Where are you currently employed?
Film Solutions, LLC, in Burbank. I’m Vice President of Creative Services.
As a photo lab and online data management service provider, I have my hands on multiple projects from multiple clients simultaneously. Among the shows I’m personally working on now are Oblivion with Tom Cruise and The Fast and the Furious 6.
Describe Your Job.
Our industry is at the forefront of a paradigm shift in print, creative and data management services. As these disciplines converge under one roof, it's my task to manage, execute and evolve our workflow to its most efficient and productive state. In Creative Services, I also monitor photography and imaging software technology trends to make sure we're aware of and offering the most up-to-date solutions.
We're still a very lean, everybody-pitch-in organization, so notwithstanding the executive role, I enjoy the daily delve into color correction and retouching along with every technician on the team. I also keep an eye on our web interface, its design and function.
How did you first become interested in this line of work?
From behind the lens, as many in our line of work might recollect. I was introduced to motion film and photography from a very early age in Chicago, my hometown. My father had a Rolleiflex that I used to play with as a kid. I was probably about 10 years old. I vividly recall the lessons on operating that twin-lens reflex and questioning why the image was upside down. I also enjoyed watching my older brother stage and direct a lot of family and neighborhood homemade movies.
My first real hands-on was at about 12 years old with an old Mamiya/Sekor 35mm SLR. I learned to meter and develop film with that camera. That same year, I built an enlarger from scratch. It was made of wood and sheet metal, but it actually did the job!
Who gave you your first break?
My initial break into the film industry was with Silvercrest Entertainment and their feature film, Lost with Dean Cain.
What was your first union job?
That would be with Film Solutions, when we were the new lab in town. I was color correcting, retouching, converting and tagging images for our database.
Which of your credits or projects have made you the most proud and why?
So many stand out as benchmarks in my career, but it's any project that I get to put a heavy dose of my vision into. When the client trusts me to come up with and implement a creative direction, nothing beats that sense of accomplishment.
What was your biggest challenge in your job (or on a particular project) and how did you overcome/solve it?
When I start off the day thinking, "That's not possible," and at the end of the day I'm saying, "We made it happen." A recent example: On a "photo reconstruction" job, I had to remove all of the foreground furniture from an image and end up with an empty room — just walls, curtains, fireplace, bookshelf and floor. Most of these features were partially obscured and the photo was probably 60 percent foreground. With little exception, the source elements had to come from that one photo. I loved the challenge of creating a vacant space out of a completely full room of couches, tables, etc. It was overcome with time — a bunch of it — and focusing only on very small areas of the image, one patch of image after the other… Eventually I had my empty room.
With the constant influx of imaging utilities and cameras that rely heavily on the latest software to manage and process photos, the overall challenge of the job is staying ahead of the curve and being expertly informed. It means I'm always investigating and always learning about the latest creative tools and how they can enhance our quality and productivity.
What was the most fun you’ve had at work?
When we're the go-to lab for a big project and some last-minute work is required and the deadline is looming, it's very hectic and intense. But when we meet the deadline and the photos are approved, that is hugely gratifying. Pizza day on the company is fun, too…unless someone shorts the order.
Jobwise, what do you hope to be doing five years from now?
Explore more work behind the lens and continue to mature as a creative professional and problem solver.
What are your outside activities, hobbies, passions?
Other than the obvious — photography and having the occasional photography exhibit — I’m a pianist, a composer, a road bike enthusiast, a hockey player, a scuba diver, a film festival executive committee member/volunteer and a traveler. I love seeing first-hand what the rest of the world is up to.
Favorite movie(s)? Why?
The movie Lost, because I helped make it! That is unabashed promotion. I have always ranked the movie Before Sunrise as one of my favorites. I didn't work on that project, but I have an affinity for the conversational style in the film and the discovery that the characters make about each other through the course of the dialogue.
Favorite TV program(s)? Why?
Curb Your Enthusiasm. It's the epitome of sardonic repartee.
Do you have an industry mentor?
Within this industry, I'd have to say producer Kevin Matossian. He gave me the opportunity to learn, contribute my expertise, and participate in the establishing of Film Solutions as a distinguished lab and service provider.
What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?
Stay curious. Bring your vision to everything you do, but also be comfortable with and accepting of direction and advice from those with tenured experience.
Was there ever a circumstance when you had to rely on the Guild for help or assistance?
Not yet. Still Lab Technicians only became part of the Guild two years ago when Local 683 merged with 700. There are so many paths for guidance, learning and support under the auspices of the Guild; should I ever need help, it's comforting to know the resources of the Guild are there and available to me.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members, some words of encouragement?
Have fun daily.
- Compiled by Edward Landler
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