We had the good fortune of connecting with Nick Vera and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nick, why did you pursue a creative career?
Like many individuals who pursue artistic or creative careers, I pursued cinematography and filmmaking because it is what gives me a sense of purpose. It’s what makes me feel content. There are these small moments I have when I’m working on a shot list, or analyzing a camera move, or creatively thinking ways I can visually make a story beat or character’s actions visually stronger, that I forget about my other stressors in life. I’m so focused on the creative task at hand that ego and worries fade away. In a way, it becomes a form of meditation. That is something that filmmaking and cinematography do for me personally. It’s an influential reason why I love cinematography so much. Saying that, choosing a creative career is both very rewarding and yet terrifying. In one end, you are doing something that allows you to express who you are in a visual medium. You are using your cognitive abilities, your creativity, your instinct, your emotions to create something that you hope will influence you and the audience’s living experience. But in the other end of the spectrum, you have to pay your bills and survive as an artist. Choosing a creative career is a tricky path. It isn’t for those that wish to make a great deal of money, at least at the beginning. Work also isn’t consistent. So as an artist, one of your jobs is to find consistent work, which is easier said than done. Your love for your creative craft whether it be filmmaking, painting, music, etc. has to be something you’re very certain and confident about. You have to give 110% to it, even if it means having a side job so that you can continue doing your creative pursuits.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Some of the questions listed above I believe I have answered in past Q&A’s and I believe the purpose of the questions is to help others who are interested in pursuing the field of cinematography. So I’m going to say what I think is important for those who are inspired to be Cinematographers. Cinematography is an art form that is mostly known in the film industry circle. If you ask someone outside of the film industry what a cinematographer does, chances are they may not know the answer. But with current day digital technology breakthroughs in the video world, pretty much anyone can learn the answer of what a cinematographer does. Right now, you can shoot some pretty impressive video footage and create visual stories with the phone you have in your hand. The video quality of the phones today are much better and more advanced than the standalone video cameras I would shoot with in the mid to late 2000’s. It’s astonishing. There is little to no excuse to say one can’t be a cinematographer in today’s digital age. It was much more difficult when almost all motion picture footage was shot on film. I believe the only challenge you have today is figuring out the stories you want to tell. It’s what really separates everyone apart. Our individuality and our story telling skills is what makes us all unique. The camera is just a tool. You are the real reason why a film can be told subjectively well or poorly . Along the way you will figure out there are four different aspects you have to master and balance as a cinematographer. Those four aspects are technology, creativity, psychology, and collaboration. A camera can’t master those things for you, but shooting small films and stories can help you learn more about these aspects as well as help you learn more about yourself as an artist and as a human. The best part is the more you shoot, the more you learn.
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 think at this moment in time, it’s a bit difficult to go out and explore Los Angeles due to Covid. But if you want take out, you definitely should try Bludso’s Bar& Que. Definitely the best Bar B Que in town. Their pork ribs and brisket are amazing. Lil Dom’s in Los Feliz is also great if you like home style Italian food. My favorite coffee shop is Blue Bottle. They are sprinkled all over LA. A friend and classmate of mine named Jack McDonald introduced me to their New Orlean’s cold brew. Hands down, my favorite cup of coffee. If you would like to go for a walk, check out Palisades Park. It’s one of my favorite areas in LA. On a side note, I hope I could afford to live in that area one day. Definitely my favorite neighborhood. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There’s a great deal of individuals who deserve credit along the way for helping me get to this point in life I am currently at. Definitely my family. They have helped me over the years with many obstacles and I’m blessed to have them by my side. My high school professor, Rick Funes, helped me focus on the importance of going after one’s creative goals. Egon Stephan Jr. from Cine Video Tech, taught me at the beginning of my career how a camera team operates and how you can still have fun when you are working on set. Eduardo Merille and the Florida International University’s Media Relations team were just a phenomenal group of people to work with and have fun with. They taught me some tricks in the marketing world using photography and video. They also taught me the importance of having a collaborative, tight, and supportive team. Robert Keslow and the Keslow Camera team helped me get my foot in the door when I moved to Los Angeles. Ever since then, they have helped me a great deal on many productions I have shot. Definitely one of my favorite places to go to in Los Angeles and definitely the place I prioritize when I need to rent camera gear. The American Film Institute Conservatory for sure has been a life changer for me. Paulette Palafox and Jill Murrin were extremely supportive when I entered the conservatory. They definitely opened another huge door for me. My professors Jacek Laskus, ASC, PSC, Bill Dill, ASC , Michael Pessah, ASC, Charles Rose, Rose Fadem-Johnston, Sandra Valde, Stephen Lighthill, ASC, have all been extremely helpful in my educational pursuits. Chris Schwartz and Nathalie Curtis also have been amazing to work with and converse with at the Conservatory. I mean so many folks there, James West, Patty West, Kevin Bui, Robert Myrtle, Michael Ramos, Vanessa Hayes. Too many to name that have helped me the last two years since I’ve attended the Conservatory. Really have to give a shout out to them. The friends and collaborators I’ve made along the way have been priceless, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to have met them. Reed Smoot, ASC, Eduard Grau, Dana Gonzales, ASC, Armando Salas, ASC, James Neihouse, ASC, Paul Cameron, ASC, Joe Provenzano, Mitch Dubin, SOC, Wally Pfister, ASC, have also played a huge part in helping me learn, challenge myself, and be inspired for the last couple of years. I really look forward to learning more from them and helping them along the way.