An action man who lets his lighting do the talking and believes that while it's nice to be important, it's more important to be nice
Crispin Dominic is a nice guy. At the risk of violating the first law of insipidity, by using the word nice, it has to be said that no other adjective would do. Dominic, a gaffer, who has worked on many commercials and film projects, would totally disapprove of the introduction. "Please don't make me seem larger than life," are his parting words.
When informed that most of his colleagues in the media had nothing but praise for him, he just shrugs his shoulders and says, "They're being kind." Domnic arrived in Dubai, when the now-happening media scene was in its infancy. "There were very few companies - you could count them on one hand - and even fewer projects happening," he says.
For Dominic, who was then in Oman, the shift to Dubai was prompted by noted photographer Faramarz Beheshti who urged Dominic to join him as an assistant.
"I was in a completely different field and knew nothing about the media, leave alone lighting," he recalls. On retrospect, he admits the relocation to the UAE and assisting Beheshti would rate as the biggest risk he has taken in his life.
"But there was never any doubt in my mind, as he (Beheshti) is such an incredible individual," he says. It's almost an ordeal to get Dominic to talk about himself or his life, as he much prefers to describe his influences and the people behind his career.
"Of course there has been a lot of hard work from my end," he says, finally acknowledging his contribution, "but none of this would have been possible without the encouragement of my colleagues and bosses".
It was under the tutelage of Beheshti that Dominic says he learnt how to look and not just see. He also got his solid grounding in lighting. "Watching Beheshti operate was a fantastic experience and after working on many commercials with him I realised the importance of lighting as a specialised domain," he says.
The natural progression from still photography to film was realised with the opening up of production houses in Dubai. With the city's media production facilities now in its youth, Dominic finds himself in great demand as a gaffer (chief electrician in a film unit) on many projects - locally and internationally.
Prefers Film over stills
"I would definitely prefer to work in film over stills, as the whole shooting experience is much more challenging," he says. Having worked on numerous outdoor shoots and car commercials, Dominic sums up the challenge as maintaining uniform light conditions throughout the film.
"Natural light changes within seconds, but being on the technical side of things means one has to ensure a sense of continuity in the light that is in accordance to the director and DOP's (director of photography) wishes," he says.
For Dominic, the promotion to the level of director of photography is a dream that is not too far away from the reality of his life.
"My current bosses believe I'm ready and I have to once again be thankful for being able to work with them," he says. So where's the problem? "I still feel that I have a lot more to learn and understand."
Without any formal training, it is sheer hard work, perseverance and passion for film that has kept Dominic going. "I've been on all sorts of shoots, many different locations and have never said no to any project," he says. His clientele is extremely diverse and ranges from media powerhouses like CNN to short term, smaller clients for still photography shoots.
"Every single project is a learning experience - you either learn how to do something or learn how not to do something," he says of his insatiable appetite for knowledge. But for the 33-year old from Mangalore, India, who has grown up with the production scene in Dubai, the suddenly burgeoning world of Bollywood does not beckon - just yet.
"The work culture out there is very different from here. One really has to be ready to make the move and I don't think I'm at that point now," he says. After working in a highly organised environment, where roles are well-defined, Dominic finds it amazing that Indian movies are released with a high-end technical quality.
"When you compare the equipment and the training that Indian technicians have with their counterparts in film industries in Western countries, the Indian products are excellent, given the constraints the Indian technicians and producers work with," he says, citing Indian advertisements as some of the best in the international media today.
Though he's personally a fan of the "natural look", Dominic says that he's been particularly impressed with the lighting techniques employed in Solaris. "It's very experimental," he says before going on about his fortune at working with some of the best names in the business.
"I've really been lucky to have been at the right place at the right time," he says of his industry contacts. But while Dominic may attribute his career highs to destiny, he's a good guy, who strongly believes that while it's always nice to be important, it's more important to be nice.