I stand for. And you either like it or you don’t like it and I think in that like a lot of good marketing. It does make a stand I watched your the Nike spots, particularly the Chinese Nike spots that you that you shine, if you look at the creative of that. That is it’s a great brand awareness kind of video. It’s not here, right? They do that. But it has direct response elements in there. There’s pain points, there’s setting of a future and there’s a really strong call to action you know just do it as a call to action become a part of our tribe I’m married to a Chinese girl so I know that culture and effectively that’s calling young people to be to to rebel against the establishment the the guy in that in that in those spots, who’s saying you know, go and get a job, this is a waste of time. That’s the establishment that’s the Communist Party. Right and they they sign rebel against that so I don’t know why I brought that up. It was a great spot. I really enjoyed it. The one that’s where the girls boxing at the end that was the the one that I enjoyed the most. So I can see your work and your features then being translated back into the commercial work. So now that we’ve established that, you know, you’ve got an agent you got some work now you did fishing without nets. And you’ve kind of you’ve put your stake in the ground in terms of this is the kind of artists that I am you’re still having to do these jobs that you you know, videos that you’re never going to show anyone but did by Putting a stake in the ground and then starting to get more known for that kind of your images, there’s just something about they’re not soft. And it’s not like you’ve kind of you know, you’ve worked the unsharpened mask on, on a on a video file and pumped it up to fucking 60 or 80. Or, like, it’s not like it’s over sharpened, but it almost has that. Have you ever done this? If you ever you put the um, sharp marks on something and you’ve kind of cranked it to the point where it looks starts to get brittle? It starts to look brittle. Yeah, Photoshop I sometimes Yeah. Okay. So the there is, your work tends to have that. But if you then bring it back down to a pleasant state, or kind of a pleasant area, is that something that’s conscious? Are you doing that consciously?
Well, I think it’s a, it’s an interesting way I never think about that’s a compliment, by the way, it’s not. You know, it’s one of those things that i i think it’s a direct correlation of the kind to the kinds of stories I choose to tell, you know, I mean, like, if you watch fishing without nets, you know, fishing about nets is a extremely brutal story about people’s lives who really have it. It’s a hard story. It’s a rough story. And so the photography, I felt needed to capture all of that all the textures, a lot of texture. And when you go to these places, there’s just everything has texture, there’s no straight lines, there’s no clean surfaces. It’s It’s beautiful in its own way, but it’s rough and it’s hard, you know, and so you know, all embrace hard light on breast Toppy, bright sun, if I feel like it’s right for the story. I think that something that’s always stuck with me in my photography, and sometimes I struggle in commercials because of this. Because I always feel like you mentioned it’s reflective reflect the story. And it’s always looking for what the story is trying to tell me about where I should take the photography, and commercials, it’s hard to do that. Sometimes it’s like, well, there is no story. There’s, they’re trying to sell chicken or something, you know, and you can take that anywhere. But I find that stories that I’m attracted to narratively, tend to have a dark edge. I like to play in the shadows. I like to push the you know, these these lenses with cameras to their limits. But it’s always because I just don’t tend to choose bright, cheery, soft subjects to shoot. I just don’t find them as interesting.
Yeah, I like dark and moody. My feature was dark Moody, the the ones that I’ve got in development at the moment that it’s all dark and moody. But it’s soft, there’s a soft, there’s a there’s a smoothness to where your work has this this edge, which is and you can see it right you can see right through everything that’s on your website, you can see right through there, it’s like, I could almost bet that if I see another spot at some point, it’s either gonna be you or someone inspired by you. So I think the way that you move the camera is not a big, it’s something about this. I don’t know what it is. I haven’t yet been able to put my finger on it. There’s there’s something there. Let’s move on. Because we’re still on the first question. We’ve got five to get through. The next one. I’m really interested to see how you answer this. It’s what’s the one unique Raven strange thing that you do that has that you’ve done that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
Yeah. The biggest thing, I think that contributes to my success, I don’t think he’s strange at all. I think it’s purely the attitude that I bring. I think there’s a lot of Listen, there’s a there’s countless talented people out there. And we’re all so lucky to be working. I really, truly believe that. And I do think that there’s enough space at the table for everybody. But I think too, when you form connections with people, and the way you keep them, and the way to continue working with people and the way you get people to want to work with you is to have that positive attitude and and to be supportive. I think the biggest thing to remember is and the tog refer is that ultimately, you are in a role of support. Right? My job I always tell the director when I go into an interview is is Listen, I’m not here to make my movie. I’m here to help you make your chart I have a certain set of skills that I can bring to the table and I can lay my skill set in point of view and say, here, here’s what I can offer, please use me, you know, and I encourage them to use me as much as they can, because I enjoy the collaboration. And I think that by not necessarily telling them how to shoot their movie is the most freeing thing that the directors can have. And not that I don’t bring. My idea is I bring my I’m very opinionated, I have very strong ideas. But ultimately, my my sense of kind of support is the thing I think that people respond to the most and feeling like creating a safe space for them to be creative with their ideas, goes down to actors, same thing, like I always try to make all of my collaborators feel comfortable and safe to experiment. And that I will be the number one kind of Cheerios detection fan of what they’re trying to do. And if I feel like it’s not good for the story, for some reason, I’ll tell them. And because I’ve had, because I’m consistent with my messaging, my messaging and how I present myself, they, you know, will trust and trust you. Yeah. What do you mean by consistency in your messaging? What does that mean messaging? Well, I think I’m very truthful in my support of my fellow filmmakers. And when I, I don’t think I do like When, when, when I think something is good. Well, I think that they’re on the right track. I tell them, and I so that way, when, and I’m honest, you know, and then so when I feel like there’s something that isn’t working or something that’s, you know, an issue, I’m also honest, and I think that fights like that being honest, by being supportive and being positive. It just allows people to trust what you say. So when you do go negative, you know, they know you, you know what they know, it’s real,
it’s coming from a real place. So transparency, would you say transparency,
much easier when you have much more efficient way to say it? I think, also, there’s a lot of cynicism in this business, and I just don’t have I don’t have a cynical bone in my body. So I just, I think that’s a huge factor as well, I don’t I think don’t make it come from burnout. Are we Yeah, and but filmmaking is hard, right? And as a director, director’s job is so difficult, and they spend all day just having to make decisions and answer questions and have, you know, pressure coming on them from every direction. And so if you’re a cynical guy, or girl, if you’re a cynic, in a support role, and you’re not there to kind of help prop them up, but instead, you’re tearing things down. You know, that’s just not a good way to to, you won’t be there for long that you won’t get hired again. Yeah. Okay. I think overall, I mean, I know it’s a it’s a kind of vague answer. But I think ultimately, it’s my attitude. Yeah,
I’m gonna drill down into that. So specifically, what is it about your attitude? Do you think that as that being that one thing? Can you give us an example maybe of where you think this is really played a major role?
You know, I mean, I think an example would be the entire film efficient without nets, which is essentially said, say always being up to say yes, right, saying yes, first, because we want to you want to support don’t, you know, being a lot of times people’s instinct is to say, No, when something is presented them that was kind of crazy. But I think my job is to figure out how to solve the problems, right. And so fishing nets in itself was a giant problem. It was like we have basically no money. We want to go to Africa with essentially no crew, and no equipment, and make an epic film that takes place on an oil tanker. And we’re going to start from ground zero, and you’re coming with us, and you win. And and really, it was like it. There were a million people who would have said no, I think and I said yes. And I was open all time to the process of craziness. You know, if there were unions there, God helped me like you know, and some of it was just also, you know, kind of the folly of youth. Not knowing any better but but a lot of it was just knowing that like, I want to be a filmmaker. I have to be open to adventure and the unknown and I can’t, you know, you just can’t say no, you can’t say no, unless you really have to, you just don’t want to say no to anything. And
you’re signing up for something that is potentially dangerous. And if you want to, if you want to, you know, a couple of years ago, there’s filmmakers that have died on sets. And I’m not going to mention mentioned the actual thing. But it was a shame. I’m absolutely not condoning what was what was done and asked of the crew by the director. But the shitter come back to them because of that, I kind of shook my head because you know, there’s danger. And you know, fishing without nets could turn nasty at any point. The story is kind of nasty. And so you can see how that could turn nasty at any point. You’ve got to you got to sign up if you want to do this and know what you’re signing up for. And then not complain. So that then leads into my question I want to go back to when you were a teenager shooting videos with the key with your with your mates, and you’re all a bunch of kids. Were you the kind of guy that would be that would be egging people to go further, or the person that was doing that was being easily egged on Do you know what, that’s actually possibly an Australian thing? Do you know what I mean by that?
Yeah, I mean, I have never been one to get a gun. Like, I know my limits, and what I’ll do, and I just Yep, to something comfortable like I I’ve never had a problem saying. Speaking my mind. I don’t think I I’m actually very conscious about making sure people are comfortable. And I think that I just to kind of it’s kind of a go back to because I do want to address that, you know, the the accident that we’re both referring to in Georgia that happened? Yeah, exactly. That I I do think the people who were charged, was right, that they were charged, because the difference between something like fishing without nets, and something like that was that we all knew what we signed up for and expected a certain level of craziness. Because there were no, there was no infrastructure, there was no producers, whereas something like that one, and then I’m union cinematographer. So I’ve been you know, I do a lot of unique shoots. And, you know, there’s, there’s a certain level of protection that you expect, and that you ultimately are entitled to as a worker, and you should never be unsafe at work. I don’t want to like, kind of mess with that line. I guess what I mean, is more like the craziness of an indie budget with no resources and figuring out a way to stretch it so far, and not even going into the ideas that yes, there are, you know, plenty of moments where I look back on the cloud, we shouldn’t have done that, probably but, but we all it was a band of people together, who made the decisions together who were fully aware together, there was no producers, putting anyone else in position of danger, there was nothing like that. And I think it was more of the spirit of adventure of filmmaking of telling people’s stories of making a movie in a language none of us spoke, including the director didn’t speak the language. I mean, those are the kinds of things where like, I think a lot of people would have looked at that film and said, You know, this is crazy. What are you trying to do here? And I think that I think for me, it’s just always taking, you know, always thinking about things and trying to see if I feel if I believe in something, say yes first and then figure it out. Okay, so calculated risk. Yeah, yeah. But also, again, like not being cynical about it, either. Yep.
Yeah, the, I agree with you, as a director, putting people in in getting people to sign up for something and then changing the goalposts moving the goalposts halfway through and then putting people in danger. And then ultimately getting smoked killed is a horrible thing. And I’m sure they’d like to take that 15 minutes back, or however long it was that where their decision was made. But at the same time, filmmaking is an adventure, it’s a it’s a risk, every part of filmmaking is risky, even commercial filmmaking that’s quite benign and a lot of ways is risky. And starting a career off in this industry is also a big risk that naki spot is, you know, is that could be about us go and get a real job. You know, what do you think you’re doing this is a waste of all that kind of jet and you just you they’re, you know, running the marathon, boxing against the start of all that, you know, it’s kind of cliche What I’m saying but you know what I’m saying that the there is we sawn off for this life, and therefore we have to understand what we what we’re getting into. And yet at the same time, the difference between all that just being I say this all the time, either being just a doodle do that with a camera, or being able to level up in your in a career is not the work. But the way that you think about the work. It’s the strategies. And I think that’s been clear in your answers that it is. You’re thinking about what you’re doing and the jobs you’re taking and not taking. You’re hiding the stuff that you don’t want people to see. It’s not like you’re hiding it, but you just you’re not presenting it. And, you know, no one wants to see.
Yeah, Swiffer commercial or something. Yeah, no, yeah. If you know it. Yeah. And I think it’s an important distinction to make, though, because it you know, this conversation, I think, can take it sideways turn, which is I don’t think from a safety perspective, a physical safety perspective, I think everyone should be safe and deserves to be safe on set. I think the all the lifestyle filmmaker is ultimately one, that implies a risk because ultimately, nothing is guaranteed, you don’t have the nine to five job, you don’t have the weekly paycheck. It can all end tomorrow, you know, you don’t know and that’s the the exciting thing about my life is that you know, a year from now, I don’t know where I’m gonna be. And that’s also the scary thing. You know, I can’t we can’t make any promises. You just got to work hard and stay positive.
You You say you don’t know we’re going to be but I’m sure you’re working towards things as you go. The way that I look at it is that we are, if you can bring in a factor of entrepreneurial ism, if you can be that an entrepreneurial type filmmaker, then that allows you to be able to to in entrepreneurial ism in general is risky. So cool. All right. So, uh, Connor, I like your answer. I would have liked to dig deeper. But we do really need to move on. I’ve really enjoyed the conversation thus far. So keep it up. Alex. The What are you doing to sustain your career which you kind of? It’s a nice question to segue into given that we were just talking about the uncertainty of the industry. But also you said you don’t know what you’ll be doing in 12 months, but I’m sure at the same time, you kind of know the direction in which you’re moving towards so what are you doing? What are you doing to sustain your career?
Yeah, well, from a very on the ground practical level, a lot of it is just keeping in touch with the people I might, you know, my people the contacts that I’ve made, I I’ve actually gone through two agencies now since I since I’ve This is my third agency I’m on with UTA now. I made a change a year ago just to kind of kickstart things a little bit I had realized I had I really loved the agency I was with before I actually I really nothing bad to say about them, except that I just hadn’t done any work that day and got me for years and I felt like I needed to kind of jumpstart things so
sorry, did you decide I hadn’t got you any work for years?
Yeah, but you know, again, it’s it’s it’s it’s not for lack of them necessarily sending me stuff it’s just sometimes you need new advocates I think in your corner because the stuff of work you know, the scripts coming in are just so so or I’m on a bit I you know, I was unavailable for a lot of it, you know, fishing without nets kind of but this is a bit of an aside, but the zoo love nets was produced by his factory but Wyatt who directed buys at the time the apes he and I have become very close friends. And he ended up asking and he brought me kind of into the studio world after that. So I did a pilot for the exorcist. That was my first TV show. And then we did a movie called captive state together. We’ve we were on Halo for a while before it fell apart. We have something else coming up this fall I can’t really talk about but um, you know, he he’s been a real champion of me on the in the studio level. And I was unavailable because of him. I was available a lot of times so I didn’t it was my connection. Right. So he was my connection. I mean, we can so it wasn’t all their fault. They just was what it was. And I felt like coming into this new year, I wanted to have a bit of a fresh start. I had a real kind of things went sideways on on this halo, which was a video game station. Yep, the past last fall doing just things to try to get that up several times. Have a nice The schedule got shifted again. So louvered had to step away because of the schedule. And so I stepped away and just kind of threw my whole year off a little bit. And anyway,
sorry, can I can I ask? Did your so revenue said, you don’t have to answer if the answer this if you don’t want, you said repeat was your contact. And not that didn’t come through the agent. But the work that you’re doing for them, they’re still getting 1015 like an agent’s cup,
they get 10%. But, you know, I mean, well, theoretically, like, I think there Yeah, people don’t always even agent. But they take care of a lot of the difficult conversations. And by difficult conversations, I mean, it’s right. They’re the ones that brokered the deal, essentially, you know, as a, as a dp, you don’t have lawyers, you don’t have managers, you have an agent. And that’s it. And so, you know, you don’t want to have to talk money with these producers and with these people who you want to be having a good relationship with, you know, because ultimately, the people who get me my jobs are directors and producers, right? That’s mostly it. And so if you’re pissing them off by saying, I need this, this, this and this, you just don’t, you don’t want to mix those things. And so what agents do provide, even if they don’t give you the contact, as they say, this is what his rate is, this is how much you get, you know, for his equipment, this you know, etc, etc, etc. And then they can negotiate from there. And I can kind of stay out.
From a directors perspective, it still feels like you’re dealing, I mean, they just an objective third party. Well, if I want to, if I want to hire Alex, and I’m contact your agents, I’m contacting you via your agents. So if you tell me your day rates twice what I want to pay for it, or I know I can get the same camera package elsewhere cheaper. I might be talking to them, but I’m effectively talking to you. So I agree and disagree with you.
This Well, I have different levels to that, though. Because in the smaller budget world. And for I mean, I’m doing commercial next week with a friend of mine whose real rate is half of what I normally work for, but it’s as deep as dp as as somebody who wants to keep relationships good with people, you it’s also up to you to understand and your agents to understand they say, Listen, this raid sucks. But you know what, you should just do it, because it’s a good gig. You know, I also really believe this is part of my whole strategy of getting work is that you know, money. If it’s about money, then you’re doing it for the wrong reason. Yeah. But that being said, is once you kind of go into the studio world, right? It’s a different ballgame. Because it isn’t just the one on one conversation with director reaching out to dp and yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s the studio, it’s the studio people have money, you know, and they don’t want to give you their money, but they have it. And then and they also understand that it’s going to be negotiations, they don’t go into being pissed when you when your agent says no key has to get this money, they’re going to say yes or no, they’re going to figure it out. They’re gonna say meet you halfway, whatever. But that’s just part of the process. So yes, on one hand, I completely agree. I think that many times, there’s times where I just told my agent, I don’t really care what the money is. Let’s just do it. And, and they’ll even said to me, like, Listen, it’s a great director to know, great producer, be notes, whatever the money, shit. But again, once you get into that kind of corporate world of the big studios, it’s big, they expect you to negotiate, you know, that that’s part of what it is. So I see their value and I’ve enjoyed working with the agents and, and, but ultimately kind of to circle back to the question is that it’s not a good way for your agents to just make connections for you. You’re not going to keep working. So it’s really top of mind for people. It’s again, being supportive of people who you know, we love.
So when you say top of mind, what how does that how does that is that blog, Facebook, basically saying? You know, Hey, man, how you doing? I saw that your latest? Isn’t that kind of kind of I mean that, you know, that feels slimy?
Yeah, I would say rarely is it that, you know, I’m now at the point in my career where have enough contacts that I know personally, but it’s more about just reaching out saying, hello, we’ll grab a cup of coffee and catch up to doing. Sometimes I just even say, Hey, I’m just so you know, I’m available this coming fall or whatever, if you have anything coming up, stuff like that, and then log back in the day, though.
it was tough. It was, you know, the more people you know, the easier it becomes because the you know, your network widens, and you find opportunities coming from different places. You know, I think I, I made sure that the people who I really respected as filmmakers who I knew personally will make friends, I made sure that I continue to stay in touch with and hang out with and people who I know, I tried to take a lot of general meetings so my agents can set you up with general means even if they would do nothing, you know, at least that, you know, I’ve taken dozens of general meetings at production companies that film financing companies, whatever, because sometimes just putting a face to a name five years later, yeah, you know, you don’t know where that’s the other thing. You never know where the next jobs coming from. Just like you said to me, You found me originally off wandering up, I totally forgot that. I mean, that was like years ago, you know, and it’s, you just never know where that next call will come in. And so I think it’s like being making sure you treat everyone with respect because you don’t know who the next one, you know, your boss. You know, keeping in touch with people you do know, because the other thing is, is the you know, Joe Schmo who has a grip on one of your things could turn out to be a great director. You never know. As a matter of fact, I don’t know if you know, the Daniels the Yeah, yeah. Yep. Dan Kwan. They were using, you’re behind me at Emerson and he literally was drawn. Okay. Right. You guys are geniuses, you know? So? Um, you don’t, you just don’t know. And I think that
no one wants to work with an asshole. So if at any point, you’re a prima donna, including actors, you know, the, over the years, some of the conversations as a director I’ve had with actors, it’s like, in my head, as I’m talking to them, to ask them, you know, getting them to do something or giving them a note. In my head at the same time, I’m thinking I’m never fucking working with you again. Yeah, exactly. Exactly the same. Thomas just plays on me for you to do it this way. Or, you know, have you thought about that, or just having a conversation about character. And the attitude that’s being brought just makes me not want to work with them again. Now, that could be a reflection on me as a director, I don’t know. But you just, I think attitude is, for me, both as a business owner, and also as someone that enjoys business at all, also enjoys art creating, if I can, if my collaborators are able to think for themselves, come up with their own ideas, but but present them in a way that it doesn’t feel like they’re undermining me, like you’ve you’ve mentioned previously about being supportive, then they’re the kind of people you want to work with. So if you’re, if you’re, you know, blind below the line type, you know, that’s where you’re at. Those those key components of you as a worker, they do not go unrecognized for short. And that’s pretty much what you’re saying. Correct?
Yeah, totally. And, and, yeah, I mean, I just think that you just, you have to be aware of the ripples that you the decisions that you make? Pretty Yeah. And then your interactions with people. Yeah, comma. So yeah, and I’ve seen that many times give the actors, the best actors in the world. And I’ve worked with many Oscar winning actors at this point in my life who have achieved enormous success. And they’re all nice. I mean, honestly, there are because they’re professional, they are collaborative. They’re, they’re just, you know, they’re good to work with. And, and there’s a reason why people keep hiring, you know, and it’s like, in any other position, if you’re not good to work with if the job is hard enough as it is. You don’t need no one needs to be. Yeah, yeah, yeah. But yeah, so that’s kind of a you know, a tangent, but, but, but it’s an important tangent. Yeah. Yeah. So yeah, that’s, yeah, sorry, but are we gonna say No, I just think that, you know, I think that, again, just the positive power of positivity, staying in touch with people, you know, personally, you know, reaching out to people that I know, keeping in touch. And then, you know, I do ask my agent, as well for I get scripts a lot, you know, I’ve got a ton of scripts, I get done a lot of, um, you know, General meetings, and you know, you got to diversify. meet as many people as you can.
A question from a director to a dp, I’m interested to hear how you read scripts, what are you looking for when you read them?
Oh, first is just story. Like, do I like the script? Right, like, forget about? Forget about visuals. Forget about all that for a second. that come in at some point, though. On the second read, okay. first read is like, do I like this? You know, if I can’t get them 20 pages, and you know, I’m bored. Yeah.
Like, how many? How many scripts? Have you read? We’ve you haven’t got past page? 20? Because I’ve read a lot. Yeah. Hundreds? 1000s?
I don’t know, not 1000s. But certainly dozens? Yeah, I mean, it’s a lot. You know, there’s a lot of crappy scripts out there. There’s also a good amount of the thing is, is there’s there’s good ones out there. It’s just the competition for the new stuff. And as I’ve risen through kind of the length of bigger budgets and all that stuff, you know, your competition gets harder. So it’s a great place to be, but it’s also a more difficult place to be in, in some respects. Because you have a lot of really talented, really accomplished people, many of whom are many years, my senior fighting for the same jobs.
Yeah, and the same pool of money in order to go on then produce that stuff as well. So it’s, it’s, in a lot of ways, what are you doing for you today feed for to help support? What are you doing your today for you tomorrow?
Um, I mean, all sorts of things. I think there’s, you know, there’s I have a lot of interest in this question. Actually, I think there’s the kind of beyond the actual filmmaking aspect of it is, I’m actually getting married in October. Oh, cool. Thank you. And I’ve come to realize over the last several years, I’ve been in a relationship now for five years, and that my happiness outside of work really matters. And, and, you know, there was a point in my life in my 20s, where I truly believe that work was everything. And what I’ve now come to realize is, that’s not a sustainable life. I don’t think anyone who goes that way, for their whole life ends up happy. I’ve seen it firsthand. And so I guess my number one answer would be, I’m creating a more well rounded life for myself. And that I think, is certainly better future as a filmmaker too. Because I think, if I can, you know, five a full life, it will inform my art, it’ll inform my decision making, it puts everything into perspective a little bit, you know, if things don’t go my way, sometimes, and that happens, that life doesn’t adjust, then, you know, I have a full happy life of people who love me, you know, and I think that is that’s a big one for me for my future. From a more kind of, a, how should we
say, hang on, before you move on to that, that the, I think what you’re doing is you’re redefining happiness, you’re redefining, through experience, you know, there’s inputs versus outputs. And then there’s this feedback mechanism. And that’s, that’s what I teach the people who I can kind of consult with is, you got to and this is the same with life, right? And then just over the years, you’ve, you’ve redefined what it means to be you a human being, yeah, and what, what’s required for that, and so experience gives you kind of data. It’s a feedback mechanism where you’ve realized, okay, so I need to find something more supportive, that will actually that will enhance the art. So it’s that kind of input output feedback mechanism that we find a lot of that in business, particularly in kind of media buying places. You shoot something, you you run some, you know, back in the day, it was television as is the ad working yes or no, if it’s not working. Don’t do that. Again. If it is working, do more of it. using that same kind of strategy with with your life, was that a conscious decision to do? Or is it just something that your insurer dively done over the years?
I think I’ve just seen it. I mean, there’s certainly a level of natural inclination to want to be with someone partnership. That being said, I’ve certainly made a very specific decision to get married, you know, I want to start a family, all those things are that are important to me, because I have, my, my first 10 years in this business have been wildly more successful than I could have imagined, right? I’ve been very, very fortunate. I’ve been able to travel around the world I’ve been given got to do all these projects. But ultimately, like, what I’ve, as the success has kind of grown. I’ve, you know, your brain resets itself a little bit, you know, you get used to a certain thing, and then it doesn’t feel special anymore. And so, what I realized was, well, you know, ultimately, well, film makes me very happy. While my career makes me happy. Wow, what, you know, we are the act of creating, and community art making, which is what filmmaking is, at, its best it can be, it makes me happy. It’s not what can necessarily always keep me happy. And I feel like, you know, there’s has to be other parts of your life that you have. Because if you rely on one thing, and that goes for any, I don’t think it’s just as common if you only have one thing in your life that, you know, makes you a happy person. Well, yeah, it’s pretty precarious place to be. Yeah,
I don’t think there’s anyone that’s like that. Yeah. Or they’re either they’re either crazy or delusional. If they are.
Yeah, and I think it can keep you happy for a while, you know, but I think that ultimately, life is long. And there’s things that are more important than just, you know, how successful you are,
yeah. But you do what you’re doing that also, you know, in a way to be more successful, like if, if getting married and having kids and, and having a nice home and being financially stable, and all these kinds of things. They’re important because they help sustain what we do as human beings. So you and I’ve chosen the field of filmmaking, you’re far more successful than I am in some respects. And so, but everything that we do outside of that also informs that. Yeah,
yeah, absolutely. And I think that it’s, I wouldn’t ever look at it as a like, Oh, I’m doing this because I want to somehow have more success in my career. It’s more like, I want to have more success as a human being right. And, yeah, my term is success isn’t necessarily I think it’s as I’ve grown older, and, you know, I’ve the goalposts kind of off the ball, but they’ve kind of realigned themselves a little bit of success, right. And if you asked me, if you asked me when I was 22 years old, I would have given you a completely different answer than what I’m giving you now is 32. If I think that like, I I just think that that’s it’s really important. I a little Andrew, this, I was just thinking, my friend the other day, he is wildly successful, in many ways that we think of a traditional, like, makes millions of dollars is a big time. TV person, I can’t even tell you anything more than that. But I’m completely unhappy with his current job and the status of his life. It means I know that I have when everyone considers to be very successful, for you know, career, but it’s not like filling his soul. Right? Yeah. And I think that, like, there’s a certain point in your life where you can’t let what other people’s version of successes define you. Or Yeah, form, what you think of as success or what you wouldn’t makes you happy? Like, it just lasts. It can only last, you know, for so long. So, you got to find it for yourself.
Yeah, I really liked the way you articulated it was I want I’ve redefined it through the feedback mechanism of experience. To be more about I want to be successful. I want to have what did you say I want to be successful as a human being. Yeah, yeah.
That’s, you know, ultimately, like the you know, I this is a total aside, but, you know, I was thinking about this the other day, it’s like, you know, we value this Western culture, especially values success as defined by how much money you make, and if you’re Do you know in filmmaking, whether you’re doing certain kinds of projects, or
saving less than the Asian culture, my wife is Chinese, it is much worse for young kids.
It’s a common human problem, right? Who’s the best? Who’s the most successful human? Who’s having fun? Who’s having the, you know, who’s who’s doing the best things for other people, like no one values that but but actually, like, I think that that’s the more if you can somehow kind of wade through all the bullshit of what other people think of is what you should be happy to be about, then. You know, you can find real. Yeah. So, you know, it’s kind of a little bit.
We’ve got philosophical, I would. Not that I’m going to disagree with you. But I, we are going to push back a little bit. I think that I think that it, it actually is something that is, like being successful as a human being is something that is that everyone, as soon as you have the conversation, everyone agrees Yes, of course. But it’s not what we see in advertising. It’s not marketed. And you’re in LA. Yeah, yeah. And so I think across the world, and the, in some ways, the Nike ad that you shot in, in China, is a classic example of that. And that’s because in order for the employees of Nike to have jobs, so that they can feed their families and have a good life, they have to sell apparel, and the only way they can sell apparel is to sell a lifestyle, and that lifestyle is rebel and just do it, you know, it’s, it’s, so we’re calling it, we’re kind of caught in this really strange loop. Where it’s consumerism allows us to, to have good and comfortable lives, to turn the air conditioner on when it’s too hot to turn the heating on when it’s too cold, etc, etc. And yet, at the end, for that reason, it in some ways, brings up this kind of anxiety, existential anxiety of just living, right. But at the same time, we know that it’s not what’s going to end. And I would say, because of that, we know that we know there’s something more to life. That’s why there’s always this itch. And I’m older than 32, right. And so that age doesn’t go away, where you’re just trying to work towards a better life, better life, better life. But what happens through the experience of the kind of the feedback loop is that you redefine what that means over time. So as a 22 year old it was, I want to shoot a feature. As a 32 year old, it’s, I want to, I want, you know, a mini me, or a ring on my ring on my feet, you know, and then when you’re 42 it’s, you know, I want a house in the hills, I want to, it’s funny how this works. When my wife and I, Sophie, we were looking at a new house, we listed all the things we wanted, she wanted to have, this doesn’t sound it’s very gender specific. She wanted a big kitchen, she wanted a concrete block. Like we got a huge kitchen. Beautiful Japanese timber, recycled timber furniture, I wanted something that was kind of carved into a mountain. So it would be really a quiet the double shower, a nice big office for me to work in. And then when we were looking, we found the place that was like, had all of the things that were listed when we and it was perfect. And we got here the first couple of months. It’s just amazing. We had our first winter and I live in Melbourne, Australia, which is cold in winter, but cold and wet, not like cold, like snow cold, it’s cold and wet, which is kind of in some ways worse. That the bottom story of the house is all slight. And it’s carved into a mountain like the house actually goes is in the side of a mountain. He’s fucking cold. It’s cold. So all of a sudden, this thing that was this jewel of happiness has turned into a piece of suffering. In the middle of winter, our our electricity bills are just through the roof. So anyway, that’s um, that’s just a little side note. So we’ll end it here by saying, Tell us something that you’ve read watched or heard that inspired you recently?
Sure, um, I have actually I’ve been reading darious canggih famous cinematographer has a book that came out relatively recently. That is fantastic. What What’s the name of the book I want I definitely want to go and have a little new I think it’s just his name. Um, it’s a big purple book.
I got a phone and put it in the show notes for everyone to go and check it out.
Yeah, it’s really really cool. It’s in French and in English, and it kind of goes through all these different movies. He’s done. It’s it’s a little long interview with him and some of his collaborators. It’s it’s just it you know, it gets your, your kind of creative blood flowing because he just is such an he’s had such a storied career. And he’s, you know, he talks about the art of filmmaking, which is great. So yeah, that’s one that has been. I’ve been devouring lately. I also just saw once upon a time in Hollywood. Yeah, actually, I really liked as someone I saw in the Cinerama dome, you know, which is in the movie, and it’s kind of a fun experience as someone who’s been in LA now for almost 11 years. It felt very lost and it’s a fun movie and it’s it’s crap. You know, Tarantino is a master of craft, right? He’s totally, really fantastic film.
So I watched the hateful light again. In the home theater, I’ve just set up so you know, big, massive screen. 4k HDR, the whole thing as I’m going through back catalogue and watching all the greats, we’ve we’ve we started back in the 40s. And kind of moved away through we had we actually watched, took off skis, like every single one of his movies, like night after night, got a bit much in the in the highlight on this thing was just was amazing. He is truly a master. He really is like, every part of of that movie is basically one room.
Yeah, it’s just Ah, that’s it. It’s Yeah. And you know, I actually, it’s funny, because I thought that one film was coming over from a cinematography perspective was a bit of a waste to the format because he chose this incredible widescreen format. Yeah, you know, would be amazing if you were shooting Lawrence of Arabia. Yeah. But yeah, no, he’s, he’s the this. You’ve seen once upon a time in Hollywood. It’s fantastic. It’s a celebration
of the city. But it’s a celebration of filmmaking. It’s a sound. It’s a celebration of in some ways, I wouldn’t say of life. But it has it has that kind of feeling, doesn’t it?
Yeah, it hasn’t really well, that’s a really interesting take on on on life, which I think is like, you know, my spoiler for anyone but you know, we in order to character, Leo’s character, and Brad Pitt’s character are kind of two sides of the same coin, right? Like you have on one hand, you have an actor who is ostensibly made it right. And he is he but he’s never quite made it to the pinnacle. Right? He’s
kind of he’s really, he’s redefining what success is through through the movie. So in the end, when he’s can’t remember his lines, he’s like, he all of a sudden, he’s gone back to being that failure again. And that little kid that, you know, that felt like it was never going to be good enough.
Yeah. And he’s, he’s, he’s reckoning with the fact that he never reached the A plus, minus a b plus. And yeah, you can’t be happy with that. Meanwhile, you have a guy who never really had much of a career to speak of at all, besides being like the gopher slash sun double. And yet he has found contentment in his life. And as has decided that he’s going to be happy. And it’s kind of an interesting, you know, it’s it kind of goes back to what we were just talking about. But you know, finding happiness in oneself outside of your career accomplishments, I think can really make a big difference in any Tarantino’s totally talking about that.
Yep, totally. That’s why I say it’s, in some ways, it’s a celebration of life. I think the the Yeah, actually, that’ll be a really nice place to end it too. I think. So. Thank you, sir. Thank you for for the patients in the slight technical difficulties that we had in the in the middle. And thank you. Yeah. Thank you for having me. Appreciate it. Have you enjoyed today’s episode, and here’s what I want you to do. Next, I want you to take one thing that you got from today’s show, and to put it into practice in your career in business, because it’s only through having the right systems in place, that you’ll be able to take your career and business from where you are today to where you want to be. So again, I hope you enjoyed today’s episode. So until next time, I’m Clarke Scott from next level filmmaker. Have a great day.
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