Brad Crawford is a camera operator and cinematographer born and raised in Winnipeg. Brad works alongside his business partner BJ Verot (A local director and stuntman) together they create genre-films under the banner of Strata Studios. When Brad isn’t on set, he’s busy trying to teach his two kids Japanese and trying to finish reading that book he started a couple months ago.
When and how did you start in the media production industry?
I returned from teaching abroad in 2008 with the goal of getting into the film industry. I started volunteering on any set I could find and quickly got involved with the Winnipeg Film Group and made it known that I was keen and excited to work. I was fortunate to connect with my good friend BJ Verot who has a brain exploding full of stories to tell so we quickly started making our own short films; him as the writer / director and myself as the cinematographer / editor.
What area of the film industry do you work in now and why?
I work as an IATSE ICG 669 Camera Operator and Director of Photography. I film narrative features / TV series / MOWs, as well as commercials and music videos. I love working in Camera as it allows me to flex my creative and technical muscles simultaneously. I am drawn to anything even tangentially connected to creating imagery; lights, optics, stabilizers, and I love the challenge of finding that perfect angle and the dance that is lighting/camera/grip alongside talented actors. I love the fact that every day is different, and I get to meet and interact with new people in new places with new problems to solve.
What has been a substantial change in the industry since you started?
The industry has been democratized incredibly. When I was first interested in filmmaking there were no DSLRs or LED Lights. I had no access to affordable movie making tools. Nowadays it’s much simpler to access excellent equipment including lenses and cameras which means it isn’t the tool that is the limiting factor, it’s the vision and desire to achieve something. Even a lack of knowledge and experience can be more easily overcome now as the results of your efforts are more quickly realized. I feel like it’s a great time to be a filmmaker as the possibilities are truly endless and you can level-up your skills exponentially faster.
If you could give yourself advice today to yourself in the past, what would it be?
Advice that stands for my future-self as well: Respect the people around you. They help lift you up to greater heights and don’t lose sight of the fact that the most important resource is the human effort that each team member around you is also struggling to provide. Each individual on set is key to achieving this crazy collaboration that is a movie, so try not to take that for granted.
What is advice you would give to someone starting off in the media production industry?
Stay hungry. This is a tough business, and it doesn’t always feel rewarding or ‘worth it’ but if you truly want to make movies and have a passion for it, don’t let that feeling go. On the toughest days, I always tell myself, “I chose to be here” I truly enjoy what I do, and I never want to forget that. If you’re tired and feeling down, just think back to those childhood memories of what inspired you to want to do this job and keep going!
Why is learning and training important?
You never stop learning. The day you think you’ve got it all figured out and know how to solve every film-related problem is the day you need to look in the mirror and then realize you don’t know anything. I think the desire to learn and study your peers’ work and their techniques and approach should be something that excites you! Any chance I get to compare notes with other filmmakers, I take it. If I can learn one tiny trick of theirs and apply it to my own work, it’s a win. This career is made up of a lifetime of experience and failure, so it really helps to learn from others’ mistakes to help avoid them on your own set. If you approach it from the perspective that you already know everything, then you won’t learn anything. Leave the ego behind.
What are some of the films, TV series or even books that have inspired you? How about anything new you’ve been into?
If you haven’t watched the FX series ‘The Bear’ well… please go do so immediately. Fantastic show for so many reasons, not the least of which is an episode featuring a single 20min ONE R.
Other than that, I’m a big genre fan. I love John Carpenter’s The Thing, most of Park Chan-Wooks films (my favourite being “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance”) but I also love a good drama. I love love love “Nobody knows” 誰も知らない by Koreeda Hirokazu, a very poignant film with phenomenal child actors.
Is there something about you or an interesting past experience that you’d like to share with your colleagues?
I had the chance to attend the Cannes film Festival as part of the Telefilm Talent to Watch Canadian showcase. It was an eye-opening experience because the festival would spill out into the city streets at night, and we would take over entire blocks where, as far as the eye could see it was just people who work in film. You could strike up a conversation with any individual anywhere and know that you had something in common. People from all different parts of the world all meeting in the same place with the same love for filmmaking. If you have a chance to go to film festivals I highly recommend it. They are wonderful ways to meet new people that share your love of films while also exploring new and exciting movies that aybe haven’t reached the general public yet. Oh, and they are usually in pretty unique parts of the world, which you get to enjoy as well!
Is there someone within the film industry you would like to work with and why?
This one is hard for me to answer. There are so many talented cinematographers that I respect and would love to meet and work with. That’s one of the really interesting parts of the Winnipeg film industry is that we often get some pretty big movies coming to town, and there is an actual chance you may get to work with people you’ve heard of. Just off the top of my head people like Jeff Cronenweth (The Social Network, Gone Girl, Tales from the Loop), Pawel Pogorzelski (Hereditary, Midsommar, Nobody), Steve Yedlin (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Knives Out, Winner), Tom Stern (Letters from Iwo Jima, American Sniper, The Ice Road) are all Directors of Photography who have come to work in Winnipeg in recent years. The fact that you may get the opportunity to work alongside these people and learn from them is such an amazing part of our film industry. Film Training Manitoba often hosts events with these people to help share their knowledge which is a huge boon to our city and workforce.
Where do you see yourself in ten years from now?
I hope to continue to expand my body of work as a camera operator and cinematographer. I want to make images that I’m proud of, that I can’t wait to share with everyone, and I want to tell stories that resonate with people. I hope that in 10 years I can look back at my body of work and be proud of the legacy that I’ve left for people to watch and enjoy. I got into this business to create something compelling and unique, and I hope that I get the chance to tell some really fun stories along the way.
Social media: https://www.instagram.com/bradfilm/
FTM is a non-for-profit charity and member of the Province of Manitoba’s sector council program (through the Department of Economic Development and Jobs). FTM conducts workforce development and training to build a highly skilled and adaptable film industry to support the activities of Manitoba production companies. FTM collaborates with members of the film and television industry to identify the training needs within the community.