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Andrew Michael Ellis

Director, Cinematographer and Editor

Brooklyn, NY

One of the most important lessons Andrew Michael Ellis has learned in the process of creating films, he says, is “the story which needs to get told is not always the one I want to tell.” Such was the case with Father Figure, a documentary about a formerly incarcerated man looking for work that metamorphosed into a story about the man’s relationship with his son. In Ellis’ opinion, it’s a gentle touch that allows a story to blossom, but it’s substantial time in the editing room that ultimately makes for a great film. Ellis, who graduated from NYU Film School in 2012, is the director of photography for MediaStorm, a film production and interactive design studio based in Brooklyn. His films increasingly focus on social justice, and he relies on collaborators such as the film composers and graphic designers he meets through Nomadique, a monthly artistic workshop he hosts in his apartment in Brooklyn. Ellis is currently circulating his most recent film, They Came At Night, which tells the story of an abducted child soldier who flees Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army in central Africa.

Gillian Laub

Director, Producer
and Director of Photography

New York, NY

Gillian Laub already had a successful career as a still photographer who contributed to the likes of The New York Times Magazine when she decided to start experimenting with films in 2009. Although taking still images was (and is) her passion, she felt frustrated because they were not always enough to communicate the stories she wanted to tell. First, she began experimenting with audio, and then moving pictures, using a process of trial and error to work out technical kinks. The first short she shot, directed and produced was for TIME, and tells the story of how dogs help veterans cope with PTSD. Since then, she has worked on a number of videos including A Perfect Daughter, the story of a 10-year old transgender girl, and Alexis, about a 12-year-old who suffers from hypothalamic obesity. Her full-length documentary Southern Rites about a town in Montgomery Country, Georgia, where racial tensions still divide the population, sprung off her 2009 photographic essay, “A Prom Divided,” for The New York Times, and will air on HBO in May 2015.

Jared Frazer

Director

San Francisco, CA

Rather than feeling stifled by the overwhelming amount of information that floods modern day media, San Francisco-based filmmaker Jared Frazer feels as though critiquing and responding to media has been his biggest asset in finding his own voice. When he first started making videos, after graduating from the University of San Francisco in 2010, he did so to counter the “forced and cold” stories he watched online about the tech start-ups he was applying to work for. He particularly admired the online films released by Monocle—a publication that ended up hiring him to produce videos such as Make, Do, Change, which is about the DIY movement in San Francisco. Along with developing Tribute SF, a project to fill the Internet with “genuine stories,” he is working on a web series “Here & There,” which paints a picture of different cities (such as Nashville, the location of the first short) through interviews with creative people and business owners living in them. Frazer often sees his subjects as collaborators, and tries to work with the largest crews his budget will allow for. He says, “The more people you surround yourself with the more knowledge you have at your disposal,”

Jon Kasbe

Director, Cinematographer and Editor

Raleigh, NC

For Jon Kasbe, who has directed films on youth in Fiji and Kenya for PBS’s Beat Making Lab, among other prestigious projects, the hardest part of creating a video is getting started. “The road looks so long ahead, but once you get moving it gets easier,” he says. Kasbe started making videos when he was 12 (his grandfather in India was the subject of his first documentary), but it wasn’t until he needed help paying his tuition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, from which he graduated with a B.A. in Media Production in 2013, that he first started approaching clients for professional work. Currently, he is focusing on a mid-length documentary about a farmer in Chapel Hill who is afraid of losing not only his dairy business, but also a family heritage of over 50 years of barn dances. Kasbe says he’s driven to tell these stories because,“it's an incredible feeling to see change sparked from something you do.”

Chris & Kristen Barkers (by the Barkers)

Directors, Shooters and Score Composers

Chicago, IL

Describing their work as “life shared,” the Chicago-based husband-and-wife team Chris and Kristen Barker attribute their success to hard work. “When we were starting out, we were assisting and producing for another photographer, and before and after shoots we'd be doing our own thing and building our portfolio,” Kristen says. They showed their personal work on their website and social media, and eventually, began creating videos for smaller clients. With the help of the Canon 5D MKII, which “allowed us to match our style when shooting motion to our stills,” they began producing content for brands including Sears, Microsoft, Kraft and iHeartRadio. In the process of building their portfolio, they’ve learned how to work not only with each other, but also with a team of people including their in-house video editor (Matt Rice) and a sound engineer (Sean McConnell). They are most inspired by the life that happens around them, which compel them to continue to make personal projects such as Moving In, a short story about a couple cohabitating together with their pet goldfish.

Leslye Davis

Shooter and Editor

Brooklyn, NY

For Leslye Davis, a visual journalist at The New York Times, “the line between documentary and narrative has the be very thick in terms of ethics, but very thin esthetically.” In the documentary photographs and videos she shoots and edits for the newspaper’s website, she is careful to tell each story she is assigned with attention to facts and details. But she also embraces the visual language of cinema that has enraptured her since childhood. “I always think back to my relationships with certain films [Matilda (1996), Madame Curie (1943) and The Miracle Worker (1962)] when imagining the type of impact I'd like to have on a viewer,” she explains. Her subjects range from Carmen Tarleton, a woman who recently underwent facial transplant surgery, to President Obama, whom Davis filmed in an interview by Thomas Friedman. In the end, it’s not the pressure of producing content that is the most challenging part of Davis’ job. Rather, it’s walking away from the story. She says, “You don't want to miss anything but you always will, and that's tough.”

Jon Lowenstein

Shooter and Director

Chicago, IL

Jon Lowenstein is a renegade. “I'm not interested in straight narrative docs with continuous sync sound,” he says. “I'm more interested in challenging accepted notions of what will be shown on mainstream media and in using some of the most basic tools to tell these stories [iPhones, iPads, etc].” Self-trained, Lowenstein has spent the past decade documenting topics such as the migrant trail from Central America through Mexico, the elections in Afghanistan, and the legacy of violence and segregation in his adopted community on the South Side of Chicago. He has received accolades including a 2011 photography fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and has been commissioned to produce photographs and videos by media outlets such as The New Yorker, MSNBC and ITN- Channel 4 England. Most recently, he produced a short on the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, for Channel 4. As an auteur, he relies on his own vision, but also credits great editors for his final output: “Film has been around a long time, but I'm finally feeling like I have something to say with it. I love that!”

Mae Ryan

Cinematographer, Director, Producer and Editor

Brooklyn, NY

Like many successful visual journalists, Mae Ryan’s practice evolved from a love for photography. “Since high school, I've been pouring through photo books and searching for perfect compositions,” she says. Once she started working as a photojournalist, however, she realized that “the power of photography could only go so far when it comes to telling complex stories.” Starting her career at the Architectural Record, where she put a degree in Architectural Design from Stanford University to good use, Ryan has since worked for an impressive list of clients including The New York Times, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, NPR, CNN and TIME. Usually, she works alone (she jokes that she’d like to thank the 14-year old boys who upload their tutorials to YouTube for teaching her how to use After Effects) but she also really enjoys collaborating with fellow journalists such Grant Slater. Together, Ryan and Slater have worked on AudioVision, a series that makes visual radio programs such as RadioLab and This American Life. She says, “Being friends with people in my field is a big asset and I like building relationships with people instead of only sending a postcard.”

Maisie Crow

Shooter and Director

Brooklyn, NY

Because her projects tend to focus on difficult social issues, the most challenging thing filmmaker Maisie Crow faces is gaining access to her subjects. As a result, she sees them as collaborators. “If they are not willing to share their lives then I do not have a film,” she says. Her first serious project was The Last Clinic, a short documentary on the last abortion provider in Mississippi, which is in danger of being closed thanks to the efforts of Pro-life activists. Originally commissioned by Atavist, it is now a feature length film that was nominated for both an Emmy and a National Magazine Award in 2014. Crowe’s other clients include ProPublica, the ACLU and The New York Times. “Often times, the stories we tell involve the most exciting and the most devastating moments of someone's life,” she says of filmmakers like herself. “I do not take my role in documenting it lightly.”

Guj Tungpalan

Director, Editor, Director of Photography and Colorist

Taguig City, Metro Manila, Philippines

Guj Tungpalan first started making videos on his own honeymoon using a Canon EOS 5D MK II he received as a wedding gift. He was already working as a still wedding photographer. “The musician in me felt the lack of musical expression in photography, so I gave filmmaking a shot.” With a team of collaborators, he began making videos that imitated the style the Philippines' top wedding filmmakers. He didn’t feel that their style was true to his own, so he turned to outside influences such as SharkPig, Wes Anderson, Stanley Kubrick and Quentin Tarantino to inspire what he describes as the “organic/handheld/indie look and feel” in his videos. Trusting his instincts worked: RedSheep Cinema, which he founded in 2012, is a busy team of videographers and photographers who are hired to capture weddings not only in Manila, but also in France, Germany, China, South Africa, Poland and Lithuania, to name a few destinations. In the digital age, Tungpalan doesn’t even need to rely on social media to gain new clients—instead, they come to him via word of mouth. “A rave that you heard from a trusted friend weighs more than a ‘Like’ that you see on screen.”

Ryan Booth

Director and Director of Photography

Houston, TX

Ryan Booth believes the only way to progress forward as an artist is to work hard without the expectation of future rewards. “I've heard it said that "breaking in" is like running your hand down a brick wall in the dark,” he says. “Suddenly you come across an opening and you squeeze yourself through.” For Booth, that opening came when his first short film won Canon and Vimeo’s "The Story Beyond the Still" contest in 2010, which landed him on a film set in Los Angeles with director Vincent Laforet. He recalls, “I left that experience thinking, ‘I'm done with everything else: I want to be back in that chair.’” Film encapsulates everything he’s interested in—photography, music, and the traditions of his family, whom he describes as “Big Fish storytellers.” He works at breathtaking pace—six to ten shoots at a time—for clients such as MTV Networks, Atlantic Records and Spotify, as well as on his project, SerialBox Presents, which aims to capture musicians in their truest form. He says, “Going out and making something for the pure joy of it, because you're passionate about it, because you find it interesting is the surest way to create excellent work.”

Sam Guest

Writer, Director, Producer, Director of Photography and Cinematographer

New York, NY

Rather than letting doubt discourage him, Sam Guest harnesses it to improve his craft. “I doubt myself every minute of every day,” he says. “It's about taking that doubt or uneasiness and turning it into something creative—that's what allows me to continue working and improving.” Guest only started showing work to clients in August of this year, and made his first film in September of 2013. In the time leading up to his period of production, he was allowing his internal world to shape his voice. “It gives me a sense of comfort knowing that I am seeing something that is truly my own,” he says of the resulting work. It is a sort of internal world of nightmare and fantasy that Guest depicts in Myth, his short film about an adolescent boy “trapped between the pull of adolescence and the safety of childhood.” Citing the streets of his hometown of Aspen, Colorado, paintings, feelings and L. Ron Hubbard as influences, Guest says that “finds something beautiful in everything.”

Steven Laxton

Director and Director of Photography

Brooklyn, NY

Although many of Steven Laxton’s films focus on affecting positive changes within a community—including his most recent one about an open hire policy for former inmates at Greyston Bakery in the Bronx—the most rewarding project he’s worked on to date was an anti-smoking campaign aimed at Aboriginal people in his native Australia. “I have had many emails of people who had been inspired to quit smoking from seeing this film and the interviews I also shot,” he says. An accomplished photographer who has won multiple international awards, as well as contributed to publications such as The New York Times Magazine, Elle and Inc., Laxton shot his first video with his Canon 5D while shooting a photography series on circus families in El Salvador in 2011. “Most of my photography is inspired by cinema, so [I’ve] always wanted to do more film work,” he explains. “It's been a passion and [I’ve] always seen it as my next venture beyond photography.” His craft is continually evolving: “As a photographer we make nice frames and images, but in film pretty pictures aren't enough, there needs to be a story [with] a start, middle and end.”

Nick Hall

Producer and Director of Photography

Seattle, WA

With moving images, Nick Hall is able to add dimension to his incredible outdoor photography, and tell his own stories about photo shoots in locations such as Patagonia, where he traveled on assignment for The Nature Conservancy magazine. Working out of the Pacific Northwest, Hall captures images that are almost painterly, reminiscent of the magnificent landscapes by J.M.W. Turner, the English romantic painter he admires. Along with motion assignments from brands such as Moxie USA, Nationwide Insurance, Victorinox Swiss Army and Charles Schwab, Hall also shoots for magazines such as Field & Stream, and the “Visit Seattle” campaign. Recent videos include an adrenaline-pumping race with the Audi cycling team, and a film on the work The Nature Conservancyis doing to protect migratory birds and the Pacific Flyway.

Dustin Cohen

Director

Brooklyn, NY

In order to improve his craft, Dustin Cohen looks to the work of other filmmakers. “I watch a lot of documentaries [online].,” he says. “There is a wealth of information available to everyone now.” Knowing that other people watch his own work, which includes short films for Whole Foods, Roche USA, Stella Artois, Bose, Sperry Top-Sider and Macy’s, among other brands, is what he finds most rewarding about his career. “Watching [my stories] spread around the Internet, around the world, [is] absolutely humbling and inspiring,” he says. Self-taught, Cohen started shooting videos in 2011 to add dimension to his photographs. He quickly learned that time management was an important skill to embrace as a filmmaker. “More production, less run and gun,” he says. Recently adding Canon to his list of clients, Cohen finds it helpful to maintain a robust database of contacts: “I'm a pretty regular emailer/postcard mailer. It is important to remind people you exist in a polite, yet persistent way.”

Bethany Mollenkof

Shooter, Director and Editor

Los Angeles, CA

When directing and editing Build Me a World: The Story of the Howard School, a feature-length documentary about a black public school in the South in danger of closing, Bethany Mollenkof found herself struggling to keep a distance from her subjects. “Most of the teens came from very desperate situations and it was difficult at times knowing when to be involved in their lives, when to put down the camera and sometimes when to step back,” she explains. This tension makes for Mollenkof’s great visual journalism, because it impels her to not only tell the story of her subjects, but also to do them justice with accuracy. Storytelling is something that has interested her for most of her life. Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and raised for much of her childhood in Africa, Mollenkof is especially attuned to the way that different environments can shape an identity. She says, “For me, filmmaking is about empowerment and truth.”

Spencer Mary Bakalar

Videographer and Editor

Los Angeles, CA

For Spencer Mary Bakalar, being a visual journalist comes with great responsibility. “People open up their lives to me, and I owe it to them to work my hardest to tell their story in the best way possible,” she says. Such was the case with Sophie Gareau and Christophe Majkowski, who came to Los Angeles to receive treatment for their deaf 3-year-old son, Auguste. Bakalar created Back to Earth, a short film on their story for The Los Angeles Times, where she works as a videographer. She appreciates the opportunity to collaborate with the design, web and reporting staff at the publication. “As a group working together, we can elevate the quality of our work collectively that would otherwise be just okay on its own,” she says. Although she started out as a photojournalist at UNC-Chapel Hill, she was quickly drawn to video. She explains, “The honesty and power of letting a subject speak for him or herself is what makes documentary work great, and I wanted to be a part of that.”

Ora DeKornfeld

All production and post-production

Los Angeles, CA

Ora DeKornfeld stumbled upon video completely by accident: she was traveling when registration began at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she was a student, and one of the only classes open when she returned was in media production. “It turns out, I loved making videos,” she says. “Everything flowed and I just rolled with it.” Currently an intern at The Los Angeles Times, DeKornfeld is still improving her craft, but the videos she has made—such as Dos Madres, a documentary about two immigrant mothers working in Los Angeles to support their children—show a keen eye for narrative storytelling with an ethical bent. Previous clients have included the Orange County Rape Crisis and the Holocaust Speaker’s Bureau. Of all of the lessons DeKornfeld has learned in the process of becoming a filmmaker, she says one of the most valuable is: “The audience is smarter than you think.”

Reuben Hernandez

Director of Photography, Producer, Director and Editor

New York, New York

Reuben Hernandez loves to experiment with different esthetics, integrating time-lapse photography, slow motion, aerial cinematography and footage shot with super 8mm film stock to create his visual stories. “I always try to approach each project with the aim to make it as beautiful, unique, and compelling as possible,” he says. Hernandez is one of three wedding filmmakers on staff at Ira Lippke Studios in New York, but he has also produced work for clients such as the Discovery Channel, Google, NBC, Harper's Bazaar, Oakley and Victoria's Secret. He is the first to admit that he couldn’t have produced quality work without the help of talented collaborators: “I've realized through experience that it just takes a lot of hard working people to create a beautiful and compelling film.”

Nathaniel Maddux

All production and post-production

Gig Harbor, Washington

Under the name Red Filter, Nathaniel Maddux’s knack for genuine wedding filmmaking shines through. Based in the Pacific Northwest, Maddux films covers 20-30 weddings a year, and though his creative range extends into other genres as well, Maddux finds weddings to be particularly illuminating. “There’s something extremely rewarding about giving a couple a film that the will be able to watch for years,” he says. His lifelong fascination with filmmaking—which was first realized while growing up in the farm country of Missouri, filming wildlife near his home—landed him a gig as the editor of All-Access Outdoors with Craig Morgan on the Outdoor Channel in 2012. His latest documentary short, The Disease, about a wild turkey call-maker named Redbeard, is on the festival rotation and will premiere on the Sportsman Channel this winter. Crossing genres is a challenging task, but Maddux’s determination to master all aspects of filmmaking has been prevalent since childhood: “When I was 12, I learned how to connect two VCRs and edit on VHS tapes,” he recalls. “I haven’t been the same since.”

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