Episode 20 - Joe Simon

Joe Simon is a cinematographer and director based out of Austin, Texas. Originally a sponsored BMX rider, Joe took his need to film himself biking and turned it into a full blown career. From there he dominated the wedding film industry filming celebrity weddings such as Tony Romo’s as well as global destination weddings for high end clients. After reaching the top of the wedding world Joe transitioned into documentary and narrative filmwork. He started a production company called The Delivery Men and freelances as well, most notably for the CNN show The Wonder List with Bill Weir.

I’ve known Joe for 6 years now having first met at the original Masters in Motion, hosted in his home of Austin, Texas. He has always been a laid back guy who never took himself too seriously. He’s simply a hard working talented dude who puts in the time to execute at a very high level. A real pleasure to be around, it is easy to see how people gravitate towards him for freelance work.

In the episode we discuss his path from BMX to weddings to proper filmmaking. Within that journey we chat about the value of having a collaborative partner, his new passion project “Everything has a Feeling,” and the ins and outs of working on The Wonder List.

Episode 19 - Timur Civan

Timur Civan is a cinematographer working on commercials, documentaries, scripted narrative and experimental. Working his way through the craft and the New York film scene for over ten years, he sets himself apart with his experimental work. A notable example of this style being the music video for Nigel Stanford titled Cymatics.

I’ve known Timur for the past 3 to 4 years meeting and hanging out in the same NYC film circles. We both frequent Vincent Laforet’s poker game where Timur acts like he doesn’t know how to play but miraculously ends up winning rather consistently. Somehow I felt this information was relevant and helps paint a picture for you all.

In the podcast we discuss Timur’s current transitional state as he finds himself very close to joining the union as a DP. Reflective and thoughtful, this conversation provides insights into the lesser discussed aspects of craft building, the ways in which our talents and opportunities can feel cyclical and how to anticipate these cycles and make them work for you both artistically and financially.

Episode 18 - Jason Wise

Jason Wise is a film director and the driving force behind notable documentaries SOMM and SOMM: Into The Bottle. Both films take a deep dive into the world of wine, documenting the perspectives of the master sommelier and wine purveyors. The cultural impact of the original SOMM reached full strength after it’s release on Netflix becoming one of the go-to films on the subject.

I’ve been speaking with Jason for a few years now on social media following his rise and his continued efforts at both documentary and narrative. He has always taken an inclusive approach with his commentary on various social media platforms creating a friendly vibe that makes you want to root for him. It comes as no surprise that our conversation continued this sentiment resulting in a discussion that went deep into the honest reflections that come from finding success.  

In the podcast we discuss his early career, how SOMM came to be, an incredible story about how it entered film festivals and distribution as well as his mission to switch back to shooting his next projects all on film and why.

Episode 17 - Dallas Taylor

Dallas Taylor is a sound designer and business owner of Defacto Sound, a sound design and mixing house based in Washington D.C. The shop takes on projects from a wide variety of genres including commercials, video games, network promos, short docs and feature length films. Clients include National Geographic, Audi, Redbull, Fallout and Skyrim (video game trailers). A recent feature doc they did titled Blood Brother won Sundance and another titled Almost Holy is currently in theaters after screening at Tribeca.

I’ve known Dallas for a few years now since he began working with fellow film collaborators (and podcast guests) Jon Bregel of Variable, Ryan Booth and Andy Baker of National Geographic. Dallas is always inquisitive, eager to steer conversation away from the mundane, diving into deeper discussion about the craft, the industry or life in general. I think this approach to people, wanting to get past the surface pleasantries, is at the root of his continued success.

In the podcast Dallas takes us on his journey from aspiring jazz trumpet player to high end sound designer. Along the way we pick up advice and insight on how to make big life moves and how to build a successful company.

Episode 16 - Johanna B. Kelly

Johanna B. Kelly is a production designer with 7 feature films under her belt. Beyond her main role on set, she has undertaken a feature documentary as a director and producer diving into the world of the insect food industry. Her documentary The Gateway Bug is currently in post and is being prepped for a festival run.

Living in New York as an Australian expat, her backstory of how she began in the industry provides great insight into the struggles that come with moving abroad and starting a new career.


This is my first episode with a guest with whom I’ve had no prior relationship. It was an inevitability I suppose and I’m excited for the future of the podcast. Great to sit down with Johanna learning about her from scratch, on air. It added new elements to the discovery aspects of the conversation and I found Johanna’s rise in the industry particularly fascinating since production design was not her first career.

Episode 15 - Craig Ormiston

Craig Ormiston is a renaissance man. He is a consultant for multiple tech and entertainment companies, a film producer, writer, craft beer enthusiast and hails from the great state of Colorado. His eclectic list of interests, hobbies and professions serves as a defining characteristic about him and his career.

We first met on the set of a worldwide travel show based out of Dubai. Craig produced the impossible and managed a crew of 10 circumnavigating the globe. The project was logistically one of the most challenging of our careers and Craig made it’s success possible.

Unlike many of the podcast guests we’ve had on, Craig is hard to define by one role, industry or passion. Our conversation is founded on this and discusses new topics to the show such as how to know when to leave your current job, how to assess your career and how to deal with a shifting career trajectory.

Episode 14 - Matt McLaughlin

Matt McLaughlin is the co-owner of the production company Acres in New York City. He serves as both executive producer and media strategist working with brands, political campaigns and organizations. Their work on the Bill de Blasio NYC mayoral campaign is notable as it helped transform de Blasio's poll numbers and gave Acres large scale publicity. Now a young and successful company, they support a small roster of directors out of an office space in TriBeCa.

I first met Matt when working with Acres’ director Shal Ngo. Matt’s a warm and welcoming guy with a sharp wit. Always eager to get into deeper conversation about complex issues, it has become clear to me that these interests act as a guide for where he sees Acres going as a company.

Always interesting speaking with people who are more on the commerce side of this ongoing discussion. Matt is unique in that he straddles the line, truly making art out of the commerce. Speaking with him I hear the same passion akin to a director or cinematographer, except our conversations are about brand identity, financial distribution models and the importance of relationships.

Episode 13 - Christian Schultz

Christian Schultz is a freelance Film and Commercial Director. He recently left his staff job as a Film Director for The Musicbed, a music licensing company. He was part of the inaugural film team at The Musicbed and helped craft their aesthetic and setup the foundation for a strong collection of films ranging from stylistic marketing materials to short online portraits of musicians to feature documentaries.

I first met Christian at the filmmaking conference Masters in Motion. At the time Christian had just started putting out work with The Musicbed and it was clear they were focused on changing the way brands made films about themselves and their collaborators. Gone was the commercial tone and in was the thoughtful moody atmosphere more akin to heartfelt documentaries.

Christian is a soft spoken thinker. Never the loudest in the room, he tends to let his work speak for himself. It was great to meet him at this time of transition from being on staff to going full time freelance. It’s a challenging time for anyone and I believe he provides solid insight into his process and how he is evaluating his success.

Also, Christian hosts a podcast with fellow filmmaker Jared Hogan called GOOD. It's so good, it's great.

Episode 12 - Jeremy Leach

Jeremy Leach is a Director of Photography and Director specializing in documentary films and travel television. He is an Emmy Award winner for his cinematography work on Mind of a Chef, a program created by Zero Point Zero, a production company famous for their work with Anthony Bourdain. Through this relationship, Jeremy continues to serve as a recurring DP on Bourdain’s CNN show Parts Unknown and was a DP on Bourdain's previous show No Reservations. All three of these shows, along with many other projects, have taken him all over the world.

Like previous guest Ethan Mills, I met Jeremy on the set of Mind of a Chef. Both Jeremy and Ethan worked on the program since its inception and have been an integral part of the development process as DPs helping craft the look through four seasons. Jeremy’s impact cannot be understated as Zero Point Zero DPs are given a lot of artistic freedom. His leadership in time-pressed situations is something to behold and his creative quickfeet help guide the multitude of decisions made every day on set.

Jeremy is a humble and thoughtful guy often downplaying his overall impact. Having worked with him in the field, his clear vision sets him apart as someone who tries to always stay one step ahead and keep his cool even while under immense amounts of documentary pressure. He’s a blast to work with and I believe his personality and demeanor shine through in this episode.

Episode 11 - The Diamond Brothers

Diamond Bros..jpg

Josh and Jason Diamond are filmmakers, entrepreneurs, geeks... you name it and they’ve probably been involved somehow, someway. Having started with an interest in practical special effects, their careers have taken them in every possible direction from MTV to music videos to feature documentaries to post production, software development (Frame.io), commercial directing to everything in between. To understand the scope of the work they’ve done is to understand the eclectic nature of their personalities and interests.

I’ve known them for a few years now as we run in the same NYC indie scene and they have a solid presence in a similar social media crowd. From day one they’ve come across as genuine, tell you how it is, stand up dudes. Just a ton of fun to be around. It becomes obvious that this is also their business strength. From a networking standpoint, it feels as if they know everyone from Midtown to Hollywood, and a lot of that comes from their openness, affability and a penchant for having a good time while working their asses off.

They are an excellent example of how this industry and lifestyle can be meandering, slightly confusing and yet still successful. Conversations like this reinforce how important it is to stay self aware, embrace the world around you and trust your gut. It’s something The Diamond Bros. have done for over four decades and it’s proving to be a solid plan.

Episode 10 - Porter Fox

Porter Fox was born in New York and raised on the coast of Maine. He lives, writes, teaches and edits the literary travel writing journal Nowhere. His fiction, essays and nonfiction have been published in The New York Times Magazine, The Believer, Outside, Men's Journal, National Geographic Adventure, Powder, Salon.com, Narrative, The Literary Review, Northwest Review, Third Coast and Conjunctions, among others. In 2013 he published DEEP: The Story of Skiing and the Future of Snow. The book was featured on the cover of the New York Times Sunday Review, CBS national news, NPR and in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

I first met Porter while searching for a new work space in Brooklyn. He owns Nowhere Studios in Bed Stuy, along with his wife, providing an ideal enclave for freelance creatives of all backgrounds. His open and supportive personality was immediately clear. Easy to talk to and knowledgeable on a diverse range of subjects, it is no surprise he’s had a successful career as a journalist and writer.

As the podcast continues these are the kinds of conversations I hope to have with creatives working outside of the film industry. I believe there are many similarities and parallels that can be made with other freelance roles. This discourse provides the type of perspective needed to appreciate the universal nature of our needs, problems and solutions.

Episode 9 - Agata Alexander

Agata Alexander is a director and editor best known for her unique music videos and music festival recaps. She has an ongoing relationship with HARD festivals and events which allows her to take the genre in new, creatively insane and hilarious directions. A genre often known for music heavy montages, Agata writes her own skits bringing a short film/narrative style that is simply unique to her. Collaborating with Hollywood cinematographers, her approach and overall production quality level far surpass anyone else in the scene.

In addition to these short film recaps, Agata utilizes her connections in the EDM world by directing music videos for the heavy hitters; most notably Dillon Francis, Bloody Beetroots and Destructo.

I first met Agata collaborating with her as a cinematographer at one of HARD’s events Holy Ship, a music festival that takes place on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. It is a fitting place to begin a professional relationship, I assure you. Agata’s charisma and trust stand out as she gives freedom to her DPs but instills a distinct aesthetic within the crew; one focused on beauty with a hint of debauchery.

Whether she likes it or not, her approach and style raises eyebrows both for the concepts on display as well as the fact that they are coming from a woman. Instinctive or carefully calculated, Agata cannot shy away from the reality that her work sparks conversation about feminism, misogyny, chauvinism and the male/female gaze.

 

Episode 8 - Jeffrey Hagerman

Jeffrey Hagerman WEB.jpg

Jeffrey Hagerman is an on-set colorist and camera technician/operator working on everything from major Hollywood blockbusters to high end commercials. He assists in creating the look for world renowned cinematographers such as Spielberg’s DP Janusz Kaminski. His credit list is quite impressive and includes the newly released Tina Fey/Amy Poehler comedy Sisters, Marvel’s Daredevil, Philomena, Victoria Secret Campaigns, Olympics Telecast and much more. The list is long and eclectic, an opportunity made possible by the genre agnostic nature and universal need for on-set color and data management.

I first met Jeffrey on indie film sets in New York City 5 years ago. At the time he was dialing in his technical expertise but had yet to join the union. It has been quite the experience watching him join the union and catapult from indie features to major summer blockbusters. Sitting down and chatting about these rather abrupt changes in his life proved interesting and totally on point for the larger Art vs. Commerce discussion. Hearing him talk through the decisions he’s made along the way, and the general risk involved, made for an intriguing and thought provoking hour.

This episode is sponsored by Masters in Motion, a filmmaking conference that takes place in Austin, Texas. Speakers include the DP of Game of Thrones, the editors of Breaking Bad and Birdman, production designer of Master of None and many more. Jeffrey was a speaker at this event.

Episode 7 - Andy Baker

Andy Baker is the Senior Vice President and Group Creative Director for National Geographic Channel and Nat Geo WILD. Having worked at the National Geographic channel since it’s inception in 2001, he has overseen its growth and set the aesthetic for its promotional materials. The past few years have turned towards a cinematic approach which has garnered widespread appeal and is raising the bar for television show promos across the industry.

In addition to inspiring beautiful work Andy also expresses a unique view from the client side with his blog The Client Blog. Here he shares his views on everything from execution to relationships and how to manage it all. Creatives rave about him as he has a keen sense of self awareness and uses it to approach delicate situations with the utmost care and respect for the artists and the creative process. Having worked on a few of his sets, I can attest that his candor and attitude provides the foundation for a successful shoot.

Andy was an interesting choice for the podcast as he seemingly sits on the other side of the Art vs. Commerce table, or at least it appears that way from the outside. I think the more we discussed the realities he faces the more it became apparent that he is an artisan of his craft. When you realize that, it comes as no shock that he cares for and treats everyone in a way that feels inspiring and meaningful. Andy’s openness allowed for interesting conversation about the client/artist relationship and how to foster positive growth, not just for the sake of the product but for actual happiness in your life and in the workplace.

This episode is sponsored by Masters in Motion, a filmmaking conference that takes place in Austin, Texas. Speakers include the DP of Game of Thrones, the editors of Breaking Bad and Birdman, production designer of Master of None and many more. Andy was a speaker at this event and we recorded this episode during our time there.

 

Episode 6 - Ethan Mills

Ethan Mills is a Director of Photography for documentary television, promos, commercials and narrative. An industry veteran, he has been working in production for almost 20 years. During the earlier stages of his career, the creative freelance environment posed different challenges to today. The Internet had not yet become a place to showcase personal work and editing a passion project was simply impossible without access to an editing suite. In the episode we discuss this challenge and how he dealt with it.

Later on we discuss his work shooting Mind of a Chef, the Emmy award winning television series that airs on PBS/Netflix from Zero Point Zero, the makers of Anthony Bourdain’s shows. I met Ethan working on this show as a cinematographer alongside him and find his personal relationship to it quite interesting. We discuss how it has helped his career and what perspective he has gained from 4 seasons.

Ethan is one of those guys on set constantly teaching. Every opportunity presenting a new moment to pass on a helpful trick or philosophy, his positive vibe is infectious and often a saving grace on a grueling day of production. I’ve seen it firsthand. My favorite part of the conversation is our reflection on the difficulties of freelance life and the realities of coming to terms with the inevitable ceilings of one's own success.

Episode 5 - Ryan Booth

When thinking about people in the film industry who inspire me I think it breaks down into two groups of people: Hollywood level stars and people I view as peers. Ryan is a friend, peer and complete inspiration. Not only in the way he motivates me to be a better filmmaker and person, but on a more technical level as well. I love his style and try to learn from it. His eye is top notch and given the right opportunities I really do think his career is limitless.

In this episode we cover his background and how he eventually became a filmmaker. Unlike a few of the other guests, being a director and cinematographer were not things he wanted to be even into his early to mid twenties. It’s always interesting when someone with such raw talent does not tap into it initially. I think the conversation about how to find it and stoke that fire can be beneficial and applicable for anyone regardless of craft or trade.

In addition to this realization we discuss his current transition into directing and his desire to continue pursuing cinematography in tandem. Process and approach are big themes and I loved hearing what goes on inside his head including his beliefs about how to deal with the facets of filmmaking as well as life in general.

His portfolio is strong with a recent commercial campaign for Spotify as a highlight. A lot of his work is in the music space, creating a project called Serialbox Presents which showcases up and coming musical acts. He also directs and shoots cinematic music videos often turning them into short films with Hollywood level actors.

Episode 4 - Eliot Rausch

This conversation holds a special meaning in my heart. Eliot is a profound human being. A past filled with addiction and excess, he has pushed himself to the brink and back, now working as a sought after commercial director with a humanistic/documentary style.

His life blindly air dropped into the fast lane after the meteoric success of a short film he made about his friend putting his dog down. What was supposed to be a simple ode to a dog turned into the spark that exploded his career.

In the episode we discuss what lead up to this moment and how it impacted his life in the immediate and long term. This kind of rise can be a dizzying thing to navigate in every way possible; mentally, physically, fiscally, socially, politically - the higher you go, the bigger you get, the more complicated it all becomes.

Eliot’s honesty is something to behold. He shares his heart with anyone who is open to accept it. After we finished recording we kept discussing these topics for another few hours, it’s a conversation that never ends for him. He’s a unique soul and I hope you get as much out of it as I did.

Episode 3 - Vincent Laforet

Vincent Laforet is a professional photographer turned commercial director and cinematographer. He was the youngest staff photographer ever hired for the New York Times where he shared The Pulitzer for his international coverage in The Middle East documenting events unfolding post 9/11. After years of success at the paper, the need for creativity and artistry prompted him to do the unthinkable, he left what most considered to be the job you held onto forever.

In the pod we discuss his upbringing and how he managed to become the youngest hired staff member of the famed NYT photo dept and the journey he’s been on ever since. Vince is well known in the photography world as a teacher through his prolific blog. This side of him is impossible to turn off and comes through during our conversation. He’s always trying to extoll advice and share what he’s learned.

Compared to the previous episodes, Vince is older than the first two guests and brings with him a different perspective. I’m hopeful that the podcast can continue to bring in a variety of voices either because of age, experience, background, artistic genre - with each new voice the conversation becomes richer.

Episode 2 - Joey L.

Joey L is a wildly talented photographer working on everything from top tier commercial work to thoughtful documentary work. Living every young photographer’s dream he headed to New York at a young age and found critically acclaimed success quite early, he was still a teenager. His work has been featured in top magazines, billboards in Time Square and wrapped around double decker buses in midtown Manhattan. Clients include Lavazza, National Geographic, The U.S. Army and many more. 

When not shooting for a client, he’s usually on the road working on his travel photography. Differing from photojournalism, he brings his commercial aesthetic to far flung places mixing his technical ability with a dive into human exploration. One of the more interesting notes is that he routinely visits the same tribes, forming relationships over years, which grants him unique access.

Now entering his mid-20s, he has accomplished more than most people do in their whole career. For that reason I enjoyed our discussion on how to stay engaged when many common photography goals have been achieved so quickly. He’s well spoken, articulate and has a keen sense of self awareness.

At the time of recording he had just returned from a personal trip to Syria and Iraq. He went to document the Kurdish resistance. It was fortuitous to catch him in such a fresh state of mind about the experience as it was his first formal discussion on that project. Those photos have now been seen the world over and achieved international acclaim.

Episode 1 - Jonathan Bregel

Jonathan Bregel is an accomplished commercial director, cinematographer and personal friend. Finding success at a young age, he started a production company called Variable at 22 years old. That company now boasts a growing roster of directors and houses a full staff taking on large scale high-end commercials and doc-style campaigns. Some noted clients are National Geographic, Cadillac and Tiffany’s.

Speaking with Jon is always an inspiring experience. He’s a thoughtful and deep guy who is constantly analyzing the world around him and his participation in it. In the episode we discuss how he came up in the industry embracing his friends help and creating a film family from the very beginning. We dive into the importance of having a team and how he dealt with the transition to large projects that came with an exponential rise in responsibility.

His views on the industry and how to stay grounded really resonate with me. For someone who has accomplished so much, it’s exciting to see him still curious and inquisitive. He’s about as egoless as they come. It was a great conversation and even though I’ve known him for years, it opened up a whole new appreciation for him and his outstanding work.