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Q&A: Jim Aikman

Jim Aikman directed 2021 WMFF feature “Imperfect Advocate.” We asked him a few questions, see our Q&A conversation below:

What is in your gear bag/kit?

I’ve been shooting on the trusty Sony Fs7 since 2015 and it is still going strong. Hanging off the side of frozen waterfalls in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for “An Imperfect Advocate” was definitely exciting with that bigger setup! I know there are plenty of newer cameras out there, but I love the ergonomics and functionality of the Fs7. My glass is a mix of Zeiss, Sigma and Canon.

What item can you not live without?

The ThinkTank Belt Pack allows me to keep three lenses and a bunch of accessories on my hip for quickdraw access. Plus I get to look stylish in a fanny pack.

How do you choose music for your films?

Music could not be more important for me as a filmmaker. I’m a drummer and bring a lot of that percussive rhythm to my editing style. Music is the fastest way to turn off a viewer if they don’t like the tone, and the easiest way to create an emotional hook to draw them in. For “An Imperfect Advocate”, it was really important to me that we create a fun and uplifting soundtrack, and drew on a lot of funk and motown vibes to create something that never stops moving. I’m really proud of the overall “vibe” of the film, a lot of which has to do with the music.

Most necessary character-quality for a director?

Confidence. Even if you don’t know the answer, you need to project leadership and keep things moving, giving everyone on set the same level of confidence that you’re on the right track. You also need to remember that your main job on a set is to draw meaning from a setting and the film subjects – tap into the human experience. So I always try to come back to that baseline.

Who has been most influential in your directing career?

There have been many influential director’s for me, but “An Imperfect Advocate” was highly influenced by the work of Steven Soderbergh.

Favorite on-set memory?

In 2008, one of my first shoots was Dean Potter’s “free BASE” ascent of the Rostrum in Yosemite Valley. Dean is no longer with us and is obviously a legend, but that was a formative time for me. I think the next shoot I did was Alex Honnold’s solo of Moonlight Buttress. Those two climbs definitely put the cutting edge in perspective for me from an early age.

Craziest on-set/en route to set adventure?

Oh man, there are a lot. Once in Italy, our drone pilot flew the craft into his camera operator at full speed. Luckily he was wearing a massive expedition down puffy coat which absorbed the props, but it exploded and feathers went everywhere. It was pretty dramatic, but the guy was totally fine and acted like nothing had happened.

More About Jim Aikman

Jim is an award-winning filmmaker, writer and commercial director with over 18 years of experience. He has directed feature and short documentaries, podcasts, web series, commercial campaigns and more for dozens of clients and distributors around the world. He specializes in character driven stories about adventure, natural history, science and the triumph of the human spirit, creating content for brands including National Geographic, AT&T and REI.