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Soundstripe Featured Filmmaker: Dave Katz

Mar 25, 2018


Dave Katz in a tree

SOUNDSTRIPE: So tell us your story… What got you started in your filmmaking career?

[After college] I spent eight summers working seasonal gigs as a mountain guide and instructor for various Outward Bound Schools. I would lead groups of teenagers into the wilderness for two to three weeks, and use the outdoors as a classroom for developing character and teaching leadership. I enjoyed this line of work immensely as it was challenging, in the outdoors and involved teaching. Additionally, simply being in the wild offered me good opportunities to practice the art of photography, as many of the places we traveled on our trips were fantastically beautiful and inspiring. Traveling through the wilderness of the USA also made me curious. What were wild places like outside of my home country? I began a cycle of saving money to fund my extended trips abroad in the offseason. Some of these trips abroad were dedicated to expedition-style exploration, while others were motivated simply by my growing curiosity of culture and geography. During both styles of trips I always had my camera with me and dedicated time to searching for interesting stories, locations, or compositions to interact with.

SOUNDSTRIPE: What does your creative process look like?

A few years ago I realized that although I can operate just fine in urban areas serving other production’s goals, if I want to create work that I’m stoked on, I have to get outdoors. Be it a river, mountain, desert or forest, I find that my motivation to create is simply greater in these elemental settings, away from people and in the presence of nature. I often find that I write more, make more photographs and am generally more stoked when I’m outside. I have a few tricks that I’ve learned about my ability to create through time. First, I’m generally better with creative things in the morning after a good night’s sleep. Second, by sleeping under the open air (no tent — no roof, etc) I can much more easily get up and out before the sunrise, to begin setting up shots or preparing equipment. On a similar note, when I shoot night timelapses, I usually sleep within reach of my camera, so when I have to wake up in the middle of the night to change batteries or change the composition, I don’t have to use a lot of my sleeping time to do so.

SOUNDSTRIPE: A lot of the work you do is drone aerial footage. Can you let us know how using drones has impacted your film style and the kind of work you do?

Using drones has been a really inspiring addition to my toolset as a storyteller. It may sound a bit cheesy, but I honestly feel like I’ve been freed from gravity. The perspectives, angles and camera moments I’ve been able to create with drones are simply awesome. I have owned three drones in one year, and flown probably a hundred hours in over 20 countries. This first year, I generated over 10,000 still photographs from drones, and about 50 hours of video footage. It may be a understatement but I’m pretty into it. Looking forward to sharing more of those projects soon.

SOUNDSTRIPE: How does music fit into your creative process and technical workflow?

Music is obviously a really important part of filmmaking. My first videos I made, I would write to my favorite musicians on MySpace for permission to use their music in my online videos. This worked out pretty well, but often involved waiting a bunch of time for a response, and simultaneously entertaining various options in the editing process. Soon thereafter, I met a talented young musician named Cody Tucker through our work together at the Outward Bound School. After establishing that we were both interested in collaborations, Cody and I began a brainstorm. We were often in different places when it came time for me to begin editing, so Cody and I would talk on the phone about treatments and ideas. Then I would send him a rough cut of the visuals via Vimeo, and he would score the music in his studio. We had a great run together, and Cody scored seven of my films. One of the main challenges we had was working out scheduling. Since both Cody and I spend a lot of time in remote places with no access to communications, it became difficult to match our timing and work well together. Most recently I discovered Soundstripe

, and having access to this beautiful collection of music has been a total game changer for me. I love how I can login any time of day, browse the music and instantly put the music into my final edit. It has been inspiring to know that at any time I need to create an edit, I have access to top-shelf music from anywhere in the world, and for any use that I need it, totally hassle free.

SOUNDSTRIPE: What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in getting started with your filmmaking career?

One of the primary challenges I’ve faced in this new career path is simply figuring it out. One of my go-to responses when old friends ask me about my new career path is, “it is very non-linear.” Sometimes when I think I’m going in the right direction, everything collapses in front of me, and I’m back to where I started. It has been difficult in figuring out how to approach new clients and how to maintain the previous ones. Since many of these projects I’m pouring tons of time and energy and into it can be a huge relief to complete a project. Afterwards, I usually need to take some time to work on my own projects. Hence with my current position here in Bolivia, I’ve taken a few months off from agreeing to big client projects. I am currently devoting time to developing a new personal film project called “The Road to No Where,” which explores part of the process of becoming an artist and some of the challenges I’ve faced along the way.

SOUNDSTRIPE: You spent some time working in the Republic of Georgia in summer 2016. Can you tell us what your experience was like and what you worked on when you were there?

2016 was a pretty busy year in terms of expeditions, with my role at Cornell and subsequent expedition documentaries. I proposed and led four large scale expeditions to three continents, and we traveled to Madagascar, Costa Rica, California and finally to the Republic of Georgia. The Georgia Expedition was supported by the Petzl Foundation and our goals were basic in nature: find intact forests, learn about what issues *require their attention* and explore the forest canopies by climbing. What this ended up manifesting into, was many meetings with government officials, driving down rugged 4WD roads, hiking through dense forests and eventually climbing the trees. On the ground we partnered with a few key conservation organizations, including the World Wildlife Fund the Trans Caucasian Trail Association who helped us in many aspects of our effort. After the expedition was complete, we began looking for funding to continue and expand on this effort.

Dave Katz is a photographer, videographer, adventurer, and nature enthusiast based out of New York. His work has been featured with brands like National Geographic and PBS. When he’s not filming incredible naturescapes you can probably find him climbing trees somewhere in Madagascar. See more of his work through his company Tenacity in Pursuit.

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