Kevin Shahinian of Pacific Pictures – SLR Lounge Artist Profile
I had the opportunity of working with Kevin back on a large South East Asian wedding that took place at the Langham Hotel in Pasadena. Kevin and I got along quite fabulously, and it wasn’t until after the wedding when I checked out Kevin’s work that I realized who I was actually working with! Kevin is known in the industry as one of, if not the premiere, South East Asian Cinematographer. His work, simply incredible. In fact, you could say that Kevin’s work is the next step in the evolution of wedding film making.
Kevin has earned his name not only by creating amazing Hollywood quality wedding films and same day edits, but also his unique wedding “concept” films where he creates an epic film trailer starring the to-be bride and groom. These concept films spread through the South East Asian community like a wildfire. It is no wonder, they are truly awesome pieces of work.
Before we move on to the actual interview, be sure to check out Kevin’s latest concept film Flawless, as well as one of his recent same-day-edits, both shown below.
SLR Lounge: Kevin, how did you get started in videography?
Kevin: I donâ€™t think I really ever got started in â€œvideography.â€ I have always considered myself a filmmaker who also creates films for live events. I know its semantics, but one of our first gigs was an exotic destination wedding and from the very beginning our approach was different: developing a language in pre-production and using that as a guide throughout the shoot to find the story and create a moving film out of the experience. â€œVideographyâ€ is something totally different. Although â€œcinematographyâ€ is the new buzz word being adopted by folks who use a videographersâ€™ approach with a newer camera, itâ€™s a shame to see these titles being diluted. I personally havenâ€™t been doing live events long, we started Pacific Pictures in 2007.
SLR Lounge: Do you feel that it was your education at the USC film school that gave you your mad skillz, or was it something else?
Kevin: First, thank you for the compliment. For me higher education has been the foundation of my development as a filmmaker and something essential to my growth as an artist. But itâ€™s not the only way I learned, it was the approach I started with. USC is a hands-on program that fosters a lot of real-world environments, so on-the-job learning was engrained in me at an institutional level. I looked to a few of my heroes and saw they went to film school so I went that route. I also recognized the other side in wildly successful filmmakers like James Cameron, someone with no formal training who learned everything on the job. At a certain point itâ€™s instinct; something thatâ€™s just inside you that canâ€™t be taught. For me itâ€™s been a combination of everything.
SLR Lounge: For those that don’t have a chance to study film making formally, what educational resources would you recommend to them?
Kevin: The best educational formats in my opinion are the ones that encourage hands-on practice in real world environments. All the top film schools foster that. If you canâ€™t afford or get accepted into a summer program at USC, AFI, NYU or UCLA, I would say look into a mentorship program or a workshop taught by real filmmakers whose work you admire.
SLR Lounge: What would you say was the one most beneficial thing you did to take the quality of your work to the next level (aside from film school)?
Kevin: Recognizing and exploiting my strengths as a filmmaker regardless of precedent or what others were doing was the key. For me it was reminding myself that I was a narrative production filmmaker and using that to exploit my writer/director aesthetic, which led to us creating films with unprecedented production value.
SLR Lounge: Let’s say you only had $10k to invest on equipment to create your masterpieces (including cameras, lenses, stabilizers, audio, etc) what would be your must have items?
Kevin: Great question, but I cringe at gear questions. If I had $10k and no experience, I would first invest in education. Once youâ€™ve got the fundamentals in place, Iâ€™d then focus on gear and Iâ€™d have to start with a filmmakersâ€™ most undervalued tool: a tripod. I would then equally prioritize my image and sound. We have a tendency in the live event industry to think of ourselves as cinematographers, while neglecting the sound track. Great sound is as vital to the viewer experience as a polished image. To me bad sound is worse than a bad image.
As far as gear, I really try to encourage filmmakers to internalize the â€œwhyâ€ of their visual choices and let the gear come as a secondary necessity to facilitate that vision. To name a few pieces of gear would be counter-productive to that philosophy. Sorry if that sounds snobbish, hope that makes sense!
SLR Lounge: No it completely makes sense. In fact, that is the whole reason we put so much time and effort into things like the iPhone Photo Shoot where we showed that you could take professional quality photos with just a camera phone, and 2 $30 reflectors. I have seen artists create amazing works with little to no equipment, and I have seen the other side of the spectrum where people with all of the necessary gear can’t create compelling art to save their lives. It is always nice to know a few bits of gear tips here and there =), but, it is truly the artist, his/her vision, planning and execution that creates the work, be it a film or a still photograph.
SLR Lounge: Your concept films in the wedding community are completely unique and new, what made you think up this idea?
Kevin: It all started with a client asking for a same-day-edit to premiere the night of their event, but they wanted something extra special to create a buzz. Their initial vision inspired me to think of something beyond an SDE, something bigger and different, so I pitched the idea of producing a shoot prior to the event to give us added control and opportunity. A more ambitious film would deliver an even bigger â€œwowâ€ factor and that really appealed to the client.
SLR Lounge: Concept films aren’t new, but they are relatively new to the wedding industry. How did you go about creating a market for something that didn’t really exist prior?
Kevin: It started with personal ambition that translated to pushing the precedent of the industry and looking for ways to achieve very high production value. In so doing, we were able to create a perception and thus a market that appeared brand new to this industry (even though concept films have been around for a long time). People like to be the first to discover things so creating that sense of discovery helped build the market base among the Indian community especially.
SLR Lounge: I know there are thousands of people looking to you for inspiration, but where does Kevin look when he needs to be inspired? Be specific, don’t just say Hollywood =)
Kevin: That is a great question. My intent on every shoot is to establish a visual language that is inspired by the material; an authentic celebration of the world of the story and the characters living in it. On live events, itâ€™s a mindset that allows for a distinct, fluid and organic shooting style. Style is something I try to breath into my films by listening to my own aesthetic sensibilities first. I will often watch films and not concern myself with â€œhowâ€ something was done as much as â€œwhyâ€ the director chose to shoot a scene in a certain way to take the approach in my own, new direction.
In terms of specific Hollywood filmmakers, I tend to watch a lot of Scorsese, Mendes, Zemeckis, Cameron, Spielberg, Fincher – in general auteurs who have established an original style that maintains a delicate mix of story and spectacle, while honoring a different set of characters and worlds in each new film.
SLR Lounge: Lastly Kevin, when you aren’t creating amazing films,Â what are you typically doing in your free time? Hobbies, interests?
Kevin: I am a huge fan of culture, seeing how others live and watching others express themselves artistically. I love travel and museums.
SLR Lounge: Well guys, don’t be surprised if we see Kevin’s name on big Hollywood productions in the future. Thank you so much for your time Kevin, and be sure to keep us posted on your latest and greatest.
Kevin: Absolutely, appreciate the opportunity.
To see more of Kevin’s work be sure to visit his website atÂ http://www.pacificpictures.net/
Post Production Pye
SLR Lounge Senior Editor
Partner ofÂ Lin and Jirsa Photography