Where are you based and how did you first get into this line of work?
I was originally trained as a graphic designer, but always had an affinity for film, video, and animation. After graduating from the California College of the Arts, I moved to New York to work at MTV in the motion graphics department. MTV opened up a few doors in the directorial world and I started directing post-heavy commercials and promos. Two years later I left to start my production company Dress Code with Dan Covert.
How did you get theI ❤ NYproject?
We’ve been working with the AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) for over 10 years on a series of profile videos on designers, illustrators, and art directors. I Heart NY was one of those commissions. They approached us to do two films; one on Chermayeff and Geismar and one on Milton Glaser. I was particularly drawn to Milton’s story because I studied him as a student and he was an idol, to say the least. What interested me about Milton was his ability to transcend the design world with his I Heart NY logo. He basically created a universal symbol for expressing love. That led me to explore his passions and in particular, his love for the city of New York.
What gear/cameras did you use and why?
Most of the footage was shot on a Red Epic with various still/cine lenses. Our DP Christian Haberkern used a small build to be able to capture all of the Verite street shots. For a portion of the film where Milton reminisces about New York in the 70’s, we used a Canon Super 8mm camera. Connor Lawson shot that portion. I like to mix formats, so the idea of shooting all of the “archival” footage ourselves really appealed to me. Unless you look very closely, you’d think the footage really was from the 70’s! I like that parallel between the past and present.
Did you plan out the story structure from the beginning or did it come out in post?
I shot the interview first and did a paper edit so I knew what the story was. I approached Christian to shoot the beautiful b-roll of New York knowing what we were looking for. The main goal was showing the diversity in the city. We planned a route for shooting the street footage and tried to hit as many different neighborhoods as possible. I edited the footage with Mike Cook and we settled on a tight, three minute cut. I was happy with the film until we got a call from Tribeca. They were interested in premiering the film, however, they needed a longer version—three minutes was too short for their programming. From there, we took another two months to shoot some more footage and double the length of the edit.
What do you do differently from other filmmakers?
My goal in making films is to create an impact on an emotional level and to engage in critical thinking. I don’t know if that’s exactly different from other filmmakers but for me it’s equally important to make the audience feel and think.
If you had to go back and do it all again, how would you get a foothold in the business?
Film-making is a team sport so the key is to surround yourself with positive people and keep making work.
What’s the one secret tip go-trick that you use often that takes your work to the next level?
I don’t think this is necessarily a trick but its def a go-to; I’ve been using the same sound house for the last 10 years. The guys at YouTooCanWoo have been able to compose all types of original composition for me. They’ve done everything from soul and jazz to orchestral and electronic. We’ve had a very fruitful relationship and we constantly exchange music references.
What is currently the hardest part of doing what you do?
Finding the time to do it! Parallel to directing I run our production company Dress Code with Dan. It’s sometimes hard to find the time to concentrate on thinking and writing new projects.
What is currently the best part of doing what you do?
The best part is having the privilege to tell other people’s’ stories. It takes time and it requires trust but its very very rewarding.