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Meet J. Connor Bjornson

Today we’d like to introduce you to J. Connor Bjornson.

So, before we jump into specific questions about your work, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My love for filmmaking started when I was around 12 years old. It all started as home movies that I made with my little brothers or friends. At first, it was just a way to express my imagination as a kid but very quickly became my passion. I would often end up with a new short film or scene almost every weekend. Although they were a bit silly at first, my passion for the art form grew. I would start watching behind the scenes bonus content on DVDs and consuming as much knowledge I could on the internet. I was always fascinated by the technical artistry that was involved behind the camera. I began to make short action films with homemade VFX and would have something to show off almost every weekend. Looking back now, I learned an immense amount just from this process of shooting and editing as a one-man-band. I quickly learned from my failures and was super excited when something actually worked.

I began watching movies over and over with the hope of understanding how the filmmakers were able to achieve synergy between the moving image, sound design and editing. It was only later on at film school that I began to understand the many roles involved in filmmaking. During my time at York University in Toronto, I discovered that my interests aligned with the role of the cinematographer, where I could apply my passion for lighting and camera. Long story short, and many short films later, I landed in Hollywood to complete my MFA at the American Film Institute. Reflecting back on my time at AFI now that I’m set to graduate this year, I can say that it has been an extraordinary life-changing experience. I met so many new friends and talented filmmakers along the way and we learned so much from each other’s unique experiences.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
There have been some very challenging times during this journey, both creatively and emotionally. Making a move to an entirely new city, first of all, didn’t come without anxiety. Leaving Toronto was difficult. Many of my closest friends still live there and my introverted nature didn’t help in forming strong friendships here right away. I do believe, though, that it’s very important to push one’s self outside your comfort zone, and I have since been rewarded by doing so with so many new experiences and friendships along the way!

We’d love to hear more about your work.
I’m currently building my career as a narrative cinematographer and starting to establish myself in the working world. In addition, I’m looking to try my hand in the commercial space to see where short-form storytelling can take me.

As a cinematographer, I take pride in telling character driven stories. I love films that deal with introspective conflicts and I always try to look for ways to visualize a character’s state of mind. I also try to approach my camerawork and lighting with simplicity. I think it’s important to provide a path for the audience to connect to the material. Then once you’ve captured their attention, you can subvert their expectations.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
If I had to start over, I would take the same approach I took when I was 12, but take it a step further; make as many films as possible! I truly believe that you learn from doing and that the more opportunities you give yourself to fail, the better your chance at some sort of success. I would make sure not to forget though the importance of passion, though, and curiosity.

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