Here at Studio Center, our DP, or Director of Photography is Chris Karvellas. Chris has been in the business for over 30 years and has worn many hats. This one fits him well. The Director of Photography has tremendous responsibility and the job requires versatility, dedication, talent, patience, and toughness. Just trying to keep up with all of Chris’s Tasks requires an Excel Spreadsheet! On a typical Studio Center Video Shoot, Chris begins by scouting the location or locations. He plans camera angles, lighting, and verifies that he’ll have the resources to perform the shoot to our high expectations. Next, Chris meets with the Producer/Producers in a “Pre Pro” Meeting to lay out the plans for the shoot and to share what he learned from his “Scout”. On set, he’ll begin his “Set Design”, meaning he’ll arrange any props, furniture etc. to fit his and the client’s vision and mesh with his lighting and camera angles. Once the shoot starts Chris, shoots (sometimes), directs, gaffs, and interfaces with the client, producers, actors, and all crew. He will then review the raw footage and plan his vision for Post Production. Many times, he “sits” for the entire Post Production Process with both the Video Editor and Audio Engineer. Here at Studio Center, we strive for perfection and settle for excellence and Chris Karvellas lives this mantra every day. I’ve pulled Chris out of an Edit to ask him a few questions about being “The DP”.
Me: What’s up Christopher?
Chris: Not much out of the ordinary. I was involved with an edit.
Me: I’m doing a little blog about you. It’s about being “The DP” here.
Chris: It is an amazing place to be a DP. The range, scope and diversity of projects keep me sharp. We work with so many different clients that my skill set needs to be complete. I think for some in my position it might be a scary proposition but I enjoy being challenged.
Me: Describe your life as Studio Center’s DP
Chris: It is a life of dedication to a passion. I believe that we are not the author of our gifts but we are stewards of them. I think that when you are fortunate enough to find something you love to do, it is a joy to pursue it. You find that it is more than a craft but a reflection of who you are. I work with a group of like minded professionals that are driven not to compromise in any way shape or form.
Me: What was your first job in Production?
Chris: My father was a broadcaster in the NBA and I remember going to games in the old Madison Square Garden and sitting at the press table. My dad did play by play and he was a gifted man. And I used to test his gift by closing my seven year old eyes to see if he could make me see the game and I did see the game through his voice. Later in life when I was contemplating a career in the same field, I was bound and determined to not allow his reputation or contacts to give me an upper hand, so I went to the far ends of the earth, that being Salisbury Maryland, to an ABC affiliate full of green beginners and dreamers. I wanted to be judged on my own merits and find my own way. I worked as a grip in the production department and shot news on the weekends.
I was fortunate because the two gentleman in production I worked with had distinctly different gifts. One of them had a tremendous eye while the other was a master at moving the camera. I was mentored by two sides of the discipline all the while being encouraged not to imitate and to find my own voice visually.
Me: When did you decide you wanted to be a “Director of Photography”?
Chris: I never really decided. I kept the love of strong images as a way to move people first and foremost and it set me on a journey.
Me: What is your favorite part of the job?
Chris: My favorite part is finding the beauty when none seems to be visible. It is a lot easier when you have a magnificent location the best equipment and crew. What is difficult is seemingly creating something from very little. That is my favorite part of the job.
Me: Worst part of the job besides talking to me right now?
Chris: There actually is no "worst" part. I truly enjoy what I do. I even find joy in breaking sets and lighting schemes down.
Me: Which Video Shoot is your All Time Favorite?
Chris: I was DP on an independent film. It was my favorite because everyone on set was passionate and committed to the film. Every department was skilled at their discipline. There is nothing quite like a non ego-driven set where all involved just care about the end result and are willing to go to extreme lengths to achieve greatness.
Me: What shoot was your biggest nightmare? Why?
Chris: I must have blocked it out.
Me: DPs make really good money. What advice would you give someone just breaking in?
Chris: Put the thought of money aside. If I could have done my life differently I would not have gone to college. I would have pursued an apprenticeship with a cinematographer. There is nothing like guidance mixed with practical experience. Another thing would be to not compare or gauge your work too much by what others are doing. Set your own standards, find your own style. If you love what you are doing you will be motivated to be good at it. If you are good at it people will seek you out and pay you for it.
Me: Who is the best boss that you’ve ever had?
Chris: That would be you sir....that is the truth, you care and nurture your employees which is the main reason Studio Center is such a great place to work.
Me: That one was for my Mom. Thanks!