This month we’re exploring the power of video and the art of filmmaking. Jay is our videographer and storytelling guru. He is our master of all things interactive and develops captivating stories for our customers. His love of film and the art of cinematography is present in every project that falls into his hands.
Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking was not just a hobby, but that it would be your life and living?
I never thought I would become a filmmaker but one freelance job gave me the confidence to pursue it more as a career. I was freelancing for a producer (Patricia Friedman/Doug Deluca), and after submitting all my footage for evaluation, she told me I was one of her top filmmakers to work with, and I have a bright future in the industry. I still don’t see myself as a filmmaker, and I probably never will because to me it is something I enjoy doing, it is a part of me, not my life. I never take it for granted, so I just keep it simple and real.
Do you feel like the videos you make reflect your own life? Or do you use it as a way to escape?
A little of both I guess. I’ve been doing travel-esque mini-documentaries that in a way reflect my own life and I use as an escape from the busy work life. I love to travel, and if I weren’t here, I’d be doing travel videography. There is something appealing about traveling to an area you aren’t familiar with and exploring and capturing everything it has to offer; telling its story, meeting its people, exploring its culture and history.
Do you use it as a way to make sense of things in your own life?
No, there’s more to life than filmmaking, there used to be a point in my life where if I wasn’t carrying a camera I would feel disappointed in myself for not being creative, but that wasn’t healthy. Now I use filmmaking to express how I feel instead of controlling my life. In filmmaking you can always cut out unnecessary parts, but in life I think those unnecessary parts build character, I would rather have my life flawed than have it appear to be a well-produced footage.
You have a gift for storytelling. How do you approach finding a story in film?
I like to get to know what I’m filming, whether it be location, people, or a product. I then simplify it down to: who are my characters? What do they want? What if they don’t get it? What are the stakes? Where is the tension? Where is the story going? What is the story about – do the parts add up to something greater than the whole? It doesn’t always happen in that order, but somewhere along those lines.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to have a life creating film?
-Take risks, don’t settle
-Look for a mentor and work with someone who has more experience than you so you can learn from them
-Research, research, research, research! I have spent a lifetime reading pretty much everything online. I think our generation and the next are so lucky to have information readily available to them.
-Be organized and professional, and always have a positive attitude. You want to be someone that people enjoy working with.
-Work full time for at least two years. Even if you want to freelance or work on your own, the experience you gain from working full time with video is worth it. It’s an eye-opening experience.
-Create your own content, don’t wait for someone to give you a job. Get out there, start filming and share it to your own channels. It doesn’t matter if it all makes sense, the hardest part is getting your first film out there, and once you’re over that, everything else gets easier.
What was one of the most important lessons you’ve had to learn whether it was positive or negative? And how has it affected your filmmaking?
“No cinematographer is an island.” Always ask for second opinions, say thank you, and you’re welcome, and don’t forget about your crew because without a talented crew behind you, you’re just a guy holding a camera. That is the most important thing I’ve learned in filmmaking, work as a cohesive unit, approach things from difference perspectives. Sometimes you get too focused on the task, and you miss the little things that make a difference. It is a pleasure working with a talented crew at The Studio, and I can only hope they feel the same way about me.
When inspiration is waning, or when you feel creatively sapped, what do you do? What do you do or use for creative inspiration?
I’ll walk away from it all, either surround myself with music or play music myself. I was fortunate enough to grow up surrounded by musicians, so picking up an instrument was a normal thing to do, and there is something about live music that calms and resets me. Alternatively, I’ll go out and hike for a few hours to try and disconnect and come back refreshed.
How do you know when your story is finished, when to walk away?
It’s hard to know when my story is finished, at least for my personal projects. When I’m editing I’ll see things I didn’t plan for while filming or when I came up with the concept. The editing room becomes another stage or process to the story. When I feel the story doesn’t lead up to anything else and it has a strong middle and end, that’s when I know I can walk away.
How do you approach a new project? Do you envision the final piece and then work backward? Does a project ever end up looking completely different than how you imagined it at the beginning?
I approach it with an open mind. I will usually write everything down, and then will ask for second opinions. I’ll ask if the person proofreading it can visualize it and if it makes sense to them. I break it up into parts: beginning, middle, and end. I then try to figure out the most meaningful part of the scene, and what is just treading water. Yes, I’ve had projects end up looking completely different from what I’ve envisioned, sometimes better, sometimes worse. When I story board a project it’s never in its final form allowing me to add or omit things.
>Who is your inspiration?
Ava Duvernay (Selma), Antoine Fuqua (Training Day), Alejandro Iñárritu (Birdman, Revenant), Guillermo Del Tori (Pan’s Labyrinth), Quentin Tarantino (Kill Bill), Phillip Bloom (documentary), Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation), Spielberg (ET).
What are some of your favorite movies?
There are a couple of movies ranging from old to new: Roman Holiday (Peck, Hepburn), Glory, Selma and anything written by Edgar Wright.
To learn more about Jay visit his about page.