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Meet Karissa Leicht

Today we’d like to introduce you to Karissa Leicht.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Karissa. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
My name is Karissa Leicht, I am a filmmaker and cinematographer from Dallas, Texas. I have greatly enjoyed my experiences being behind the camera and what it has taught me. It all started when I was in high school (Bishop Lynch High School). My Junior year, I decided to stop playing basketball, I had a realization that, that route was not realistic and that I needed something that fulfilled me and I needed something that could be sustainable for my future. I took a step back and went back to when I was a kid and what I enjoyed back then. In 6th grade I started Editing animated music videos from video game cutscenes and made my own music videos out of them. With my knowledge of editing, I plunged into what a filmmaker is and how to become one. I took an intro to film class my Junior year of High School, my teacher Ms. Sawyer introduced me to OLD films like, The Battleship of Potemkin, Metropolis, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and other classic films. I was in awe and soaked up how to think critically using the left side of my brain. James Cameron’s “Avatar” was released and she urged us to go see it in theaters, so I did. During that movie, I sat there with my jaw wide open in awe. That was when I decided that I wanted to be in film, I wanted to be something but I didn’t know what yet.

In 2012, I was accepted into Stephen F. Austin State University. The only Texas college that was affordable that had a hands on Filmmaking major, and it was the best decision of my life. I learned about digital cameras, film etiquette, what lights do what, the lingo for film sets, etc. Nearing the end of college, my small filmmaking class would literally make short films every weekend. With that, I was able to come out of SFA with a great Cam Op demo reel and I was ready for the real world. With this in hand, I had my sights on becoming a Director of Photography in the bizz. In December 2015, days after graduation, I landed a camera operating job, every Tuesday. From that my Web of connections grew over three years. I later went to work on Feature films, and big budget commercials as a 2nd AC, I 1st AC’d a couple of indie feature films. I did all this while filming things I could get my hands on. By the mid-late of 2019, I started gaining momentum as a DP. I have had the pleasure to photograph many short films, 2 feature films, a handful of low budget commercials. My 2020 was booked up with commercials, short films and 2 feature films; I was saving this news for later, but, I was also accepted to the ASC Masterclass 2020 on a full ride scholarship. I feel like my DP career is just beginning and I have so many people to thank for showing me what it means to be a director of photography/filmmaker, the stamina to stay up to date and in the now, and for all the support from my family, friends, and fellow creatives. I cannot wait to get back out there on set and start filming again with others.

Has it been a smooth road?
It definitely was not a smooth road. Like all artists, I have something I want to not only say to the world but also, show people that life is ever changing. And it’s how you react to the struggles or good times in life that gives us a new perspective, and it’s something that has greatly inspired me and has pushed me to keep going. All throughout my school career my father fell ill, and passed away one semester before college graduation in 2015. This was devastating and traumatic throughout my college career. Little did I know this was and still is one of the driving forces that keeps me going in my life. This struggle told me: “because he couldn’t, I can and I will”. From 2015 through 2018 I struggled getting in to camera department, I worked as a PA for a while on commercials, I was a grip or electrician- sometimes Gaffer- on short film indie projects. I finally had a break on a feature called 1985 (Dir. Yen Tan). I found a Facebook post in one of the film groups, they were looking for a Key Set PA. Because I directly messaged them, they hired me! I was incredibly nervous, because I was basically “faking it til I made it”. My first job was to greet Cory Michael Smith and escort him to the Assistant Director. By the end of the week, I made friends with the 1st AC by helping him out a lot. He vouched for me to come on as his 2nd, and Production allowed it. After the feature, I landed more camera assistant jobs. All I can say is, just keep hustling out there. It will come.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
I am a freelance cinematographer/director of photography in the film industry. I’m mostly thankful to have a job where I don’t sit at a desk all day. Every day is a new day, it’s spontaneous, and I get to interact with so many people. I think what sets me apart from others, is that I am me. Lots of people I’ve worked with have told me that I’m easy and fun to work with on and off set. I also just started a Production company at the beginning of 2020 that provides content for small/big businesses. Black Carriage Productions. We own our own RED camera and other gear as well for any need. We are currently seeking new clients.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Yes, however, it is a small film community here in Dallas. It’s a great way to get started here to learn basics. You’ll make friends quick if you’re a good worker. If you keep going, you’ll see that there aren’t many big fish in this small pond.

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