Featured Member: Peter Sestina
I began to see film as something with unlimited possibilities and found myself drawn more and more to it as the ultimate and most impactful way one could express ideas and thoughts.
What’s your earliest memory that sparked your interest in your respective trade?
When I was a teen I remember watching the movie MAGNOLIA and being mesmerized by the operatic emotion and melodrama. But equally important was the fact that I noticed how the camera almost never stopped moving in every scene. I began to wonder why someone would make a movie that way and understand that there were intentional choices being made to frame a shots a certain way, move the camera or there, etc. I began to see film as something with unlimited possibilities and found myself drawn more and more to it as the ultimate and most impactful way one could express ideas and thoughts. After watching that movie I knew I wanted to be a director who could utilize all those creative tools.
Where did you train and/or study?
Syracuse University. I was part of the Newhouse school’s Television/Radio/Film program (much to the chagrin of ShareGrid co-founder Brent Barbano).
What artists in your trade past or present do you admire the most?
I love Paul Thomas Anderson. There Will Be Blood is one of the great American films. I’m a big Terrence Malick fan, and his unconventional, tone-poem style invokes emotion in me like few others can. Alexander Payne is an amazing filmmaker and I love his humor and wit, along with the importance he places on the humanity of his characters. Noah Baumbach’s ability to blend unflinching realism and laugh-out-loud satire both intimidates and delights me. And all the classics from Bergman, Satyajit Ray, Woody Allen…I could go on and on.
What are some of your favorite artistic influences? (movies, bands, paintings, etc…)
When it comes to music it’s hard to say because my tastes are pretty eclectic: my favorite album is probably Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys and yet I’m still listening a lot to that Kendrick Lamar album because it’s so good. I love music’s ability to immediately invoke a feeling and mood, which, along with creating characters, is the most interesting part of filmmaking for me. So I listen to music a lot when I’m writing. When it comes to other art, I like things with a distinctive mood that still have a sense of humor — Billy Collins writes joyous and accessible poetry that weaves laugh out load moments with blissful melancholy. My wife is a big Gustav Klimt fan and I find myself drawn to his ethereal and haunting style a lot. He really does a tremendous job creating a strong sense of (there’s that word again) mood.
What’s the best professional advice you’ve ever been given?
Alexander Payne told me once that “great screenwriting is economy.” He’s right on every level.
How did you get your first break in the industry?
I’m not sure how much of a break it was, but I found my first job on a random website called showbizjobs.com. I started as a PA at a motion graphics/VFX house called Imaginary Forces, which is where I worked for a couple years before leaving the nest and moving on to commercials and TV.
What has been your proudest moment in your line of work thus far?
I think watching the screening of my first short film, SHINER, at the Palm Springs Shortfest. The audience reaction was tremendous and having people come up to tell you how much they identified with the characters in your film is pretty much the best feeling ever.
What has been your favorite/most memorable project so far?
I’m going to cheat and have 2 answers:
My short film, SHINER, for being the first film that I feel like really tapped into something personal and intimate in me.
The other is one of my first directing gigs, a shoot for Tesla Motors. We had a tiny budget but the crew was filled with many of my best friends in film school, and having us all work together on a project that was showcasing some amazing yet-to-be-released technology (the Tesla model S) was a thrill. All of us have gone on to collaborate on many other projects together, but somehow that first shoot still seems the most special to me.
Film or digital?
Different beasts for different projects. Personally I love small, intimate stories so there’s nothing like the texture and softness that only film can give to people. But then again, who can afford to shoot on it anymore? There have been amazing technological advances in the past five years and cameras like the Alexa and RED Dragon can give you something very close to that look with other advantages like amazing dynamic range and huge resolution. For commercials I find myself shooting RED a lot, primarily for the resolution and ease of workflow with VFX, but I think everything considered the Alexa is the best camera I’ve ever shot on. People often overlook the impact of the glass you’re using too, which I find can have just as much an effect on the image as whatever camera you put behind it.
What’s your newest favorite piece of technology?
It’s not exactly brand spanking new technology, but I’m an amateur photographer and I love my 5d Mark III. The image quality is superb and the dynamic range for stills is quite literally, amazing. Having a full-frame camera is pretty essential as a director, to serve as a quick viewfinder on scouts or the ability to quickly photoboard for clients.
What’s the next “big thing” in the entertainment industry?
The Internet is of course changing everything in ways that nobody really knows. I think you’re going to be seeing a lot more small shoots of shorter and shorter durations to match our dwindling attention spans, but that will only erode, not replace, traditional forms like film and TV. Vine and Youtube videos are great, but they are a specific niche and not indicative of all the storytelling people are going to consume going forward. Still, I think it’s good news for companies like ShareGrid that can put owners with operators who don’t have the budget to afford the overhead and markup of rental houses.
Any other interests or hobbies outside of what you do?
I like outdoorsy stuff like hiking, biking and camping. I’m also a huge nerd who loves competitive table tennis, Scrabble and Risk. I always take North Africa first.
Why did you join ShareGrid?
The share economy is here to stay, and chock it up to my subversive streak (coming from a guy who shoots commercials, I know) but I’m all about supporting individual people over giant corporations. It’s also just simply a great idea that makes sense: put people who own equipment in touch with other people who need it. I’m in the unique position of being on both sides of the equation, both as an owner happy to rent out my 5d and as a producer who is often looking for a last minute RED or a camera package to fit into a tight budget. I hope to make ShareGrid a big part of my pre-production process going forward.