You started off as a music producer, what led you to picking up a camera and shooting videos and films?
For a long time, I existed as a singer/songwriter, waiting for my shot at becoming the next superstar, unfairly comparing myself to the likes of Ne-Yo, Musiq Soulchild, and D'Angelo. As I grew in my craft, it was important to explore different genres of music, so naturally, I began producing music for various artists and writers. Music production is my first love and has allowed me to design my creativity using the element of TIME as my canvas...but I was young and impatient. Without getting too lofty, a picture is worth a thousand words, and video is a multi-dimensional playground that allows me to create worlds and stories beyond my imagination. With a camera, I'm able to create using movement and light, story and actors, memories, and inspiration. It is my natural evolution.
How important is it to have a passion for the work?
I believe there are people that can go to work every day, grab drinks, plan trips, have babies, and take pictures to validate their existence and still never achieve a deep or true sense of fulfillment. We only get one shot to do the things we could possibly want in life, and some people squander their opportunity by following a set of pre-conceived ideas set before them by society and or cultural nurturing. Rarely do we ask ourselves, who am I? What do I want to say? How important is this? In order to reach the deepest level of satisfaction, or the most honest place in your heart, or the most altruistic gesture towards someone else, in my opinion, it is paramount for someone to have passion for their work. Without this key element, you are simply wasting your time and the time of others.
What is the difference between a cinematographer, producer and director?
A cinematographer is a person who uses the camera to create a visual story. A video producer will oversee the full spectrum of a project from beginning to the end, e.g., the development of the story down to the delivery of the final product. A director is responsible for the creative vision of a project by making choices that best serve the script or the overall creative direction of the project.
What role do you gravitate toward?
It's funny, depending on the project I often find myself holding the camera, but that doesn't necessarily mean I'm not directing either. I exist somewhere between a director, cinematographer, and editor.
What personality or character traits are necessary to excel in this field?
The personality/character traits that almost always win is when someone becomes a team player. When I maintain an elastic mind and don't take anything personally, I always end up getting more money, new opportunities, or new friend and connections.
In terms of creators of music videos and film, who do you like?
I was fortunate enough to grow up in the 90s and early 00s when music videos had high production and very colorful aesthetic to them. Directors like Spike Jonze, Hype Williams, Brett Ratner, and F. Gary Gray were among some of my favorite. They were essential movie directors who understood the importance of creating wonderful looking set designs through a big cinematic lens, so to speak.
What makes good cinematography?
Good cinematography is complex. Creating a world that is subtle and emotional using lighting techniques that evoke ideas of wonder and complexity is a serious skill. Cinematography should be full of information without being blatant and obvious. That said, it's also pretty subjective.
What makes a good camera?
I want to say there's no such thing as a good camera, only good users, but the reality is there are great cameras that do some amazing things. First, what's true is, if you bought the most expensive camera and filmed the most famous person delivering the most important script, there's still a chance you'll fuck it up. Relying on a machine to deliver something that is nuanced and requires a human touch will not always yield the best results. A good camera is as good as the person operating it. A good camera is the one you feel the most comfortable using. A good camera will surprise you when you push it to its limits. It's subjective and relative to its application. With that said, if you are filming a bunch of kids for a summer program, a Canon T6 with an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens would do the job. If you were filming something for Netflix or Quibi, you may want to spend your life savings on a Red, Blackmagic, or an ARRI Alexa. (And I haven't even touched on the cost of lenses and all the accouterment.)
Do you think that digital production work is changing and if so how?
Yes, I absolutely think digital production work is changing. Every day, consumers demand higher quality that's faster, unique, and more user-friendly. Companies want to meet the demands of their consumers in order to stay relevant and competitive. There are innovations in computers, cameras, music equipment, and phones that push social media platforms and company websites forward while keeping the consumer's experience in mind. Anything to keep the consumer in a cyclical digital whirlwind while giving the illusion that it's about working smarter, not harder.
Now that people watch films on TV, computers and even their phones, do you think about that end experience when you are shooting?
Whenever a project is about to begin production (filming), there is most likely a collection of people that have created a map, (script or blueprint) on how to approach the material they are about to create. There are early conversations about where the video will be featured, what the most appropriate format must be, and the standards of the platform in which the video will be delivered to. Nothing is done randomly or haphazardly. Everything is scripted. Everything!
Which one is more important: light or shadow?
Although I like the idea of using shadows, light is ultimately important for capturing images or video. Without light, there are no shadows.
What is your involvement in pre-production, production and post-production?
The level of involvement depends on the role I play. If I am hired as a cinematographer, I'm involved in only the production. If I'm a writer, I'm involved in the pre-production. If I'm a director, I might be involved in the pre-production, but most likely I've been hired to do the production and maybe some of the post-production. If I am a producer, I'm surely involved in all phases of the production and I'll need a nap afterward.
Do you work with the team on the production budget?
Companies will often involve me in their early discussions about the production costs since they'll want to know what kind of equipment we'll want to use or how to best cut costs around certain scenes. Production is all about the best bang for your buck.
Is it possible to produce great work using limited resources?
Yes, that called filmmaking 101! Tennis legend, Arthur Ashe, once said, “start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.” As a filmmaker, creating the most compelling, cinematic scenes is what I always strive for. But when it doesn't work out that way I intended, I resort to figuring out another way to achieve what I had in mind. I practice being resourceful and crafty. I allow my imagination to take control and use the elements or the people-power around me in order to get the shot I want. For instance, no crane? Use a ladder. Bad lighting? Look for natural light, or maybe even open up the iris of the lens. Sometimes, the shot will have more character simply because there was more collective effort used to make it the best it could be.
What is the best advice you’ve been given throughout your career that has stuck with you?
The best advice I've ever received would have to be: do what you love. No title or fame or wealth will ever replace the sense of joy and accomplishment you will feel when you do something you love. Period.
How can people find you?
Facebook: @ facebook.com/jordanbattiste
Email @ firstname.lastname@example.org.