Interview With Award-Winning Filmmaker Stash Slionski
"If you want to be a filmmaker and make movies, then be a filmmaker and make movies." - Stash Slionski
Stash Slionski is a BEAST. He's shot and directed more high-profile gigs than I can fit in this paragraph, including the Olympics, Superbowl, Justin Timberlake's Futuresex/Loveshow and the recent music video No Love Like Yours from Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeros, to name a few, and worked as the Director of Digital Content at RYOT.org for the last year and a half. Lately he's been using a small iPhone rig to show off its 4K shooting capabilities - and boy are we impressed. Here's a look at some of his recent work:
Over a brief and compelling interview, he gave us a tiny peek into his overflowing tank of creativity and shared his simple ideology for success and thoughts on phoneography. Enjoy.
BG: How was your childhood, creatively speaking? Did you have access to a lot of gear or anyone in particular that inspired or supported you?
Stash: My uncle (Gary Marocchi) was the first person that I can remember with a video camera - he shot weddings back when the VHS camcorder first came out. My mother (Susan) also shot a lot of video as well - they were like wild documentarians throughout our lives. At some point in my life, they put together a four DVD set of our lives that documented the entire decade of the 80's - every birthday, holiday, etc... all documented. Years later, I discovered that my grandfather, Mario Marocchi, shot on 8mm film for a good portion of my Mom's life growing up. I have that film today and it's a real treasure... I guess it's in my blood.
I've always been interested in photography - photographs have always caught my attention. I got my first camera when I was 15 and I always dreamed that I would be able to press a button and make it shoot a video - and one day it did. I had support from my parents; they supported anything creative that we ever wanted to do. I didn't come from a wealthy background or anything, so it was all from what we could do with our creativity and resources. They offered photography courses in the high school I went to as well, so I had the chance to learn the 'dark room' and explore film - I think that that year might have been one of the last waves of schools offering that style of photo [laughs]. I continued that in the community college I attended and got my first job at NBC - since then I've never looked back.
BG: How long did it take you guys to shoot your recent video No Love Like Yours for Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeros?
Stash: All together we shot it in about 3 days.
BG: What was your favorite part of the shoot?
Stash: My favorite part of the shoot was working with Olivia [Wilde] and Reed [Morano]. They are both extremely professional and talented and I really admire them, so it was great to see them in action.
BG: Do you feel confident that using basic setup like the one you used in the No Love Like Yours video (Beastgrip DOF Adapter, iPhone, mCam, Edelkrone Pocket Rig, and Red Rock Micro lens support) would be good enough to approach another huge gig that you've done before like the Superbowl, Justin Timberlake, etc. with?
Stash: I think the iPhone 6S+ is a beautiful camera. It sounds strange to say that out loud [laughs], but it really is, and with the FiLMiC Pro app that lets you control your settings, it really transforms your phone into a working piece of equipment. In daylight, it's amazing. It shoots in 4K and can hold its own with any rig out there. We are still exploring ways to make the ergonomics of the camera just right. It's good right now and it's going to keep getting better. The Beastgrip DOF Adapter allows us to put any lens we want on it. I shoot a lot of handheld and it's important to be nimble. I'm working on some new setups to make the operator's life a little easier as well. So yeah, I would definitely use it on other projects and actually have a few in the works as we speak.
BG: What's your favorite gear under $100?
Stash: Bongo ties [cord wraps], for sure. I wear one around my wrist everyday... part fashion accessory, part "you never know" [laughs].
BG: How has your shooting style changed over the last 5-10 years?
Stash: It has changed quite a bit... Cameras have obviously been changing and improving at a staggering rate - I've just about given up trying to keep up [laughs]. Culturally, people go through waves of different styles that they gravitate to; it's a combo of what's "in," what gets seen, and when. Now, because content is so digestible and it's very easy to shoot and edit something from a phone in many cases, the "Instagram look" is what a lot of people seem to move towards in what they like style-wise, with simple effects that can be applied easily without any extensive color work.
With that being said, I think there is a large part of our culture that is always diving in and searching for more: more story... more life... so my style has adapted to that. I feel more versatile than ever - enough to be able to do anything with any camera - but cinematically, I'm taking it backwards and reviving some older techniques and angles. I'm always learning and striving to improve the level of quality. I think that people will seek out better quality in the end. I think we achieved that with some of the new iPhone work that will be released soon.
BG: What advice would you give to a new filmmaker?
Stash: If you want to make films and be a filmmaker, you have to make films and be a filmmaker. The #1 thing [that you need to do] is to shoot; watch your footage; and shoot; try new things; and shoot; over and over again. If you want to do it [become a filmmaker] you have to do this, examine your work, show it to people and get their feedback and pull picture references and really just do the work. You HAVE to do the work. BG