An Interview with Filmmaker Hunter Thomas
We conducted an interview with filmmaker Hunter Thomas, a young filmmaker and photographer based here in New Orleans. Hunter’s knowledge of film and editing tools, his passion for the craft, and his attention to detail makes him a very technically proficient filmmaker that compliments his very evident talent. We are very excited to have him on the inDEPTH blog and hope you learn as much as we did.
1) Please introduce yourself, where you’re from, and what you do currently.
My name is Hunter Thomas, I am a 19 year old freelance filmmaker and photographer currently residing in New Orleans.
2) You are clearly very knowledgable about cameras, lenses, and general film tech. What brought you into the world of cameras and lenses? What eventually led you to take on film/photography professionally?
I have always wanted to work in film, I was a “Techie” kid, I like seeing how each camera has different functions that do the same thing. Canon & Sony are completely different cameras, organized differently, and used in some of the same situations. I like knowing & being asked how to change settings. It makes me feel needed.
3) Who or what are some of your biggest influences? Is there any filmmaker or film style you draw from in particular for inspiration?
I take inspiration from lots of different styles, but really they depend on the style of production. One of the great things about NOCCA, (Film School I went to) was we studied all the different styles, and our teachers pushed us to try different styles of film making. My next project is a a thriller, I am using a lot of Fincher’s stylings on the project, from the cool color pallet, to low lit interiors, and smooth dramatic camera pans.
I take most of my lighting styling from Storaro, but I like tailoring lighting and camera style for each shoot differently. When I read a script, I see it as an action, and how each shot would cut together with the rest of the scene/film. I’ve working with stylistic choices from a lot of famous directors, Cinematographer’s and Gaffers.
4) Let’s dive a bit into glass. You are clearly a fan of vintage lenses. Right now, as always, there is a ton of debate in film about new vs. old technology, techniques, philosophies, and more, so these decisions reflect a lot about us. Can you tell us a bit about your lenses – brand, type, year, etc. – and what drove you to build the set you currently have? What are some of the thoughts and considerations that go into building a lens package?
I currently own a kit of Vintage Nikon Primes & VariPrimes (Zooms). Nikon coatings were best in 1955. Some of them are 80 years old. I bought all of them from B&H Photo used Dept. My takeaway from the whole vintage v modern debate, I bought 13 Vintage Nikon’s for less than people pay for a modern 4 or 5 lens Rokinon Cine kit.
Since the lenses are old, they aren’t as fast as some modern lenses. Most of them are 2.8 or slower, but they have 180 degree focus throws. I looked at the way I shot with other people’s lenses to pick my set and knew I needed a wide range of focal lengths. I liked the look of the vintage lenses – they have nice roll off on the corners, some cloudiness, and beautiful bokeh. There’s something about them that just can’t be explained and I have yet to see someone try and not enjoy them.
5) Building a bit on that, how do you feel about the “film vs. digital” argument? That is, some people feel that actual film stock is the best method for making films and reject digital cameras, while others argue that digital cameras are as good (if not better) than their film counterparts (and many lie somewhere in the middle). What are your thoughts on this ongoing debate?
I like the ease of shooting digitally, I think the quality of the cameras have made it to the point where the untrained eye can’t really tell the difference. That being said, we see high resolution of modern cameras outdated every a few years. When I first bought my Canon T2I, 1080p was high resolution, now 5 years later people are shooting in 8K Raw.
6) If you had one piece of advice for someone new to the film/video industry, what would it be?
Any advice I could give would be to a newbie in the industry, is work on as much as you can. Ask questions, but know when you should ask questions and when you shouldn’t. Learn how to network with everyone you work with. You should know what you want to do in film, so if it’s working on camera, try to get on set as a Camera PA. If it’s lighting work as a Grip, or a Best Boy. If it’s directing, try to go as an AD.
If you are unsure what aspect you would like to work in the film industry, but just know that film is where you wanna go, some of the student films I have worked on are small crew, so everyone does a little of everything. It’s a good way to meet people, and work on some great projects. The 48 Hour Film Project & LA Film Prize are great places to work, they usually have Mixer’s and it will give you a chance to meet people and find a team to work with.
7) What are you up to now?
I am currently on a feature called Meta. It’s a high octane action heist film. It’s kinda like Drive, but with motorcycles. I recently worked on a few music videos, another feature and a TV pilot. Our 48 Hour Film Grown Up Stuff did very well at the festival.
8) Anything else you’d like to add?
I am always looking to work on bigger and better projects, and looking for people to help on my own projects.