We had the good fortune of connecting with Sean McCoy and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Sean, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
I’m a Director of Photography based out of Washington D.C. Growing up, I was an actor in the area working professionally with local theatre and production companies on anything from Shakespeare to Fallout 3. My life has been ingrained in storytelling for as long as I can remember. As a little boy, I spent hours roaming my neighborhood fighting zombies and skeletons and monsters with sticks pretending I was Link from the Legend of Zelda. My imagination became a shelter for me in what would become a somewhat unsteady home life. My father walked out on my family when I was 16, leaving my mom to take care of my sister and myself as we graduated into adulthood. I studied Acting at Boston University, picking up my BFA and moving on to the epicenter of entertainment on the East Coast: New York City. What I thought would be an accelerator for my career as an actor turned out to be a year filled with trauma I’m still recovering from. Out of the gate, my student loan payments from school started at $900 a month. Left and right I was told I needed to work 2 years as an unpaid before I could be paid a wage that would let me scrape by. For most of that year, I worked to pay off as much of my loans that I could and survived on $15 a week for food. I shared a closet-sized room with my girlfriend, I lost 15 pounds because I couldn’t afford to feed myself and that’s how I existed. I taught myself photography and filmmaking, taking out loans so I could have the equipment, and freelanced everywhere I could. I shot New York Fashion Week, documented small businesses, worked with influencers, photographed actors, produced campaign videos– all taught from what I could consume on YouTube or the internet. I couldn’t get enough. I’d always known poverty was a horrible unnecessary condition, but living through it, even for a short time, made me understand how devastating and traumatic it is. It was from my experience in New York that I would come out passionate about stories that could help lift people out of poverty. Moving to Washington D.C, I took up a job at a nonprofit where I lifted up social justice movements, food banks, produced a documentary on homelessness, and more. I formed a small business outside of my job so I would never have to worry about needing work, helping provide high-quality & affordable commercial content to local small businesses and organizations in my backyard. Today I’m moving in the same direction, working on political campaigns and movements, telling local stories, and lifting up people and businesses around the District.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My cinematography is probably most inspired by Romantic Era paintings. A lot of the stories I’m telling are those of underdogs or those who have survived or endured the elements despite the odds. Looking back at Art History, I find that Romanticism juxtaposes man versus their environment– and we as people are constantly in conflict with where we are.

I think I have a non-conventional approach to filmmaking; training as an actor I think about narrative, pacing, aesthetics, color etc. from a place of trying to create conflict between inner and outer life. In a lot of my pieces, the camera is kind of its own character and the characters moving about their world are constantly in conflict with the world around them. And not all conflict is bad, but it gives us a place to tell a story.

It’s not easy, and coming into this profession without formal training I always feel like I have imposter syndrome. Doubt is almost always with me, but I try to use it as part of the creative process.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Living in Northern Virginia, we have access to a lot of different kinds of places. Personally, if my best friend was in town (and some of my good friends were in town) I’d get the heck out of town and head up to the Shenandoah Valley, pitch a good ole fashion tent on Skyline drive, hike, try local breweries and taste the local flavor.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’m part of a wonderful community of filmmakers through a collective called the Video Consortium. The people in this group have not only been a sanctuary for me throughout the pandemic, but they’ve also helped me think more critically about the work I’m doing and the intentions driving it.

Website: seancmccoy.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/seanmccoyphotography/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgTR0mY_JqG5_LLDL5VZH_w/featured

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