An Interview With Paul Brenno

Paul Brenno was raised in Minot, ND. In 1989, he joined the Air Force before studying film in Montana. His filmmaking specialty is cinematography, but he considers himself a well-rounded filmmaker who’s worked throughout the United States in several roles, including: Commercial Producer/Editor, Director, Director of Photography, and Video Producer/Editor.


His experience has led to a number of achievements and honors, including Gold Winner at the LA Shorts Awards, Best Cinematography (nom) at the LA Film Awards and Best Ad Film at the Vegas Film Awards. Brenno has also been recognized with a number of awards like Best Cinematography, Best Music Video, Best Commercial, and Best Director (Honorable Mention) from a range of film festival. In addition to his awards, his films and documentaries have also been screened at a number of film festivals like the Cine Fern Film Fest, Short Cine-Fest, Dances with Films Film Fest, LA Cine -Fest, Houston International World-Fest, Docs without Borders Film Fest, and Hollywood Screenings Film Fest.

What was the inspiration for making films, esp your most recent documentary short COVID 19 vs The Magic City?

I've always been drawn to films, movies, tv, broadcasting. I grew up in Minot North Dakota, so being so far away from Hollywood, never even thought of being a Filmmaker. I remember during my senior year, buying my first American Cinematographer magazine and just knowing this is what I wanted to do.


After high school, so I joined the US Air Force, during my time in San Antonio, got to meet the late Emmy Winning Cinematographer Ken Lamkin (ASC), he was famous for his work on the sitcom "Frasier". He was making a feature film there, I was able to go on the set and observe, which was a super thrill. After serving, I went to film school at Montana State-Bozeman, which has a terrific Undergraduate program. During my senior year, met another hero, Oscar Winning Cinematographer Dean Semler (Dances with Wolves, Apocalypto). Both Dean and Ken's work in both features and sitcoms really inspired me to be a DP./Filmmaker, as well as many other, including those in the ASC/ACS/BSC, etc


After graduating film school, I then started on my career of being a Video Producer/Editor, working on everything from commercials, corporate, documentaries to music videos. Following the recession in 2009, I didn't know what the future held for me, but took whatever job I could find. In 2016, while in my hometown working, I began to start freelancing, do whatever project would come in. One of them was a short film called "Magic Tap Cloggers", which gained numerous Cinematography Awards, that followed with a music video (gaining more awards), then in 2019 my first Documentary Feature about an oil company out in Williston, ND.


My most recent short documentary "Covid 19 vs The Magic City" came to me in early March 2020. When news broke about restrictions with business', I started to notice many of my hometown business were slowly being shut down to the Take out Only service. I looked around and sections of all sorts of places were being shut down, so I thought, this looks like a disaster movie, why don't I make a short documentary film about how small town USA is affected??


What was your all around goal with this documentary?

I made Covid 19 vs The Magic City because I worked in news for a few years as Photojournalist, and I noticed that news seems to be changing from straight up news to now being more sensationalized or opinion, so I wanted to do a film about how real people/business' are affected by Covid as you see the big cities how the focus


What is the most challenging thing for you in directing/filmmaking as a one man band so far away from Hollywood?

One of the big challenges, and there are many, is making sure the story you are telling is not only being told, but told in an interesting way to hopefully captivate the audience to keep wanting to watch. Never do I want to bore the viewer or shoot beautiful footage and lose the story. I'm a one man band, so I am think of not only the entire shot, but also how it till edit and flow in the story


What do you think about the future of filmmakers in the film industry and its impact on society?

Seems that technical (cameras, lighting, audio to editing systems) are constantly updating and improving, it's great to see innovation, but it's sometimes very hard to keep up with that when you're either not working much due to covid or living in an area where work is very limiting or you don't have the budget to work with the latest and greatest gear. I think that films that are very current or relevant are very important, but not focusing on the negative, but having that be a set up for what good will come out of it, that should be the focus

What is your next film project?

I just completed a music video for an artist Kendra Royal, am now reading a few scripts for 2021, but my focus is working for an AZ marketing company CBM Marketing in Northern AZ as remote Video Producer, so really looking forward to growing this company with CEO Aaron Walksler


Do you plan to only work on short films or do you want to make a feature?

I'd like to just keep working on whatever films come in, commercials, corporate, shorts to features, anything that keeps me busy working and being able to make a living


How can film festivals support film projects further in distribution and what do you think about film festivals and winning awards?

Film fests are a great way to give those non-Hollywood, non NYC filmmakers that have alot of talent get exposure, without having to move to those large cities if they are unable too. Offering distribution deals is great, esp for those who don't have easy access to them. I also think winning awards is great, esp being honored from your colleagues for your hard work, it's great, esp adding to your resume so you hopefully can get more work


Who are some influential filmmakers that were inspiring to your work?

#1 is Oscar-Winning Cinematographer Dean Semler (ASC/ACS) is my biggest inspiration, his work on "Dances with Wolves" to "Apocalypto" are masterpieces, plus Ken Lamkin (ASC) who passed a few years ago, he was the first Cinematographer I met, plus Kevin Costner/Taylor Sheridan for "Yellowstone", since Yellowstone is based in Montana (Bozeman), that's my alma mater, Montana State School of Film. I do admire so many more, esp Christopher Nolan, but these are most influential

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2020