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Brian Nguyen, Cinematographer & Director of Photography

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Brian Nguyen is a cinematographer based out of Los Angeles, CA. He is a graduate from the American Film Institute where he received his Master’s in Cinematography. Upon graduation, Brian mentored under esteemed cinematographer, Christian Sebaldt, ASC (CSI, Lucifer, How to Get Away with Murder) where he learned to take his craft to the large scale.

Brian has most recently wrapped on his third feature film, The Harvest, starring Doua Moua (Mulan, Gran Turino) and Perry Yung (Warrior, The Knick, Boogie). His first feature film, Never Alone, won Best Cinematography and Best Indie Feature at the Miami Independent Film Festival. As a cinematographer, Brian’s goal is to create feeling and emotion through the images he creates on screen.

“The Harvest,” the movie – As cultural traditions are slowly becoming a burden of the past, a Hmong son returns home knowing that family is the only thing that binds him and his ailing father together.

Director: Caylee So, Writer: Doua Moua, Producer: John Houselog & Doua Moua

Actors: Doua Moua (Mulan & Gran Torino), Perry Yung (Warriors & The Knick), Dawn Ying & Chrisna Chhor. The film had its world premiere at Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

APM: Why did you choose to be a cinematographer?

I fell into filmmaking through surfing and snowboarding movies – there were people making these films that would travel the world doing something they seemingly loved, and I thought to myself, “why can’t I do that?” I then pursued photography and there I found cinematography which in my mind is the perfect marriage of technical execution and art.

APM: Tell us more about yourself.

I grew up in Florida and went to the University of Florida for my undergraduate where I received a Bachelor of Science in Human Nutrition with a minor in English and film studies. From there, moved to LA to pursue filmmaking as a career where I worked as a camera assistant while also shooting. I then attended the American Film Institute Conservatory where I received my Masters in Cinematography. Aside from filmmaking, I am an avid snowboarder, surfer, rock climber, and guitarist.

APM: Are you interested in Fashion or Arts? 

Any kind of art interests me – music, paintings, photography, sculptures, and any other medium of human expression.

APM: Do you travel often?

 I often travel for work when I am working on documentary projects. For leisure, I love to travel to other countries where I can do any of my hobbies while experiencing the food and culture.

APM: What is your philosophy in life? 

My philosophy in life is to do what you love and love what you do.

When I started on The Harvest, my director Caylee had already created an in-depth deck on the look, feel, and tone of the film. As we discussed the film at length together, we wanted to approach the film with a lot of mood, texture, and color. Each character in the film was represented by their own color and that dictated the feel and color of the scene that the characters played in. There wasn’t necessarily a sense of “welcomeness” to the house, which is subjective to our protagonist, Thai, in the way he feels about returning home to his family. As the film progresses, however, there is more light and levity that ends the film with a more positive and uplifting tone.

We also approached the film with much naturalism in the feeling of the light – I didn’t want anything to feel too “lit” and have my lighting motivated by the natural environment. With the camera movement, most of the film is handheld to give a documentary look on this family and the character’s lives. There’s a distinct shift in camera movement toward the 3rd act of the film where we consciously played the camera as more stationary and stable. We took inspiration from Chloe Zhao’s “The Rider” in terms of the feel of the lighting and camera, while heightening it slightly more for our story.

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