Cricket had her first paid camera gig in 1984, and has never wanted to do anything else and has worked hard to never acquire any other usable job skills beyond camera and lighting. She was the DP on the first ever viral video, crewed on the first HD project in North America, got an MFA from USC Film School, has been nominated for an African Oscar for her work in Nigeria, and has worked on the crew of hundreds of film and television projects. She is looking for projects that say something about the world we live in.
1. When did your dream of becoming a filmmaker begin and how did you get started as a cinematographer?
I cannot remember a time before wanting to make movies. Grade school? Got my first camera op gig in high school. Started DP'ing in grad school. Then went to work as a camera loader, then grip, electric, visual effects gaffer. Worked on everything I could get hired on, and learned a lot about what to do and what not to do.
2. You have an extensive background as a cinematographer spanning some 25 years. Looking back, what have been some of your favorite projects and why?
Troops is now the #1 star wars fan film of all time, according to Time magazine. It was the first ever viral video, and launched the idea that you don't need a big studio to reach a lot of people. Long-time fan of martial arts and science fiction films. My dad was a star trek fan, and I love the ideas of human ingenuity overcoming the worst aspects of human nature. And watching people fly through space and beat up bad guys is fun. I also got to shoot a feature in Nigeria, Africa. It is a beautiful place with amazingly friendly crew.
3. What has been your greatest achievement as a filmmaker?
Greatest achievement? I'm just getting started.
4. Tell us a little about the process and the experience of working on a TV series such as Richie Rich in 2015?
I was covering for the regular DP on Ritchie Rich. I had previously had a very bad experience as a gaffer who stepped into a crew not of my choosing who had gone to extremes to make me look bad. The Richie Rich crew were professionals who did their jobs on an insanely tight schedule, and gave me hope that attitudes toward women are starting to shift a little.
5. What do you find is the biggest difference in terms of shooting for TV as opposed to a film project?
Every project is different. The exhibition part doesn't change that. You just do the best you can within the boundaries of budget and time to help set the mood and tell the director's story.
6. What is the process for shooting a TV Movie such as Divas of Novella as opposed to a TV series?
Shorter shooting schedule? Divas was meant to be a pilot. It didn't get picked up.
7. What has been the greatest lesson you've learned during this journey?
There's always something new to learn, and don't be afraid to walk away from bad environments.
8. Where do you hope to see yourself in five years’ time?
The world needs a lot of change, so I hope to be working on projects that help point that change in a positive direction.
9. The film industry changed drastically over the last decade with modern technology. Entire films can be shot on a cell phone. Do you see this as good for the industry or a detriment? Which do you prefer, the smaller portable options or the traditional cameras?
Shooting films on a cell phone is surrendering a lot of the tools that cinematographers and directors use to build worlds in the audience's heads. But the tools you use to build are secondary to what you are building. One of the interesting dynamics of our shifting toolkit is how hard filmmakers push to make the tools work beyond their built in limits. We do need to move more toward matching the camera to the project, and moving away from hiring being based on what camera the DP owns.
10. What words of advice would you like to pass along to someone just starting out in the industry as a cinematographer?
Keep your cost of living really, really low and don't hang around anyone who suggests you do something else. Acquire no other skills. I didn't know anyone with a fall back plan who didn't fall, eventually.