Cinematographer Profile: Kevin Hayden

Posted by Doug Klinger on November 6, 2012 in Interviews

Staff Post

Cinematographer Kevin Hayden and director Isaac Ravishankara work together a lot, people sometimes even think they’re brothers. They also share an outlook on the process behind making music videos. They feel that the quality of time spent making the video is just as important as the quality of the video itself. We talked to Kevin about this idea, about what it’s like working with Isaac, and about building a team of people who are all equally invested in the project.

Kevin Hayden

Doug: Is there a difference when working with Isaac than with working with other directors?

Kevin: Absolutely. I think the relationship I’ve developed with Isaac has gotten to the point where we can anticipate each other’s thoughts. Like, minutes, hours before they even happen. There is this weird communication and connection. A lot of people tend to think we’re brothers. We’re just so comfortable with each other, we’ve worked together so many times, that we understand each other’s opinions, thoughts, and ideas. He, more than ever, is willing to put faith in some of the things I’ll do, which can be really enjoyable creatively. Where as when I work with a new director, first of all the whole thought process is totally different. I also think the whole idea of trust when making decisions takes a while to develop. Sometimes that process of developing that can be enjoyable, but other times not so much.

Doug: What about the jobs you work on that aren’t with Isaac, how do you typically find yourself attached to those?

Kevin: Every time it’s different. Fortunately, more recently it’s been through directors who have found projects that I shot that like my work. It’s been more of people seeking me out, which is a great introduction. Then other times it’s been directors that I like that I’ll try to reach out to, or forge some relationship with, because I like their work. Those are the ones that tend to be the most enjoyable and tend to be the most successful. 

Kevin Hayden

Doug: Have you ever considered some type of official representation?

Kevin: I briefly had a rep until about 2 weeks ago. I liked that there was this other person involved in cultivating projects, but I didn’t like that they tended to be more commercial based. I guess it isn’t something you hear a lot, but I’m in a place where I don’t want to shoot too many commercials. I’m finding a lot more satisfaction and enjoyment with more artistically motivated projects. I think I’m at a place in my life where I can afford to do that, with not having kids, or a dog, or any other financial stresses. The projects that tend to come from reps are more commercial because they have to make their paycheck. The day rates are awesome, and I like them, but as far as stuff I’m going to show my friends and show my comrades, they tend not to come from reps.

Doug: Do you find yourself in the position to be able to turn work down or are you forced to take everything you can in this industry?

Kevin: When I’m not working I generally say yes. Right now I can say no, I’m in a generally fortunate position I suppose. I’m trying to say no more. I tend to always want to be shooting, and I want to try to spend more time elsewhere. With Isaac, we’ll usually spend a whole week prepping, or at least a few days. We really commit to each project, and because of that what we make is so much more meaningful. I really like the collaboration for us. A lot of DPs will shoot at least a project a week, commercial DPs shoot all the time. I think it really dilutes each one, when you’re prepping one job while shooting another job. I think technically you’re able to pull it off, but as far as creatively it suffers a bit.

Kevin Hayden

Doug: Isaac talks about each shoot having it’s own culture. I spoke to him about a week ago and that was one thing he mentioned. It sounds like for you guys, overlapping shoots would end up disrupting that culture that he talks about, would you agree?

Kevin: Yeah. I think one thing that Isaac has done that I respect more and more is this idea of creating almost a team, but more of a family, for each shoot. Surrounding yourself with people who are as excited about the project as you are. Now I realize that creating an environment that’s atypical from the norm, and communicating that to the crew so there’s this sense of comradely, it really helps. More than ever I’m seeing those little thing are what create projects that are really meaningful and enjoyable.

Doug: You talk about getting a whole group of people on board with a project. Is there one member of that group that, as a DP, you find most important? Is there someone you couldn’t do your job without?

Kevin: Yeah. We’ve been doing so many projects, and the scope is so wide, it’s hard to say there is just one person. I work with a gaffer, Oliver Ogden, who if you’re talking about trust in crewmembers, he is someone who I can trust his decision making and know that it will be something I’m comfortable with. He’s able to shoot in any environment, which is something we do a lot. We used to shoot a lot more in studios, and now we’re shooting on location with really small crews more, and he’s able to adapt. It’s really nice to have that unspoken trust, like a well-oiled machine. He’s also a really enjoyable person to be around. Me and Isaac, we’re always trying to find people who are enjoying the process. We just really try to cultivate people who are really interested in making something. 27-hour day or not, we want people to be excited. We did that Okkervil River video where we went up to New Paultz, New York, this unbelievably beautiful part of New York State, stayed in a hostel with six of us, and already you have this comradely. You get up the night before you’re going to shoot, you have dinner together, you wake up in the same room at 4am, and just spent the day together shooting all these amazing things. I think the relationship that we all had to each other and to the project allowed us to accomplish more.


cinematographer profile, kevin hayden

Doug Klinger is the co-founder/content director of IMVDb and watches more music videos than anyone on earth. You can find him on twitter at @doug_klinger.

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