What was that first phase of your creative career like after quitting your day job and picking up a camera?
Have you ever heard the phrase “burn the ships”? That’s when the captains would burn the ships to reinforce the idea there was no going back. That’s how I thought of things when I first grabbed the camera. It was learning, failing, and learning again. The only option was to figure it out.
When I first got my camera I knew literally nothing. I made a promise to myself that I would use it everyday for 90 days straight, so I surrounded myself with people that were more advanced than me. I looked at others that inspired me and thought the only difference between them and I was that they just have had more time to work at this.
With enough time and work I believed wholeheartedly I could do this as well. I shot passion projects almost every week and as those videos grew, I became known in my city and started getting booked for jobs.
I think that’s a mistake a lot of young creators make: they just sit around and hope for gigs to pop up.
Instead of waiting, I created every single day to make it known what I could do. If you’re a young creative, stick with it, but most importantly create for yourself and your love of it first and then the rest will follow.
You once traveled across the country in a limo and put it on Youtube. Talk about what that experience was like?
It was really early on, but I got a call from a mutual friend and a couple days later we were on a plane to Maine to buy a limo with three strangers.
The goal was to make it across the country and then make it on the Ellen show.
I got to be around them for about a month and learned so much about editing and shooting during that time period. The highlight of the experience was when we threw a night club party in our limo while driving around Times Square picking up strangers.
It’s one of those experiences I’ll look back on for the rest of my life. It was a new opportunity I said “yes” to and just ran with it. A lot of time fear can block people from doing something, but in the creative field the word “yes” has contributed to my success the most.
How did you link up with Alex Bazzell and what were some highlights from that first summer working together?
At the time, I had been covering a youth basketball camp in Kansas City for a buddy of mine named Luke Cooper who happens to be an NBA skills trainer. I shot for him for a couple weeks at the camp when he gave me a call a couple weeks later saying he had a roommate out in LA looking for a creator for the summer. That was Alex Bazzell.
Again, without knowing much at all I said yes and flew out to LA.
Ironically, the first player I stepped into shoot was Kevin Porter Jr. who the Cavs eventually drafted. As the summer developed I got to shoot Kobe, Melo, Trae, Kyrie, Candace Parker, Jamie Foxx, and so many more incredible people.
That summer was my first work with the NBA and hoped something would come of it. The greatest highlight of the time was being around Kobe and his team and Kobe eventually following and reposting my work. I worked every day shooting, editing, creating and delivering my best hoping it would pay off. A summer I wouldn’t change for anything.
The Cavs caught wind of your talent, offered you a role and then you won an Emmy shortly after. How did that all come to fruition?
The Cleveland Cavaliers drafted KPJ with the 30th overall pick. When that took place the Cavs were looking to add more new age creatives that could do photo and video to help their brand.
They initially discovered my work on KPJ’s Instagram page. From there they went through my own page and saw the caliber of work I was doing and eventually reached out to start the interview process. I got a role with the organization and moved to Cleveland two days after making my decision.
Immediately upon arriving, I shot Media Day the very next day. The content we captured that day and the following was later turned into a documentary called “Rents Due”. A few months later we found out that the documentary was selected to win an Emmy. Pulling off the Emmy for what was my first project was massive validation for me and signified I was meant to be at this level.
What’s your daily process like? How do you stay motivated to get out there every day?
Let’s talk through a game day.
Walk-ins begin around 4 or 5 depending on game time. I will go through and make sure everything is charged, cleaned, prepped, and ready to go. We run down to the tunnel and gather all the content for walk-ins.
Usually we’ll do a photo or video depending on who I am shooting with and we turn those pics and video around instantly to post. Fit pics are a massive part of the league and super crucial to get out immediately, especially with guys like K Love on the squad.
Next up we have pre-game warmups. We will usually have a player or two to highlight. Maybe they had a big game the night before or some milestone they’re approaching. Overall we're capturing most of what’s going on for that.
Next up we get ready for tip off. We usually have a bit of a break before the team runs out. From this point forward we are “on”. I start the first half on court and I shoot both photo and video during the entire game. And it’s all at my discretion. Predominantly we shoot video for every offensive play and typically photos for the in between times. This content goes out immediately.
When a big play happens and I nail the shot, we’ll turn that highlight around on the court instantly during the next timeout. We have a minute and a half to throw it in Adobe Premiere, get it prepared, exported and sent out. Our team has reached the point where I will get the shot sent out before the timeout even ends. That is something we pride ourselves on. With the Cavs it’s about quality, quantity, and efficiency. This pace continues for the duration of the game.
At the end, I will get the top photos out right after the game so that they have it to post the next morning. If we win, or need to make an edit, I will be up till 2 or 3 a.m. - often later - to turn around a mix of what we captured.
Then it’s back in the office the next day around 10 or 11 to do it all again.
What excites you most about the upcoming season?
I can’t wait to get back out there and start shooting again. It’s a privilege and an honor to get to shoot our guys and also get some flicks of the opposing teams every game.
Through this experience I’ve gotten shots of pretty much everyone in the league and because of my relationships through off-season work I am able to reconnect with my guys throughout the season. So I'm definitely excited for that.
It’s going to be a strange start to the season with Covid-19 but getting back out there - back to what I love most - and capturing any and all of it is what I’m most excited for.
The NBA is a quick league. It’s dynamic, constantly changing, and always trying to expand in content. I have the creative freedom to try new ideas, concepts and get more efficient in what we are putting out. I hope that more than anything I’m looked at in the league as someone people respect, but more so as a guy that younger creatives can come to for advice, help, and encouragement.
At the end of it all my priority is taking care of the people that I shoot and taking care of the people that look up to me. Because it wasn’t that long ago I was in their shoes wondering how to get to where I am now. By no means have I made it yet. I too have big plans and I’m ready for what’s to come. I hope to continue to push basketball photographers and videographers toward more positivity, encouragement, and challenging it to always get better.