Director and DP, Daniel Addelson was one of the founding directors for New York Times’ T Brand Studio, and has made award-winning shorts and feature films that have premiered domestically and internationally. His commercial work spans brands like Google, Airbnb, Whirlpool, Uber, Coors Light, Starbucks, Walmart, National Geographic, Nissan, Toyota, Shutterfly, Hardees, and Citi/AA. He is fluent Spanish speaker and represented in the US Latino market by The Cortez Brothers, Inc.
1. What’s your first memory with a camera?
When I was a kid my dad gave me a Pentax K1000 35mm film camera and I started taking photography courses. I was hooked and I spent every day after school looking for interesting places to shoot - abandoned houses, hundred year old farms nearby, and generally exploring my suburban neighborhood through the lens of a camera. I met with a photojournalist who looked at my work and asked me something that has stuck with me and changed the way I looked at photography and later filmmaking. He said, “Anyone can make a beautiful image, but what is the story you’re telling? What are you trying to say?” I think back to that moment a lot and every time I catch myself making “a beautiful image” I take a step back and think about story.
2. How do you define your visual style?
I love to bring a sense of poetry to everyday situations and a cinematic point of view to people and places that aren’t normally seen in an artful way and I do that by creating a subtly stylized reality that is authentic and rooted in truth, but with an elevated visual language. I like to light my sets in specific ways that allow performers to make choices in the moment that are sparked by intuition and creativity that may take them to any corner of the room. I don’t always start with “action” and end with “cut” and I find that some of the most real and beautiful moments I’ve captured in my work come from giving my performers that freedom. I strive to build as much as I can in advance, while leaving room for spontaneity and happenstance on set. In the hopes that we will tell the story we need to tell while also letting truthful and intimate moments rise to the surface.
3. What projects have you worked on recently?
I recently shot two films with The Cortez Brothers for Nissan in Austin, TX with Fluent360 out of Chicago. We cast two young Latino high school students who are incredibly capable but really needed someone in a mentor role to show them what was possible in their desired field. We surprised each of them with a grand visualization of their professional future and money toward their college education. What I loved about these spots were the fact that both of these characters let us into their lives and shared their hopes, dreams, and fears along the way in a way that felt intimate and evocative.
4. Do you have any new fiction or documentary projects?
I just released a short documentary film exploring the tradition of eating together as a family. Between shoots last year, my DP Logan Triplett and I would spend a few hours at five different family’s homes observing their dinner routine. We shot one roll of 16mm film per family and learned to become patient observers in the process. Ali Helnwein composed a beautiful original score, and Beau Leone colored the film.
5. Where do you draw inspiration from?
I’m inspired by a lot of the Cinema Verite and Direct Cinema filmmakers of the 1970s like The Maysles Brothers and DA Pennebaker as well as great modern filmmakers like John Cassavetes, PT Anderson, Steven Soderbergh, Alfonson Cuaron - the list is long. But truthfully, I’m inspired by anyone who is passionate about their craft - a chef, musician, author, designer, or artist.
6. Where is Daniel Addelson headed next?
This year I’m looking to delve deeper into narrative filmmaking. I’m writing a short film right now that is loosely based on the story of two Dreamers dealing with the difficulties of being teenagers and coming of age in a country where they are not safe.
Cortez Brothers, EE UU
Contact: Martin Feuerstein
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