Zachary Nelson
BFA in Filmmaking
Cofounder/CEO of MotoCrane, LLC

How did you choose your major? Was it the right choice?

MCAD does an incredible job of exposing you to different mediums of artistic expression. While I was heavily interested in graphic design and sculpture, filmmaking was the only major that satisfied my creative soul, my thirst for technological innovation, entrepreneurial drive. In order to successfully choose a major, you have to first understand how you want your craft to fit into your life.

Best thing you ever got/saw on the free shelf?

I'm probably the only MCAD student that never took anything from the free shelf.

What inspires your work?

I am fascinated by how technology has become a part of creativity and vice versa. My work with MotoCrane is to build camera support technology that empowers cinematographers. It's a niche that I thrive in, and I am really proud to be a part of our talented team.

Current obsession?

Single malt whiskey.

Tell us about your internship.

My internship was at a photography studio that wanted to create a wedding videography business. I worked full-time over the summer to learn about their business, their style, and how to effectively make video profitable for them. We made decisions together about purchasing equipment and how we would treat video as a "standardized" product offering. I learned a lot.

What advice do you have for current MCAD students?

Your definition of success is a very personal thing—much like religion or spirituality. You have to define it for yourself and identify how your craft fits into your definition of success. There is no right or wrong answer, and your answer will evolve over time. Whatever your definition of success is, create a vision for your life around that and map out goals for achieving success. 

Has your work evolved since leaving MCAD? How so?

Since leaving MCAD I've embraced my entrepreneurial spirit. Instead of trying to be the best cinematographer in the world, I've turned my attention to creating technology that advances our craft in ways greater than I ever could as a working cinematographer. That's my purpose. 

Who was your favorite teacher and why?

Tom Debiaso. His standards were very high, and he accepted no excuses. His teaching style was a perfect fit for how I wanted to grow as a visual artist.

Do the Twin Cities offer many opportunities for creatives?

Good question. Yes, but you have to create the opportunities. Advertising agencies want the best talent, and there are creative studios that do great work. But you have to prove yourself as a dream employee contractor. And only if it fits in with your vision for your life.

How do you network yourself and your art?

When I was operating my production company I knew that my clients would be larger companies and/or advertising agencies. I set up as many informational meetings as I could to just learn about potential clients. I asked a ton of questions about THEM—I didn't spew about myself and my work. By asking the right questions, you communicate that you know what's going on. Like, "What contributes to a successful project, and what contributes to failure?" "Why do you prefer working with some contractors over others?" "Tell me about a dream project of yours..." etc. If you empathize with them, you create a relationship. 

How did you get your job? 

I founded MotoCrane with my two best friends from high school. We identified a problem in the film production industry and decided to fix it with MotoCrane.

Name your one biggest takeaway from MCAD?

Work your fucking ass off. Or don't.