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Conversations with Nick Ramsey

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nick Ramsey.

Hi Nick, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
I’ve always loved watching movies. Growing up, I worked at a movie theater and a rental store just so I could watch movies for free. I loved that I could get paid to talk about movies with people all day. One of my friends in Undergrad took a film class and I quickly signed up. From there on, I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker. I was selected to direct one of the class projects and afterwards in the professor’s critique he said he felt that I spent a lot of time working with the camera and lighting but didn’t really spend much time working with the actors. I really appreciated the advice because it made me realize that playing with lights and cameras was actually what I wanted to do most.

I began working at a local production company and I was featured in many ‘Chinese buffet’ and local car commercials. From there, I went on to work the nightshift as an assistant editor for M2 pictures. We made shows about murderers and hate groups. One of the things that attracted me to the position was that I would be in charge of managing the in-house cameras and sending them in and out for production. Slowly, I got opportunities to get the camera in my hands for the shows. I shot close-ups of someone opening a mailbox or bullet casings hitting the floor. Then, I went out with an actress and a producer to shoot a “body under a mattress.” Finally, they started letting me shoot PU scenes with a lighting crew and everything. While working at M2 pictures, I was offered a full-time gig shooting videos as a contractor for the US Army. It was a big pay increase and I got to travel throughout the country serving our Nation’s soldiers. It was a really great opportunity.

After a few years with the Army, I really felt drawn to figuring out a way to shoot narrative. I knew LA was the place to be if I really wanted to be successful. I decided I would go to grad school so I could take out a loan and have time to really network and perfect my craft. I applied to schools for years before finally being accepted at Chapman. I sold most of my things, rented out my house, and started on one of the most exciting journeys of my life. I will never forget the feeling of driving across the country with my wife and dogs on this huge adventure. We have loved California since the moment we pulled in.

Film school is a magical place. I met so many wonderful people and was introduced to so many new and exciting things. We had incredible professors like Bill Dill, ASC and Johnny Jensen, ASC who really helped me learn to see the world in a new way. They helped me learn how to use the camera and lighting to create the emotions that we want the audience to feel. My classmates were huge inspirations, as well. You definitely learn more on a sets over the weekend than you ever would in class. I still work with many of those classmates to this day. I was lucky to be very busy during my time at Chapman. I got to work on so many great projects and the school was always there to provide us with excellent resources. I was also lucky to be asked to be a part of two amazing projects as my thesis. ‘Rocket’ won a Student Academy Award, and for ‘Angeltown’ I was selected as a Finalist for the American Society of Cinematography’s ‘Student Heritage Award’.

After Graduation, I hit the ground running and tried to shoot everything I could. I have been lucky to meet so many amazing collaborators. I have been able to shoot features, short films, music videos and commercials. Most recently, I have been working a lot with the AV crew. Their projects have really given me a great opportunity to try new things and play with new toys. I am always looking for cool people to work with and good stories to tell!

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
The biggest challenge is always meeting new people and finding new jobs. It’s definitely a town and an industry where who you know matters. Sometimes it can take a long time to really find a place where you fit and are able to support yourself. LA is a very expensive place to live and while it’s full of some great people, it can feel a bit isolating. Covid has also created a new set of issues. It was already hard to get out there and network and the pandemic has killed most of the events and meetups that were designed to help. I think we are still trying to figure out new ways to reach out and meet new collaborators.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I am a Director of Photography. I love to tell stories. I love to play with lights and cameras. I think that lighting is one of the most powerful tools we have in influencing the audience. My favorite part of the job is getting to create a whole new world within the frame. Many people want to recreate reality but I enjoy exploring the fantasy. I want to take the audience away to a new place; Let them experience something new and feel something different. Those are the stories I really like to tell. I am definitely drawn to high-concept projects. I have always had a “Go big or go home” kind of attitude and I really try to bring that to all of my projects. I want to elevate the work we are doing and make it feel bigger than the budget. I don’t back down from a challenge and this job poses plenty. I am constantly pushing myself and my crew to come up with new creative ways to solve problems.

I have a good deal of action and car work so it seems like I continue to get more and more of those opportunities. It all started being strapped to a process trailer on Rocket and just yesterday, I had a black arm and ronin two mounted on a jeep shooting a custom painted trans am for a music video at high speeds. I enjoy pushing the envelope and keeping the viewer on the edge of their seats and action is a great way to do it. I’m currently working on a Daredevil fan film with a fight on a rooftop.

What sort of changes are you expecting over the next 5-10 years?
The industry is constantly shifting and changing. Things are very different right now because of Covid and everyone is trying to figure out what the new normal is going forward. It seems like indy projects are just now starting to even think about trying to get started. I’m starting to hear whispers of a lot more narrative out there. Aside from Covid, things have really shifted from all the best stories being told in films to everyone now trying to create their own streaming platforms. Netflix, Apple+, Amazon, Hulu, Disney, etc. they are all making really amazing content and bringing it into your home. Films have gotten to the point where they’re ONLY blockbusters and Marvel films. Not many chances are being taken and some might say the theater experience is dying completely. Unfortunately, all that could have been said before the pandemic, and things have only gotten worse. My original sights were set on movies, but lately I have really been intrigued by the idea of working on some of these longer series. What we are watching on these platforms is way better than anything we had when there was only cable TV. Besides HBO, they have always been an exception.

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