Feature Article – NOW Magazine August 2014
I shoot music videos, documentaries and short films. One of the first music videos I shot was for Nelly Furtado. I helped co-direct and edit and was a cinematographer for the video of Waiting For The Night. It came out in January 2013. That’s the most awesome thing I’ve done. I have my own production company called Naked Eye Media.
After high school I went to Humber College to study jazz trombone and arranging. I’ve played trombone since I was 11. I’ve played with Down with Webster as part of their horn section, and with funk bands and rock bands. While I was doing that, I started doing photography for other musicians and bands. I managed to get on set as a stills photographer on a Canadian Film Centre shoot, and it was so cool, I realized that making movies was what I wanted to do.
After Humber I went to Ryerson University’s Chang School to take film studies.
The program has been super-helpful, especially when working on really low-budget stuff. It touches on every aspect of filmmaking: editing, sound recording, cinematography, film theory, film history and all the hands-on skills you need.
I was in my late 20s, so I didn’t want to spend another four years with a bunch of 17-year-olds discussing the meaning of art. I just wanted to learn skills and theory; it was great to study with people in my age group. I took four classes a week.
I didn’t think I’d be interested in making documentaries, but one course focused on short documentaries. I love to film events that happen in everyday life and then sculpt them and distill them down to essential elements to tell a story.
My best experiences were on the Furtado set. During the very first shot, I was sitting there looking through the camera, the music was playing and I was watching her singing and thought, “That looks like a Nelly video. Wait a minute – I’m friggin’ making one!” I’m like, “Wow, I’m doing this.”
The other side of that is that you have absolutely zero money. No budget. I made a music video for $13. It was for jazz folksinger Jeff Gladstone. We were sitting around having drinks, and six days and $13 later we whipped together a crazy, kooky video and now it’s being screened at a film festival. To take pure imagination and zero resources and make something fun and beautiful is really exciting.
The worst experiences are the stressful ones leading up to the first time you shoot. Are we going to find enough people to help? Do we have enough money? Are we going to make it happen? Is this idea too big? How are we going to pull this off?
Being responsible for organizing everything is just so intense. When it doesn’t feel like it’s coming together, you feel like an idiot for having such a big imagination, but once you start shooting, all that stress and anxiety goes away. That’s a relief.
A director must be able to think creatively. You need leadership skills and the ability to convince a group of people – like, a lot of people – to help you do something for free. Sometimes you’ll pay them, but sometimes you’ll have to convince people to do something crazy. That takes a lot of persuasion. It’s a very specific skill.