Lumunaut Story #64: Cinematographer Brandon Haynes
WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BECOME IN YOUR CHILDHOOD AND ARE YOU THAT PERSON TODAY?
When I was a child I wanted to become a doctor. The idea of being able to help and change a person’s life for the better was something I saw as important and impactful. I’m not a doctor now but the notion of doing good for others still resonates with me. Now I see storytelling as my way of doing good for others. With storytelling, I can shine a light on important topics, connect people, and stir up emotions. We are visual creatures by nature and learn some much about ourselves and others by observing.
WHERE DID YOU MEET CINEMATOGRAPHY OR WHERE DID IT MEET YOU?
I would say cinematography met me about 2 years ago at a festival for serialized content in Denver called SeriesFest. I have always been a visual artist. Before cinema, my focus was still photography but in Denver I met so many filmmakers and learned a great deal about the craft. It was my interest in learning all of the complexities of motion photography that prompted me to want to take it on.
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU DON'T HAVE A CAMERA IN YOUR HAND?
Well generally when I don’t have a cinema camera, I have a still camera. I am a little obsessed with photography. But when I don’t have a camera at all. I am usually traveling, exploring old vinyl shops and spending time with my family.
YOUR PERSONAL STORY WITH CINEMATOGRAPHY IN 12 WORDS.
Cinematography is my language of choice to tell complex and diverse stories.
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO ACHIEVE?
I want to continue on a path to becoming a better cinematographer and one day shoot a big-budget feature film.
WHAT ARE YOUR SUPERPOWERS AND WEAKNESSES (AND HOW DO YOU OVERCOME THEM)?
I would say my superpower is I am very analytical, strategic, and communicative with my approach to cinematography. I research and test things out like the filmmaking version of the scientific method. I aim to go into a shoot knowing everything I possibly can to make sure the shoot is a success. I picture many scenarios which allows me creatively problem solve when things go left.
Time management is a weakness for me. I can be a perfectionist when it comes to lighting, framing, and other parts of the craft, so I can get lost for hours trying to get everything right. However, when you are working with other people and time is money that isn’t feasible. I’m always on myself and have my team on me about being on time and making sure we get what we need.
WHAT ATTRACTS YOU TO THE WORK YOU SHOOT?
I am attracted to challenge of telling a story authentically and have it connect with an audience. I want to make things which strike a chord in people and makes them feel something. But I also want to approach things differently. How can I tell this story through another lens and still have it ring true?
WHERE DO YOU THINK THE WISDOM AND INSTINCT FOR A GOOD PHOTOGRAPH COMES FROM?
I think it comes from experience and experimentation. We are rarely ever great at anything from the beginning. It’s through repetition and continuing to learn that we get better. It’s also about pushing yourself outside your comfort zone to develop wisdom and instinct.
THE CRAZIEST THING YOU HAVE EVER DONE AS A CINEMATOGRAPHER? HAVE YOU EVER GOTTEN YOURSELF IN TROUBLE?
Is trespassing considered crazy? There was a location I really liked from a production design standpoint for a project and we didn’t have luck contacting the owner of the property leading up to the shoot. I scouted the location a couple of times and noticed the lack of security. So when it was time to shoot, I brought a very small crew to have a light footprint . We were able to shoot at the location for about 6 hours without anyone’s knowledge. So technically, I have yet to get in trouble (knock on wood).
IN YOUR OPINION, WHERE IS THE SOCIAL BARRIER BETWEEN THE CINEMATOGRAPHER AND THE SUBJECT?
Trust needs to be established between the cinematographer and the subject in order to tell the story. There needs to be a bit of vulnerability on both ends.
WHAT ANNOYS YOU THE MOST IN THIS PROFESSION?
I would say the most annoying thing about this profession is the continuous hustle of finding work. It can get really draining to always be on the hunt for work that pays decently and also feel like you don’t have time to work on personal projects. And who you know matters more than what you know. I wish I could survive on talent and passion alone.
WHAT'S IN YOUR CAMERA BAG?
In my personal camera bag I have a URSA Mini Pro with 2 Brick Batteries, extra memory cards, a 5-inch monitor, a Lumu light meter dome, measuring tape, a follow focus, rods, various filters, a flashlight, gaff Tape, a card Reader, and a digital still camera.
HOW OFTEN DO YOU / DON'T YOU SHOOT?
I shoot often to settle my creative curiosity.
IF YOU COULD CARRY ONLY 4 PIECES OF EQUIPMENT TO A PARALLEL UNIVERSE (NO PHOTO EQUIPMENT ON THE OTHER SIDE) FOR A YEAR, WHAT WOULD YOU CHOOSE?
I would take my cell phone, a good set of headphones, a picture of my loved ones, and a Moleskine notebook.
WHEN DO YOU RELY ON YOUR INSTRUMENTS AND WHEN ON YOUR FEELINGS?
I rely on feelings first. I look at what the story is and what is needed to tell the story. The story for me dictates what are the instruments that are required. Once I have a clear understanding of the needs of the story I then will rely on the instruments to aid from a technical standpoint to help me achieve what we are trying to feel in the story. I will find out the breaking points of the instrument just to know what I can do and then revert to feelings again to finalize what we are capturing is coming from a point of artistic expression in alignment with the director and producers.
IF YOU COULD GIVE ONE FINAL ADVICE / TASK / RIDDLE TO YOUR FELLOW CINEMATOGRAPHERS, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Network, have patience, trust your gut and never stop creating. The road to becoming a full-time creative is a long difficult one. You can be super talented but if no one knows you then you will go nowhere. Look to meet other people on your level or better and create and build a community around yourself. Be patient for career-defining opportunities and be ready to jump on them when you get them because they are few and far between. And keep creating. When you’re not creating (at least in my opinion) you are hurting yourself.
WHO ARE YOUR TOP 4 CINEMATOGRAPHERS?
Reed Morano - www.reedmorano.com
Elias Talbot - www.eliastalbot.com
Bradford Young - www.bradfordyoung.com
Autumn Durald - www.autumndurald.com
LINKS OR ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE!
My site: bhaynesdp.net
Great resources to learn more about cinematography: wanderingdp.com, cinematographydb.com, and shanesinnercircle.com