Five years ago, Joshua Shultz was a full-time business consultant whose secret desire of becoming a film director seemed like an improbable pipe dream, not even worth pursuing. But, the obvious perk about living in Los Angeles is the likelihood of knowing somebody in the movie business and it was one of Shultz’s friends that approached him with an initial opportunity that would set him on a fast, life changing career path. Tapping into his remarkable, raw talent for capturing beauty and artistic visions from behind the lens, Joshua Shultz’s self-taught, signature style photography quickly skyrocketed him to shooting celebrities, actors, models and musicians, and his work being featured in major publications such as US Weekly and Rolling Stone.
But he didn’t stop there. Joshua Shultz not only become a recognized name in photography, he is also making his mark as a director as well. With his timeless style that goes back to classic filmmaking and a fresh flair for visual storytelling, he is breaking directorial ground and creating his own genre of artistry in film.
Jana Ritter: You were a business consultant who basically ended up behind the camera by accident. How did that happen?
Joshua Shultz: I had always wanted to be a director from an early age but I never had the confidence to pursue it and instead I got my business degree and ended up doing pretty well as a business consultant. I had basically ruled out the possibility of having any type of artistic career, but a good opportunity came my way that allowed me to bring my business skills into the film world. A friend asked me to produce a music video for Brandon Boyd from Incubus and I immediately jumped in. As a producer it was extremely challenging because we had a low budget for what we wanted to accomplish but we ended up pulling it off and next thing you know, that same friend called me up again with a completely different opportunity.
They were a shooting a music video for Band of Horses up in Big Sur and the camera guy had backed out last minute and they were desperate. I knew nothing about being a DP and they basically showed me how to turn the camera on and that was about it. The entire time we were shooting, I felt this huge responsibility and I was terrified that they would end up hating the footage. But they ended up using a lot of the shots that I really liked and I was inspired to do more. Immediately when I returned to Los Angeles, I did a photo shoot with my friend Sara and I posted it and I was suddenly getting a lot of attention from it.
JR: You quickly become known as a celebrity photographer with your work being featured in major publications such as the Rolling Stone and US Weekly etc. How did that happen so quickly?
JS: I just kept learning the camera by doing photo shoots on my own and asking models and friends to come model for me. I wanted to learn through doing the actions and so I would put the camera at a setting, take a photo and then see how that photo made me feel. Then I would remember the setting for each specific result and I would try many variations of this. Jessica Parker Kennedy was one of the first celebrities who contacted me after she had seen my work on-line and after we did a shoot together, she was blown away. Then my name started to get out there and other celebs started reaching out and asking me about doing shoots with them, and a number of magazines starting contacting me as well. My next major shoot was with actress Amanda Crew, who is on the TV show, Silicon Valley, and then I shot a number of other actors and then I started to shoot bands as well. Not long after I shot Imagine Dragons, I was contacted by Rolling Stone and they asked if they could use the Imagine Dragon’s photo in their next issue. Of course I said “yes” and I was obviously very excited. Around that same time I had also shot Shay Mitchell from Pretty Little Liars and then US Weekly asked if they could publish that photo as well. It was amazing having both pictures published in two major magazines at the same time. Then the flood of photo shoots really started pouring in.
JR: Who are some of your favorite celebrities that you’ve had the opportunity to shoot? Is it more challenging to capture what you need with more high profile personalities?
JS: As far as bands go, Imagine Dragons are amazing and extremely nice people and Thirty Seconds to Mars were also a very cool to work with. I also really enjoyed working with Shiloh Fernandez, Manny Pacquiao, Ryan Phillipe, Jake McDorman, Melanie Martinez, Aldis Hodge and Bethany Joy Lenz…just to name a few. It’s very inspiring to work with so many great, talented artists and it doesn’t matter if they are bigger name celebrities because I approach every photo shoot the same way. I walk in and I find what I like about the person and their most positive traits. Then I create a story in my head and I do sort of a dance with them to create photos I love and that capture their essence.
JR: You have a very distinguished style that has also allowed you to make your mark as a film and music video director as well.
JS: Honestly, my favorite thing to do is to tell stories and as a photographer, I’ve learned a lot about the camera and all the subtle techniques I can use to help tell a story. I also bring this to filmmaking and I believe that filmmaking is the best medium to combine all forms of art into storytelling. As a director and cinematographer, I can tell the story of each scene by deciding on various factors such as depth of the scene, my composition, my lighting, my color choices etc.
The first short film I directed, A String To Pull, allowed me to really experiment with my visual story telling techniques and the film ended up getting a lot of attention for that. It won an award for top fashion film and we also got voted top fashion film on Fashion TV network.
I think mainly what distinguishes me as a director is that I try to stay away from the big, flashy, fast pacing style that is so common today. It’s not that I don’t use it at all; I just focus more on what best tells a story or best matches the wavelength of a song.
JR: You recently directed music videos for Taylor Ann Hasselhoff and Juliet Simms, and both videos have been getting a lot of attention for their artistic appeal.
JS: When Taylor-Ann Hasselhoff first told me about the anti-bullying story she wanted to tell in her video for Collide, I had the idea for her to show the world in black and white, and her in color as a different force that spreads love rather hate. When she creates love in someone else, they too turn to color and the love continues to spread until the entire world is in color. The message was very well received and E! featured the video on their show with Taylor, Rich Kids of Beverly Hills.
I was also approached by Juliet Simms (from The Voice), to direct her video for End of the World. It was also the first video she did with her boyfriend, Andy Biersack from Black Veil Brides. It’s an incredible and very emotional song, so all of those emotional elements had to translate into the visual story of the video as well. We did sort of a dance on set, where I would set the tone and we would play the song and then we would give it our all. As a director, I like to connect with my talent and feel the emotion and go over the scene and what it means to the story and then work together to feel the scene until we capture it. Juliet is an amazing artist and she did a great job capturing the emotion on camera. The video has been getting a lot of press and it’s been featured on MTV, Perez Hilton and it’s nearly at 1 million views on YouTube right now.
JR: What are some of your next projects on the horizon?
JS: I’m going to be directing a short film that I wrote, which is an outer space, sci-fi story, but we’re going to shoot it in a very old school film style and use all Practical Effects instead of CGI. It’s going to be pretty insane and we have one major name signed on so far, but I can’t say much else about it quite yet.
JR: What do you ultimately hope to achieve as an artist?
JS: As a filmmaker, I want to create timeless, instant, classic films and beautiful art that reaches people from all walks of life and takes them out of their lives no matter what is happening at the time. I want to bring people happiness, give them relief and hopefully inspire them to find ways to make life better for themselves.
As a photographer, I want to continue spreading beauty and art throughout the world and inspire others to tap into their own artistic talents as well. I created Bellus Magazine as way to focus on the positive and beautiful things about life and a place for all types of artists to shine as well.
JR: What advice do you have for other aspiring artists?
JS: Keep your integrity and make the art that you love. Don’t seek approval from others and don’t listen to anyone who tries to stop you.
To find out more about Joshua Shultz and his work as photographer and director, go directly to the website: www.joshuashultz.com