These 5 film industry professionals may not be famous (yet), but they’re making incredible work right here, right now, in the Capital Region.
The Capital Region is just three hours from New York City, a global hub for filmmaking. However, even though the Capital Region regularly hosts television shows and movies, we’re more often sought for cast and crews. This lack of understanding of our depth of talent has hurt our local filmmakers. Often, it drives us to work outside of the area, to New York City, Boston, and even Los Angeles.
Many local filmmakers have chosen to live in the Capital Region despite the challenges. These 5 film industry professionals may not be famous (yet), but they’re making incredible work right here, right now, in the Capital Region.
1. Lakota Ruby-Eck, Cinematographer
Leading off our list of 5 film industry professionals is Lakota Ruby-Eck, an Albany-based director of photography (DP) and assistant camera operator (AC). He became a filmmaker by accident, when he found himself in an advanced video class in high school. Then and there, he fell in love with cinema. After graduation, he attended school for broadcast communications, finding film school was too expensive. Lakota also worked at the Spectrum 8 Theatre in Albany. He would watch and study as many free movies as possible. There, he met other local filmmakers and eventually ended up working on their sets. “Being on set is my favorite thing ever,” he said. “It feels like a family.”
Video games often inspire Lakota’s cinematography. “Video games are now informed by film,” he said. “Even the lighting in games is heavily informed by cinema.” Lakota would love to work on a video game adaptation, especially System Shock of Bioshock. Advising new cinematographers, Lakota says, “Always be prepared to learn. There are so many different kinds of gear and every DP has certain things they like.”
You can contact Lakota and find his work on his website.
2. Victoria Diana, Writer/Director/Comedian
Victoria Diana is a writer, director, and stand-up comedian born and based in Schenectady, NY. She attended SUNY Oswego, planning to study archaeology. She ended up working at the university television station as an anchor and director. Victoria realized she didn’t like the news, but she loved news writing. Eventually, she directed tape sketches and interned in Los Angeles for a summer. There, she edited sizzle reels and did script coverage.
Her career brought her back to Schenectady after college where she worked as a PA on The Pretenders. Later, she found work in New York City, staying with friends or family during gigs. She hoped to move to NYC, until she realized that the high cost of living would keep her from creating her own content. Instead, she moved back to Schenectady and focused on her writing full-time, taking side jobs to pay the bills.
Victoria’s Prizes and Festivals
Recently, Victoria completed her second film, Devour, starring Kelli Barrett (Dickinson, Netflix’s The Punisher) and Andrea Morales (Prodigal Son, The Blacklist, Bull).
Victoria won $40,000 through the Innovation Group of CNY Art’s Short Film Competition Grant. Although the film had to be based in Syracuse, a significant portion of the crew were based in the Capital Region.
3. Aden Suchak, Writer/Director/Educator
Aden Suchak is the Director of Education at Youth FX. He’s also an independent writer and director. Aden was a born storyteller. He adds, as a kid, “I had no interest in sitting down in one place.” Youth FX was originally a summer camp. There, Aden was given the freedom to make a lot of mistakes. “The thing that made me a filmmaker,” he said, “is the opportunity to do so. Just be a filmmaker, just do it. It should be normalized and have more support.” Aden regularly watches foreign films for inspiration. He explained that many classic films don’t tell modern stories. They don’t tell stories about women or people of color. His favorite filmmaker is Wong Kar-wai. He said, “We need a new visual history to replace the old ones.”
Aden’s Albany-based Filmmaking
Aden recently finished his short film, Driver, with collaborator Mohammed Al Shaneif. Driver centers around a Syrian driver who plans to meet his family in Toronto. The entire cast and crew of the film, other than one person, was based in the Albany area. Aden and Mohammed won a grant from the Scout Film Festival to complete the film. “[I want] to make films about the local community, both set in and also starring people from the area. I feel really connected to a lot of those stories and that’s where a lot of my writing comes from. This film came together through our friendship and our relationship.” Aden says that his first feature will also be shot in Albany.
4. Kenna Hynes, Director/Cinematographer
Kenna is a director and cinematographer who moved to Upstate New York 5 years ago. She originally studied orchestral music performance for the French horn, but later moved to Chicago to study cinematography at Columbia College. Her goal was to become a union camera operator. But, she met a group of musicians, leading her to make tour videos and tour documentaries. Since then, Kenna has joined a few bands and started working on music videos as well. After fatefully meeting members of Chromoscope Pictures at Little Pecks in Troy, Kenna has collaborated with them, directing music videos for local musician, Half Waif.
Many filmmakers say yes to every opportunity, but Kenna explained that being selective is okay. Her advice? “Only work on the projects you want to work on, with the people you want to work with. You don’t have to live in a big city to make amazing art or find people to make art with. Follow a path that works for you.” Kenna’s dream project is to create a narrative feature that’s impactful and uplifts marginalized voices.
5. Cameron S. Mitchell, Director/Cinematographer
Cameron grew up in Michigan and graduated from Temple University with a degree in film and visual anthropology. Now, he lives in Albany with his three cats, Mickey, Prince, and Nugget. Cameron started working professionally as a swing grip on the series Restaurant Impossible. From there, he worked as a rental technician in New Jersey, networking his way to working on other productions including Molly’s Game, Iron Fist, and The Romanovs.
Accessibility for Actors with Disabilities
Cameron felt naturally attracted to filmmaking. Both of his parents are documentary filmmakers. His interest in telling stories about people with disabilities arises from both his father and sister living with disabilities. His latest film, Co-Op, is about a grocery store robbery that doesn’t go as planned when the thief realizes that many of the shoppers are people with disabilities. Co-Op made it to over a dozen film festivals worldwide, including Slamdance. The film will stream on Hulu.
According to Cameron, casting people with disabilities is not as difficult as top casting directors make it out to be. Cameron often casts people who are non-actors. He says, “How can non-actors become part of a story about themselves?” When it comes to advice, Cameron also attests success to becoming comfortable with failure. “It took me 10 years of sitting back in the DP seat and observing other directors do the thing I wanted because I wanted it to be perfect when I did it.”
Written by: 518 Film Network
Local filmmakers Michelle Polacinski and Micah Khan began the 518 Film Network in the beginning of 2020. 518 Film Network’s mission is to empower and connect the local Capital Region filmmaking community in order to collaborate on new content and inspire outside productions to hire locals when they choose to film in our area. Find out more information on their facebook page.