Whenever Dominic Jones is asked about breaking into the film and TV industry, he’s always happy to share his thoughts, but then goes one step further – frequently inviting his guest to see him in action.
“A lot of people find me on social media,” said Jones, a camera assistant and a Local 600 member since 2017. “Over the past year, several women of color have reached out to me asking for advice. Generally, I invite whoever is asking me – men, women – to come to camera prep. That’s the first place I can really teach them what all the equipment does and make it less intimidating. From there, I slowly introduce people onto sets where I and my crew can teach.”
Dominic on the set of “On the Moon.” Photo courtesy of Chris Noble
A native of Bowie, Maryland, Jones studied computer aided design at North Carolina A&T State and later went to film school at the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD). As an African American artist working in an industry historically dominated by white men, Jones sees himself as a pioneer who can help introduce other people of color to camera culture. At the same time, any help he provides is also paying it forward.
In 2013, while still an intern through the Emmy Arts & Sciences Foundation, Jones found himself under the caring guidance of Director of Photography Joaquin Sedillo and the camera team of Ryan Murphy’s Glee.
“I ended up getting a pretty amazing camera department introduction,” he said. “It gave me such a strong foundation that when I started my career as a camera assistant, things picked up very fast for me because of what I learned on that show.”
Technical skills are well and good, he says, but the ability to build relationships is equally if not more important.
“Having people management skills makes everything so much smoother. I think we kind of get lost in that,” he said. “You can be the greatest focus puller in the world but if you don’t know how to communicate, what does it matter?”
Post-Glee, Jones has worked on commercials for such clients as Vogue Magazine, Barefoot Wine and Bud Light, the latter of which took him to San Francisco, Seattle and Baltimore. He has collaborated on music videos featuring artists such as Madeintyo, Common, and sidbe. In recent years he has been “switching hats,” moving between camera assisting and shooting. On a recent shoot for a Beats By Dre commercial, Jones worked with a predominantly African American crew under the guidance of Local 600 Director of Photography Malik Sayeed, another mentor.
Dominic on the set of “On the Moon.”
“Being on these set with Malik is coming full circle,” Jones said. “With the growth of my career as a cinematographer, I’m starting to inherit some of his crew, and some of the guys are older than me. The key is being able to live this double life of going back and assisting and not feeling weird about it. As much as I’m excited about my career taking off as a cinematographer, I really like assisting too.”
During what he characterizes as a “cool/dark” year of the 2020 pandemic, Jones has stayed busy. On the horizon are a couple of commercials, one of which – if he gets it — would be his largest project yet. In the meantime, Jones and his wife Bianca are awaiting the arrival of their first child, a daughter, in February.