"I wasn’t going to go to college because I thought it was stupid, but my video teacher sat me down during the last couple months of school and said, “You have to go to college, and you have to study filmmaking. It’s going to be hard, but you have to do it.” It was as if she was a wise old sage at the beginning of an epic story."
When did you start editing films? Did you go to school? Are you self-taught?
I can’t even remember a time when I wasn’t using a camera. I’d always use my family’s VHS video camera to make movies, but my mom would always yell at me for filming over all the significant events in my life; the footage of which is now lost in the wake of my early artistic exploration.
When I was a freshman in high school, I took every class related to making movies because I didn’t have a camera or computer. I soon discovered that this was all I wanted to do, and I floundered through practically every subject besides art.
By the time I was 16, I was editing the video yearbook and working on my first feature documentary through this crazy program our teacher got our class into. The documentary was called The Real O.C., and it showed how Orange County is actually diverse in contrast to how Hollywood ordinarily portrays it. This was in 2005 and 2006, when The OC The Real Housewives of Orange County, and Laguna Beach were on television.
I wasn’t going to go to college because I thought it was stupid, but my video teacher sat me down during the last couple months of school and said, “You have to go to college, and you have to study filmmaking. It’s going to be hard, but you have to do it.” It was as if she was a wise old sage at the beginning of an epic story.
So, I applied to only one school, Cal State Long Beach. I got in. So I went to college, but I didn’t make a movie for two years; I instead just completed all my prerequisites. Afterward, I applied for the film program and got in. It was a crazy moment because I hadn’t made movies in two years and college was very hard for me, but I eventually graduated after another two years.
Since then, I’ve done everything from documentary features to web series to music videos, including some narrative features and narrative short films. Those are the beginning days. All in Long Beach.
What is the most challenging part of being a filmmaker?
The hardest part is realizing that sometimes all you can say about an artistic decision is that it feels right, and so when the client decides to go a different direction it can all just feel wrong. They don’t realize that you’re being paid to make decisions all day long—“ is this a good shot, is this a good cut, is this a good prop, does this costume look good?” All those decisions result in a video. So it’s difficult when you show that to someone, and they just say, “No, it needs to be like this.”
What’s your favorite movie? Why?
\I hate this question because that’s not how we’re supposed to consume art. You need to know what good is and what bad is—you need to have a knowledge of it all. My dad’s super into movies. He’s the main reason I have an artistic proclivity. The best advice about film I’ve ever gotten was from him. He told me to watch everything, whether it’s good or bad, drama, comedy, rom-com, or cartoons; watch everything because you can pull something useful out of it. Whether it’s a sweet shot, or a cool heading, or a beautiful performance or just, maybe it’s the worst movie of all time but, at least you know what bad looks like. As a result, you can know what to do better and how to make it better and why. I have just always really liked that because it’s a very humble approach to things. It’s easy to be judgmental, especially in filmmaking. As a filmmaker, I want to be able to watch any film and say, “Oh yeah I watched that, and it was great, because of this, I liked this about it.” Being able to say that about a rom-com, that’s a sweet move.
So here are my answers:
What do I always say my favorite movie is? Joe Dirt. Here’s why: I saw that movie when I was 12. I thought it was the funniest movie ever made. I still quote that movie I think it’s so funny.
Then I have my way more serious answers. Movies that changed my life. There Will Be Blood changed my life. I remember watching that movie for the first time when it came out and needing to see it I wanted to watch it like ten more times. Then I remember thinking, I don’t know if I can ever watch this movie again. It was so real and scary because it’s dealing with greed. That’s a very real emotion that I had never been exposed to before.
How did you get connected with Belief?
John Raines [Belief Agency's lead film editor] called me. I had been working at an ad agency and doing some editing in Pasadena. I was taking the train every day for two hours each way, from Long Beach to Pasadena. John Raines called me on one of those train rides, and we talked for an hour and a half. He said, “Do you still want to move to Seattle?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “What about next week?”
I’ve done crazier things. I’ve moved my family across the country within a month. I’ve gotten a phone call at two in the morning to fly out at six in the morning, the same day, to start a job for two months. I’m used to dropping everything and going for it. That's just been my lifestyle as a freelancer.=
John told me about Belief, about Jesse, and about everyone else who works here. My dream has always been to work at a place with a small team of filmmakers who do everything, like having a group of ninjas. To me, that’s the future. That’s the dream because you’re working with the same handful of people all the time. You almost become this unit.
The next week, I interviewed over Skype.
Then, a week after that I came up for an interview.
Then a week later I was living here.
What makes you excited to be part of the team?
There’s no bullshit.
I can look at anyone and say, “Hey can you help me with this?” And they do; no questions asked. Everyone’s just stoked to work on everything all the time. I think that that’s what makes our work look so good.
The work here represents all of us. We will continue to have jobs if we all make all the work we put out look good. Yeah, I’m willing to sweep the floor on one production. Then the next time I’ll be directing. Then the next one I’ll be editing. I like it a lot.
What do you do in your pastime?
I watch at least one movie every day. Mary, my wife, and I will watch a movie every day and then we’ll discuss it. Then she falls asleep. Then I stay up watching all the behind-the-scenes content.
I have the cutest two-year-old in the world, Ted! And, we’re expecting twins any minute now.
I also love dancing. With Mary. That’s one of my favorite things in the whole world. There’s a place called The Short Stop in LA. On Sunday nights at around 11 p.m., we would go to The Short Stop and they would have music all night. Can you imagine what dancing to Aretha Franklin’s Chain of Fools looks like? We would do that religiously every Sunday.
Since moving to Seattle, we’ve found one place we like to go dancing. But we’re still looking.