What did you want to be growing up?
I wanted to be a florist, a vet, a farmer, a news reporter, then somehow ended up working as a DP!
How (if at all) is the subject you studied useful to your current role?
It’s not directly linked, but for what I do, every and any education or life experience is useful. I think you need to be a rich and colourful person in order to create interesting work that will resonate with an audience. I studied a really general filmmaking course, and I kind of went to film school because I needed a reason to stay [in the UK]. It was mainly theory, and it wasn’t very practical; we literally had only two weeks of cinematography, so we didn’t learn much to do with cameras. I think I just fell into my role, because there’s no clear path for anyone to become a DP. Everyone does it differently.
What were your first jobs?
I’ve never worked for a company. I’ve done some part-time jobs, like waitressing at a restaurant but I was pretty awful at holding a tray properly. I started working as a camera assistant on short films and smaller projects while I was studying. I thought, you have to do it to learn it – you can’t just imagine what it’s like to be on set. I was working while my friends were partying – I wasn’t very sociable, I have to admit. I learned the basics as a camera assistant, but I didn’t like the blokey-ness of the camera department. I just enjoyed working with my director on the creative side of things and managing my team – rather than worrying about which screw goes on which camera plate.
Was there anything in particular that helped you at the start of your career?
It really wasn’t just one person, it was bunch of people that helped me when I was always asking for favours. As I had worked for free as a student, I had a few connections already when I finished film school. It started with smaller projects, but slowly I started to be put on bigger projects. I think that was good head start – a lot of my friends spent two years doing freebies after they graduated. From there I started to pick the people I liked working with and I tried to stick with them.
That just kind of snowballed into being a DP – it probably took me two years to transition. My friends who were AD-ing [assistant directing] or running started directing little music videos and would ask me to shoot them, because they knew I could do a bit of camera as well as lighting. Then I just tried to establish myself as a DP after that. Traditionally people can spend around 10 years before stepping up to be a DOP, but our generation seem to want something in a very short amount of time.