Job: Photographer, digital producer at SiriusXM
Hebrew name: Yaakov
Currently living in: Los Angeles
Alma maters: Epstein Hillel School ’06, Marblehead High School ’10, Emerson College ’14
Favorite food: Breakfast burritos
Favorite music: Phish, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard … Animal Collective, psychedelic rock, African psych rock, African jazz
Favorite movies: “The Big Lebowski,” “Akira,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “In the Mood For Love,” “The Lighthouse,” “The Thing”
Favorite TV shows: “Twin Peaks,” “Cowboy Bebop,” “Fargo,” “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!,” “Better Call Saul,” “Breaking Bad”
Favorite books: “Dune,” “Cat’s Cradle,” “American Gods,” “Blood Meridian,” “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” “How to Be An Antiracist”
Favorite travel destination: Grand Tetons in Wyoming
Somewhere you’d like to go next: Japan
Favorite North Shore spot: Old Town Marblehead
Favorite Jewish holiday: Rosh Hashanah
Favorite Jewish person not in your family: Rabbi David Cohen-Henriquez
What was your Jewish background growing up?
I grew up very Conservative – I was very immersed in the Jewish community. I went to Cohen Hillel Academy for eight years, so that was all day, every day. I went to Camp Bauercrest for 14 summers. After middle school, my parents made me do Prozdor, the Hebrew high school supplement, and I also was involved in organizations like USY. My parents actually wanted me to go to Gann [Academy] and I ended up wanting to go to Marblehead High School. Post-living in Massachusetts, like the last seven years or so, I would say I’m not a practicing, religious Jew. Like I don’t go to all the High Holidays, I’m not doing all that, but the morality, the history, just the way of living has been embedded in my life. Since we’re in quarantine, my old roommate had his parents ship Seder plates and the Hagaddahs, so we did Passover this year; always down to light the Hanukkah candles – it’s more of a solidarity thing with Judaism than a religious, spiritual experience.
How did you get into film?
I got into that when I was in high school. I ended up taking all the video classes that I could, and I just fell in love with it. I’m kind of a big nerd, I just soak in as much entertainment as I can, and I realized all I wanted to do was tell stories and to make TV and film. Luckily, I had parents who were able to indulge me on this dream trip, and I applied to a bunch of different film schools across the country, and Emerson’s the only one who told me I could put a camera in my hand as soon as I got into the school.
Where did that lead?
Right now I am a photographer and producer of video content at SiriusXM Radio … the first question is always why is a radio station shooting video. I work on their marketing team specifically, so it’s a lot of the ads and stuff that you’re seeing on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Right now in the pandemic, it’s all gotten shaken up a little bit – I really just look at Zoom footage all day, and it’s usually like interviews between a host and an artist. When we were in the office, I was actually shooting those interviews in a radio studio, and also we have a performing space where people come in and either record sessions with or without video. Before the quarantine started in January, I shot Coldplay, Beck, and a few other people – Foreigner. We’ve been producing new content in quarantine, like games with artists where we play their song backwards and make them guess what it is, or editing tutorial videos for listeners to learn guitar while they’re in quarantine.
Before, you worked as a freelance cinematographer.
Going into college, I wanted to be a director. I just knew I wanted to make films. I’ve since found that I’m not a bad director, I’m just less confident in directing. While I was in college I found that I was really into the technical aspect of cameras and lights, so that’s why I claimed that I was a cinematographer. And as I’ve been out here creating content for people and for myself, I’ve realized that I can’t really compete with these cinematographers. One of the things about cinematography is all the equipment, and that’s like hundreds of thousands of dollars. I slowly but surely realized I wanted to be more of a writer and producer, especially in the wake of the George Floyd protests and diversity in the industry, and personally through all of that I felt like – not that my voice isn’t worthwhile, but there are other voices that are more necessary here, and I would rather use my ability to make films and produce content for people of color who have ideas, but might not be getting the attention they deserve.