Adam J. Richman is an Orange County native who resides in Los Angeles. A graduate of Chapman University,
he is now a working cinematographer and graphic designer with experience in 35mm, 16mm, RED One 4k, HD, and HDSLR. Adam has been working at perfecting the craft of visual storytelling since before his high school years. Concurrent to high school, he attended various Saddleback College film programs, winning several awards for his submissions. He is a prime example of recent film school graduates that are extremely competent in many aspects of the filmmaking process - from pre-production to post and everything in between.
Already a working professional, he is the owner/operator of a complete Canon 7D high definition camera package (details can be seen on his website), and has been a prominent figure in the niche world of DSLR filmmaking. He is success and goal oriented in both the long and short term, and is self described as “largely creative, technically proficient, mildly eccentric, casually extroverted, and overly charming”.
As a full time freelance professional, he accepts assignments primarily as a Director of Photography, but also enjoys the roles of the assistant camera, grip and lighting, and tackling interesting post-production projects. Often involved in the producing side, he recently put a project together in Beijing which provided a dramatically fulfilling experience abroad. He finds it most enjoyable to combine the craft of cinematography with his passion for travelling and in addition to the dozens of assignments he’s undertaken in Los Angeles and Orange County this year, he’s accepted work in New York, Chicago, Portland, Las Vegas, and San Francisco.
He keeps a close network of talented individuals spanning all production departments, and is currently reviewing scripts to produce and shoot his first feature film. Watch his cinematography reel and recent commercial projects online at http://adamjrichman.com.
Editor’s Note: In the spirit of full disclosure, Adam is a cousin of mine, one of several people in my family that are accomplished professionals in the arts (from video and film, to theater, to the fine arts, to classical music).
OCS: How long have you been interested in film and video?
Adam: For as long as I can remember I’ve always had an interest in the visual language. It’s something universally shared by all cultures; understanding images (whether in motion or not) has always attracted me. An early love of 35mm photography eventually spawned an even greater love for the moving image and the capturing of light and dark on celluloid.
It was in middle school that I held a video camera for the first time. Like many kids my age, we were really into the “Jackass” series at the time. While my friends were jumping off parking structures and shooting their younger siblings with paintball guns, I was always the one fearless guy, risking life and limb . . . safely behind the camera.
I remember one night I got together with a friend of mine, Colin Trenbeath (now a colleague and housemate), to produce our first narrative short, a film titled “Shoes”. With nothing but my parent’s video camera and the length of night, we stayed out all evening shooting visuals for a piece we ended up editing as the sun came up the following morning. It still remains a favorite work of ours (and our parents).
By the time I had gotten to high school I was bored with the traditional academic subjects my circle of friends were involved in; I simply wasn’t being challenged creatively. While they were off studying the finer points of molecular structure, I took it upon myself to become the youngest student in Saddleback College’s film program, a position I was warned would send me out of class in tears, by my now close friend, professor, and mentor Charlie Myers. Those courses turned out to be the most influential in terms of both building the kind of character it takes to become a filmmaker and in reaffirming that this was truly going to be the craft I’d spend my life attempting to master.
Afterwards, with the help of scholarships I was awarded for my previous works, I would be accepted to Chapman University’s prestigious film school - the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts.
OCS: Was there ever anything else that you thought you might do?
Adam: In addition to filmmaking, I’ve always loved the field of design - graphic, web, print, and even interior. As a result, I’ve constantly sought opportunities that involve either filmmaking or design. At Chapman University I graduated with a minor in Graphic Design, and this has lead me to pursue a handful of interesting projects, post-graduation, as well as develop an interest in animation and motion graphics.
Despite considering alternatives, I’m not sure I’d truly enjoy doing anything else. What’s most important to me is doing something that I both love and that challenges me every day; I get both with filmmaking and design. I’ve found if you put your passions before your compensation, things tend to fall into place as they should.
OCS: Tell us about your experience at Chapman.
Adam: Chapman was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Not just because it allowed me to openly pursue the art of filmmaking from day one, or because of the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s best professors, or because of the absolutely wonderful network of friends and colleagues I developed throughout my four years in attendance, or the almost endless amount of equipment and studio access available to me at all times, but rather because of the introduction to something that surprised and challenged me more than anything I had discovered yet: travel.
My sophomore year at Chapman I was awarded the opportunity to study abroad in Italy to pursue graphic design for a semester abroad. It was there that I learned what is even more important to me than my work as a cinematographer - maintaining the constant desire to travel and experience other cultures. In addition to the semester spent in Florence, Italy, I spent the summer backpacking across both western and eastern Europe. In doing so, I not only developed some of the most amazing friendships along the way, but experienced a vast mix of cultures and traditions that I had never known existed or even cared to learn about prior to my study abroad. What an incredible world it was that I was missing out on! I learned an indescribable amount about myself and the world around me, and it’s something, to this day, that inspires me and that I am truly grateful for.
Besides travel and the friendships and network I created at Chapman, it was a fantastic experience simply because of how much talent you are constantly surrounded with. You literally have the opportunity to be on-set every weekend, and I took advantage of that. Likewise, being able to shoot on 16mm and 35mm film was amazing; having access to all of the equipment I’d end up working with in the “real world” was immensely educational. And perhaps most honoring was to be a student of such astounding professors as Bill Dill, ASC, Jurg Walther, Kiku Terasaki, Michael Kowalski, and Gil Bettman.
OCS: You are part of the relatively small percentage of graduates of film school who actually make a living in the business. Actually, you are quite successful. Tell us about the kind of jobs you are doing.
Adam: Since graduating Chapman I’ve relied entirely on both my network of professional filmmakers, and my own drive to pursue opportunities that will be rewarding for me both financially and creatively. So far I’ve been fortunate enough to learn from and work on almost every type of filmmaking: feature films, music videos, short films, commercial, corporate, and even live events.
What I love most about this industry is that you literally can wake up and do something new every day. What’s more, you can be working with a different crew every week, which is great because I consider myself a very sociable person and love meeting talented people. Alongside a handful of various production work, and just off the heels of shooting a series of vignettes for GQ and W magazines, I’m currently co-producing another set of commercials for one of the most prominent and well respected names in camera support equipment, O’Connor, that I intend to shoot in August.
I measure my own success by how fulfilling the projects I work on are. While I’ve been shooting a lot of commercials lately, I’ve found I’m most satisfied when I work on narrative projects (even when they tend to pay a lot less). My goals for the remainder of the year include pursuing feature film opportunities, as my next personal and creative milestone will be shooting my first feature.
OCS: You’ve won several awards and contests both in school and commercially, tell us about some of them.
Adam: Beyond the recognition and financial successes that have come from winning a variety of awards for my work as a cinematographer, it’s been most rewarding to receive the congratulations and praise from the peers I’ve most respected throughout the years - my professors.
I’ll never forget the moment Charlie Myers, my professor at Saddleback, asked permission to screen my work in class to future students as a representation of what was expected of them, an inquiry from the same professor who warned me I may leave the class in tears just a few short months ago; I was speechless.
A similar gesture came a few years later, when I was at Chapman. In my professor Bill Dill’s small upstairs office we were reviewing together, in a private session, my final thesis film at Chapman. Coming from a professor who I most respected for his lack of censorship when offering criticism about his student’s work, his honest approval and positive comments about my accomplishments during that session together was indescribably gratifying. When not a full week later I was across the hall receiving similar praise from my professor Jurg Walther, I knew I was in the right field.
That particular film was later nominated for the Annual Student ASC Cinematography Awards, and was featured in Chapman’s premier “First Cut” showcase of selected student films in both Los Angeles and New York theaters.
OCS: Do you have one or more experiences that you consider highlights of your career so far?
Adam: Most recently, during a somewhat spontaneous trip to China earlier this year, I stumbled into the fortunate opportunity of working with a Chinese writer/director living in Beijing, Long-Cuu Phan. During my two week stay in Beijing we produced together what is now one of my favorite works as a cinematographer. The simple, yet somehow universal story we were able to capture in what I believe is one of the most intriguing cities I’ve been to yet, was inspiring to say the least. Since the completion of that film, we’ve been in talks to do both another short and eventually a feature film together overseas.
Projects like these, where I’m able to connect with other talented individuals cross-culturally, all-the-while combining my love of travel with a continued education of our world’s people, are what I find most rewarding.
OCS: What advice do you have for other people looking to make a career in the business?
Adam: What I’ve learned that may seem obvious, is that this industry, like any other, is a constant learning experience. Beyond the fact that the equipment and technology is changing at such a rapid pace, what’s also changing is you. I think it’s important to be cognizant about your own growth, and to truly learn something from every project you do.
Just as important is actually getting out there and doing it! What I’ve found is there is always a production looking for some free hands. If you’re just starting out, I think the best thing to do is get on-set (which is not to discredit the pre-production and post-production processes, which are equally important to be involved in). Make opportunities for yourself by developing projects to create among your peers, and constantly be building your network - nobody breaks into this inherently collaborative industry alone. That said, figure out exactly what you love about this wonderful art and pursue it at all costs - the rest will fall into place naturally. I look forward to how our paths will cross in the future.