Today we’d like to introduce you to Justin Teichen.
Justin, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I’ve had a lot of jobs before being a cinematographer. I was never really satisfied with my job until I started making films. It became a fast career for me. Each project was a new opportunity to make something with new artists.
I shot a lot during my years in film school, and through collaboration with great people, I started making atmospheric pieces around Chicago. People on Vimeo started reaching out and hiring me to make them films inspired by my work. It was an exciting time for me. I found my place behind the lens.
Chicago was a commercial and corporate film world for me, and I wanted to enter something more narrative. 4 years ago I moved to LA to meet like-minded collaborators. Since then, I have traveled the world several times while working with masters of their craft.
Has it been a smooth road?
For me, I try to be optimistic about the process. It’s a lot of moving parts, and it gets complicated. You have to get along with who you work with and find the best in everyone.
It hasn’t always been a smooth road. You really have to stick up for yourself, or you will never be heard. There’s something to be said about working hard. I think that some of the toughest days have been the most successful days.
When you look back, what are you most proud of?
The proudest moment of my career has been shooting the second season of Hidden America with Jonah Ray. The crew working on it is comprised of my dream team. With that sort of backbone, you’re definitely more prone to getting into the scene. We try to come into work each day with a military-like precision so that the energy on set is high.
Every story has ups and downs. What were some of the downs others might not be aware of?
Sometimes you need to find the right thing by doing it wrong so many times before. I like to consider the struggle as part of the never-ending process. One can really grow from what can sometimes be unfamiliar or difficult.
I have learned to be really good at dealing with the cards you are dealt, no matter the circumstances.
Is there something we can do as a city to improve the outlook for professionals like you?
LA has been the best thing for my career. I began shooting more creatively and pushing the limits of what I thought was possible.
There are a lot of filmmakers here. It can feel overwhelming as if there are too many people looking for the same job. For me, this sets the bar for excellence to a high standard. You really need your work to shine and I consider that motivation with my own work.
The city has so many resources and landscapes. It’s hard to not stay creative.
I would recommend the opportunities Los Angeles has to offer, even if you’re just starting out.
Image credits: Dalton Gaudin & Max Flick