Andrew Georgopoulos on the Independent Hustle

Andrew Georgopoulos (2nd from left) on the set of "The Artist"

"People have always told me no, and I've done it anyway."

There's nowhere that Andrew Georgopoulos (Individualized Major 2007) won't go to get his image. He's photographed a nude woman in the middle of Lombard Street and documented the day-to-day exploits of Snoop Dogg and other hip-hop legends. Recently he grabbed his first Hollywood studio experience working on a film with a serious budget and an international crew that would go on to be named best picture of 2011: a production you may have heard of, called The Artist.

"It's all about access," Georgopoulos explains, of how to get the story you want. "It's the defining factor that separates you from the next person." His introduction to hip-hop musicians and lifestyles started by answering an ad soliciting photojournalists for a neighborhood magazine in the East Bay. "My body of work grew, from the next artist to the next. I was always looking to get the next big name, and I was able to come to them with a background." Eventually he spent a full year capturing the life of Snoop Dogg. This was during his sophomore year at CCA, when he was 20 years old.

Georgopoulos's work can be in-your-face, but his technique never overshadows his subject. His most engaging photos of musicians are often candid shots of their more mundane, day-to-day moments, and his travel photography is as contemplative as it is exotic. His personal work, on the other hand, captures for posterity those larger-than-life moments you see out of the corner of your eye or in your more vivid dreams.

"I always wanted to go to CCA," he says. He enrolled in the summer Pre-College Program after his junior year of high school, spending the four weeks studying a little of everything: painting, sculpture, metalworking, photography. "My father attended CCA(C) in the 1960s. When my high school art teachers asked me to make a list of my possible college choices, CCA was always at the top."

He initially enrolled as an Architecture major but soon switched to Photography and in the end graduated as an Individualized Major. He found himself constantly encouraged by his professors to push his ideas and comfort level. It was Chris Johnson who helped him improve his technical skills and authorized his extracurricular excursions into the music world, even though they often kept him out of class. "Chris gave me total freedom, but also kept me in line. He will support your vision, but he is also not afraid to tell you when something's terrible!"

Expanding his interests to include film was something CCA's interdisciplinary approach allowed and encouraged. Particularly memorable was his work with the award-winning filmmaker and professor Rob Epstein. "Rob is a really tough teacher. He makes you write a lot and push yourself constantly. He sculpted me in how I shoot, and where I would take my career."

Georgopoulos began collaborating on projects with another student, Paul Trillo -- a relationship that endures up until today. "We did a lot of funny projects together at CCA. He's the storyteller, and I'm the radical. We complement each other." Happy Birthday Mr. Bracewell, a short film made last year and currently in post-production, was written and directed by Trillo with Georgopoulos as coproducer and cinematographer. (Read more about Paul Trillo in this May 2012 CCA feature story.)

After college, Georgopoulos became disillusioned with working in the music industry. He found that music video projects usually meant long hours, maximum effort, and little pay. He worked as a correspondent for both Spin and The Source magazines, photographing and interviewing artists. "I would struggle to work with these musicians and get access. It was so exciting when I was younger, since often they were artists I used to listen to in high school. But I was trying to find bigger, more exciting things to work on, projects where I could collaborate all the time, not just document someone else's vision."

He moved to Los Angeles and sought out union work at the major film studios. Meetings with several producers at Warner Bros. landed him an opportunity for a month's work on a black-and-white film as a production assistant. But he was still vying to get behind the camera, and finally he had the chance to show an executive producer from France some footage he'd shot while working on the set. On the strength of this, he was offered a job on The Artist as a cameraman with the Local 600 Cinematography Union.

"I never knew how crazy a $14 million budget movie was, how serious it was. It was a really fun film. There were so many great, personable people involved in that movie. We always knew there was something special about it, we just didn't know what at first."

They found out soon enough. But even before The Artist debuted in theaters to wild acclaim and went on to win the Academy Award for best picture of 2011, Georgopoulos's life was already altered by the experience. "My work life changed completely. If I hadn't had that opportunity, I wouldn't be constantly working like I am now." Being a union member gives him the security of steady work, along with health and pension benefits. "Every week is different. I can get a call at 6 a.m. and have to go somewhere." The gig that day can be anything from The Price Is Right to a new prime-time pilot to the Oscars show (which he indeed worked on!). He was an assistant cameraman on the soon-to-be-released movie Dose of Reality, and he is always looking for more work on large-scale film projects.

"I'll go anywhere to get the image, to tell the story. How I can make the image better with light and art direction is my addiction. That's what defines me as an artist, as a cameraman."

Andrew Georgopoulos's blog: ajg1985.blogspot.com/

On IMDB: imdb.com/name/nm4232767/

Instagram: @AJG1985