We had the good fortune of connecting with Jayson Crothers and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jayson, do you have some perspective or insight you can share with us on the question of when someone should give up versus when they should keep going?
When I was just starting out in undergrad, I remember a teacher telling me that the film industry is incredibly hard and if I could see myself doing ANYTHING else in life and being happy doing it, I should go pursue that other thing. That’s been a barometer for me my whole career – when things get really hard, I check in with myself to see if there’s anything else that I think would make me as happy as this work does. Ultimately the answer is always no, so it becomes a easy decision to keep moving forward. I’ve also learned over time that this industry and our careers in it are very fluid – we have periods where we work a lot and do great work, then we’ll have periods with little or no work, or work we’re not thrilled with. It comes and goes in waves and part of the job is learning to roll with that.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’m a Director of Photography – essentially I’m responsible for what a film or a TV show looks like. The lighting, compositions, camera movement, etc – that all falls under my responsibilities. That’s probably the easiest way to explain what I do, but it’s far more than that. I’m involved with the structure of how a story is told, so my influence extends to virtually every other aspect of filmmaking in some way; that’s one of the two best parts of my job – every day on every job, I have to learn something new and tackle new challenges. Sometimes the challenge is a very creative one that’s based in figuring out how to emotionally unpack a scene, while other times it can be a very technical one that involves learning new technology and approaches to solving a challenge. Every day it’s something new. The other best part of my job is the collaborations – it’s truly the part I enjoy the most about what I do and the thing that gets me jumping out of bed in the morning. I never create anything on my own – it’s an amazing collaboration with lots of different, smart, creative people all putting their best ideas forward and from that melting pot of ideas we typically come up with something wholly different (and usually better) than what any one of us would have come up with individually. I learn and grow and evolve with every project because I’m learning from everyone around me that I work with. It’s the discovery that’s most exciting to me. The things I’m proud of are typically the things that nobody else notices – it’s often the little victories of figuring out how to do something that we were all stuck on, or those happy accidents that happen when everything just falls into place at the right time. The work I’m most proud of are the films that affect people, that leave a lasting impact on people. This is an extremely difficult business and it’s certainly not for everyone, but I think it’s by far the absolute best job in the world. When I began, I had literally no contacts in this world, and it was before digital was the prevalent medium, so I had to very much learn by doing and struggle and fight for every opportunity – I’m a big believer in the idea that hard work and perseverance (and being an enjoyable person to work with) will ultimately get you wherever you want to go; it’s what worked for me.
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.
I’ve lived in LA for about 17 years, but I spend an ENORMOUS amount of time working away from home; a benefit of that is that every time I come home I get to rediscover LA all over again in some way. I’m often gone for 6-10 months at a time, so when I come back I’ll ask friends for suggestions of things to do or places to check out. With that said, ome of my usual spots: Sushi Fuji in Burbank is a go-to spot of mine, Funnel Mill in Santa Monica is arguably my favorite coffee place (and I’m a big coffee snob), and Aroma in Studio City is where I go when I’m craving a great dessert.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’m very much a product of a lot of amazing mentors and teachers. In no particular order, some of my past teachers who made a significant difference in my life and career are Penelope Price, Joanie Colson, Ninoos Bethishou, Stephen Lighthill, ASC and Bill Dill, ASC. Matt McFarland is an old friend who gave me my first paid job on a film set. A long time dear friend and mentor has also been Jay Holben. I’ve been fortunate to have amazing people support me over the years.