Where are you based and how did you first get into this line of work?
Generally I’m on the road looking for new stories. It’s not work for me, in that I don’t get paid to make these things. It’s just my personal and vested interest driving these things.
How did you get the Children of the Dust project?
We had a chat and I told him, I had no preconceived ideas on what I want to shoot, and I would film what it is in front of me which he seemed to appreciate. He said he has been approached regularly about people wanting to make a film for them but they normally have their own ideas of what they want to do.
For me, I just wanted to go in with a blank canvas. It’s important to find the story as it unfolds in front of you, which I had learned retroactively from my Rhino Guardians shoot. But you make mistakes to get better. In these sort of films, you can have an idea of what you think it is, but you can’t let that dictate what happens because it distorts the reality. You have to let the story come to you. I don’t know if that is the right way to do it, but it’s the way I’ve been doing it.
What gear/cameras did you use and why?
Sony A7S II, the zhiyun crane and 35mm voigtlander prime with some 50/85mm Minolta primes. The 50/85 I didn’t use so much, when you are shooting a documentary you don’t have much time to change lenses so I tend to stick to the 35mm and use that disadvantage of a singular lens to challenge my framing and story telling. I should probably change to a good zoom lens in the future. I really love the 35mm for now. It is limiting, but I find you learn a great deal with limitations.
Did you plan out the story structure from the beginning or did it come out in post?
It was a straight forward documentary shoot, which I feel is probably a little outdated right now. Turn up, see what happens. Everyday. The story really was created by my editor Grason Caldwell who spent a long time forming the shape of it with the help of Kinsey Green. They really put in the
What do you do differently from other filmmakers?
I have no idea how to answer this question. I have never been on set with any other filmmakers, but they all seem to have teams of people they shoot with, and money, and they all tell a story that seems so structured and beautiful and feels seemless. Especially in some of these new documentaries where they look like a professional film shoot. There are a lot of talented directors out there. Maybe if you ask some of them hey can tell me how they get all that. I would love to know. I’m still learning.
If you had to go back and do it all again, how would you get a foothold in the business?
I am still trying to get a foothold! There is a misconception out there from a minority of people where they have congratulated me on my ‘success.’ It’s a little embarrassing and awkward to be honest, no one pays for my films and no one offers me films to make. I am very much on the outside, but I love making these things. As challenging as they are, you always wish you had more, with more, but that’s just ego getting in the way.
What’s the one secret tip, go-to trick that you use often that takes your work to the next level?
I often watch edits without sound and then with sound to see how it changes. You’d be surprised at how some films can look and feel so differently without sound.
What has been the hardest part of doing what you do?
Using my own motivation and ambition to get my films made.
What is currently the best part of doing what you do?
Making the films I want to make and not cowering to any outside influences. I’m not pitching on a script pretending to be interested in a car commercial. I’m still at the very forefront of my dream, to make the films that I want to create. Every film is my own fingerprint, of course with the help of some amazing and talented editors, colorists, composers and sound designers. But it is my voice and idea. And I’m still living in that saturated dream, just like the first day I had it.
What are some of your favorite stories or web videos that you’ve gotten inspired by?
Some of these books I quite liked recently… Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, The Moth by Catherine Burns, Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami, American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell, The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell.
On the other hand, I have found the most inspiration in books that I haven’t particularly enjoyed reading purely for the discomforting knot in your stomach they give you. Open Veins in Latin America by Eduardo Galeano and Janesville: An American Story by Amy Goldstein are two books that are currently taking a long time to read, but they spin around and around and paint an intense picture in your mind.
Where can people follow your work?
Just go to my Vimeo page.