- Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?
In high school I started making snowboarding and skateboarding films with my friends. There was something about the process that just clicked with me… making a film is a puzzle that’s happening in multiple dimensions simultaneously. Images, sound, story all playing together to create something bigger, it’s immensely satisfying when it all works.
- Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?
Not at all. I think the most important thing to do is to make as many films as you can. Try new things, fail, and try again. Film school can be a great way to accomplish this, it was for me. It provided an environment that allowed me room to practice the craft, while at the same time meet many of the people I would collaborate with professionally. If you are self motivated and a self learner—you can probably skip school and learn on your own. If you benefit from external motivation, like getting a good grade, then film school is probably a good route to take.
- Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?
It’s not easy to keep writing and keep making films on your own, to come home after working for someone else to pursue your craft. You have to love the process, and you must have a strong drive to create. I don’t know why I’m compelled to make things, but I am.
- What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?
I think one of the most important lessons a filmmaker, writer, or any creator can learn is how to accept feedback. There are very, very few projects that are perfect right out of the gate. Learning how to recognize when a note is a good idea and not an attack is insanely important. A mentor once encouraged me to “be thick skinned and tender hearted” and I’ve tried my best to apply that lesson both to the creative process and to life.
- What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?
One of the hardest things we experienced while shooting was the reflections in the masks. Those darn things showed EVERYTHING. That’s one of the problems with low-budget filmmaking, we didn’t have the R&D time to do a camera test with them. This meant our cinematographer, Doug Hostetter, had to balance getting the shots we needed with making sure gear and crew wasn’t in the shot. He did an amazing job and I’m super happy with the visual look of the film. We got very lucky to have nice flat light for the shoot and that helped as didn’t have to worry as much with making the lighting match.
- What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?
When we started shooting I was really concerned about the audio quality of the dialogue through the masks. After the first day of production, a light bulb went off and I realized that if I changed the “good bye” scene so that the Father and Son had their masks off, it would allow for a level of intimacy that would be echoed by the sound and visuals. Not only would their words and action show their love, but their costumes and the audio quality of their voices would help reinforce their bond. So I leaned into the “mask” voice audio quality for the rest of the film because it helped set this scene, which now sounded clear and crisp, apart
- You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?
Some of the team I met through other filmmaker friends, some I met on a Facebook filmmaking group. I think an important part of building a strong team is being open to collaboration. You want your department keys to be invested in the project, and a great way to do this is to listen to their ideas. After all, why hire a talented cinematographer, or production designer, or composer if you are just going to tell them exactly what to do? I hire talented people because I want my films to showcase their talents.
- What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?
I think deep down audiences want to be entertained, enlightened, and engaged. Storytelling is one of the oldest parts of humanity, I think there is a good case that it’s baked into our DNA—at least in a figurative sense. As filmmakers we need to be mindful of the power of storytelling. We should tell stories that are true to our worldview, but we should also keep in mind, that if there was no audience, there would be no point in making films.
- What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?
I’ve met some of my best friends, and most important collaborators at film festivals. They are a great way to meet new people, see what other filmmakers are doing, and inspire you to work harder and make better work. I think I’ve gotten the most out of film festivals when I’ve gone in with an open mind and talked to as many people as possible. You never know who you’ll be standing next to in line for a screening… so say “hi”. You might meet a new filmmaking partner.
- Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?
With narrative films I think a filmmaker should be true to the story they are telling. If the story requires flashy camera moves and aggressive editing, do that. If classical “invisible” filmmaking is a better fit, do that. Whichever it is, it should support the narrative and emotion of the film. Style for style’s sake is empty and ultimately unfulfilling for an audience. With experimental and art films, or music videos… go crazy. Get as stylistically weird for weirdness’ sake.