Of all the veteran punk rock bands with a claim at having the most unique jobs outside of the industry, there’s a good chance that Pulley would finish in first place.
Not only is singer Scott Radinsky a former MLB pitcher, but guitarist Trey Clinesmith also actively works as a camera operator for several popular TV shows (Modern Family, The Good Place, Netflix’s The Lincoln Lawyer). Hell, Pulley’s other guitarist, Mike Harder, works on jet planes when he’s not on the road.
While one could argue that they all have “odd” jobs, it was Clinesmith who spoke with SPIN (while shooting HBO’s The Sex Lives of College Girls) for this week’s edition of Odd Jobs.
SPIN: How did you end up working as a Hollywood camera operator?
Trey Clinesmith: Being born here in Los Angeles, my father was a truck driver for the industry, so I was raised on set. I was always around film sets as a kid, and I found it fascinating. It was so different from everything else. It’s a glorified circus. I always appreciated that it felt very free and fun, and I always enjoyed being on set. Growing up, I knew I wanted to do camera work. I started driving trucks when I was 18 with the idea that I was going to drive the camera truck, make friends with the camera guys, show them I’m a hustler and get involved there. So I did exactly that, and I moved up into the camera department and pushed my way forward. Sometimes I even get a little directing spot, like on Modern Family.
How does the film and TV industry compare to your experience in the music world?
They’re both very creative. Film is creative, but as a camera operator, you have creative input but are still answering to a higher God in the director. What I love about making music is that it’s your creative outlet. It’s whatever you decide it to be. Filmmaking doesn’t necessarily have that as much as an operator, because there is supposed to be a specific direction for a show.
How do you balance the schedule between your two careers, since they both require large blocks of time when active?
It’s kind of difficult right now with Pulley, because we’re looking at April and May of next year, and I don’t know what job I’ll be on or if I can schedule it. I basically just have to commit and say “Look, we have three weeks to go through Australia.” Luckily, my career is not like a desk job where I have to use vacation days, it’s more that if I get a job offer I have to tell them that I’m not going to be available during that time. It gets a little challenging, because you never know what jobs you’re going to be on or how understanding they’re going to be. But I’ve been working with certain people for a long time now, and they’re very excited about the music end of it. They encourage me. We just did three weeks through Europe and Canada, and they were like “Do it. Go have fun.” So it’s working out for now, but it gets a little difficult sometimes.
Are there any skills that you learned through one side of things that help you with the other?
Collaborating and having an open mind to an idea that’s not yours is huge. I might have an idea of how I think a shot should be executed, and someone else might have a different opinion on how we should do it — and by being open, you learn that there’s a lot of smart, creative people on both sides. You have to be willing to see other sides, because there’s some brilliant people that you can learn from. So often you come into things with an idea that’s a great concept, but you have to be willing to have an open mind to make it work.
Is there any advice you’d give your younger self or someone looking to follow in your footsteps?
You have to love it. The number one thing has to be passion. You have to enjoy it, because you have to also be willing to be flexible and open-minded. Being a fan of movies, watching movies and appreciating the work that you see is also very key. You can learn so much from watching movies. There are so many great films that have been made. I think that’s kind of a big takeaway — just watching different ideas and approaches to film. You can give the same script to seven different directors and essentially have seven completely different movies that are all good. There’s no wrong way. There are just different ways. There are no absolutes in filmmaking — although sometimes people treat subjects as such — but there are no absolutes in it as an art form. When you go into a project, you have to look at it as being liquid. It’s freeform. It’s an ongoing creative process — and I think both of those translate into music, too.
From a creative standpoint, how similar or different are filmmaking and music to you?
Writing music usually strikes completely from inspiration, so sometimes you’re in a dry spell, but then other times you can’t write fast enough. A lot of times in filmmaking, you don’t have that freedom to wait for inspiration. It’s a demanding job with long hours, and the product has to be made at the end of the day. It’s not as loose as songwriting. Songwriting can truly wait for the inspiration to happen, but the reality with filmmaking is that you’re there for 12 hours and you’re going to make your day.
Is there anything else that you would want to share about how filmmaking and music intertwine for you?
With both filmmaking and music, I couldn’t do anything else. Sometimes we’ll film in an office location for like three weeks, and I realize that’s a lifestyle I couldn’t have done. I wouldn’t survive there. I love that every day can be different in music and filmmaking. No two days are really the same. They both let you use your creative side, and it’s a blessing for a person like me. I don’t know if I could survive in the regular workforce doing the usual pencil-pushing.