We had the good fortune of connecting with J. Connor Bjornson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi J. Connor, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Taking risks has been essential in my life and career as a cinematographer. It’s hard to tell where I would be now if I had played things safe, but choosing to leave part of my old life behind in Toronto, Canada to further my studies in cinematography at the American Film Institute was not an easy decision. It was definitely a risk — financially, emotionally, and so on. In my opinion taking risks are key in continuing your growth and furthering your life and career. It’s important to realize they may not always pay off. I can surely say some of these risks have weighed on me, however, in the end they resulted in many positive outcomes such as new friendships, life experiences, and knowledge.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Let me introduce myself a bit more! I’m a Canadian-American cinematographer based in Los Angeles. I earned my BFA in film production at York University’s film program in Toronto and went on to continue my studies at the American Film Institute. There I graduated with the class of 2020 after completing my thesis film which will soon be starting its early festival run!
As a cinematographer I have been drawn to character driven narratives dealing with mystery, ambiguity and introspective conflicts. I strive for visual storytelling that appears simple yet is deeply rooted in emotional context. I try to approach my lighting with an enhanced naturalism and am constantly fascinated by the physics of light. I’m mostly concerned with recreating settings that feel real, but are tailored to the storytelling of the particular narrative. I mostly prefer a reserved camera that remains invisible on the surface, fading into the background of the story while subtly hinting, foreshadowing, or otherwise suggesting specific narrative cues, holding back bolder camera placements and movements for particularly deserving moments within the story.
My early successes began in film school, being recognized for best cinematography at York University’s Cineseige for two consecutive years. I was a finalist in the annual CSC awards in 2018, and my work has screened at festivals such as Calgary International Film Festival, Orlando Film Festival, Austin After Dark, BFI Future Film Festival and so on. I have dabbled in many genres although my favorites would include drama, thriller, science fiction and horror — although I’m mostly fascinated by the type of movies that blend these genres in interesting ways!
I’m still early on in my career and constantly on the lookout for interesting people to collaborate with, so if you have an idea for something and it sounds like we would get along, please do reach out and let’s make it a reality!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I have yet to branch out and truly discover what the city of LA has to offer, so we would definitely need to explore a bit together! So far I have spent a lot of time in Los Feliz, where there are some great cafes, restaurants, book stores and so on! The beach or hiking some trials in the mountains is always a great choice as well!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would love to dedicate my shoutout to Stephen Reizes csc, who allowed me to shadow him on the set of Frankie Drake Mysteries for a short time in Toronto, Canada during my undergrad education. He truly taught me so much by letting me in on his process and giving me the opportunity to watch him work from the sidelines!