US video artist
Interview: 10 questions
1. Tell me something about your life and the educational background
I grew up in Israel, and there, when you are 18 years old, you must go to the military for three years. I spent my time in the military in the air force, making training films. I studied film in high school before that, but those three years were fantastic because I had an Avid and some great (at the time) DV cameras all to myself, so I had a chance to really get strong at editing. Afterwards I moved to New York and got a job at TimeLine Video, a company that makes mainly high-end corporate films for big clients. After two years I thought, “I have to move to L.A if I want to get into feature films,” so I moved to Los Angeles and got a job as an assistant editor on features with an excellent editor named Alain Jakubowicz, and after a while I started editing features myself. Because I was so lucky to get a job quickly when I moved to the United States, I decided not to go to film school, because I was already working in the industry and I really had no money for film school anyway. I am very glad I didn’t go, because the experience of working is the most important experience you can get.
2. When, how and why started you filming?
I started filming in high school, when I realized I wanted to be a filmmaker. A new filmmaking/media program started in my high school and I devoted all my time to that program (and skipped other classes as much as I could without failing them – mostly.) The simple answer is that I love movies. I never knew I wanted to get into making them until I made a little “animation” video of a transformer transforming with a little hi-8 video camera when I was 15. And I thought, “this is fantastic!”
3. What kind of subjects have your films?
I like to go into the surreal world of people’s minds, but always rooted in emotion. Fantasy when it’s projected from the characters’ emotional states and ideas.
I am an editor so I tend to think musically and rhythmically about films. It is important for me that they move all the time and keep you engaged. I love slow films but am afraid of making them. People’s fears are an important subject for me, I find that I write about that a lot, sometimes without noticing.
4. How do you develop your films, do you follow certain principles, styles etc?
That is a hard one because it changes often, from project to project but also as time goes, my ideas about filmmaking change. For example, I am these days trying to figure out how to change my views on film rhythm. But to answer the question, I usually start with a script or an idea, like everyone else does, and I start imagining little moments. And those little moments become foundations for fleshing out characters. But it’s always rooted in the script. As for developing the script, sometimes I spend many months writing ideas and developing a clear outline (or “treatment”) of the entire story before I start actually writing the script, but many times I love to just take a very rough idea, maybe just an image, or a mood, an idea for a character – and once also simply a name for a movie, and I just start writing it from the first page and see what happens. This has worked for me a few times but it doesn’t always work. It’s my favorite way of writing, but not necessarily the best one.
5. Tell me something about the technical equipment you use.
I have been using HD on a regular basis. I have edited many films that were shot on 35mm, and always hoped to get a chance to shoot on it, but since I started directing more often I have used HD and I absolutely love it. First of all, I edited a film called “When Nietzsche Wept”, directed by Pinchas Perry, and it was shot on the Cine-Alta HD camera. When we blew up the final film to 35mm I was very impressed with how it looked projected. It’s never going to be exactly the same as film, and it won’t be better or worse – it’s just different, and honestly, it looks excellent. I have used the Panasonic P2 cameras often, I used the Red once, usually I try to use a 35mm adapter so that proper lenses can be used, it makes a huge difference. On “Joined At the Head” we used a P2 camera with a “Red Rock” adapter, which is one of the cheaper ones but it still worked very nicely. On other projects we used an adapter called the PS Technic (I think that’s the name of it) and it did a nice job. The only thing that sucks about those adapters is that they drop your exposure a few stops and you need to work hard to add enough light for exposure. It’s a game of give and take. It is ultimately about how you use the camera, and less about the cameras themselves – although they of course should be as good as one can get their hands on and afford.
6. What are the chances of new media for the genre film/video in general and you personally?
Who knows… I am sure there is a ton that’s going to happen and many possibilities but I have no idea and I think very few people do. There is an uncertainty right now about movies and how people will be watching them in the future, and just like the record industry is trying to reinvent itself, I think the movie industry is going to eventually have to seriously do that as well. Right now it still isn’t AS easy to share films in high quality as it is to share music, but it is pretty easy and getting easier every day. So who knows!
7. How do you finance your films?
Hahahaha, so far – I don’t. Or I use my own money and hope to still pay rent on time! 🙂 I have directed music videos that have been financed by the record labels, I directed a fairly low budget pilot with Whoopi Goldberg that i was hired to direct, so it was financed independently by the producer who wrote the script as well. But as far as MY films go… well – I hope to one day get some money to make them!
8. Do you work individually as a video artist/film maker or do you work in a team?
The truth is that to make a film or video project, and to do it well, you MUST work in a team. You can’t really do it alone and do it well, except for maybe in very specific special circumstances. You have to work with a DP and you want that person’s input, and you want the actors to give great ideas, and the same goes for every person on the set. As a director, it is very important to have a very clear idea of what you want to do, and for me personally it is very important to be totally prepared when coming to the set, but you are still working with other people and it is your job to allow them to express themselves creatively within the direction that you give the piece. And that is what is creatively fascinating – the discovery, the process of creating a film involves a lot of spontaneous discovery and ideas.
9. Who or what has a lasting influence on your film/video making?
The cliché answer here is that everything does, and it is kind of true. Daily experience affects your mind and thereby affects your work. The people you work with, the talented ones, make you see things in new ways. Great films do that to you too. Woody Allen is my very favorite filmmaker and I feel like he’s a great influence on how I think about filmmaking, but many other filmmakers have influenced me as well. For example I have recently been watching many of Godard’s movies – I was never in film school so nobody ever told me to watch them. But seeing these movies now, when I am already working professionally, and I already have some strong ideas about how I like to do things, is fascinating. I feel like I am drawn in to a world of such creativity, and I see timing in a very new way, for example, because his films are edited in a very strange way – sometimes he does things, that if he did today in the studio system of Hollywood, they would fire him! But they’re such great things, such great experiments.
10. What are your future plans or dreams as a film/video maker?
I hope to shoot my first feature soon, and then to make many more, I hope!