Take a risk: Joel Honeywell on making bold career moves and meaningful work
On this week’s podcast, we get to know rising director of photography, Joel Honeywell, whose work includes projects with Vogue, Dazed, i-D, Vice, as well as production companies like Partizan and Somesuch. After years of climbing through the ranks of the camera department, he recently made a bold career leap into cinematography, resulting in award-winning content and a job he truly loves. We talk about how he got his start, his favourite projects and finding satisfaction in his work.
Director of Photography
(also known as: Cinematographer, DP, DOP)
Nike, Adidas, New Balance, Vogue, Chanel, Channel 4, i-D, Vice, Dazed Digital, Nowness, Stink, BFI, Agile, Ogilvy & Mather, GREY, AMV BBDO, Somesuch, Pulse Films, Partizan, Iconoclast
Freelance Focus Puller/ First Assistant Camera (2015–2017)
Freelance Clapper Loader/ Second Assistant Camera (2012–2015)
Freelance Camera Trainee (2011–2012)
BA Cinematography and Film Production, Arts University Bournemouth (2008–2011)
WPA for both US and UK
Joel’s journey began with a love of drawing, eventually leading him to expand his image-making with photography and filmmaking. Between 2008 and 2011 he went on to study at the Arts University Bournemouth, earning a BA in cinematography and film production. But after graduating and moving back home with his parents in South London, he admits it was a bumpy start in the working world.
However, once Joel began to build his network and reputation, he was soon finding his place in various camera departments on major productions. After years of working between multiple roles – going from camera trainee to clapper loader to focus puller – he found himself in need of a new challenge. He describes the sequence of events that led him to make a major career leap. “I thought: I want to be the guy lighting the set and pointing the camera. So one day I was on a job and I just walked off mid-shoot... Everyone was grumpy and mean and I thought, why am I here?
“A week later I ended up shooting a music video [and more in the weeks that followed] – all of those videos ended up winning awards, and now my career is launched.”
“If you’re sad in a job, even if it’s paying well, it’s still not the job for you.”
This was an experience that came to define Joel’s approach to work satisfaction, as he advises others in a similar situation; “You should know when you’re happy and when you’re sad. If you’re happy in a job, that’s probably the job for you. If you’re sad in the job, even if it’s paying well, it’s still not the job for you.”
Now with a fast-growing and broadening body of work under his belt as a DOP, Joel shares two of his favourite projects from the past year with us, including the moving and award-nominated short The Ayes Have It, created by director and former Olympic volleyball player, Savanah Leaf. Plus, a commission by Nowness and Dazed, shot in Sierra Leone, where Joel has deep family ties.
Having worked as a freelancer for pretty much all of his career, we hear Joel’s experience of the freelance rhythm. He also touches on the role that unpaid passion projects have played in his career – and how he’s been able to balance this out with commercial commissions.
And lastly, Joel shares his words of wisdom for emerging creatives, and specifically his thoughts for aspiring filmmakers and cinematographers; “Don’t be focused on the fact that you’re not moving fast enough, you’re moving at a pace that’s relevant to you. [For me] I took a leap... I advise others to take a risk.”
Interview by Joel Honeywell