Professional SpotlightSpotlight

We recently met up with Tara in New York at a delicious cafe on Mott street to talk more about her upcoming book release, and to get to know her better in person. Her first book is coming out on September 1st, and we wanted to get the inside scoop on her process, routine, and what she’s been up to. Positive, kind, and generous in sharing her advice, Tara is incredibly open and easy to talk to. Her book, Eden’s Wishis about a twelve year old genie who wants to be free from the lamp she’s been kept in all her life and experience what the world is really like. Tara gave us a sneak peek of the book, and we couldn’t put it down. It is captivating, funny, and well-written. We can’t wait to watch where Tara and Eden’s Wish go next!

Name: M. Tara Crowl
Education: BA in Cinematic Arts and Advertising from the University of Southern California; MA in Creative Writing from Macquarie University
Follow: mtaracrowl.com / @mtaracrowl
Location: New York, New York

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Tara Crowl: Knowing that when you’re young is the time to take risks. As life goes on, your responsibilities will increase. There’s no better time than your youth to go after the things you dream about.

CJ: You majored in Cinematic Arts and Advertising at the University of Southern California. How did you decide what to major in?

MTC: USC has a great film program, so that was a major factor in my decision to go there. I really wanted to make movies, so initially I planned to study Production. But when I got there, I fell in love with the academic side of film—Critical Studies—and stuck with that. (I also learned that I was no good with a camera.)

Advertising was sort of a random thing for me to study. I took a couple of advertising classes and liked them, so I went with that as my minor. It’s a cool type of creativity—learning what people want, and then figuring out how to deliver it.

Although I’m not working in either of those fields now, I’m glad that I studied what interested me at the time. I think that because I loved what I was learning, I retained it and have been able to apply it in ways I wouldn’t have thought of back then.

CJ: After college you worked for an independent movie producer and a literary manager. You then worked in the motion picture literary department of a talent agency. What were these experiences like and what are your biggest takeaways from them?

MTC: Those jobs were two very different experiences within the entertainment industry, and I’m grateful for them both. Each was really challenging and enlightening.

Primarily, I learned about storytelling. During those days, I read and evaluated screenplays every day. When I read a script, I started to see the movie—or the lack of potential for it. That has absolutely contributed to the way I write.

But also, being on that side of the process, I learned the value of being a writer that people want to work with. I think it’s so important to be humble, hard-working, and communicative when you’re in a creative role.

CJ: Where does your love of storytelling come from? What stories have greatly influenced you?

MTC: I read constantly when I was little. I think books played a huge role in shaping my identity and the way I saw the world. And for as long as I can remember, I wanted to write books for kids like me. A couple years ago my mom found my journal from first grade, and I had written that I wanted to win the Newbery Medal one day!

The books I loved back then definitely influenced the way I write now. I hope so, at least, because I still think they’re brilliant. My favorite was A Wrinkle in Time. I loved the Baby-Sitters Club books, and everything by Roald Dahl. Harriet the Spy was one of my favorites too—and also a book called The Mennyms by Sylvia Waugh.

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CJ: You moved to Sydney, Australia, for a Master’s program in Creative Writing at Macquarie University. Wow! This sounds like such an incredible experience. What led you to your decision to go to graduate school for creative writing, and why Australia?

MTC: I liked my job at the talent agency, but something kept tugging at my heart, telling me that my childhood dream had never gone away. At that point I hadn’t studied writing at all, so the prospect of it was terrifying. But I got an idea for a middle grade book, and I took a stab at it. I sent the beginning to a few publishers, and there was some interest, so I decided to give it a real shot.

I knew I’d need to go to school for writing—because I had a lot to learn, but also as a way of fully committing to my dream. I looked at grad schools with the type of program I wanted to attend, and most of them were in places that weren’t appealing to me. One day I started to look internationally, and I saw a program at Macquarie University. Suddenly I knew it was where I was meant to go. I’d never been to Australia, or really even wanted to go there, but I just knew it was right. I applied, got in, and a few months later I went.

I think some of the people around me at the time might have thought it was a strange decision. But my parents were 100% supportive and encouraging. They always have been, and I’m so grateful for that. Leaving everything I knew to follow that dream was scary, but exhilarating—and ultimately, so rewarding.

CJ: We imagine you had a lot of amazing adventures in Australia. What were your favorite things to do there?

MTC: It really is an incredible place! Sydney is unbelievably beautiful, and it was such a special time for me personally. My life opened up and took on a whole new dimension while I was there. I remembered how big and beautiful the world is. I felt like a kid again.

For the second half of the year I spent there, I lived in an old house near the beach with a big backyard. I loved going for swims in the ocean, and then coming home and reading in the yard.

CJ: You started writing a book in Sydney that will be published in September called Eden’s Wish. Congratulations – that’s very exciting! How did the idea for this book come about, and what was your writing process?

MTC: Thank you! I was on a plane when I first came up with the idea for Eden’s Wish. For some reason I was thinking about genies, and I started imagining what a genie’s life would be like. There’s a certain allure to the whole thing—the wish-fulfillment aspect, I guess. But when I thought about it, I realized that a genie would be trapped inside an oil lamp until someone happened to rub it. Then, whenever you did get out, you’d have to spend the whole time granting someone’s wishes. You’d be able to give other people what they wanted, but have no power within your own life.

When I looked at it that way, being a genie seemed terrible. So I started to dream up the character of Eden, a twelve-year-old genie who loves the world and hates the life she was born into. And the story took shape from there.

I started writing the book during grad school, and turned in the first section as my thesis. Then I moved to New York and finished it while working various jobs to support myself along the way.

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CJ: Any tricks or tips for writing a book? Do you have a writing routine or a strict writing schedule?

MTC: One thing that’s important for me is taking the time to get to know my characters really well. Then when I place them in different circumstances, they kind of write themselves. My characters don’t come across strongly if I haven’t spent enough time developing them. And without compelling characters, a story isn’t worth reading.

My schedule varies, but I’m learning that you really do have to sit down and make yourself write every day, even when you feel like you have nothing. There’s something to be said for inspiration and the creative process, but at the end of the day, if you want writing to be your job, you’ve got to treat it like a job. You have to put in the time and the work necessary to create a quality product.

CJ: Every day in your life must look different depending on your projects and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?

MTC: It does depend on which stage of a project I’m in, but basically, the day revolves around writing. I write at home a lot of the time, or in cafes—my fiancé owns a café, so I go there sometimes. I try to go to the gym in the morning, because sitting in a chair all day isn’t great for your body. And I usually do something social in the evenings. I like being alone in my head all day while I’m working, but if I don’t talk to people on my off time, I start to go crazy!

CJ: What should a young adult who wants to be a novelist do now to set him or herself up for success?

MTC: Well, the obvious advice is to read. You’ve got to read in order to learn language, story structure, and character development, and to be exposed to new ideas.

But I’d also say, soak in the experiences of your own life. Let yourself see and feel things, and then practice writing them down. That’s the only way you can write honestly—and in fiction, honesty is essential. The experiences that belong to you alone will give you a voice that’s unlike anyone else’s.

CJ: What are some books, resources, and websites that have influenced you – either personally or professionally (or both)?

MTC: Personally, the Bible. Personally and professionally, A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf.

CJ: When you’re not working on your next book or other writing projects, how do you like to spend your time?

MTC: Being with the people I love. Going out to eat or cooking at home, going to concerts and movies, exploring New York, traveling when I can.

CJ: What are you working to improve upon – either personally or professionally – and how are you doing so?

MTC: Professionally, using my time more efficiently. When you’ve got a creative job and you structure your own schedule, it can be hard to figure out what’s most effective for you. So I’m focusing on finding and establishing that.

Personally, I’m always trying to be better at loving the people around me. Through my work and through my life, I want to put the best things into the world that I possibly can.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

MTC: So many things! I was an idiot when I was 20. Basically, be more conscious of what you do and how you treat people.

 Tara Crowl Qs

Images by Carpe Juvenis

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

In today’s competitive academic climate, attending classes isn’t always enough to give you the boost you need to land that dream job. Interning is an extremely popular way to beef up your résumé and gain valuable skills in the process. One person in particular has made the most of her college experience by constantly staying engaged in work and internships.

Esther Katro is the Queen of Interning. Seriously. With over 10 internships under her belt, Esther knows a thing or two (or three!) about working hard and building her portfolio. Having recently graduated from college, she now works as a TV News Reporter for 5NEWS in Arkansas. During college Esther would commute several hours each day for internships in New York City from Philadelphia, all while maintaining a big smile. Esther’s upbeat and go-getter attitude is contagious, and she undoubtedly seizes her youth and makes the most of each day.

Name: Esther Katro
Education:
Broadcast Journalism from Temple University
Follow:
Website/@5NEWSEsther

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

Esther Katro: Waking up early! College gives you the convenience to schedule your classes late in the afternoon, but take advantage of the all the hours in the day! I’ve completed six internships that were not in Philadelphia, where I went to college. I had five in New York City, and one in Washington D.C. In order to complete these internships, I had to wake up at 5AM to catch the Megabus to get to work in the morning. I didn’t think I could do wake up that early and still be productive the entire day, but I learned that I have so much energy as a young twentysomething, and it’s important to take advantage of all the energy you have at this age!

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CJ: You majored in Broadcast Journalism at Temple University. How did you decide what to study?

EK: I grew up with parents who were Christian missionaries, so as a baby I grew up sleeping on airplane floors and was constantly being exposed to different people and cultures around me. I always knew I wanted a job where I interacted with different people everyday to tell their stories. My family watched the evening news each night, and when I saw the reporters sitting down and interviewing people, or chasing people down the street, I thought that’s what I want to do! I want to be a television reporter.

I chose to go to Temple University because I grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs, and wanted to stay in the 4th media market and be able to give back to my community by covering stories in the area. I wanted to concentrate my studies in international relations after traveling to China and filming a documentary called “Esther Goes to China.” I believe that the more places people go and expose themselves to, the better they can understand how the world works to then make a difference in it and help solve problems. I hope I can do a lot of international work as a working journalist.

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CJ: What cause or issue do you care greatly about and why?

EK: I’m a water advocate, along with Matt Damon! In high school I got involved with the group H2O for Life, which educates Americans on conserving water and then helps build wells and provide water to people in developing countries, where water is limited. Within this topic, I’m most passionate about women in these developing countries whose job it is to fetch water daily. This activity takes up to six hours of their day, and so they can’t get an education because they’re spending so much of their day traveling to get water from the well and bring it back to their families.

I’m very passionate about women getting an education, and hope that my platform as a journalist can also serve as a women’s rights advocate. I believe that every woman should have the right to a good education all over the world.

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CJ: You earned the Congressional Award Gold Medal in 2013. How did you get involved with the Congressional Award and what was your biggest takeaway from the experience?

EK: When I joined H20 for Life, as mentioned above, the woman running the program also ran the Congressional Award program at my high school. I was already doing a ton of community service, and through this organization I was going to be doing a ton more!

The Congressional Award seemed like the perfect place for me to log my hours, and also meet like minded people who share my desire for community service and outreach. I’ve made friends at the community service events that I’ve attended or led that have become some of my best friends.

Through H2O for Life, I traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, to speak and film about water issues in the country and overseas. Working with people who were just as passionate about the World Water Crisis as I am, but also inspiring people to get involved with the water crisis, was one of the best experiences I have ever had.

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CJ: You have had many internships over the years. Which ones stand out the most to you and what did you learn from those experiences?

EK: I knew I wanted to be a broadcast journalist after I watched the kids news show Nick News with Linda Ellerbee do a special on how girls who were my age didn’t have the opportunity to go to school where they lived in Afghanistan. At 11 years-old I wanted to make a difference.

As a sophomore in college I had the amazing opportunity to intern for Nick News with Linda Ellerbee, the show that inspired me to become a journalist, which is incredible! As an intern for her show, I was able to be on set when we interviewed Seth Myers, right in Linda’s home! I also got to act as a production assistant when we did a studio show at HBO Studios with Gloria Steinem called “Are We There Yet?” where we discussed if women have achieved equality to men yet, or if there’s still improvements to be made. This was my first internship in New York City, and it exposed me to so many successful people in the industry. The people who work at Nick News feel like my New York City family, and Linda Ellerbee has taught me some of the best interview techniques that I’ll carry with me for my entire life.

CJ: What advice would you give to a young person who is interested in pursuing a career in multimedia journalism?

EK: Intern everywhere. Seriously. I’ve had 15 media internships in both print, online, and broadcast journalism that all have been very different and have made me a well rounded journalist. I’ve taken sports internships, morning news internships (where I’ve had to be at the studio at 4 a.m.!!), and even wedding and food writing internships.

The more you expose yourself to as a journalist the better, and I think the most structured way to get that exposure is to intern. I think that traveling and opening up your eyes to as many people and cultures helps, but I strongly believe that interning in this industry is the best thing you can do for yourself. It’s important to know how to write clean copy quick and accurately, and to meet your deadlines, but it’s also important to know how to use a camera, to edit footage, and to talk in front of a camera. A multimedia journalist needs to be able to effectively accomplish every job description in a newsroom, and the only way to get good at that is to intern.

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CJ: You’ve done a lot of commuting from school to your internships. What are your commuting tips and how do you stay productive during that time?

EK: I call the Megabus my mobile home, because I probably spend more time riding a bus than I do at my actual home in Philadelphia. I’ve had five internships in New York City and one in Washington D.C., and I took the Megabus to commute to all six of those places. It’s fun! You get to meet so many interesting people on the bus, and learn what they’re doing at these cities. But sometimes the person sitting next to you doesn’t want to talk, so in that case I try to get my homework done since the bus has Wi-Fi and power outlets.

I love to catch up on my reading with my Kindle which is great because the Kindle lights up so I don’t have to turn on the headlight above me and disturb the person sleeping next to me. I love to write on my iPad too. I love to write about my day. Barbara Walters once said that her greatest regret is not keeping a diary. When I read that quote, I thought, I’ve got to keep a diary of what I do everyday because as a journalist, commuting, everyday is so different and exciting!

My number one advice for commuting is to never ever sleep! Just look out the window and you’ll see the city lights lit up if you’re traveling at night, or you’ll see people just starting their day if it’s the morning. Or just people watch inside your bus or train. It’s really awesome to see how the world works and the many different people inside of it.

CJ: What is your favorite book?

EK: The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger (because there are some days when I felt I lived her life).

CJ: What is a book you read in school that positively shaped you?

EK: Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.

CJ: Every day in your life must be different depending on school, internships, and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?

EK: No two days are the same. Ever. Which is why I love commuting and why I’m a journalist. I love change. However, on a typical Monday I would get up at 5AM. Well, technically 4:58AM because I set three one minute alarms until 5AM. I pick out my clothes the night before so I get ready in about 10 minutes.

I drive to the train station which is about 10 minutes from my house and take a 40 minute train into Center City Philadelphia. From there, I hop on the Megabus, and take a 2-3 hour bus ride (depending on traffic) to New York City. I have a 30 minute walk to my building. I put in a full day of work at my internship, and then from there I do the same commute in reverse to come back home. So at least six hours of my day are spent commuting!

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CJ: What is an area, either personal or professional, that you are working to improve in and how?

EK: My life is so fast-paced, so I often don’t have time to sit and think about what I should improve on except when I’m sitting in the bus commuting. I often think about my day too much in the bus or talk to the person next to me that I don’t get to write about everything that happened during the day. I regret that. I want to focus on writing more about my days, which requires a lot of discipline. I hope to one day compile my writing into a book of all my internship experiences…I just hope it won’t turn into a promotional ad about the Megabus.

CJ: Having a loaded schedule can sometimes be overwhelming. What do you do when you’re having a bad day and need to unwind or reset?

EK: This is going to sound like I’m not human, but I can’t recall the last time I had a bad day and needed to unwind. Sometimes I’m convinced I’m a robot made in the bottom of a news basement somewhere. I just always have a very positive outlook on life, and it’s really hard for me to get bothered by something because I’m always looking ahead, and I never dwell on anything bad that happened. I’m always looking for the next story or the next internship.

But I will say that finding at least one person at your work or internship that can be a close friend is always very helpful, if you need to get something off your chest or just unwind. I’ve always been able to find other intern to become really great friends with, who I can share any dilemmas I’ve having with. Also, fro-yo always helps. Bad day = a big cup of frozen yogurt. It’s healthy right?!

CJ: What made you decide to go to Arkansas?

EK: I sacrificed a lot, if not all, of my college career for internships. I took internships at all hours of the day. I would drive to unpaid internship at 3am when I would see my college peers just leaving the bars. And while I learned a lot about journalism and the personalities in the business, I only saw the top of the field. I was only interning in top 10 markets. The opportunity in Arkansas, was my first on-air job offer. My gut told me not to take the job. I thought this was just the first of many offers. However, a big benefit to having so many internships is that I had so many different mentors and contacts in the business to go to for advice. And everyone told me to take the job.

One of my former internship bosses told me, “There’s only one New York, Philly and D.C.–the rest of the country is Arkansas.” Although it was scary to move so far away from home on the East Coast, the journalist in me knew I had to see this part of the country. I also didn’t want a break from college to entering the work force. I wanted to sit at graduation, knowing that after the ceremony I would hit the road with my parents, on my way to my first reporting job.

I guess you could say you need a crazy passion to work in television news, and I never wanted a day off.

CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

EK: Stop chewing gum! It’s going to get stuck in your braces and totally extend this whole metal inside your mouth process. Also, to stop wearing UGG boots, and to not pop your own zits because more will grow back! And I guess, I would tell myself to write everyday, be confident in myself, and to be nicer to my parents…they will be your best friends in your twenties and hopefully for the rest of your life!

Esther Katro Qs

Images by Esther Katro

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When we first saw Alexander Chinnici’s film reel, we were blown away. You hear a lot about actors, actresses, and directors, but rarely do you know a lot about those who are in charge of the artistic and technical aspect of the image, the cinematographer. Having watched movies such as Aliens, Predator, and Apocalypse Now growing up, Alex learned early on good films can influence you. Alex pursued film in college and by the time he graduated, he knew that cinematography was what he was most passionate about.

Alex is thoughtful in his artistic and technical approaches. He emphasizes the importance of building a solid foundation of knowledge and technical expertise, as well as highlights the value of collaboration, whether it’s with directors, producers, or the team he manages. These days, Alex spends a great deal of time on airplanes traveling between coasts for shoots. We were fortunate to meet Alex before he jet off for another shoot the next day, and he shared with us what it means to be a cinematographer, what films and which directors deeply influence him, and how he seizes his youth.

Name: Alexander Chinnici
Education: Film and Video; Cinematography from the School of Visual Arts
Follow: AlexChinnici.com

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Alexander Chinnici: Seizing Your Youth, to me, means “breaking convention.” First off, youth is subjective in and of itself. To me, a child, a teenager, or even someone in their early 20s is expected to do certain things. Depending on where they’re from, their race, gender, etc. …It’s expected that they do certain, specific things that are molded for them before they’re even born. Seizing that is about control. You can do whatever you want; you just have to want it badly enough.

For some people the stakes are much higher and the obstacles may be much greater, but anything is possible. I don’t mean to make it sound easy – sometimes it is, some people are born privileged. For others it can be very difficult. I’m very fortunate that I didn’t really experience that difficulty. Seizing Your Youth is about taking control of what’s yours and not giving in to conventions. They’re usually connected to fear and it ultimately hurts our culture. I’m very lucky to have grown up in a home and an environment that encouraged the opposite of convention. I have very little patience for excuses. Seizing Your Youth is about throwing those excuses away and taking control of what you want.

CJ: You majored in Film and Video with a concentration in Cinematography from the School of Visual Arts. How did you decide what to major in?

AC: The School of Visual Arts Film & Video program is set-up in such a way that your first year is an overall review of the general aspects of the film industry. They teach you the basics, but most importantly you can get your hands on cameras and just shoot away. At the end of the first year you have to choose a focus: Directing, Writing, Editing, Cinematography, etc.

My friends and I made many movies together in high school – basically since 6th grade – and I naturally gravitated to the camera. (I should also mention that my Dad is a photographer). Toward the end of high school we got more and more serious. After three of us went to SVA together, I naturally took over when it came to the camera. 16mm was introduced into our lives and we were terrified (“Wait, you can’t see what you’re doing!?”)

I can’t really say why, but when students in the class (and my collaborators and best friends from high school) asked “Can someone shoot my film?” I jumped at the chance. I had never shot film before and admittedly I was very scared of it. At the time I was struggling with the idea of becoming a director simply because in the world of film you’re told that’s exactly what you should be, especially in film school. Not having full control worried me but in the end I continued to gravitate toward the camera. This was also my first experience with lighting. I simply had no clue about it beforehand and now a brand new language was being introduced to me.

Combine the romance of film (like a first love), discovering the language that is constant lighting, my natural instinct, and the older thesis students telling me that graduating without a focused skill would mean certain death led me to the choice of majoring in Cinematography. Needless to say it was the right choice. It is a skill that takes a lifetime to learn and I plan on doing just that.

You are also a cinematographer for narrative and commercial work. What does it mean to be a cinematographer? What do your daily tasks look like?

AC: The Cinematographer is in charge of the overall visual language for the project. It is always this person’s task to put story first and foremost with the directors vision in mind at all times, to serve them, and to collaborate with them (the amount is usually dictated by the director). Consistency is also very important; making sure that the style stays consistent throughout and only changes when necessary. A cinematographer is one part technical, one part artistic. It is a wonderful meeting of the two. The goal is to achieve an image that the audience doesn’t think about. The technical becomes hidden in the background and the emotion of the image takes shape, hopefully affecting the audience in the exact way that the two of you conceived. In my personal opinion, this is when it is most effective.

The Cinematographer works with other department heads to strive for that consistency. Collaborating with them is extremely important and I try my best to make this happen each and every time. They’ve also spoken with the director and usually we’re all on the same page. We work hard to make the director’s vision come true, but we’re hired as the experts in each of our respected fields. We’re also usually hired because of a particular ability, style, technical know-how or even personality. We spend a lot of time together on set; you have to respect and trust the people you’re around. It is filled with constant decision-making and compromise. Those tasks are not easy if you don’t get along.

My daily tasks depend on what’s going on with the project. While in pre-production, my life is about preparing for production. Seeing locations with the director, locking in my crew, shaping the schedule with the AD and working within the budget constraints. I do my best to squeeze the most out of the amount that’s been allotted to me. The director and I work closely to discover the style of the film. We may watch films; review photos or works of art, discovering the right references helps us get on the same page. We also work hard to choose the correct camera and lenses. This is based on a desired look, the budget and specific logistics often shaped by the script. Often we compare past experiences and watch projects shot with similar combinations. The camera and lenses is arguably the most important choice before we get to set.

On set my daily tasks are always very different each and every day. That is one of the most exciting aspects of the job. To be broad I’d say that it usually begins with a strong plan that we had settled on the day (or days) before. I meet with the Assistant Director (AD) and the director to discuss said plan and we see if we can improve it. Or if a disaster has struck, how do we deal with it? If I’m lucky the AD will get a blocking rehearsal going and we can watch the scene. This will inform everyone of what’s happening. Not every set is so organized, but when it is you can do your job much better. I’ll quickly review this with the heads of my team and they’ll delegate and convey what needs to happen to their crew. After that it often comes down to maintaining a groove, time is extremely important on set.

We usually have 12 hours per day to get everything we need. We face many obstacles like the movement of the sun, actors and/or actresses becoming restless, locations only allowing a certain amount of time, etc. The clock is always running and you have to race against it. It’s often my job to keep us on track and constantly make sure that the shooting order is correct. I need to be thinking five shots ahead at all times. While this is happening I’m placing the camera in the correct place for said moment, with the correct focal length and such. These decisions are often shaped by the location and the blocking of the actors. I work simultaneously with the Gaffer on the lighting of the scene.

Moving a camera around is one thing but lighting a set or a real location can become very complicated. The two are strongly connected and affect one another greatly. The order of how all of this works must be taken into account. The director and I often discuss the editing as well. How is this scene going to take shape? This certainly informs the decisions we make. “Making our day” as we call it is extremely important. If we love the footage and we’ve made it, it’s considered a success. My day is about making those two things happen.

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CJ: When you’re on set, what aspects of the story and the characters’ movements do you have to consider? At what point do you come in – has the scene blocking been done, do you work with them while doing that?

AC: I think it’s very important that everyone witnesses the blocking rehearsal. Doing any job well is about education. Without knowing what’s happening, you’re only guessing. This only wastes precious time and ultimately hurts many aspects of the day. I often find myself compromising simply due to a poor management of time on someone else’s part. It eats into my shooting time, thus forcing myself to set-up faster. It also forces the director to make faster decisions, do less takes, etc.

To answer your question, no, I am not that involved in the blocking. It is a time for the actors and director to thoroughly discuss the scene and to discover new things. We always come in with a strong plan but you quickly realize that certain things won’t work. You must be nimble and quickly change your approach. Sometimes it’s the location and sometimes it’s the blocking. Often the scene gets much better. If you have a specific idea that you come in with you can manipulate the situation to fall into it. This happens sometimes and it is usually a technical approach that can be effective. It’s important for us to know the difference between the two and when not to get in the way. I constantly try to pick my battles and know when the blocking of a scene has gotten better for the story and/or actors. If a “baby” of mine has to go, then so be it. The scene is usually much better this way. However, I will step in when necessary but only after they’ve discussed it a few times.

As for the characters’ movements and such, this is usually determined by the directors and actors discussions that they’ve had before and even throughout the scene. I often work around this and find a lot of inspiration from it. When an actor is cast so well you inherently trust them right away. If you’re fast enough, you can keep up and come up with new ideas on the spot based on what they’re doing. They know the character better than you so you better trust them and revolve the ideas around that. I always have the story in mind. The director, actors, and I will often collaborate on what’s happening in the scene since they constantly affect one another. With that said, marks can be very important, especially when it comes to lighting. Unfortunately, we’re in a time right now where the craft is being threatened due to the ability of how fast the cameras are and their ability to work so well with natural light. I believe that a combination of the two is the best recipe. Take advantage of what the new technology has allowed us to do, but don’t lose sight of the potential that film language holds. I see A LOT of movies nowadays that simply ignore that. They excuse their lack of ability, low budget, and poor planning as a “style” that is just plain bad.

I do personally like a moving camera (when necessary of course), but I do my best to make sure that the movement is correct for that particular moment. It can be hand-held, a dolly, a Steadicam, a jib, etc. …These are all tools that convey different emotions. It’s up to us to choose what’s right and to execute it correctly. This is directly affected by the blocking and that dance can be one of my favorite parts about cinematography.

CJ: When starting a new project, what does your process look like?

AC: I read the script a few times so that I can have shorthand with directors. You better bet that they know it a whole lot better, and they’ll feel a lot more comfortable if you know it well. This also helps me make fast decisions later on. I need to be very close to it, I need to care about it very much. When my instincts take over, they’re often the right ones because I know it so well and I care about it so much.

I like to meet with the director often. Getting into their head is very important for me. I need to have a very good understanding of what they want. Most aren’t that technical so they describe things in broad strokes. I have to be careful because I may take one sentence as meaning a very specific technical solution, but the director may mean something else entirely. I’m not at a point of being able to afford tests in pre-pro, so if I read that incorrectly we’ll often find out when it’s too late.

Showing examples and explaining things thoroughly often solves any issues. But it’s my goal to learn these things so that when we’re on set I can turn from the eyepiece and say “You happy?” When a director looks back with a huge smile, you know that you did your job right. I love that moment and I strive for it. I trust my director and if that smile is genuine then I know that we’re doing good work together. Ultimately that leads to a good movie, which is always the goal.

CJ: What is the most difficult part about being a cinematographer? The best part?

AC:  The most difficult part about being a cinematographer is the lack of control. You’re constantly striving to achieve as much of it as possible, but it’s constantly slipping through your hands. You have to pick your battles and know what (and when) to fight for what you feel is necessary to have control over. At times it can be liberating and exciting, your old ideas become new ones, often better ones. However, it can also crush your ability to do your job well. But if good people surround you and if you’ve come fully prepared and made the right decisions beforehand, you should be able to avoid this issue. Filmmaking is about constant compromise and working to react the right way so that you can make the most of it.

The best part about being a cinematographer is that you have the chance to live many lives. This is actually a direct quote from filmmaker Robert Altman. It’s stuck with me for years. I constantly travel, meet many different people from all walks of life, and immerse myself in the subject matter, which educates me and opens the way I look at the world. Sometimes the projects are set in different time periods and I get the chance to live in that time between action and cut. It also just feels right; many pieces have to come together. When you witness the best take you see all of your planning come together to make a great shot or sequence, its incredible exciting. We work in a 3-dimensional space for a 2-dimensional presentation that has constant movement. It’s absolutely fascinating. It’s the best job in the world.

Alex B

CJ: What should a young adult who wants to be a cinematographer do now to set him or herself up for success?

AC: This is said pretty often but it’s true…shoot, shoot, shoot. Pick up a camera and go for it. The beauty of film school is that it gives you the freedom to fail. You have the equipment, the faculty and the crew ready to make anything and everything. Unfortunately, at the time the projects are naturally seen as the most important thing in the world. It’s hard to understand at the time, but the stakes are actually very low and this should be taken advantage of.

With that said don’t ignore the technical knowledge that’s needed. It’s great that anyone can get their hands on a camera, see the results immediately, make a decision, and be able to hit the record button for very cheap. But it’s so easy that it has put the technical know-how at risk. It has simply made people lazy. This element is essential since it is directly connected to the creative decisions that you make. You simply cannot pull off certain techniques without understanding how and why and what tools you need to do so. Not to mention the time and cost it takes. It’s one thing to be able to shoot, but to be able to manage a crew, understand a budget and run a set…that’s really what a Director of Photography (DP) is, it’s not only about having a good eye. You’re the head of a very important department that interacts with everyone at all times. You can’t be an introvert behind your small camera. If you want to be a real DP, you need to learn how to delegate and manage. Film school allows for this experience early on.

I’d also recommend purchasing a photo camera. Learn how everything affects one other. First learn the different aspects of the camera. Shoot in manual and experiment with different ISO’s, apertures, shutter angles, color temperature, and focal lengths. You can learn all of them specifically with something you can carry in your bag. With digital, you can see the results right away. Once you start to truly understand these aspects you can try different combinations and understand how they affect one another.

Editing in Lightroom or Photoshop is also very important since color correction is a huge part of my job that I take very seriously. Actual movement and frame-rate can’t really be understood as well when practicing this, but the other aspects can be constantly educational throughout your day. You can learn A LOT from photography, certainly the basics. You need a good foundation to become good at anything.

It’s just as important to educate yourself as much as possible. Actually shooting is the best form of education but you also need to read about it. Get a subscription to the American Society of Cinematographers magazine and the International Cinematographers Guild magazine and read it front to back. Google everything you don’t understand. At first it will be very daunting, but in time you will start to understand more and more. There are many blogs and websites that discuss all sorts of aspects of cinematography and you can learn a lot from them.

I’d also tell them to consider film-school. I have issues with the current model – it’s very behind and needs a major revamp. The film industry has changed drastically and they haven’t caught up. However, I still advocate going and making the most of it. Trust me, the school will fail you in certain ways but you can get A LOT out of it and that is only up to you. I’ve met some of my best collaborators through film school and that was worth the cost alone. It really is an industry that depends on who you know. That’s not just a saying.

Oh and shoot film at least a few times. Trust me.

CJ: What are the three top skills you need as a cinematographer?

AC: This is the hardest question for me to answer since I think it requires many skills. Some will probably disagree with me, but I think these are the top three: Lighting, Camera placement/Focal Length, and Management skills.

Lighting: To understand the use of constant light is absolutely essential for a good cinematographer. Personally, it’s what defines the difference between the good and the great. Lighting sets the mood, time, genre, and emotion among many other things. Of course the camera can convey these things as well, but I believe that lighting is the most powerful aspect of conveying the visual image that you set and the director set out to make. I could go on for many pages, I should just stop here…

Camera Placement / Focal Length: This involves the director much more but you usually place the camera exactly where you think it should be. The director often has a very clear idea of what they want to see and when they want to see it, but it’s up to us to execute it correctly. A lot of my skill and talent is in executing these ideas well. The right camera placement comes down to millimeters; I’m very specific and exact about this placement. I often start with the farthest background, usually a wall or vista that I simply can’t change. This is because I can usually move everything else to make it work in the composition that I’m striving for. Focal length plays a huge part in this and I will often discuss this with the director. Some are very specific while others simply don’t know, luckily apps like ‘Artemis’ allow me to show them a rough idea very quickly. Depending on the format that you’re shooting (S35, Full-frame, 16mm, etc.) and your focal length combination can lead to many, many different choices. Every shot is different and discovering them is always a blast. I haven’t even mentioned moving shots and editing which greatly affect the above choices. But again, I’ll stop right here.

Management skills: This is overlooked a lot of the time in articles and write ups on Cinematography. It is one of the most important aspects of the job. You’re running a big crew and constantly interacting with the other departments. You also need to play politician before, during, and after the shoot with the production team. You need confidence and you need to be able to delegate. Surrounding yourself with a good crew can make this part of the job much easier. Plus, if they’re great they can make you look really good!

CJ: What films or which directors have inspired your filming style and work?

AC: When I was roughly six years old my Dad showed me all sorts of movies I probably shouldn’t have seen: Aliens, Terminator 1 & 2, Predator, etc. It completely blew me away, but I was hooked. At that time I only thought of movies as very basic genres. Of course I couldn’t articulate this at the time but it was simple: Disney movies, action movies, scary movies, funny movies, etc. On our large, rear projection TV in the basement he eventually showed me one of his favorites (on laser disc!), Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. I was probably 8 years old? I had no clue what I had just seen but I fell deeply in love with it. This was unlike any movie I had ever seen. I couldn’t categorize it; the intrigue was through the roof. The film is shot by Vittorio Storaro (one of the masters of color) and he’s one of my personal favorites. I personally didn’t truly understand cinematography until the year I graduated college but the moment I saw it and all throughout the years in between the film stuck with me for some reason. I love it for many reasons, but I know for a fact that it had a lot to do with the cinematography. Coppola and Storaro’s collaboration is one of the reasons I do what I do and it had an effect on me from an early age.

Stanley Kubrick, Paul Thomas Anderson, David Fincher, The Coen Brothers and Quentin Tarantino are probably my favorites. I’m aware that this is a very modern, American list. My film knowledge is pretty good, but it certainly pales to some people that I know. But from the films that I’ve personally seen those people have really shaped my education, love, and approach to filmmaking. I think of them very often while making decisions and I constantly study their work.

Kubrick is my first love, and I love Paul Thomas Anderson for his incredible story-telling and use of the anamorphic format (don’t get me started, I’m nuts for it!), Fincher for his absolutely perfect execution, The Coen Brothers for being so unique every single time, and Tarantino for having the most fun. I don’t think anyone enjoys his or her job more than that guy and it comes through. I love that and I want my work to feel the same way.

Recently my girlfriend and I watched Billy Wilder’s The Apartment on Netflix. It was shot Panavision, anamorphic in 1960 by Joseph LaShelle. The compositions and camera movement were simply perfect. The use of the anamorphic format was lovely. Rarely do we see modern filmmakers hold wide shots for that long, it’s a shame. After the film ended, Netflix suggested we watch Billy Wilder’s Sabrina, another favorite of ours. Of course we couldn’t say no. Shot by the brilliant Charles Lang in 1954 and in academy 35 (a more square frame), this film was done perfectly as well. Both films we’re directed by Billy Wilder roughly six years apart, both using two completely different formats. Both were shot in lovely black and white but by two different DP’s. What we witnessed was a master at work. Wilder completely mastered both formats and used their strengths wonderfully. The locations, the sets, the blocking, everything was completely different but worked so well. Watching them back-to-back was very educational and inspiring. I highly recommend it.

Last but not least I need to mention Star Wars. Specifically The Empire Strikes Back. There’s not much to say here other than “Thanks George.”

CJ: What is your favorite book?

AC: The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

AC: Take more risks, loosen up, and experiment more. At the time I took each project very seriously, I always have and always will, and I don’t regret that. But in school I could have experimented more with different film stocks, techniques, and especially different lighting techniques and approaches. I could have done shoots on my own more often and simply played around more. By now I feel that I have discovered most of what I would have. But I simply would have learned it earlier thus effecting projects from years ago that could have been more well shot.

My brother is very involved in the world of racing and there’s a saying called “seat time.” It amounts to how much time you’ve sat in a racecar and actually performed in a race. Seat time is very important with any skill. I always want more and I only get better each and every time. I’m very hard on my work and I’m very rarely satisfied. It can always be better, always. The more seat time, the better.

Alexander C Qs

Images: Carpe Juvenis

Culture

For those who have been living under a rock, or out of the sphere of anything related to media, chances are you have heard of Bollywood. No, I didn’t spell Hollywood wrong. Bollywood is an actual word, and it’s now officially defined in the Oxford English dictionary.

After years of attempting to compete against its western counterpart Hollywood, India’s Mumbai housed film industry can stand firm on the morals of its own achieved global success.

Deriving from its former British colonial city name of Bombay, Bollywood has amassed an international following, catapulting its reach of producing almost three times as many movies a year than Hollywood, and allowing to call itself the largest film industry in the world.

The Status

India has its own breed of mega stars who now have the global clout, fame, and a buzz to rival those from America. With its presence at almost all International Film Festivals, Bollywood celebrities are now in a league of their own.

They have massive social media followings, make lucrative endorsement deals with top global brands, and have cash earnings that set them in similar brackets as top Hollywood celebrities. Their reach is not only in India, but their reach abroad is growing as many are choosing to branch outside traditional roles within the Hindi film industry and gain further exposure in the west.

Priyanka Chopra, a former Miss World, is India’s latest global export who launched her foreign fame from Bollywood to crossover and become a recording artist to produce hit singles with Pitbull and Will. i. am. for NFL’s Thursday Night Football theme song. In addition, she has also become the first ethnic face of Guess, and landed a new ABC talent television show deal in Los Angeles where she is currently based. With a heavy media push, her team is attempting to introduce a stronger South Asian presence into the American media market. Among other global Bollywood stars with massive fame include Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai, Aamir Khan, Deepika Padukone, Ranbir Kapoor, Katarina Kaif, Akshay Kumar, and Kareena Kapoor.

The Reach

From Cape Town to Canberra, Rio De Janerio to Riyadh, the sheer appeal to audiences and demographics showcase how India’s Hindi film industry position now rivals Hollywood’s reach. The past 20 years have progressed the popularity of Hindi film, in turn allowing for Bollywood to become more of household name in several parts of the emerging world. In addition, the massively clean cut and conservative family approach of no nudity have allowed for its films to amass loyal fans not just in its diaspora communities, but throughout Africa, Latin America, Australia, Europe, and the Middle East.

The Appeal

With its grand sets, exotic destinations, love stories, and iconic song and dance routines, many have dubbed the unique and drastically different format to western media part of its international success. Bollywood films have stayed close to traditional Indian values, but in recent times have become a creative playground to showcase a rising and rapidly westernizing population, home to 1.2+ billion people.

The Influence

With Bollywood paving the way for the western world to gain further exposure into Indian cultural values, art, and dialogues, the influence of it reach is massive. With its heavy hitting presence at every major international film festival – including Cannes – established Indian Industry award shows, and the trickling in of more Indian music, fashion, and media personalities into the daily lives of more westerners, it no longer remains a thriving industry.

Dubai Parks and Resorts is even developing the Emirate’s and world’s first Bollywood mega theme park project aimed at capturing the essence of Hindi cinema, covering a total of three million square feet. With a massive three phase development plan for construction in Dubai, the park will recreate for tourists and residents the extravagance and fantasy that is the world of Bollywood.

Have you seen any Bollywood films?

Image: Wikipedia

CultureSkills

This past summer, I had the great pleasure of working on my fourth music video for Dizzy Bats. The project was the second collaboration with LA-based director, Michael Chiu, who also directed and co-produced our music video for “Girls.”

For this particular project, the planning and production was done by Michael and the Director of Photography, Jeanna Kim. The two would have meetings on site at the restaurant we shot at to discuss direction, shot selection, and lighting. From there they picked out a crew to help bring this song and video to life.

On a hot Sunday afternoon in mid-July outside of LA, we all met up at Michael’s Burger around 3 PM, shortly after they had closed for the day. We utilized the entire restaurant and nearly everything at our disposal, which included burger patties and french fries to name a couple. The shoot lasted almost 14 hours and took an unfortunate turn when one of the crew members accidentally left with Michael’s car keys.  It was an absolutely exhausting but exciting day.

Over the last three years and four video shoots, I’ve learned that you really don’t need a lot of money to make a great video, and often times one simple concept can carry a project and make it great. The most important part of any collaboration is finding the right people to team up with; those who are equally driven and devoted to bringing your song to life. So to any bands out there looking to make a video for the first time, shop around for the right director and start brainstorming.

Bringing one of your songs to life through the art of film can be challenging, stressful, and intimidating. From production to shooting to editing to color correction, there is so much that needs to go right in order for a concept to be successfully carried out, and for a video to ultimately look great. In collaborating with so many film people, I continue to be blown away by the artistic drive of these talented individuals, as well as their amazing professionalism. It’s been fascinating to see the commonalities between the two art forms of film and music, while comparing our various stories. Art should never be limited to just one form, and through my work on these music videos, I’ve been fortunate enough to experience the awesome marriage of music and film.

Check out Connor Frost’s Professional Spotlight here.

Image: Connor Frost

Culture

Though Christmas is not the only holiday celebrated during this time of the year, it is one that seems to spur the creation of some of the most heartfelt and sentimental films ever made. I have already delved into some of my favorite Christmas movies of all time – all classics in their own right – but those are not the only flicks that utilize the cheer and spirit of this holiday. There are quite a few lesser known films that exhibit the same emotions during this time of the year through touching stories. So, without revealing too much, here are some indie films to satiate your Christmas movie appetite!

Joyeux Noel

In short, Joyeux Noel explores a fictionalized version of the Christmas Truce of 1914 in which the Scots, Frenchmen, and Germans involved in fighting one another decided to cease fire during Christmas Eve and Day. I enjoy this film around the holidays not only because it is cinematically gorgeous, but also because it reaffirms the notion of putting ones differences aside to celebrate something larger than everyone. Whether you believe in Christianity, Judaism, or no religion at all, I believe people can appreciate the sentiment of hope for peace cross-culturally that is evident in this movie.

A Midnight Clear

Like Joyeux Noel, A Midnight Clear expounds upon similar ideas of peace amidst violence by retelling how at the Battle of the Bulge in 1944 Germans were willing to surrender over Christmas. Unlike the other film, however, this one ended with a ton more bloodshed and more of introspective view of how humanities xenophobia and inability to accept and atone for their indiscretions can ruin even the most intelligent plans geared towards peace. Tie that in with the fact that this is a time of the year for forgiveness, I hope this film helps people to learn to be more tolerant- this film definitely showed my own flaws in regards to this.

Mon Oncle Antoine

In this 1971 French-Canadian film, the Christmastime set storyline explores the Maurice Duplessis region of Quebec preceding the Asbestos Strike of the late 1940s. Benoît, a fifteen year old boy, is the prime character of the film, and as the viewer’s watch his coming of age story in this mining town simultaneously linking up with the move towards the encroaching political revolution, this film forces you to look at how we treat people in society; how we belittle and oppress others. Not the cheeriest of Christmas films, but definitely one to bring you to reality and teach you similar lessons to that learned from A Midnight Clear. It also cannot hurt that Roger Ebert also put this on his Great Movies list, if you need more convincing to look this up.

Which holiday movies do you always go back to?

Image: Unsplash

Culture

‘Tis the season to stay inside, cuddle up with good friends, and enjoy some of the holiday’s cinematic greats. The Christmas season has inspired some of the most intriguing, touching, and lesson-filled films in cinematic history, and here are some that you might find yourself watching within the next month:

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  1. A Christmas Story

Iconic for its famous “you’ll shoot your eye out” line and for the fact that TBS literally plays it on a 24 hour loop on Christmas, this classic Christmas tale reminds you of the hope and excitement each and every one of us had as Christmas approached each year. The film follows Ralphie and his exploits as he runs from bullies, wears humiliating costumes made by loving relatives, and fights for his right to own a Red Ryder air rifle. All in all, this movie is hysterical and will remind you of all the antics you got into as a child.

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  1. It’s A Wonderful Life

A little less self-deprecating than the first, this film reminds us in a lighthearted fashion that the holidays are not about gifts or decorations: it is about celebrating with loved ones. This film follows George Bailey, a man who had many aspirations and ideas for his future, who ends up with a life he did not vision for himself. Though he loves his family, Bailey feels as though life would be better off without him and that is exactly what he gets. Bailey is visited by an angel who grants him this wish, and shows Bailey just how wrong he his. He touched and impacted so many people in positive ways, which is kind of the point of the holiday: no matter how tough things are, remember that you have a support system to rely on and be relied upon. Plus, when a very special bell rings in the last scene, you will be filled with all kinds of warmth – I don’t want to spoil it for those who have not seen this movie yet!

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  1. The Nightmare Before Christmas

Both a Christmas and Halloween movie, this Tim Burton film meshes all the best of the spookiest and the happiest holidays respectively. Jack the Pumpkin King feels as though there is something missing; Halloween has become dull. So, in search of something to spice up the festivities, Jack walks dejectedly into the forest outside of the cemetery to find the seven holiday doors. Accidentally opening the portal to Christmas Town, Jack finds elves preparing for the Christmas season and is very impressed by the entire atmosphere of Christmas. What ensues is a wild idea to mix Halloween and Christmas, and crazy happenings such as kidnapping Santa Claus and battling with the Boogie Man occur. This was most definitely my favorite holiday film as a kid and I recommend it to anyone who loves the creativity of the storyline or just the fact that is has songs in it.

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  1. Elf

This film is probably one of the most quoted and Tumblr reblogged Christmas movies ever.  After discovering he is not truly an elf, the movie follows along on Buddy the elf’s journey to find his real dad. This hilarious Christmas story stars a very funny Will Ferrell, and has many scenes that will have you and your friends bent over in laughter, as well as teaching you an appreciation of the child-like belief that Buddy exhibits all throughout the film – maybe growing up is not always the best idea (but inevitable, nevertheless).

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  1. A Christmas Carol

By far one of the most recognizable Christmas tales, A Christmas Carol has been a staple for the holiday season since its publication. Not to mention its many screen reincarnations, this film can be seen in many forms: one could watch the original, the one with Jim Carrey voicing over a cartoon version of the film, or even a Muppets version in which Michael Caine plays the infamous Scrooge. This classic teaches us the importance of not only being thankful for what we have, but also for inspiring us to help others who are less fortunate than we are. Greed is the bane of humanity, and this story does a fantastic job of giving its audience a newfound appreciation of that notion.

What are you watching this holiday season?

Images: s-herman / Insomnia Cured Here / Chris Friese / J / DVD Talk

Education

High school students are beginning to fill out their college applications, and part of that process includes deciding what major to pick. While you can always change your major once you get to school, oftentimes colleges encourage you to choose one so they can get an idea of your interests.

For those thinking about majoring in photography, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Costs add up.

It is impossible to imagine how much things cost. Film, darkroom paper, photo paper, book printing, photo books, mounting, business cards…the list goes on. As the four college years go by, it adds up. Some schools have amazing facilities (Parsons) but others do not. For those that don’t, it would be frustrating for you to have to buy all your own gear and pay for studio and scanning and developing chemistry.

2. Think outside the box.

Photography is no longer the black and white documentary 35mm it once was. From fashion to fine art, photo students are now expected to grasp, come up with, and execute concepts. Why did you take that picture? Why is it next to that other picture? Is it a series, a diptych, a stand alone? Digital, prints, or book form? Why? Be prepared to think critically.

3. Critiques will happen.

“Crits” are days when your work is hung up and people talk about it. Sometimes you can defend your work, sometimes you can’t. People will disagree or dislike your work. They will tell you what they honestly think. You can’t do anything about it. The best thing to do is to learn to take everything with a grain of salt, and to give good crits. That is the most productive thing to do. Explain what is working and what isn’t and why.

Being a photography major has its good and bad points. But as long as you love it, then it will all be worth it!

Image: Mia Domenico

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

Have you ever stumbled upon a Twitter feed where you find yourself 10 minutes later still laughing and scrolling through the tweets? This happened to us with Lyndsay Rush and her hilarious observations and comments. How she manages to make every day occurrences so funny in just 140 characters is a mystery to us, but we’ll happily continue reading and laughing.

Besides her obvious comedy chops, Lyndsay Rush is also a talented writer. She is a columnist for HelloGiggles, SheKnows, and The Everygirl, as well as a copywriter. Storytelling and writing has been a passion for Lyndsay ever since she was little, and she has honed her skills through different mediums – film, Spanish, and blogging. We’re huge fans of Lyndsay’s columns, as well as the advice and lessons she shares. With her great sense of humor, emphasis on being thankful, and dedication to her craft, Lyndsay definitely seizes her youth.

Name: Lyndsay Rush
Age: 31
Education: Bachelor of Arts, University of Kansas
Follow: Twitter / BrandBurst

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Lyndsay Rush: I think being aware and present and thankful for where you are in life is a trick that benefits everyone. As for seizing your youth, it’s so fantastic when you’re young to go big. Try new things, embrace what freaks you out, ask a lot of questions. Befriend failure because it means you’re out there, it means you’re making the most of life.

CJ: You went to college at the University of Kansas and studied Film and Spanish. How did you determine what to study?

LR: I always laugh at this, since it seems so random. But my justification now is that I knew I loved storytelling, I just chose the wrong medium (film) and I always loved language, I just focused on the wrong one (Spanish). But I wouldn’t change a thing. I still adore the Spanish language, and when I stumbled into copywriting, I found that having a unique background was actually appealing to clients and employers, because my tone of voice was different from someone who studied marketing or journalism, for example.

CJ: What sparked your love of writing?

LR: I have been writing since I was little. My mom had my siblings and me keep journals from the moment we learned how to read and write (which, ahem, for me was 4 years old. Child genius alert, I know.) So I learned at a really young age how fun it was to tell stories. And then when I quit my job in finance 3 years after college, I started a blog about being unemployed, and really found my storytelling and humor voice. That silly little blog ended up getting some serious traction and I eventually used it as a way to get other work, leading to my career today.

CJ: You are a columnist for Hello Giggles, The Everygirl, and SheKnows. What is your writing process and where/how do you find inspiration for articles?

LR: I’d say it is a mix of my original ideas, and then specific stories pitched to me by my editors. I’m so thankful, at all of these publications, for editors who really “get” me and let me try new things or go in directions that might be off the beaten path. It’s seriously the most fun job ever.

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CJ: You are also a freelance copywriter for a number of different companies. What does being a copywriter entail?  

LR: Basically anything that businesses might need written, I write. From web copy, to naming products and services, to taglines and slogans, to ads, to social media, to bios to emails…there is so much that businesses need to communicate, and it all has to be specific to who they want to reach, which in turn feeds how they need to speak (write.) At the beginning of launching out on my own, I literally took anyone who would pay me. I was just stunned that I was getting paid to put words together. It was so dreamy. But then as I’ve gotten deeper into the field, I’ve been able to hone in on what I love the most, and only accept projects and companies that want my specific tone (conversational, witty, unexpected). This is a real treat, because I get to do what comes most natural to me.

CJ: You are an incredible, relatable, and hilarious writer. Your Twitter feed, in particular, is smart and laugh out loud funny. How does humor influence your writing, and how can one improve their humor writing skills?

LR: First of all, thank you, that’s so kind. Secondly, you’re right I am hilarious. Kidding. But really, I think observation is the key to humor. I think the best comedians and humorists are able to see at a layer deeper than the average person. They point out and heighten things that we may have missed but that always make us go, “That is SO true!” It also helps to keep track of the people you think are funny, and see how they write certain jokes, or tell certain stories. There is so much to learn from others and being well read is a huge help. Some people think that if you read other humorous writing that you will be tempted to emulate them and lose your voice, but I disagree. I don’t think people can fake being funny; I think it just feeds into your overall experience in life and adds different notes to your writing.

CJ: What are the greatest lessons you have learned from being a writer?

LR: This is tough, but I think a big lesson I have learned along the way is that the more people there are reading your stuff, the more negative feedback you’ll get. This is just a numbers game. When I started writing for Hello Giggles, for example, and thousands of people were reading my articles, those were some of the first times I had gotten really nasty comments from readers. Similarly with bigger websites I’ve written. People love to hate stuff. We are a bunch of haters, these days. But try to focus on those who love what you have done, and then if (this is a big IF) there is actual constructive criticism in the comments or feedback, take that and grow. It’s all an opportunity to grow and get better and throw it in those haters’ faces. Just kidding. Mostly.

CJ: What is the best part about being a writer? The most challenging part?

LR: Best part for me being a freelancer is working in my pajamas. Most challenging part is being self-motivated, organized, and disciplined so that you get that work done…even if it’s while in your robe.

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CJ: What does a day in your life look like?

LR: This is going to make me look so un-glamorous, because I can be a kind of nerdy introvert. But I wake up, make coffee (a must,) get out my to-do list for the day (I am still old school on this, I write those suckers down. Nothing is more satisfying than crossing something off a list with a pen. Nothing!), and then I prioritize what needs to be done and when. Then I check and answer emails, and then get to work. If I have a big project starting that day I will go work form a coffee shop, since a change of scenery sometimes helps spark my brain. I take breaks whenever I need to, to ride my bike or meet a friend for lunch, or watch a show. I LOVE and thrive on a flexible schedule and consider it a luxury that I don’t have to be creative in that dastardly 9-5 window. I work a lot of nights with wine, especially if I’ve given myself the afternoon to play.

CJ: What should a teenager or young adult who wants to be a writer do now to set themselves up for success?

LR: Read a lot. And take notes on anything that you observe that catches your interest. Take classes! Improv classes and writing classes. Pay attention to what your heroes are doing. Write every day, even if it’s minor, even if it’s 3 jokes about current events, or one line of dialogue. Have a time and place where you write and stick to it. If you truly care about it, prove it by making time for it and doing the work.

CJ: When you aren’t crafting clever tweets or writing your columns, how do you like to spend your time?

LR: I love to travel. Because I work for myself, I can go on trips and still get work done, while taking in a new culture. I like riding my red bike around Chicago and checking out new coffee shops and bakeries. I really enjoy improv and sketch shows, iO and Second City in Chicago, and UCB in New York. My dream night is a dinner party on a friend’s patio. Oh, and I consider myself a nail artist. Probably change my polish 3-4 times a week like a total psycho.

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CJ: What motivates you in your everyday life?

LR: Hope, change, god, relationships, chips.

CJ: What’s next for you?

LR: Ideally, I would be writing for television. Either late night shows as a monologue writer or for sitcoms, or awards shows. That’s my next big plan, at least.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

LR: I would tell her to stop trying to please other people. And to really stop worrying what other people thought; to be a little more open-minded and daring, and to put away her credit card. I would also tell her to cut it out with the tanning already.