How did you come across Starr, the single mother at the centre of the film, and what made you eager to tell her story?
I had been working on a short doc about the female bike-life scene for a while before making Starr, but I never found the right subject for the piece. I spent about six months doing research and reaching out to people in the bike-life community before COVID hit, and then I decided to focus on other projects for the time being.
It wasn’t until I started up on the project again, this time with Alex Fischman as the co-director, that we were able to find Starr. She was actually one of the first people Alex reached out to. When Alex conducted the first audio pre-interview, we knew she was really special.
Your film contrasts shots of Starr’s urban bike-life with more intimate shots of her with her children, both at home and out of the city in woodland. Was finding these different sides of her life key to telling her story?
Definitely! I think that dichotomy was always really important to the concept of the piece. The tug that Starr feels between these two worlds is the emotional core of the film. Despite aiming for a really short runtime, we wanted to make sure the film felt honest to her and showed a full portrait of her life.
What were the main challenges of making the piece?
The biggest challenge we had with filming was definitely figuring out how to actually shoot Starr on her bike in a safe way. We didn’t have the budget for the equipment you’d normally use to film moving vehicles, so we ended up ratchet strapping me into the back of a pickup truck with the back lid opened up. My key grip, Declan Saint-Onge, was a real trooper and rode in the back with me with a walkie talkie so I could communicate with Alex and the driver.
Your directing partner on Starr was Peruvian filmmaker Alex Fischman Cardenas who you also teamed up with as cinematographer / editor on Teeth, shortlisted this year in the 1.4 Awards. How does the creative process work between you? Do you both have different skill sets that compliment each other? How do you resolve any different point of views?
Alex and I work really well together! We met in film school and bonded over our love of Alfonso Cuarón and Emmanuel Lubezki movies. On set we’re very in sync since we have similar tastes, and I think we’re both always open to improvising and trying out each other’s ideas.
In terms of skill sets, I think we both have stages of the production that we gravitate towards. Alex is really great at working with non-actors and building trust from a subject in pre-production, whereas I really enjoy the post production process and building a story in the edit.
In fact it’s been quite a roll for you this year, collaborating as DP with some of our favourite directors – in particular Ewurakua Dawson-Amoah who picked up a 1.4 Gold for To The Girl Who Looks Like Me as well as a later film, Gold Token. Was it a similar process to, say, working with Alex?
Oh, thank you! Every director I’ve worked with has a very different approach to filmmaking which is really cool to see, and it’s one of my favorite parts about working as a DP. Ewurakua is a good friend and I’m so honored to be included in her films. She always comes to pre-production with such a strong vision of what she wants to do.
It feels like a dynamic collective of talent – how did you all meet and begin working with each other?
We all graduated the same year from NYU Tisch film school. I met Alex in my first production class, and met Ewurakua on a whim after pitching my cinematography reel to her class.
Last year you wowed us with Beach Break for Julietta, winning a Gold 1.4 Award in In The Making Music Video category, which you directed. Although prized for your role as cinematographer do you plan to direct more of your own films?
That was such a fun video to make. I really had no idea what I was doing when I made that one, but it’s still a really special project to me.
And yes, I would love to do more directing in the future! Though I still love cinematography and plan to continue shooting as well. I’m currently wrapping up post production on a short film I directed, and starting pre- production on a short doc about a pair of rodeo riding brothers in Oregon that I’m super excited about.
Are you signed to a production company?
I am not signed as a director yet, but I recently got representation as a cinematographer from Iconic Talent Agency, which has been an amazing experience.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Read Gabriel’s shout out to crew members in credits.
Interview by Becca Nichols
Gabriel Connelly website
Abby T, Legos ft. Rodney ChromeDirector: Henry DaCosta Production: Goldfin, BrickHead Producer: Emily Miller, Sophia Loren Heriveaux, Adrian Sobrado UPM: Martin Luna DP: Gabriel Connelly 1st AC: Steven Xie Steadicam: Franz J. Brun Gaffer: Trey Deming, Hunter Kaufman Key Grip: Henry Wolf Production Designer: Sophia Uehara Art Assistant: Andrea Mato Stylist: Alon Cameron Makeup: Kim Hernandez Driver/PA: Diego Garcia BTS: Ragan Henderson Edit/VFX/Sound: Henry DaCosta Colorist: Joseph Bicknell Color Producer: Anna Kelman Tracking: Light Range Love in the Dark Director: Nick Freeman Cinematographer: Gabriel Connelly Sound Design/Mix: Zach Tabori Gaffer/AC: Shaia Erlbaum Casting: Olivia McDowell Producers: Bre Kelly and Matt Kaufman Color: Joseph Bicknell Gold Token Director: Ewurakua Dawson- Amoah Producer: Adrian Sobrado 1st AD : Farah Jabir DP: Gabriel Connelly 1st AC: Gianfranco Bello Steadicam: Sam Stefan Gaffer: Dmitry Lesnevskiy Key Grip: Declan Saint-Onge Choreographer: Morgan Burns and Keon Hughes Production Designer: Sophis Uehara PD Assistant: Maria Garland Hair and Makeup Artist: Camila Olses Casting by: The Melacast Network Editor: Kamila Daurenova Sound Design: Evan Joseph Color: Kath Raisch Music: Adeleke Ode and Ewurakua Dawson-Amoah Singers: Haiku, Yeimy Castillo, Ewurakua Dawson-Amoah Julietta, Beach Break Director: Gabriel Crawford Connelly Prod Jake Orlin, Jacqueline Rosso Dp Gabriel Crawford Connelly And Alex Wholin Prod Design Hannah Crane Stylist Nila Ravi Ad Joachim Pfefferkorn Ac Colt Thomas Hartman Steadi Sam Stephen Script Sup Sequoia Sherriff Grip Leandro Marte Pa Elise Bortz Edit Gcc And Elliot Farinaro Color Josh Bohoskey At The Mill