20 for the 20th – Reel Career Profile Series: Luther Alexander
Luther Alexander is a Saulteaux producer and cinematographer working in documentary and film narratives for 10 years. His work has been broadcast on television for CBC and APTN and films screened at festivals locally and internationally, the latest being Eagle Girl in Los Angeles. As an NSI alumnus of New Voices and Indigidocs, he is also alumni of U of W in Management and Filmmaking at NYFA. He is currently working on a slate of five film projects with his partners at Code Breaker Films into 2020.
When and how did you start in the media production industry?
I first walked into the Winnipeg Film Group in the spring of 2005 and signed up with Arlea Ashcroft for a membership and paid for the Basic Filmmaking course they had advertised. I was looking at the film industry from afar back then and it seemed like the only venue that was focused on motion picture. I was hooked.
What area of the film industry do you work in now and why?
I am a technical director at Code Breaker Films, established in 2015, and I focus on craft as an in-house producer / cinematographer, and sometimes editor. With the flexibility our projects, I can hone in on both story and tech while providing opportunities for others, especially for our Indigenous peers.
What has been a substantial change in the industry since you started?
A huge change was the advancement of digital sensors. I’ve seen the flop from film to digital overnight, basically. And I’m glad I jumped in at the right time to see this change in film culture because I was actually readying myself for film which came with a very strict protocol in terms of image capture. People more recently are less inclined to shoot on film, even on the Bolex which I last used on a documentary in 2016, when terabytes of memory is your stock now.
If you could give yourself advice today to yourself in the past, what would it be?
Never give up. It’s completely cliché, but the truth. And hitting the ground running is the wrong way of thinking about this business. The best advice that I hold true to till today is from an old gaffer named Ernie when I was at the CSC Cinematic Lighting workshops in 2011. He told me to ‘age like fine wine’ in this business and that I was on the right path, taking it slow and steady. I use that maxim everywhere now and always credit him to this day. I just feel bad forgetting his last name.
How did taking FTM training affect your career?
Film Training Manitoba has helped tremendously through the years. I still have Jim Pasternak’s Dramatic Workbook in my database and incorporate Linda Seger’s scriptwriting techniques into our current film projects. For all technical training I have taken over the years from camera to electrical, I have utilized those to the best of my knowledge as a basis to move forward in this industry, albeit independently, keeping my focus on motion picture.
What is advice you would give to someone starting off in the media production industry?
Don’t be shy and don’t be afraid to admit what you don’t know because I was there once. Just be humble with it. The industry is under a constant learning curve and there is no expert in everything. And the second best advice I’ve taken was from Peter Hobbs, a writing prof at NYFA in 2009, that said to think about this for a minute, ‘if you ever find yourself working on set, whether working top of the line or holding a cable, show your best work and contribution because the person beside you may have the next big deal coming up and will look to you as a possible collaborator’.
What are some of the films, TV series or even books that have inspired you? How about anything new you’ve been into?
So many to think about but I’ve always loved the The French Connection. My dream would be to make a Winnipeg version of this film because of my love for location photography. I’ve always seen Winnipeg as a back lot for film and there are so many locations that have not been used, it’s crazy. It would be awesome to see more Winnipeg streets that are not the Exchange on the big screen.
Is there something about you or an interesting past experience that you’d like to share with your colleagues?
I love coffee!
Is there a film technician or filmmaker that you would really like to work with and why?
As a cinematography nerd, a person that I admire and would love to work with is Hoyte Van Hoytema. This guy has shot some amazing films and uses very practical means to get it done. He is highly technical and very skilled at what he does and it would be amazing to see the wizardry at work.
Where do you see yourself ten years from now?
I would to love to see a 3 letter initial beside my name. That would be my goal. Either that or very successful in our business affairs with Code Breaker Films where we can hold office and sustain ourselves for another 10-20 years!