October 20, 2022

Back in Utah - Unit Still Photographer


Goodbye Atlanta


As a film industry expert, I am often asked how I like living in Atlanta, Georgia. With an amazing film community that has come a long way in the last decade, I tell people that I have loved every minute of my experience.


Having the opportunity to work on productions with top-notch cast and crews, I wouldn't have changed anything about my experience. I love the people and climate. The southern food is amazing, and the warmer winters are a plus. Still, it is time to move on and go back to where my family calls home, Utah.


Looking back


Born and raised in Utah in the '70s and '80s was what I knew. Scorching hot summers followed by the crisp fall weather and vibrant colors were just part of life. The winters were full of skiing and snow days, where school was canceled because of the huge winter storms that would drop 5 to 12 inches of soft white blankets of snow.


I was always amazed by the film sets that would pop up around the city all year round and looked on with wonder as I imagined which star might be inside the cast trailers. It was always a pull for me. Wanting to know who might be in my little city making a movie or television show. So much so that when I was 8 years my mother took me to the opening night of the Sundance Film Festival. There I met Robert Redford, who was a Utah legend, among other high-profile celebrities of the time. Sitting in a darkened Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City, Utah. I felt the draw of film like never before. Still, it would be many years before I found my way onto the set of a production.


In 1994, while working as a mobile locksmith, I ran across a huge film set in downtown Salt Lake City. Having some time, I decided to make my way on set to see what I could see. Because I had a huge cell phone on one hip and a handheld radio on the other, no one questioned me being there and going wherever I wanted. I spent several hours on set mingling with the cast and crew and watching the amazing Jim Carey and Jeff Daniels shoot the entire "Alpine Preservation Society" scene in the old Union Pacific Train Station. Jim Carey even elbowed me and rhetorically said, "Wasn't that perfect?" while watching the playback of the cane dueling shot at the scene's opening. I was hooked!


It was bound to happen


It would be a couple of years before I would begin my career in the film industry, but my photography journey, which I began in 1985 in an elective middle school class, would continue as it had professionally for almost 5 years up to that point.


After being accepted into Local 600 in July of 2005 while living in Oceanside, CA, I moved back to Utah once again. Not because I felt like Utah was the place to work in film, but because my young children needed their father nearby and I wasn’t in a place to move my family to California. So, the Union would have to wait.


In 2010 I made a huge life choice by joining the United States Army as a Combat Medic. It was a dream I had put off for almost 15 years since I had small children and didn’t have the support a decision like that would require.


4 years later and after a lot of globe-trotting I returned to Utah once again and decided to return to film. In 2016 I was once again accepted into Local 600 and spent the next several years working as a Unit Stills Photographer in and out of Utah.


With productions like Kevin Costner’s, Yellowstone, I built up my portfolio and planned to move to a bigger film hub like Los Angeles or Atlanta. Being rostered in the western region gave me a bit of an advantage in that I could work anywhere in the United States as a Union Stills Photographer. But it put me at a disadvantage when working in the Central & Eastern Regions where no type of entrance process was used, so anyone with $3k could join the Union and work. This made the markets over-saturated in those regions and competition unnaturally high compared to the past.


Hello Atlanta


Still, I made the move to Atlanta, GA, and immediately began working. Getting work with NatGeo, Hulu, and NBC in the first 30 days of arriving, I was excited and happy with the move.  My time in Atlanta gave me the opportunity to meet up with several other Atlanta-based union photographers, something that never happened in Utah, being the only one local to that state. I finally felt part of something bigger.


Being in Atlanta has been a pleasure. I really do love it. I hope to return often for work. But for now, Utah is calling me back home. Utah needs a local Union photographer, and my family needs my default Utah setting to be home, not vacation.


Hello Again Utah


Utah really does have an amazing film industry. I’m honored to call it my home and look forward to sharing my new adventures on sets from Utah! I look forward to seeing my old crew friends and meeting the new ones that have since entered the industry.