SKSM: Could you start with telling me a little bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
Jack Leahy: My name is Jack, among other things I’m a cinematographer, currently based in Nova Scotia.
SKSM: When did you know you wanted to become a cinematographer?
Jack Leahy: The realization that I wanted to head in that direction was a result of multiple intersecting factors. Truth be told I’m still working towards becoming a cinematographer! I’m sure there are people who wouldn’t consider me as such. It can be a bit of an elusive, self-proclaimed title. I’ve been shooting still photography since I was in high school, and I didn’t really know what a DP was until I started watching a lot of movies while in university. Discovering the role of the cinematographer, DOP excited me deeply, it felt like a natural progression from my photography and YouTube videos I was making at the time. The idea that directors had stories to tell and that I could light and photograph their story with them was so exciting. Around the same time I reached out to Paul McCurdy and Kevin Fraser, two incredible Halifax based DPs that took long coffee meetings with me. Those couple of hours really solidified that cinematography was the direction I wanted to head.
SKSM: How do you communicate with a director to design a visual strategy for a film?
Jack Leahy: For this film, Popsy, Jon and I were floating references back and forth months before we shot. Jon had a list of movies and a playlist of songs, both of which gave me insight into the world that Jon was after. I had a few photography and colour references that I shared with Jon. Once we decided on a 4:3 aspect ratio and shot-listed a few sequences we were on the right page and had the visual approach was pretty solidified.
SKSM: You worked with Jon Mann on this film, what do you think the relationship between a director and a DOP should be?
Jack Leahy: It should be like working with Jon! A mentor of mine suggested that my mission should be to go find 5 more Jons, I’m still working on that. Ideally, the relationship on all project types is a collaborative one, playing off each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Jon has also become a close friend of mine since shooting Popsy, working alongside friends makes it all the more fun.
SKSM: You worked on a Dollar Baby based on a Stephen King short story. Was it your most challenging film?
Jack Leahy: It’s been long enough now that I don’t remember it like that. We had a blast making the film. It was certainly pushing the limits of what I was capable of at the time but we pulled it off.
SKSM: When you’re going to shoot, what are your favourite lenses? formats?
Jack Leahy: There are so many interesting optic solutions out there. Most of which I have yet to have the opportunity to use. I have a couple of Pentax still photography lenses that I’ve had forever, and adapted to EF so I can shoot with them digitally. They are my favourite of the lenses I have access to. I’m excited to get my hands on some BlackWing7’s at some point.
SKSM: Was there any funny or special moment when you made the movie that you would like to tell me about?
Jack Leahy: There was this hilarious improv take that Sean McCullum did as the Mall Cop. I’m not sure how much of it he prepared but it was pretty incredible. It didn’t end up serving the scene so it’s not in the film but it was a good laugh on set.
SKSM: Who are some of your influences (favourite DOPs/films)?
Jack Leahy: I’ve been certainly inspired by the greats who’ve pushed boundaries in the field such as Bradford, Savides, Deakins, Chivo, Cronenweth (both of them). But the takeaways from them are elusive and overarching. The biggest influences have come from Canadian DPs that I have been generous with their time and expertise. I’ve gained the most practical knowledge from Paul McCurdy, Kevin Fraser, Mat Barkley, Catherine Lutes, Jeff Wheaton.
SKSM: Are you a Stephen King fan? If so, which are your favourite works and adaptations?
Jack Leahy: I am certainty a King fan. The Shinning is a stand out for me, I’ve also just started to read 11/22/63, it’s a beast of a book but I’m enjoying it so far.
SKSM: What are you working on nowadays?
Jack Leahy: You’re catching me during the COVID-19 pandemic so there has been a bit of break from shooting. I’ve taken this time to catch up on movies I haven’t watched, and update my website. I’ve also been working on a Litemat style LED build, sourcing the parts from the wonderful people at MOSS LED.
SKSM: What one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Jack Leahy: That I represented Canada internationally a handful of times in Sprint Canoe.
SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything you want to say to the fans that read this interview?
Jack Leahy: I’m your fan if you read this! Thanks for having me on here.
SKSM: Do you like to add anything else?
Jack Leahy: If anyone has made it this far, check out my website at www.jackleahy.ca and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org