We had the good fortune of connecting with Ben Kasulke and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ben, how do you think about risk?
My relationship to artistic risk taking is rooted in finding a way to feel financially stable in the moment.
All of the members of my immediate family worked in the medical field, and my setting out into a creative career in film as young adult seemed like a gigantic risk. I had no one in my life that had any practical advice on how to make ends meet as a freelancer in a field that seemed competitive and financially irresponsible. After college I was idealistic enough to jump into a career in film and have taken it one step at a time for the past two decades.
The choice to pursue a living in a field that seemed, in comparison to medicine, at times frivolous or optional was already a big leap out of my comfort zone. A freelance livelihood was a scary proposition and losing a dependable paycheck was terrifying.
Transitioning into a precarious financial situation as a freelance Cinematographer forced me to assess what my absolute requirements were for a sense immediate financial stability in a way that was not possible for me when I had a more 9-5 lifestyle. Once I had a logistical understanding of what I fiscally needed to survive and feel secure: an apartment, food, a means to travel when needed…. I had a very concrete way of gauging how to take artistic risks….
I knew that as long as I had my basic needs met, and lived within my budget while keeping myself happy and sane, I could dive into any film collaborations that I wanted to without having to prioritize which projects to shoot based on a needed financial payout later down the line. I lived within my means and adjusted my lifestyle to a require a fairly lean budget as a way to open options for risk taking in my project choices.
It sounds so boring when I spell it out, but crafting a lifestyle that does not require artistic endeavors to have a huge financial payoff was essential to my being able to take artistic risks throughout my career.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I have been a Director Of Photography for two decades on all manner of feature films, television series, short films, documentaries, video art, performances, and web series.
I thrive on collaboration with loved ones and trying to articulate the human experience through images, sound, and edited time.
It has been a long and organic path that has been filled with much more joy than it has hardship, I would not say it was an easy life choice but the positives have always outweighed the negatives….
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Hike Griffith Park at sunrise or sunset, bonus points for detouring past the Frank Lloyd Wright Ennis House for Blade Runner flashbacks on the way downhill.
Tacos at Guisado’s, get the quesadilla and fish tacos or it didn’t happen
Surfing at County Line, Sunset, San Onofre, Bolsa Chica, Leo Carillo, and Surfrider
Picnic in Elysian Park
Record Shopping at Amoeba, Record Parlor, Vacation Records, Cosmic Vinyl, Record Surplus
Get to a movie at the Motion Picture Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater, The New Beverly, The Aero, and The Los Feliz Three once the American Cinematheque programming begins on 35mm. If you are here in the warmer months, the Cinespia outdoor series at Hollywood Forever Cemetary is the best.
Find an insider to get you to The Magic Castle
Book stores not to miss: Stories, Skylight, The Last Bookstore, Book Soup, Vroman’s
Meals are required at Superba, Wood Spoon, Los Balcones, Little Door, Mercado, Speranza, Cacao, and any of your friend’s backyards 10 months a year.
Echo Park has a farmer’s market on Fridays: get there early, get some pineapple tamales, take them home and sear them in a cast iron skillet
Night walks in any of the hilled neighborhoods of Northeast LA never disappoint.
Box seats at the Hollywood Bowl are totally worth it, artist depending.
The Greek Theater is worth the hype.
The free summer concert series at the Labrea Park is essential, bring a picnic
My go to venues for music The Echo, The Echoplex, The Bootleg Theater
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory is known to open it’s doors to the public on occasion, this would be required.
A motorcycle ride along Molholland
A drive up to the Angeles Crest Highway
Before you arrive please watch City of Gold to get your bearing both geographically and gastronomically.
This city is a giant labyrinth that gets better the longer you wander around.
Hopefully you flew into Burbank or Long beach, but if you have to fly out via LAX, get some body surfing in at El Porto before hitting the airport.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Andy Pratt and The Image Treasury for taking an early risk on me right out of school.
The Northwest Film Forum, Gregg Lachow and The Film Company for allowing me to quit the day job and make films full time as freelancer.
John Lee and Vernon Chatman at PFFR for that first TV Series.
Lynn Shelton for 15 years of friendship and making movies.
Mom and Dad for offering support early on and being honest about knowing nothing about how to make ends meet as a freelance worker in film.
Darin Moran Production: Banana Split Production Company: LD Entertainment, American High, Eskimo Sisters, LLC Distributor: Vertical Enteratainment