We had the good fortune of connecting with Kayla Windsor and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kayla, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I think that most filmmakers are entrepreneurs at heart. We all, kind of, don’t mix well with the 9-5 life and the idea of owning your own schedule and business is the goal. I started my business as a freelance contractor in the film industry because I knew from a young age that I was born to tell stories. I was lucky and found cameras really young and at first, you have to figure out how to tell stories on your own, for free. Once you get good enough to tell those free stories, people start to pay you for them, and that’s how I started my business. I told enough free stories that someone ended up paying me for it and it’s been my career ever since. My career wasn’t necessarily a decision I made, but something that ended up becoming a business from what I truly wanted to do every day and I consider myself lucky that what I wanted to do also pays pretty well.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
One thing that I’m always shocked by is that I’m literally the only trained female cinematographer in Arizona. All the other women that grew up with me, moved on to Los Angeles or somewhere else and the other women in the industry are still being trained below me. It’s weird and I wish that it would change because as soon as the women below me feel that they are ready, they’re going to move to California or somewhere else too. Arizona is not too friendly of a film state and I understand why they all move and it’s weird that when I look for women to replace me on sets, there aren’t any. The camera team in Arizona is a boy’s club which proves difficult to all of us women. I’ve been bullied beyond belief by most of the men in the camera team in Arizona and it’s never been fun. It’s difficult when you show up for work every day to a group of men that don’t want you there. In the beginning, I thought it was just a hazing process but it never went away. Something that other film states have is supportive teams and that’s something I’m still struggling with here in Arizona. Everyone is out for themselves instead of having a team that has your back and I hope that one day, I can find myself a supportive team. Right now, I have so many people on my team but none of them actually live in Arizona. Luckily, when I have a project, I can just fly them out here or I can go to them which makes me believe in the future a lot more than what I’ve been given here in AZ. The industry is very open to women cinematographers, now more than ever, so with overcoming the struggles of not having a supportive camera team in my immediate vicinity, I have to prove myself to people who are farther away. Which makes my efforts more of a global reach than locally. I’m still trying to figure out how to get my work out to people who can appreciate my talent and until then, I’m keeping my head down and working the system. One day, I will be able to release my work confidently and as I have some big eyes looking my direction, it has to be perfectly executed. When that will be, is a good question.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I actually have so many friends all across the world and get so excited whenever they tell me they’re coming to Arizona to visit. Depending on if they have ever been to AZ or not, the Grand Canyon is always one of the main choices to go to since it’s one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. Another place I’d take them to is Sedona for the natural healing powers of the Vortex there. Some people don’t believe in energy in that way but you’ll feel it in Sedona so I like to make people change their minds about how energy really does affect us and Sedona usually gets people to rethink their belief in energy flow and manifesting. Since we are in a world of the Coronavirus, I would probably cook food at home since it’s dangerous to go out all the time right now. If not, I would ask them if they’d ever had In-n-out or Coldstone Creamery because they’re mostly a West Coast food place. I like to check out local mom n pop eateries when I have people come to visit because chain restaurants are boring.. so depending on their mood for food, we’d check out some cool local spots. In the time before the virus, and depending on the month they come, I’d take them to some of the art walks we have here like Zoo lights in December, First Friday during October is the best, and there is always something to do in Old Town Scottsdale. There are tons of hiking trails in the Phoenix Valley too so if you’d want to hike, we have plenty of mountains for that too!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would like to dedicate my Shoutout to all of the men and women in the film and media industry who have given me the opportunity to join their team behind the scenes to get their stories out there. Those who believed in my abilities before I believed in them myself and for giving me the confidence to move forward in my career. A couple people come to mind who deserve some credit in helping me along my journey. The first is the Arizona Production Association, after I graduated from college, I reached out to the APA for help getting my foot into the industry. They immediately got me onto a 6 week TV show as an intern Production Assistant for the Discovery Channel and my career has been word-of-mouth ever since. They were my first foot in the door and have consistently sent productions my way ever since starting in 2015. The second that comes to mind is my mentor Sean Savage SOC, ACO. Most people don’t know his name but they know his work, he was the A-Cam Operator for every episode of Game of Thrones for all 8 seasons. I’m not entirely sure how I got so lucky gaining Sean as my mentor but without him, I might have quit the camera team a couple of times. He has continuously reached out to me with advice, good news, and hard lessons. He’s introduced me to some of the greatest filmmakers and camera operators of our time and has shown me that the effort that I put in every single day is not being unnoticed and that I will get to my end goal if I don’t give up. His kindness in letting me into the big league’s world has been so appreciated, I can never give up because of his support. A few other names who have helped me endlessly and I am forever grateful for them, Parco Richardson, Maria Sanderson, Kelly Griffin, Aiden Chapperone, Darin Neccessary, Jacob Perry, Michael Falasco, and Aaron Araza.