Lassen High grad makes movie career as cinematographer
In the past two years he has worked on 12 films, many of them short films for UCLA. One film, a full-length feature, premieres Friday, Sept. 14 at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, Nev.
“Thunder Over Reno,” dubbed the fastest love story, is the creation of Mitch Carley, who also directed the film.
“It is ‘Top Gun’ meets ‘Days of Thunder’,” said Griffith. “The story is about a kid growing up in Death Valley and works as a crop duster for his father. An air race scout comes to town and sees the kid’s talent. The kid moves to Reno.”
Griffith added his air race team pilot is a woman and soon a relationship ensues.
“The movie is rated G,” said Griffith. “That’s the way Mitch (Carley) wanted it. It is a decent movie for both girls and guys.”
While working on another film in Reno, Griffith said he noticed planes flying over the Stead Airport and figured someone was filming. He said he went to the airport and asked the director of photography if he needed help.
“I helped with lights and then a funny thing happened,” said Griffith. “There was a guy working who was extremely clumsy. He broke some things and the DP (director of photography) fired him and asked me if I wanted the job.”
Griffith was working on the other film but was able to work out a schedule and ended up working on both films “around the clock.” In three months time, he went from an entry-level worker to a cinematographer.
He said he is self-trained as a cinematographer though he is very art-oriented. During his middle and high school years in Susanville, he was involved in the music program and fondly remembers former teachers Ray Craig and Tony Winn. After high school, Griffith did go to Lassen Community College for two years.
“I know Susanville is a small town but I would love to see the high school offer a film program. We are much more a visual society,” Griffith said.
He said people seem shocked he is from Susanville. He said even people from Susanville seem shocked he is making his mark.
“I think the biggest thing someone in Susanville can do is not be close-minded about living or coming from a small town. It gets in the way of accomplishing goals,” said Griffith.
Griffith’s parents, Randy and Vickie, and his brother, Chris, all live in Susanville.
Before his break into the movie industry, Griffith served an 18-month deployment to Iraq with the Army National Guard. He left the National Guard in November 2006.
“We went over there (in 2004) with really true purposes. We helped with elections and security,” said Griffith who added the mission was different then but now it appears to be out of control.
This past weekend Griffith was leaving his San Luis Obispo home and heading to Los Angeles to begin filming another feature-length film, “Acrasia.”
He plans to attend the premiere of “Thunder Over Reno.”
Other movie credits:
“Thunder Over Reno,” cinematographer; “Holy War,” director of photography; “The Roll,” second assistant director; RT Energy Drink Commercial, director of photography; “Acrasia,” director of photography; “Cup of Joe,” Gaffer/first assistant camera; “Tambourine Paradiso,” first assistant camera; “Code Duello,” grip; “For the Life of Me,” key grip; “I Am But a Fool,” key grip and “2000 Miles All the Way,” key grip.
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