With hundreds of careers and opportunities, the filmmaking industry can be a unique experience for a Filmmaker. Filmtools decided to take a deeper look into the world of a Filmmaker. This week, we had the opportunity to speak to filmmaker Kevin Stiller about his work. This is what he said:
What is your name and where are you from?
Kevin Stiller: My name is Kevin Stiller and I’m from Sugar Land, Texas.
What is your primary role on set?
Kevin Stiller: Primarily I work as a DP, but I also enjoy 1st ACing!
Who is a person in the industry that is on top of his or her game in your role?
Kevin Stiller: I truly admire Jeff Cronenweth’s work. I consider his work to be a bible of cinematography and I often find myself questioning how he can make challenging lighting and blocking choices appear so seamless and fluid.
If you had to impress someone with your work, what would be the most “well-known” content that you’ve worked on?
Kevin Stiller: That would have to be Rhett & Link’s Tour of Mythicality live at the Wiltern. However, I was the Technical Director for that project. It was a single twenty hour day that had two months of pre-pro leading up to it. Nearly a dozen HD feeds with thousands of feet of cable runs. The whole works – all during a live audience performance sent to the web for PPV. It was one of those gigs where if a single cog in the wheel had stopped working, it could have meant potential disaster. I felt like I had a second Bar Mitzvah at the conclusion of that shoot.
Best craft service food?
Kevin Stiller: One day I will have enough time to fully spread cream cheese on my bagel without interruption – and when I do – that will be my craft services snack of choice.
What’s the coolest project you’ve worked on before?
Kevin Stiller: I worked on a phenomenal documentary project with Chris Moore: the EP of Good Will Hunting, American Pie, & Manchester By The Sea. He is a goldmine of producing talent and wisdom. He could sell you a car if you had walked into a gap wanting to buy pants. Up until working with him, I had focused my career towards creative & technical, but he showed me just how important it is to equally balance confidence on set as a leader and managing work-related politics.
What’s the first thing you do on set?
Kevin Stiller: Usually, I say hello to my entire crew and walk them through the day. The most important thing to me on larger shoots is to make sure everyone is on the same page and comfortable with the day. I have seen too many projects suffer due to lack of communication or expectations.
How did you break into the industry?
Kevin Stiller: This is interesting because I believe the answer is based on perspective. The long and short of it is that I still don’t feel like I’ve broken into the industry at all. If I was able to send a snapshot of my life now to my 18-year-old self, I’m sure he would most certainly think I have broken into the industry. When I see my many other talented colleagues doing amazing things I feel like I have quite a ways to go, but that’s the fun of it! My dad always taught me: “it’s the journey, not the destination.” I hold that to heart every day.
Current TV obsession?
Kevin Stiller: I can’t believe it took me this long, but I just finished my Game of Thrones binge. My God, that show. Also, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is so absolutely gorgeously shot.
Do you binge-watch shows or pace them out?
Kevin Stiller: Past habits point to binging. Why does that feel bad to admit to?
What piece of gear do you have your eye on?
Kevin Stiller: NiSi’s new full frame cinema lenses are releasing soon and I had the utmost privilege to demo the first set in the US. I have to say I am beyond thrilled with the way they look and feel. The optical design was originally the Bokkelux which NiSi then acquired, polished the kinks, and then created an entire set. The flare the lenses produce is absolutely gorgeous. When a point source enters the glass, it excites the warmers coatings and really gives the image character. They are also beautifully sharp and optimized for 8K resolution. I can’t wait to shoot more long-form projects on these lenses.
Camera – Should you own or rent?
It’s no doubt that owning a camera can be beneficial in many ways. I own one, but it doesn’t go out on every job. I am a big believer in the phrase: “It’s the Indian not the arrow.” (shoutout to John Rice, my cinematography professor) To me, the camera is just a tool and I will use whatever is right for the job. It is important to see owning gear as a financially motivated one. If you find yourself as a freelancer or company that is renting multiple times a month, it becomes more reasonable to buy a package. Try not to see owning gear as a tool for boosting your career growth, but rather the other way around.
Lenses – Should you own or rent?
Kevin Stiller: I feel the general rule of thumb is that if a piece of equipment can’t change much due to restrictions of our fundamental laws of physics (glass, light, etc.) then it’s a much safer investment than cameras.
What is your preferred camera system?
Kevin Stiller: The one that gets the job done!
Someone that is starting out in the industry, what advice would you give them?
“The difference between a master and a beginner is that the master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.” – Stephen McCranie
Where can people see your work?
My website www.kevinstiller.com is usually updated with samples of my work.
Where can people follow you on social?
Kevin Stiller: My instagram is @kevin_stiller and I use Facebook primarily for social as well! Feel free to hit me up there.
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