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Director of photography: How I got my job and where I'm going

Trevr talks about the importance of networking and building relationships in order to obtain new job opportunities and grow his career in the film industry.

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Video transcript

As a kid, I always wanted to be a comedian. I always thought that that was the goal. I wanna grow up to be hilarious, and famous, and crazy, and weird, and rambunctious. But really, I wasn't quite that kid. I was an anxious, quiet, introverted kid. But I had this dream of being in the movie business, of kind of being on screen. And then as I grew up, I started to realize I really enjoyed filming my friends doing goofy stuff. So we would make little skate videos, or we would make little films that were just jokes, and funny, and that sort of thing. I got into theater, and we did the same sort of thing. We did improv, and we'd make little videos with that. And we started a news show for our high school, and I built that from the ground up as a 15-year-old, and really enjoyed kind of the jokes and making the whole school laugh. And I was the one that made it all work. I was the one that shot it, and edited it, and learned all the software that way. As I got into college, I wanted to go to a big, big film school. I wanted to go to one of the big names like UCLA, or NYU, or Full Sail, or the type of film school that you go to and you learn from real filmmakers. And I saw the price tag on those schools. And I grew up with parents that weren't making very much money. And I knew that they could never afford that sort of thing, and I didn't wanna incur $100,000 in loans just so I could go shoot movies somewhere and hopefully make money at some point. So I decided to go to a school that had an undergraduate exchange that, basically, I could go to a state school in another state so I could get away from my parents and be independent, but not have to spend a ton of money. I applied for scholarships, and I was accepted into Denver Bound Scholars Program. And they covered my tuition for four years. And I was put into an honors program that helped cover some of my other expenses. And then I took out a few loans to cover the rest of my living expenses. I graduated with $18,000 in student loan debt, which, for the price tag of the school, wasn't too bad. And I could afford to make those payments now working as a professional. While in college, I got a job working at our university theater. So that was something I had done in high school, where I would run lights and sound for shows. And I was kind of still doing creative work that way. But I decided to go for a science degree, because I thought I needed a real job. And because I could, because there was electives available in my degree program, I was able to start taking the film classes that interested me. I didn't wanna get a full film degree, but I could go and learn the lighting and the grip equipment. Or I could go and shoot a documentary for a semester. Through those classes, I kind of became more friends than just students with the professors, and I started working on their personal projects. They saw something in me that they liked, and they wanted to train me more on their projects, so when they went out to shoot a movie, they brought me on. And through those connections, they were able to recommend me for a job at the university to make videos internally at the university. That job led to a staff job. And then when I was able to leave that staff job to go freelance, the university actually has been hiring me back as a freelancer, because they miss the work that I used to do. And that's been a really great relationship, where I was able to leave a staff job and immediately have freelance work to cover my costs as a freelancer. I never really applied in a formal way for any of my jobs. When I was real young, I tried to get jobs in retail, and no one ever wanted me. So I got a job working at my local theater running the sound board. And that was because my teacher recommended me for it. And that's, honestly, been the best way for me to get jobs my entire life, is through building relationships with people who are better than me, and then them mentoring me to a point where I can be hired to do that job. I've been very, very lucky throughout my professional career. I've been able to fail often and quickly with a big trampoline below me. I've had bosses and organizations that will put up with me learning on the job, and a lot of low-risk environments where I didn't necessarily have to go out and fight for that job and fight to keep it. It was more, somebody thought, "You're doing good work, maybe you'd like to try this, "and if that doesn't work out, it's okay, "but you'll learn a lot." I didn't necessarily enjoy shooting everything that I did while I was coming up, but I do feel like I took something interesting away from each one of those experiences. Going out and shooting a wedding is kind of a terrible thing for most people, in most people's eyes. But for me, it was great. It was like shooting news. You only get one chance. You have to shoot fast. You have to get it right. If it's not in focus, it's unusable. If you have bad audio, it's unusable. So you learn quickly in those situations, and that's really important, I think. Being a DP is a craft. And the more that you shoot, the more that you experience what it's like to be on set, what it's like to work with different camera systems, or different types of people, you're gonna get better at what you do each time. I've worked with a lot of young people that have said to me, and I kind of agree with my own work, that, "I've never made anything I like. "I see something at the end of the day, "and I'm like, 'Oh, it looks great.' "and I look at it two days later, I'm like, "'God, that's awful'" 'cause you only see the mistakes. And it's only by working a lot and producing a ton of work that you get to the point where you start actually liking the pictures that you shoot. And I'm still at that point where, as a photographer, I'm doing better work than I am as a DP. And that's an interesting transition. I'm getting better results with a stills camera than I am with a video camera. And why is that? And now I have to kind of bridge that gap of how do I catch up between my skillsets? In a perfect world, in 10 years, I see myself with a stable passive income, whether it's from this production company or other investments, and then with enough freedom to choose what I wanna work on. I currently work six or seven days a week. And I would love to have a family in 10 years. And I don't wanna be working six or seven days a week. So the dream would be to work one week a month. And that one week is either doing really interesting big work or something I really care about. And then the rest of the time I can spend on my family or other interesting creative endeavors. Denver is the type of market where if you do great work, people notice quickly. And that may not be the case in a larger market. And that's my hope, is that if we can build this production company with the kind of reputation that we believe it could have, where people hear our name and it's synonymous with quality, and professionalism, and great customer service, and we can keep reaching higher, and doing bigger and better work, and use that as a platform to maybe do more interesting passion projects, work on a great documentary for a cool cause, or shoot an independent film that we're really passionate about. I'm excited for my future, because I believe that through these opportunities that I've been given recently and building my own business, I can not only get better at what I currently do, but learn to do bigger and more interesting work. I wanna go out and shoot big, big commercials that you'd see during a Super Bowl, or shoot a movie that would be released in hundreds of theaters. That's really my dream. I wanna be that kind of DP. I'm sure a million people say that, and that's everybody's dream. But I think that you do have to set the bar for yourself very high and hold yourself to a high standard or else you'd never get there. It's not gonna happen by chance. Even if I go out and say, "I wanna shoot the biggest commercials, "or the biggest movies," and I end up shooting an independent film that is really beautiful, and tells an amazing story, and is a success in the longterm, I'd be happy with that. Some of my favorite films are small films that tell a really beautiful story. And it's not about being a huge commercial success, but more about doing something so well that it's undeniable, and it is truly beautiful and timeless.