Thoughtful Direction and Inspired Cinematography

"Space Tree", Cinematographer, 2010

Directing Moment By Moment

There are few things in life as wonderful as directing motion pictures. But there is a fragile line that divides the pleasurable experience of a productive, creative project and one that is painstakingly wrought with chaos, bad tempers and demoralizing failures. Pre-visualization and pre-production planning are the director's most important jobs—and the least glamorized. It is a job that I relish and is what makes me a thoughtful, prepared and effective director.

You can say that I am obsessed with details. I love taking the abstract blueprint of a script and breaking it down into its component pieces, its subtexts and creating the visual path that will eventually make the whole. I love the hard work of unearthing the emotional minutia needed to create an honest and memorable performance. And I love the collaboration of art and photography in making each motion picture resonate with the spiritual core of the audience.

A director must delve into the script to find its spirit before a single frame of film is exposed—it is in understanding and saturating oneself with that quiet and bashful identity of story that allows production to have purpose, meaning and rewards of personal satisfaction.

I am a script whisperer.

Cinematography's Luminous Brush

If directing is one of life’s pure joys, cinematography is the other. As with directing, cinematography requires a deft understanding of the emotional and functional structure of the motion picture. Undoubtedly, cinematography is a highly technical craft. It is surrounded by numerous lenses, cameras, film-stocks, digital codecs, a crazy zoo of luminaries and a constant, potentially lethal dose of electrification. Yet these are merely the brushes of the cinematographer, not the art of cinematography itself.

Cinematography is painting with light. Certainly the analogy is easy to grasp: the stage is our canvas, the light our brushes and the colors we choose—our paints. But the deeper analogy which is often overlooked is that a master painter must be versed in the visual language of fine art. How does one create affinity of tone? Of color? How does one contrast? How does one create space, lessen space, or take space completely away? How does one separate figure from field, or lose figure into field? What the hell is gestalt? How does one orchestrate visual rhythm? These are the similarities cinematographer has with painter as each communicate with the same visual vocabulary and do so with intention. I am a cinematographer because:

I paint with light.

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What People Say

"I've worked with Austen extensively on numerous projects including feature films, music videos, corporate videos, Web series and PSAs. In every situation, he has unfailingly shown a high degree commitment to the project, professionalism on set, and an inspiring level of dedication to his craft as a filmmaker. On a particularly hot and arduous 16-hour shoot in the middle of the Mojave Desert, Austen's resourcefulness, flexibility, and attention to detail saved the production hours of extra shooting time and a possible reshoot. And at the end of the day, he took an hour and a half to drive the director home!"

—Phillip Giarratano, Director / Producer

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