Levi Arnold

Who are you and what do you do?

I’ve been a director of photography for the past few years and I mainly concentrate on commercial projects that allow for a natural and organic approach to the visuals.  A focus for the past two years has been in the NDA/classified projects world which is very exciting as it allows me to interact with some really interesting people and learn about some processes that projects that are ahead of their time.

Where are you from?

I grew up in Kentland, Indiana which is between Chicago and Indianapolis in the middle of corn fields. We had one blinking stop light and a decent McDonald’s. I now live and work in Crown Point, Indiana.

How did you get started?

Slowly. I wasn’t a kid who knew that film production is exactly what I wanted to do, but, as my parents could attest to if you asked them, I was that kid who was drawing on the walls, making stuff in the woods, tinkering around and just trying to create something different and my own. I really got started with film during my motocross career. My dad bought a Canon XL2 and Pinnacle editing software to make videos of me and my brothers racing motocross and eventually that morphed into filming for Fire and Police Departments where I would edit, because I wasn’t old enough to be on scenes. I stayed behind the edit suite for a few years before I started shooting and directing.

Do you have a side hustle or hobbies?

I really love working with my hands and seeing something new or different so I’ve gotten into making jewelry and clothing when I have time between projects. Currently, my hobby is creating one-off clothing pieces that are centered around patches that I find at local shops or are given to me by friends. Before that, I created wrist bands/cuffs from vintage camera lenses.

What was one of your biggest mistakes and what did you learn from it?

Reply to all. I’ll never forget that email. I think the biggest learning opportunity that I’ve come across has been in the people space. I’m by nature a very trusting person, to a fault, and while that can be good, it can also bit you in the butt when you least expect it. I think that it’s important to have that trust and use it, but also be sure that your protected. A few uncomfortable minutes of discussion about a contract or paperwork can save you months of headache later on. Get your paperwork right and you’ll have a much happier life.

What are the top tools you need to do your job?

You’ll always find my RED, laptop, and Micron pens in my backpack or laptop. I always like to carry my RED and laptop with me no matter where I go because I’m the type of person who quite literally feels a physical pain when I see something fascinating and can’t capture it. Also, I’ve recently started carrying around a Polaroid camera. Not an Instax. A polaroid camera. The OG. I like the process of taking a photo and only getting one chance at it.

Who or what inspires you and why?

I’m very inspired by anyone who knows what 645, 120, and VV mean. Slightly kidding. I find a lot of inspiration from guys around my age who are creating films that evoke a unique style or element. Nicholas Matthews, John Matysiak, Dave Hill, and Ryan Booth are some of the guys that I draw a lot of inspiration from on a weekly basis. I’m attracted to people and processes that allow for an organic and raw treatment of visuals. Having creamy flares, shooting through broken glass, maybe crunching that color a bit past what’s acceptable; all these sort of things add to the visual style and create an image that is distinct and can’t be replaced. I love creating in the digital space, but creating in the analog space, in-camera, is what keeps me going.

What do you love about Northwest Indiana?

The woods. I enjoy the city, but I’ve gotta have the woods and there’s a nice balance of that here. Also, the people are incredible. It’s not until you’re constantly working with people from LA, New York, and other big cities, that you appreciate the kindness of the people in NWI.

What resources are you finding to educate yourself?

Shane’s Inner Table, Masterclasses, RedUser and Udemy. I live and breath by these.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in your industry?

Start. Be embarrassed, get frustrated, work through the night, find a mentor and take them out for dinner whenever you can to pick their brain. You’re going to create some really bad stuff for awhile. And that’s okay. It comes down to taste, not talent. Talent can be taught and learned. Taste is about knowing what’s good and what’s not as great. Talent is knowing how to make something great. If you have taste, that’s what matters. So grind, find your style by making mistakes and learning through those. I’m mostly self-taught and I love that because it allows me space to create a distinct visual that are based off years of trial and error.

What’s next for you?

Opening another studio on the west coast and finally working with RedBull.

Where can we find you?

Check out my frames and BTS on @iamchildfire