An Interview with Paul Brenno,Director of Covid-19 vs The Magic City


Please tell us about yourself and your career. How did you fall in love with cinema and what made you want to make films? How many projects did you work on before making Covid-19 vs The Magic City? I grew up in a small town/city of Minot, North Dakota. Minot was a great place to be a kid, grow up, it’s in the north central part of the state, about a 100 miles south of the Canadian border. Minot and ND itself is a rural/agriculture state, focusing on local small businesses, farming/agriculture to the military, Minot Air Force base and most recently, oil. My Mother was in Education, my Father was a Salesman in both Radio/TV

There really isn’t a film/video industry in Minot or North Dakota, but I got my love for film early on. I remember being 5 or 6, loving watching TV, esp cartoons like "Super Friends", etc. I remember going to the movies with my family and friends, seeing movies like Disney to Star Wars. When I was 9/10 yrs old, the movie that made that mark on me was Superman The Movie with Christopher Reeve. I remember going to the theatre, the old classic theatre we had downtown, with the red curtain opening up, then being in a different world for 2 hours. That film planted a seed in me for filmmaking but that film made me want to be Superman, but not yet a Filmmaker!!!

In the 70’s-80’s, TV shows were a big influence, like Battle Star Galactica, Buck Rogers, to Dukes of Hazzard, Knight Rider to Riptide. I loved those shows. My Father, since he worked in TV sales, occasionally I would get hired by the local TV station he worked at to go on location with crew, as an Assistant. I loved it, hard work, but really enjoyed it. I began to do more research into TV Broadcasting, Video Production, Filmmaking, see where this would lead???? I remember going down to Bismarck, our state capital, with my parents on a day trip, at a local store I saw for the first time, the American Cinematographer Magazine. I’d never heard of it before, but I began to read it and discover it was about Cinematographers/Directors of Photography, which sparked that passion in me. I immediately understood the tech elements and knew this was what I wanted to do. My family was happy for my excitement, but wasn’t happy about the decision, since nobody knew anything about Cinematography?????

I understood their concern, as I know they were hoping for my career to be something they could help give me guidance, but this career choice I was so passionate about, they just let me go do it. I never had a film camera growing up, like alot of filmmakers did, I just went to our library and did as much research as I could into Film Lighting to Cinematography and just learned as much as I could, but did Still Photography with a Pentax K1000 I bought, which was great to learn As there was no film school in North Dakota, in 1989 I joined the US Air Force. I joined to not only grow and mature, but also for the GI Bill for college. I was stationed in Italy first, then in Jan 1991 (just before the Persian Gulf war started), I was home on leave and a buddy of mine went to a film everyone was talking about “Dances with Wolves”. I’d never heard about it, but that film made the biggest impact on me, Dean Semler’s photography made me want to be a Cinematographer, so thank you Dean Semler (ASC/ACS) I was then stationed in San Antonio, in Nov 1991, I got to meet Emmy Winning Cinematographer Ken Lamkin (ASC). Ken was the first Cinematographer I’d ever met, he was most known to be a TV Cinematographer, from shows like Friends to Wings, to his long stint on the Emmy Winning series “Frasier”. Ken was in San Antonio Directing and Shooting a film. I made contact with his office, Ken called me and invited me on the set for a few days, which was a huge thrill. Ken passed a few years ago, I’ll forever be grateful to him. I then used my GI Bill to go to film school for my BA in Film at Montana State University in Bozeman. MSU Film was great, I studied all disciplines, esp Cinematography. During my senior year, I had the honor of meeting one of my Cinematographer heroes, Dean Semler! Dean was up in Bozeman area making a feature film. I wrote to Dean, introducing myself to him as a Cinematography student, a week or two later, Dean’s Asst called me, I got to meet Dean one night and watch him direct. That was a huge thrill, got to take a photo with him on the set with his DP Stephen Windon. The TV series "Yellowstone" starring Kevin Costner is set there now. After graduating, I was hoping to head to CA to find work, but no money to move, no job lined up, I had to get a regular video production job. I started as a Creative Services Producer/Editor on local TV spots, did that for many years, before becoming a Director/DP on a few 30 min programs in Houston TX. After leaving Houston due to lack of work, I was working as a Director/Cinematographer for a Indie film company in Denver CO, when the 2009 recession hit, I lost my job, had to find something else to do, but what and where? I moved back home, wasn’t doing any films/video production at all, wa