We had the good fortune of connecting with Justin Kane and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Justin, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I see risk as movement: I make choices that can radically or incrementally change my journey. My first few years in the film industry were made of unmotivated steps to just get paid and I didn’t quite know how find my flow as a cinematographer. For about 5 years I felt stagnant and I needed to take a big leap to change course. I decided to apply to grad school to build a deeper connection with the craft. It was at the American Film Institute that I developed my own eye in a collective of filmmakers. This was a huge financial risk for me, but the AFI program unveiled my process for choosing which projects to shoot, which filmmakers to collaborate with, and most importantly forming my instincts to design images that an audience can engage with. Every step or stride I’ve taken since has deepened my interest in the craft, and while progress isn’t always clear, my mistakes help shape and motivate the future of my artistry.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I gravitate to photographing stories that explore organic tropes of human nature and identity. I find that American Film as a category has so much to offer, yet we’ve barely scraped the surface of what it means to be American. There is more that we can discuss on film today as our perspective of identity is evolving at an accelerated rate. In this evolution, every cinematographer has their own approach. I’ve spent time thinking about other artists’ work, but beyond inspiration, comparison can be detrimental to progress. My style fluctuates as I go on, but I do think that there is a common thread sewn through my work that signifies me. Weaving our threads together is how we create new experiences. When I translate my director’s vision I push to integrate point of view as both spectator and participant to the story. I love when a project feels balanced with the right amount of coordination and chaos where needed. That’s life in its best effort. I’ve been shooting for 12 years, but I’ll forever be a student of the craft. A mentor of mine told me early on that one day it will all just click, and I’ll know what to do with a given scene. I think I’m getting close to that, but new challenges present new avenues to explore. I’m good with not clicking into any sort of autonomy. The most important thing is to keep trying new things and to collaborate with those that can push me forward. If it feels hauntingly beautiful on paper and exploring unheard voices, I am in.
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 travel a lot for work, and I usually clock a city by their coffee and food. When guests come to visit LA, I do the same process: We eat. I live on the Eastside and coffee is a serious side-passion for me. If I’m not pulling shots on the home machine, then I’ll push for a trip to Maru Coffee, although I’m from the Bay Area so I’ll always hail Sight Glass and Blue Bottle. They’ve all got it down to a science, which I appreciate. For food, take a trip to Venice and wait in line at Gjusta – it’s worth it. Or stay east and enjoy Hail Mary, Night Market Song, or L&E. Don’t miss Proof for croissant and get a bottle at Silverlake Wine or Tilda. Aside from food and drink, get outside. Go hike, walk around, visit the many wonderful museums around the city. Then leave. go up the coast to an empty beach, or to Joshua Tree. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I owe a lot of where I am to my classmates during my time at AFI. It’s a special collection of wonderful people from around the globe and I’m proud to call many of them my closest friends, colleagues, and inspirations a decade later. AFI is a family, and my fellow classmates are some of the most important connections I’ve made in my career.
Brad Crosby, Dean Snodgrass