Aaron Bernakevitch is a young Canadian Cinematographer making a big name for himself in the last year in Canada, Alberta. He was just praised in the Canadian Cinematographer Magazine and won an AMPIA Award for his work on Hello World in 2015. He isn’t stopping there! When we sat down with him after he had won the Alberta Film Award he was very honored he gets to add his creativity to the Alberta film industry, and it’s being respected! He shoots everything from music videos to short to commercials and features films. His style is very clear, artistic, beautiful and flows well. He is very eloquent in person and loves to talk about all the cool equipment he uses in his job. You will be seeing a lot more of his name as he is considered one of the top cinematographers now to come out of Alberta! We did 20 questions Q & A with the rising cinematographer!
When did you get your first start in film?
Well, if we’re being technical and counting my ‘first’ film, it would have been when I was 8. My uncle had rented a shoulder mount VHS cam for Christmas, and it took about 1 minute of playing with it and I was hooked. I was so amazed that you could capture something and play it back! From that point on, I basically always had a camera in my hand and was making films with friends.
My first paid opportunity in the industry, would officially be my start, was in 2005, I shot a Variety show at Celebrities on Davies Street in Vancouver.
What education in the film do you have or experience?
When I was in high school, I attended two consecutive 16mm summer camps at the CSIF (thanks, CSIF and Dave Jones!!). I realized then that film could actually be a profession. During grade 12 my curiosity had gotten the better of me, and I hopped on a bus to check out The Vancouver Film School (VFS), and they accepted me on the spot! Obviously, I knew I couldn’t quit school and move to Vancouver and attend film school when I was 17, so I’d asked them to hold my acceptance until I was done high school at least! I then attended VFS a year later and graduated in 2006 with honors.
What is your favorite part about being a cinematographer?
The fact that I get to find beauty in everything I shoot Note Cliché American Beauty reference… J
I feel very fortunate that I get to do my dream job as my profession. I love the fact that no two projects are ever the same, and every project comes with it’s own challenges and creative potentialities. I also love the fact that I get to work with so many different filmmakers and directors. For me, there is a nice balance of art, collaboration and math! It allows me to flex my creative muscles, and I get to use both sides of my brain, the analytical and the creative.
What type of projects do you like to shoot?
Any project or idea that gets my brain excited and anything that resonates with me in some way, are things that I always try and pursue. I obviously love beautiful period pieces, but conversely, there is also something very fun about shooting music videos! When I connect with I project, I can bring so much more to the production.
What’s your favorite book?
Shibumi by Trevanian. One day I’d love to shoot the adapted screenplay of this
Super Freakonomics by Dubner & Levitt
What’s your favorite movie?
Tough question!! For contemporary films my favorite would be:
Very Long Engagement by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
For classic’s it a tie: On the Waterfront by Elia Kazan & Sunset Blvd by Billy Wilder
Do you get ever feel it’s hard to have respect from your older peers for being so young and accomplished?
Blushing… Am I accomplished? I’d say that the cinematography community in Alberta is very supportive, and there are tons of people I have a huge amount of respect for. I’d say as a result of our warm community there is quite a generous and mutual respect and support. I’ve got a lot to learn, and I know that I am early in my career so, I’m definitely inspired by those peers, but I also believe that you are only as good as your last project! I strive to get better with each work and anytime that I can do that in collaboration with my peers it’s a fortunate opportunity.
How many projects have you worked on this 2015?
Geez, tough question! I haven’t sat down to take an official count, but I’d say that I am at least average about four projects a month….more some months and fewer others…..I’m always cooking something up!
How many awards have you won and for what projects?
Recently three separate films I had shot were all nominated for Ampias in the same category: Best Cinematography Drama Under 30 minutes, and I was a fortune to win for my work on “Hello World” by Olaf Blomerus.
“One Night in Aberdeen” by Brett Ferster: The film was awarded best short film narrative at the Knoxville Film Festival, following winning Alberta Spirit Award 2014, Calgary International Film Festival (CIFF) Best of Shorts 2014, and three Rosie Awards from Alberta Motion Picture Industries Association. This film was so awesomely received by festivals; I had to shout out the gents a.k.a the “Bretts” at The Light Factory.
“Mercy“ by Petunia (Music Video): Best Music Video. We won the top prize from TELUS Storyhive against ten other finalists.
Red Dirt International Film Festival, Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA
“Consolation Prize” short (Winner, Best Cinematography)
Mumbai Women’s International Film Festival, Mumbai, India “Three Colors and a Canvas” Feature (Winner, Best Cinematography)
Gallup Film Festival, Gallup, NM, USA
“Dancing on the Run” Music Video (Winner, Best Cinematography)
*Did I mention that I love Storyhive…. Which is an awesome program Telus.
What has been your most challenging project this year?
Each project brings its own unique challenges, and as a DOP I always try and embrace those challenges.
Who is your main team you work with the most?
My friends! The best part about this career path and my job is that I literally get to go out each day and make beautiful, challenging and hilarious work with some of my best pals. The list is pretty long, but here are some usual suspects:
Jamie Wensley, Anish Bahl, Justine Stevens, David Whyte, Charles Hamilton, Alexis Moar, Vince Varga, Connor Couzens
What camera do you like to use?
The right camera for the project.
Which cameras do you own?
Go Pro 3 +
Iphone 6…… J (it’s always in my pocket and super handy so I had to give it a shout out)
Where do you see yourself in your career in 5 years?
Five years seem so far away… but I’d say I’d love to be working!! haha whether that’s shorts, features, music videos… I like making pretty pictures and so any opportunity to do that is where I’d like to be!
Check back with me in 5 years and I’ll let you know!
How is being in the film world for your personal life?
Life in the film, as everyone says, isn’t easy. It’s hard to find a balance between committing to your friends and loved ones and still have a consistent stream of work. It’s been ten years for me, and I am still trying to perfect the cocktail. My partner in crime, lover, and bestie Deitra Kalyn is INSANELY supportive with me and my career. I am a very very fortunate man to have her in my life.
In fact, anyone reading this who is; dating, married or tindering a person in the film industry…. pat yourselves on the back! What we do as filmmakers isn’t the most concussive to regular schedules, and regular lives. Thank you for your patience, love and continual support.
What do you do on your days off?
The odd scotch….
Which do you prefer Coffee or Tea?
Coffee when I wake,
Tea after I eat.
Where do you get your hats? We see you wear a lot!
Wherever I can find them….
You Favorite Cinematographer?
Hard to have just one, but here are 10 to name a few….in no particular order:
Hoyte Van Hoytema
And one more for good luck
Who inspires you the most in your life to create?
So many people, places, and things! Here’s a short list:
My Gramps, George Kerby aka “Poppi” is a grade A class act. He’s 87 and still has his wits. I have so much respect for this man, and I love him to pieces and through that love I’m always inspired to create.
Sunsets – So cliché, but I still have to call them out. Every time a see a sunset I just really wish I had a camera in my hands so I could capture it. The sun is the best light you’ know! :
Travelling – Going to new countries with different social climates, architecture, colors and landscapes. When you travel somewhere new, you have a unique perspective on everything.
A really good script!
Who would you like to thank?
I have to send a MASSIVE shout out to the family who have supported me from the start of my career.
Anyone with the passion and gumption to go out and create a film! With that said, I’ll end with this and something I say often.
“If making movies were easy, everyone would do it.”