We have another edition of the Shooter’s Profile with one of the main shooters for one of the underground kings of today, Curren$y. FORTYFPS has been dropping great work for years now and it seems like he is only getting better with his upcoming movie, BB. So I thought it was would be the perfect time to get with him to see what he is all about.
TRS: What is your name and what do you do?
CJ Wallis, a.k.a FORTYFPS, and I am a film-maker who also does design, marketing & music.
TRS: Where are you from and how has being there affected your creativity?
I am from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and we have a well-documented reputation for miserable weather, and I think people who’ve seen my early narrative projects or pop-music videos could come to the conclusion they were made by someone who grew up living in the rain, haha.
TRS: Explain what initially got you into shooting?
The first 15 years of life were spent with the intention of making the NHL. Being 5’6, I was Rudy Ruettiger’ing my head in everyday and during all this I had started obsessing over things like “Pulp Fiction,” “Casino” and “A Clockwork Orange,” and decided it’d be way more fun to make the movie about Rudy than to become him. On the day I finally made it on a junior/professional team, I quit.
TRS: Explain what does an average day look like for you?
It’s been the same uninteresting routine for several years: get on the computer shortly after waking up and remain there well into the night until the caffeine stops working or the smoke convinces me to take it in for a few hours.
TRS: What things do you look at or watch for inspiration?
My favorite thing in the world is a massive hardcover book spanning the career of Stanley Kubrick film by film, filled with interviews and behind the scenes things like his note pages and manic scribbles, which I couldn’t get enough of. Usually within a few moments of skimming through it, I’ll be off and running.
TRS: What camera setup do you currently use (camera, lens, other accessories, etc)?
Everyday use I have a 4K Panasonic Lumix GH-4, with a zoom lens which is great everywhere except the dark nightclubs which make up 40% of my Jet-Life filming, haha. It’s easy enough to carry a prime lens with me which works great in low-light, I prefer to just have the zoom on to stay out of the performer’s way. Be a fly on the wall, not a fly in the face. On my films or the videos where we have some time to set it up, I use a Red Scarlet.
TRS: What do you specialize in or what do you enjoy shooting the most and why?
I’d have to say I take the most pride in my editing. It will make or break a project every time. Once you’ve spent your 10,000 hours and truly understand all the ways you can assemble/rearrange different shots, it instantly informs your shooting. After awhile, you start seeing the edit in your head as your shoot which naturally results in way less raw footage shot.
TRS: How do you incorporate design and marketing into some of the film projects you work on?
The good part about being a one-man production house is not having to wait on anyone to do any part of the process. I have a feature film dropping in July called “BB,” and for the last two weeks, I’ve been designing a new poster every day across social media which, if it wasn’t me doing it all, it would cost a small fortune and be totally impractical.
TRS: What has been one of the best memories of your career thus far?
One Jet-Life memory I have that stands out is actually largely chronicled in a documentary I made called “106 & Jets.” Anyone who knows anything about Curren$y knows one of his biggest influences is Jim Morrison.
We were in New York the day before the release of his first major studio album to perform on the legendary 106 & Park for the first time. In the clip, you see him walk out to a packed studio of kids throwing up the Jets – unprompted from any producer – and you can easily see what it meant to him.
During the second segment, to everyone’s surprise, the label had them debut my video for “Fast Cars, Faster Women.” I hadn’t been on a major show like that before and I was standing backstage with Smoke DZA. I managed to film the TV for a few seconds and the tail-end of DZA laughing. “You did it, CeeJIzzle!.”
The rest of the night was spent at Harry Fraud’s studio in Brooklyn where in about 8 hours Curren$y recorded the majority of what would become XXL’s EP of the Year “Cigarette Boats.” We had been awake well past 24 hours by the time we left the studio and had to wait 30 minutes for a cab to take us back to Times Square.
On the way back, we had a rare candid conversation about everything we were about to do over the next year/s and how everything was about to be different from here on out after the big album. As we were exiting over the Brooklyn bridge, as if on cue, “Break On Through” started playing on the radio in the cab.
The crazy coincidence perfectly recapped the conversation, entire day and, in that delirious moment, also seemed like some sort of career-affirming moment or sign. I turned to see if Spitta had noticed and he was staring at me wide-eyed like “whoooaaa…” haha.
There are hundreds of small moments like these I’ve had in my career that have nothing directly to do with turning on a camera. Magazine covers, awards and movie premieres are obvious examples of the perks people can point to in this profession but these are the times that make film-making or working in any creative avenue one of the most fulfilling ways to spend a lifetime.
TRS: Since we believe that music is the center around all things creative, what are your top 3 music albums, and what about those albums that gets you in a creative zone?
I tend to find something new, listen to it obsessively and then have no use for it, haha. Radiohead’s “OK Computer” and documentary “Meeting People Is Easy” were big for me at the time, Bjork has managed to stick around in semi-regular rotation. Lana Del Rey is on my career bucket list. I tend to listen mostly to old motown day-to-day. I usually watch or listen to whatever vibe I’m trying to cut or design to.
TRS: Who are some shooters that you follow and what do you admire about their work?
I think @Rambo does amazing black & white photography with Leon Bridges, who is another artist I’ve been hassling non-stop for months to let me do a video for, haha. I’m jealous of @MaryEllenMatthews who does all the bumper photography and design on Saturday Night Live. The best lesser known photographer/videographer would be @Lea.Godoy from Seattle, she will be everywhere in no time.
TRS: What is one tangible piece of advice that you would give somebody who has just started shooting?
My editing answer earlier probably covers this. When you start out, don’t worry about what you’re shooting on or how good your script is, just shoot so you have something to learn how to edit nothing into something.
My best friend Jeff Zablotny and I used to bring cameras with us at all times for years and just film events with friends or aimless day to day things and then go off and each find ways to chop up what we shot into proper narrative short films – complete with frame by frame animations, just to e-mail to our friends. A few years later, I am making those same videos professionally and each one of those home-videos informed a decision later on and helped develop instincts for shooting on the run.
TRS: What is next for you?
My film “BB” just finished screening at the Cannes Film Festival is about to be released in a month or so, which is the main push at the moment. I’m in early development/pre-production on my next film “Umerica” which should be shooting around September and the plan is to submit it in January for next year’s competition screenings. I have already reached out to a handful of actors who you definitely won’t expect to see playing the roles I’ve written for them.