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FACULTY SPOTLIGHT – ANDREW CARNWATH

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Where did you go to school and what did you study?

Graduated with a BFA in Electronic Media at VCU in 1999 and had the opportunity to study fine art at Lorenzo De Medici in Florence Italy for 1 semester. 

What would you say is your main focus in Cinema? (ex. Writing, directing, camera, etc.)

My main focus in Cinema has definitely been in Production Design. I have worked as a Production Designer or in the art department for over 20 years. Although, I also write screenplays and direct on occasion. 

Who are your top 3 favorite filmmakers? Why?

Guy Maddin – Joel Coen – John Hughes 

Guy Maddin – My love for Guy Maddin started in College and really changed my perception of what a feature film could look like. I’ve always been a fan of films or directors that pushed the boundaries of traditional filmmaking and storytelling either through set design, camera techniques and subject matter. Guy Maddin certainly has a catalog of films that do just that. Monochromatic frames with crude images and sound paired with strange but somehow relatable stories and set in a time and place that is hard to put your finger on, that is a common thread in most Guy Maddin films. This might be best experienced in one of my all time favorites, “Careful”. 

Joel Coen – Hands down, Joel Coen, holds the title for most films on my top 20 list. Fargo, Raising Arizona, Barton Fink, No Country for Old Men… Just a couple titles that say it all. These movies seem so effortless and every shot is purposeful. Love that he and his brother write, direct, produce and tackle a variety of genres.

John Hughes – Call it nostalgia… John Hughes shaped my childhood and certainly influenced my love for a great comedy. Huge writing and producing credits but the ones he directed are some of my favorites. He made movies that were not overly ground breaking in visual style or subject but you can always spot a Hughes film.

Are you currently working on any personal projects?

Currently I’m working on selling a TV Pilot called “The Magic Shed”. My partner and I wrote and produced the pilot here in Richmond with long time friends, Tilt Creative & Production. It was a blast to direct and it’s been an eye opening and lengthy experience trying to get the pilot into the world. 

What is your main piece of advice to give to students?

This seems like an obvious response but BE AVAILABLE & BE ON TIME! In the beginning stages of their careers it’s important to put yourself in a position to be available at a moment’s notice. Trying to get noticed in the industry is tough but can happen fast if you are in the right place and time. It could be as simple as… We need another “crew member” for tomorrow 5AM can you be here? Next thing you know you are on the show for the whole run or being asked to join the next commercial. And be on time… get there early and be ready to work before call time. They say in the business, “you are only as good as your last job”. Show up late and it could be your last job.

How long have you been teaching?

Officially, I’ve only taught one semester at a college level.  Although, I would say as a department head, I’d say I’ve been teaching newcomers in the industry for over 15 years. Best part… they teach me everyday as well.

What’s your favorite thing about teaching?

Teaching excites on so many levels. I love my job and it’s been a fantastic way to earn a living and support my family.  Teaching and talking about Production Design comes very easily when you love it. Getting others to get excited about it is very rewarding. 

What got you interested in film?

Movies and the moving image are so powerful. One shot, one sound, one prop – can speak volumes and can change the whole meaning behind what is being communicated. I think that is what draws me to media in general.  

What is one of your favorite memories since you’ve been teaching at VCU Cinema?

I guess my most vivid memory was how nervous I was the first day of class. I really wanted to make sure I had everything in order for a successful semester. I put a lot of pressure on myself to teach and convey everything that I would hope to learn myself, if I was in their shoes.  

Do you have any other hobbies besides filmmaking? If so, what are they? How do they contribute to your art/craft? 

I have recently started to draw/ illustrate again – I have found it to be so mind calming and meditative. I love to build just about anything. I think my curiosity with how things are made keeps me busy building for myself. I think both of these hobbies directly influence my filmmaking toolbox.  If it’s building a wall, making a shelf, doodling, whatever it might be, I’m always aware of how my task is teaching me something I can use for Production Design or filmmaking in general.

Andrew’s Website: www.andrewcarnwath.com The Magic Shed: www.themagicshed.com