Thanks for the tea my friend. What’s new these days?
I just moved into a new place off of 17th Ave in Calgary, making me much closer to friends and family. No more commutes. I can walk everywhere again and I’m centrally located for work. I love it - it feels like I’m back in the heart of the city.
It’s amazing what a difference being closer can make in your day to day. Why don’t you tell the people what you do - both to make your money as well as any other projects you have on the side?
I’m a freelance cinematographer and photographer, and on the side I’m often working on passion projects to try and build a more eclectic body of work. Day to day I pretty much always have a camera in my hand and during my days off I’ve actually been trying my best not to have a camera in my hand… I’ve found having it as both my full time job and my passion can sometimes hinder or even reduce my love for it... Funny how that works. I guess I’m just trying to find the right balance.
"There really are so many interesting people working on cool things in Calgary and people need to be documenting that"
I’m sure many people hear that and think “wow, that’s so amazing that Noah gets to spend every day doing what he loves for work.” And it truly is. But at the same time I totally understand how it can become too much. Let’s take it to the passion side - what is your favourite part about film making?
I think it’s the artistry and the individuality in it that I love. It’s something I can do that separates me from all the other talented people out there, and believe me there are a lot of unbelievably talented people out there. It’s the ability to create some sort of representation of myself through my work. For example, whenever I see a photo from any of my favourite photographers without any additional context to accompany the photograph, I instantly know who shot the photo. There’s something about the way they shoot that is so unique to them. I feel as though I know and truly understand the person behind the camera. I love that. That right there is my favourite part.
Absolutely with you on that one. It’s that glimpse into the soul of the person behind it and how they view the world that’s so compelling. Anyways, I’m curious how freelancing has gone the last couple years - be it challenging, liberating, or some blend of the two?
It certainly hasn’t panned out how I initially expected - in the best way possible. When I was finishing up film school all my teachers told me that if I wanted to work independent film as a freelancer I would have no choice but to work a second job for at least a decade. There’s no money in it. I was told the only alternative would be to join the union.
Given that advice the initial plan was to move back to Calgary, save some money, and give the union route a shot... I worked two days in the union on the set of FARGO and just couldn’t stand it. I found the people I was working amongst were some very skilled and technically inclined individuals, but it didn’t feel as though they were trying to push any artistic boundaries and thought no more of film than a source of income.
I realized then I needed to be around more like minded individuals and decided to go the independent route. I got a temporary job at a bar to cover my living expenses, and went from there. After about six months of this things started to really fall into place.
Six months is nothing! Especially given your teachers at film school told you to expect a decade of grinding with a second job just to get by. Certainly not the most encouraging words to hear as you’re finishing up school.
No… it’s really not. They also told me not to move to Calgary because there’s no industry. But I’ve actually found that to be quite the contrary as well. I think Calgary has a very small pocket of highly talented creative individuals. All you need to do is land yourself in and amongst those people, watch how they work, and the jobs will come.
You’ve definitely communicated that idea to me before. I remember thinking it sounded a little counterintuitive at first that you didn’t go to Vancouver or Toronto, but the more I thought about it the more it made sense. It sounds like it’s all about being a big fish in a small pond and using the amazing support network you have here to learn and build yourself up.
That’s exactly it! It’s a super small community in Calgary, whereas Vancouver and Toronto are highly commercialized industries. Which is great, but with that comes large crews and more people on set often doing more menial tasks. Whereas in Calgary, they’re much smaller jobs and when they do come up I find it’s easier to land myself in a higher position or have more creative input in the work. I’m certainly not trying to belittle the independent filmmaking scene in Toronto or Vancouver. They have really strong and actually much larger independent filmmaking communities than us, it’s just easier for me to grow here where I’m already a part of such a supportive community.
There really are so many interesting people working on cool things in Calgary and people need to be documenting that, which is part of what makes filmmaking and photography so special. Say a friend of mine is running a clothing brand and needs images for their website or some promotional work. I step in and we get to collaborate together and build each other up. The bond is so strong.
"We get to collaborate together and build each other up. The bond is so strong."
I love it. Speaking of collaborating with friends or getting to share in the experience of building someone else’s work can you tell me more about some projects where you feel like you really got to do that?
As of late, I’ve been asked by lots of stylists to do work - for their own clothes or simply to help them out with their portfolio. Those are usually quite small but are so much fun.
Another great one as of late, was getting to work on a music video with Beach Season - directed by Mr. Glenn Diehl. That was a really fun project because Sam and Simon are my good friends, they were super open to new concepts, and let us channel it in a direction quite contrary to videos they’ve made in the past.
To go even further, I had the privilege of working alongside Brock Mitchell on a feature film funded by TELUS in March of 2018. That was quite an eye opening experience. Brock is so unbelievably aware of everyone else’s feelings, as both a human being and a director, making that one of the best collaborations I’v ever been a part of. He was so good at really channeling the concept behind the film, while giving me the space to do my thing and bring my own style to the project.
It’s pretty amazing looking at all the different things you’ve worked on from helping brands with product photography, to the Beach Season music video, to the feature film you made with Brock. I remember feeling so much love, connection, and excitement during the premiere of Brock’s film. Everyone really came together. Anything else exciting planned for the days to come?
Filmmaking has been a lot as of late. It’s truly such a time consuming job and I think I want to focus a little more on myself. Perhaps reduce the time I spend on filmmaking and allow for more time to work through other mediums as well. I really love painting, collage work, and have noticed a growing interest to get more involved in fashion. My girlfriend recently bought me a sewing machine and I think learning how to sew and seeing what I can do there would be fun. I guess I want to diversify a bit and channel my energy into more outlets.
Does this mean you’re cracking out the sewing machine tonight and getting to work?
Let’s not move too fast… I still need to learn. I would say the first step is for me to hem my pants! Actually, to any readers out there, I could use all the practice I can get... Hit me up if you would like some freshly hemmed pants!