“I listen to ideas and write words and wrap a visual form around them. I create moving human experiences that inspire connection and community.”
My studio is in Hollywood. There is a visual currency here and a creative pollen that wafts through the canyons.
In a few words, describe yourself and your practice.
I am a human being wearing the costume of a director and story artist. I listen to ideas and write words and wrap a visual form around them. I create moving human experiences that inspire connection and community.
When did you start your practice?
I’ve always been a dreamer. I first knew I was enchanted by the mystique of film making when I was six. I’ve been practicing ever since and one day, I hope to arrive. But knowing that will never truly happen, I will continue to be enchanted by a process and not a conclusion.
Is your practice how you support yourself?
Yes, I'm all in.
WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
I’m inspired by collaboration. I love great artists who are willing to share and then you buzz off each other and create a human experience that moves other people. I love kind and compassionate people. This industry is stereotyped with self centered douche bags and I feel fortunate that I rarely deal with that type. There are also many honest, pure visionaries driven by authentic creation.
How does where you live affect your work?
Immensely. I’m in Laurel Canyon in the hills above Los Angeles. My studio is in Hollywood. There is a visual currency here and a creative pollen that wafts through the canyons. Of course, there is great art in many areas of this planet, but some of the greatest artists and directors in film are either centered in this neighborhood or passing through on a regular basis.
When I was involved in visual effects in the San Francisco bay, there was plenty of work. However, the work in the bay area was more like receiving a blueprint and the creative work was figured out. Where I am now, the blueprints are created. This is the machine room. I know movies are produced all over the planet, but there is a concentration here. With so much talent around, this is where the ideas take form and, more importantly, are designed.
The great projects I’ve been involved in have not come from an ad on Craigslist… the best things are never advertised. Some of the greatest experiences I’ve had have begun with a random encounter at a cafe.
How do you start your process?
Coffee and trickery. I find that I need to do a deep dive on an idea to begin. And in this world of chirps and pings and constant distraction, it’s tough to get below the surface. I have a bomb shelter at my house. It has no windows or internet. I go in there and start by wanting to check email. Nope. Then surf for the name of that author of… nope. And then I get to work. It’s timeless.
I try to get going early in the morning so I can get some work done before my brain wakes up and tells me everything is a piece of shit and it’s impossible to have imposter syndrome when you are really an imposter.
After that my day usually gets sucked into meetings and handshakes and pitching and tapping future work and buying a can of primer for something. Running a studio can be very consuming.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE ASPIRING TO DO WHAT YOU DO?
Success is a process, not a conclusion. Be enchanted and follow that enchantment. You will spend way too much time of your life working. It’s important you not only love what you do, but that it enchants you. The work I do can be romantic and rewarding, but it is often brutal and downright exhausting and thankless. But I still have that enchantment about it that I had when I was a kid.
What are some challenges you're facing in your practice?
As the projects get bigger, you naturally deal with bigger issues. The stakes are higher and it gets more serious. Cause and effect. People have bigger expectations and communication to meet those expectations is a true art in itself.
What is the most useful tip you’ve ever been given?
When we were working long hours, early in my career, everyone was getting serious and stressed. The supervisor said, “come on people, it’s just a movie.” People like to elevate these things to mythic status. Truth is, it IS just a movie. Nothing more. Another piece of advice to that end, a colleague, Bill Gilman, once said: “It all ends up in the bargain bin in about a year”. It all speaks again to the impermanence of any of this and if you’re not enjoying the process, ain’t nothing else going to satisfy you after that.
ARE YOU COMFORTABLE SHARING ALL ASPECTS OF YOUR PROCESS?
Yes, I feel we live in a time, the internet age, where holding your cards is of no service. There may be a secret or two kept, but I believe it’s important to share your process. Many people keep everything guarded for fear of violation, which happens, but when you share everything, people hire you because you are the expert. People want an expert.
What makes your work unique?
I’m not trying to copy anything. Well, I definitely pay homage to things I like, but a work of art needs a foundation. Like when you're learning to walk, you follow a leader… but then you make your own walk and maybe even an awkward dance. Also, I truly am driven by “story first”. Stories give an experience meaning. So, whether I am designing a queue for a theme park or directing actors through a weed fueled campfire scene, I’m always asking what the story is.
How has your practice changed over time? Where do you see it going?
The digital tools for shot creation and design have become very powerful. You can now sketch shots in real time or 3D. And you have an infinite revision cycle. This is liberating, but can also be daunting because you never have to commit. I rarely feel finished in the digital age.