Did you always want to be a DP when you started out in filmmaking?
When I started out as a filmmaker, I really focused on editing and motion graphics. I was very quick to understand that editing is one of the most powerfully parts of good storytelling (besides a good story). Because I focused so heavily on editing, I was able to fast track better storytelling. Years later when I started shooting more, I able to see how my shots would tell the story in post while on set. I shoot for the edit because I know how it will all come together. This is probably why I was able to jump to being a DP so early in my career.
What is your approach to lining up a shot or lighting it?
A lot of what I do is by instinct & feel. I know when the shot is right when it’s not. I really love exploring cinematography with different color temps and the uses of contrast ratios. I rarely use the same lighting setup over and over…it just depends on the scene and emotion from the story.
What have your learned since becoming a DP?
I went to film school to become a Cinematographer and that what I got by bachelors degree in. My professors were so amazing and definitely set me up for success but there is a certain component to being a DP that seldom get talked about, management. "Heavy is the head who wears the boss hat," well thats true! As a DP, you are in charge of so much and so many people, you like many others on set are the Quarterback for your field and you need to know how to manage people, timeline, weather, Murphy's law...you name it; thats something you can't teach...it's something you have to learn and earn.
What is you background?
I have a strong background in electronics and mechanics; I served in the USAF as an F-16 Avionics Technician and a Mechanic at Lockheed Martin on the F-35 program. During my aviation days is when I found filmmaking and was instantly hooked when I got my hands on my first camera. From then on I new what I wanted to do for a living, so I finish up my 6 years in the USAF and went to film school at the Art Institute of Seattle. I was there for about a year and a half then transferred over to Full Sail University. I basically started my degree all over but in 2014 I finally finished up my Bachelors Degree in Cinematography. During my time in film school I was very fortunate to work on several freelancing jobs and landed a job at BodyBuilding.com in Idaho as the Creative Video Director and later became their DP. A couple of years doing that I was read to head out on my own creating a company called Sky Tower Film which is now called Beyond The Sky Films. I think what really helps me be a good DP is having such a strong electrical and mechanical background. It’s easy for me to think on my feet and coming up with a solution to a problem with just the things around me. I understand how things work which helps me “MacGyver” my way out of a problem or bump onset.
What kind of Awards have you won recently?
I have been very fortunate to recognized for my hard work in both aviation and filmmaking. During my film school days I have been on the Presidents List, Deans List 3 times, Honor Roll, Course Directors Award and been apart of Full Sail University’s 2016 Hall of Fame week in Florida. Outside of film school I have been featured in two Sony @ction Magazine Articles for my films (Front Cover for one), features in new Sony FS7/FS5 Brochure (and on Cover), featured in ASC's American Cinematographer, finalist in Sun Valley Film Fest., finalist in Tree Fort Films Fest., was the first professional DP in the U.S. to film with new Sony FS5 for Sony promotional videos, and my favorite one…winner of the 2015 Gordon Willis ASC Heritage Awards for my mini Doc. Warbird Pilot: Behind The Visor.
Where do you want to go from here?
My goal is to keep making great work! I need to keep pushing myself and telling bigger and better stories. I wish I could just spend everyday filming on location but most of my time is spent planning. My ultimate goal is to one day be invited to become an ASC and help keep passing down what I have learned to other filmmakers. My thing is I love to teach…I have learned a lot of things the hard way…if I can help someone avoid the same mistake I will.