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Joe Brunette

Joe is a cinematographer and photographer. He started at RWS about eight years ago and shared a studio with his wife for a few years before moving to the space in which he currently resides. He is a visual storyteller who’s motivated by color, texture, and design and does a lot of freelance work for the television networks. He seeks out jobs that put him in intimate or precarious situations and loves to document people who are at a crossroads in their lives. When he was at a turning point working in TV an opportunity came along to work with a colleague who had found articles published online by a pig farmer who was having a crisis of conscience. For ten years the pig farmer had tried to be the most ethical, humane pig farmer and thought he was providing something good for his community. As he learned more about the pigs and spent more time with them the farmer started to see them as intelligent, social beings who take care of each other. He began to have ethical issues around slaughtering the pigs but didn’t know how to get out of the business. It’s these moments that interest Joe; when something someone has believed for so long suddenly feels wrong. “That’s where life is lived, in these difficult choices. It says so much about who a person is. How do you capture that and make a film about it?” Joe was able to capture how the pig farmer arrived at this moment and made it into a compelling story. The resulting documentary, The Last Pig appeals to wide audiences and has earned multiple awards. Joe spoke of the amount of equipment needed to make a film and how it is necessary. His favorite tools are lenses, “Some render images with an oil painting-esque quality, it's almost magical - and I find it really interesting to see the subtle differences in each lens.” Each lens sees things differently than our eyes see things, and Joe finds looking for these nuances interesting. Every lens contains many glass elements and each has a different chemical coating that creates these unique characteristics. Older vintage glass lenses add a unique touch of style that can breathe life to an image and, ultimately, to a story as vintage lenses can often be warmer and softer. Light is another top consideration for Joe when he films a scene. The quality and quantity of light and how it shapes things and how it can be shaped to affect how the audience responds to an image affects the camera angles and how a story might be filmed. He uses the tools that shape and control natural light and artificial light to achieve these effects and shape the storytelling.

Nothing ever goes according to plan in filmmaking. It’s a collaborative process and every project is different. Joe will work with director’s who have clear ideas about how they want shots to look and feel and he works with directors who know the story they want to tell but appreciate a lot of input or feedback from him on how to capture it. He values the mentorship opportunities he’s had because he’s watched experienced cinematographers navigate and communicate with directors to creative problem solve. Joe was very moved by the documentary Rivers and Tides about the sculptor Andy Goldsworthy. Goldsworthy uses flowers, icicles, leaves, mud, pinecones, snow, stone–anything found in nature–to create site specific land art that becomes a meditation on the cycles of life and death. “I think it’s really interesting how video and still photography play a crucial role in his art due to the ephemeral state of what he creates. There is a process of decay, change, and coming apart of each sculpture. The recorded image is integral to show the different stages of each cycle fading away and going back to the land.” Joe has worked for National Geographic, Hulu, PBS, HISTORY, Smithsonian, BBC, CNN, and Discovery. An upcoming series he’s worked on about shipwrecks in the Bermuda Triangle will be on the History Channel starting in November. Learn more about The Last Pig and its acclaim at Contact Joe via Instagram @joseph_brunette or via email,


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