New Work

This Friday, February 10th BELOW HER MOUTH opens in Canadian theatres. I’ve got to take this opportunity to thank my crew for their skill, hard work and sensitivity on set, as well as for their endlessly positive spirits.

I don’t take nearly enough pictures on set and I wish I had photos of you doing your thing to share here because it is very impressive to see, but the memory of each of you lives on in my heart and I hope we’ll meet again soon. Congrats & love to you all:

Cheryl Sileikis, First Assistant Camera, A Camera
Sue Johnson, B Camera Operator & Second Assistant Camera
Augustina Saygnavong, Daily First Assistant Camera, B Camera
Clara Chan, Camera Trainee
Karissa Cashion, Daily Second Assistant Camera, A Camera
Camila Tamburini, Daily Second Assistant Camera
Ruzanna “Rooster” Sukiasyan, Daily Camera Trainee
Heather McDowell, Data Management Technician
Anya Shor, Gaffer
Simona Analte, Best Boy Electric
Sydney Cowper, Electric
Cait Lusk, Key Grip
Heather Weigel, Best Boy Grip & Daily Key Grip
Sabrina Spilotro, Grip
Andrea Hernandez, Grip
Brianna Blades, Grip
Bee Bertrand, Grip Intern

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Screen Shot 2017-01-04 at 6.45.38 PM.pngVERY EXCITED to announce tomorrow night’s premiere of Catherine Reitman’s new series WORKIN’ MOMS on CBC. It was a dream to be able to DP all 13 episodes of Season 1 this past summer/fall in Toronto, showcasing this city while shooting only on location with incredible IATSE and NABET camera, lighting & grip crews. I’ll always be grateful for the friendship and artistry they brought with them to set every day. It also just so happened to be our camera union’s first ever all-female A camera team so that was a wonderful bonus. Many thanks to you all for your eyes and support. Thanks also to SIM Digital for the Alexa camera packages and Cooke lenses, PS Production Services for the lighting and grip, and to my longtime home-away-from-set REDLAB Digital and colourist Walt Biljan for doing such beautiful and thorough work on post these past couple of months.

Workin’ Moms will air Tuesdays at 9:30pm on CBC.

There are so many great interviews with Catherine circulating already… here are two of my favourites so far:

Toronto Star, “Society expects us to hit a brick wall. A whole lot of honesty, and a whole lot of my own experiences, went into this. But there is humour in the dark places.”
TV Junkies , Catherine Reitman on Creating a Judgement-Free Zone

So proud of my dear old friend Joyce Wong and our producing team Matt Greyson and Harry Cherniak for bringing our feature film WEXFORD PLAZA to Turin, Italy this week. We shot the film, which is Joyce’s first feature, in August 2015 in the suburbs of Toronto.

WEXFORD PLAZA follows Betty, a young woman with a new job as a strip mall security guard, as she navigates the plaza by night searching for solutions to her boredom. She meets Danny, a charming bartender who works at the bar on the strip. His own feelings of financial and emotional inertia have got him eager to make a change. The two become acquainted in the nebulous waters of flirtation and enterprising ambition as they try to better their situations.

Inspired by our youth loitering in pre-gentrified Scarborough, Ontario, Joyce and I had a ton of common ground and personal experiences to draw from when we were conceiving of the film’s style. Joyce wanted to highlight the strange serenity of a place in economic stasis using static compositions and minimal coverage. We carefully storyboarded every shot, 300 of them or so, which is a relatively tiny amount for a feature film. Stylistically, we drew from Ulrich Seidl’s Paradise trilogy  and our own documentary backgrounds to emphasize how the landscapes of the characters’ realities – their homes, their places of work, their unregulated shift schedules, their vehicles – generate both the energy and the apathy that shape this moment in their lives.

We shot the film with a small crew over the course of three weeks. Matt called it “family-style filmmaking” from the start, and that’s exactly what it felt like. Thank you and congratulations to my filmmaking family for this project.

The film will be coming to the U.S. soon – more on that later.


The New York Times reviewed THE PRISON IN TWELVE LANDSCAPES the other day in advance of the film’s week-long run at Anthology Film Archives in New York City (Nov 4 -10). It just so happens the article highlights several concepts I’ve been trying to articulate in a draft here the past few days but for which I’ve had trouble finding the proper context.

Every now and then new filmmakers contact me and would like to know how to continue pursuing a life in cinematography. It’s difficult to give this type of advice since every path is very different. But I do firmly believe in one consistent truth: that the projects we choose to shoot directly shape the trajectories our lives will take as cinematographers. They will inform what we continue to shoot, where in the world we go, the creative soulmates we might encounter – broadly speaking, we further cement and refine what we align with through the work that we do, and in this way we can shape the life we give ourselves. More importantly though is the stuff we’re actually outputting. If consistently chosen with the heart, one’s body of work grows to eventually indicate a worldview and an overarching philosophy, as well as a collection of frustrations about and hopes for the world. If you are choosing your projects by identifying fiercely with them, you’re contributing something of yourself in sometimes enormous ways just by putting your energy there instead of some other place.

The Village Voice also did a piece on The Prison in Twelve Landscapes. It opens with the statement, “It’s rare that a film this outraged is also this calm.” This intersection of urgency and patience is what I’m getting at here. In my very first meeting with a director, it’s this sense of urgency that I’m looking for before anything else. Once that’s made clear we move on to the next step, which is figuring out whether or not we can contribute something to the world that we can both agree is essential and, in a small or sometimes massive way, shift a paradigm that needs shifting. Reverse a gaze. Inform hearts and minds by begging an audience to consider what it looks like from the other side of a situation, the side of the Other, or in some cases from a place less dichotomous than that – perhaps from an even tinier, quieted, underrepresented nook shoved elsewhere outside of society’s narrow sightlines. This is really important to me because I believe that well-told stories teach us about ourselves by virtue of their specificity. The more specific they are, the more universal their effects will be. We ask audiences to project themselves and their experiences onto the images we give them, and a hyperspecific story asks the viewer to offer back their own specifics and fill in their own blanks. This process makes a film personal to the viewer and, ideally, timeless. It asks them to investigate the minutiae/details/circumstances of their own existence. A feedback loop is created. A story is successful if it can do that. In terms of representation, the more we ask an audience to identify with a traditionally unfamiliar archetype, the more audiences might find comfort in relating to unlikely heroes on a regular basis. This is the third level. And if, through art, we might create a more compassionate world by engaging with these specific but often unseen realities, why not at least attempt to not tell the same tales ad nauseam in order to fill seats? Urgency, reconsidering the paradigm, compassion. If there is an ounce of strategy in me it is this, and strategically-speaking this seems a simple enough model to follow.

When Jeanette Catsoulis for the NYT writes that Brett’s film “attempts to make the invisible visible”, it speaks to this urgent call for widespread compassion. And there is no reason why these stories should remain in the hands of documentary filmmakers alone. I’m lucky enough to also be working in fiction filmmaking and television that also strives to put veiled, often ignored people on the screen. To infiltrate the mainstream with these stories is to demand that they belong in plain sight – out of the fringes and onto larger platforms. This is the power we have when we decide where and to whom we give our tireless efforts and hard-earned skills. Until we as a culture reach a place where we can coexist, co-produce, cohabit (these are holistic concepts and you’ve gotta really live it) and co-create with real equality and respect for the experiences lived by all people and have those realities represented on screen, we are cheating ourselves out of a fuller, more nuanced picture and keeping ourselves deprived of a deeper relationship with empathy.  If we don’t at least make the attempt, we will always be fighting the battle for more diversity and we will always be going to extremes to be seen and heard in a climate oversaturated with the same stories told by the same people.

Extremes, though, are how some of the best art is made, so for now I’m grateful for the pushback. This is how we can achieve artistic and professional integrity of an elevated level. This is how we can achieve better art for more people.

If you’re interested in seeing THE PRISON IN TWELVE LANDSCAPES in New York City, it’s playing now until November 10th at Anthology Film Archives. Director Brett Story will be in attendance – to hear her speak about the film is life-changing.

This week Exclaim! launched Rae Spoon’s latest video, directed by Chelsea McMullan & shot by me in an all-genders washroom provided by the lovely folks at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in Toronto:

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For the video, Rae got a group of 23 LGBTQ and ally youth together to make costumes and party hard in protest of archaic bathroom bills.

Very special thanks to amazing gaffer/grip combo whiz Cait Lusk and to Craig Milne at SIM in Toronto for the Amira package that we shot the party with.