6 Commandments for Aspiring DPs from Cinematographer Kris Kachikis

No Film School


Kris Kachikis began his career in commercials; now, he's moved on to big-budget features. And he has some wisdom to share.


Kris Kachikis, known affectionately by friends as “Cheeks,” is the director of photography on John Hamburg’s new R-rated family comedy, Why Him?. Starring James Franco, Bryan Cranston and Zoey Deutch, the film is about a Midwestern father who discovers that his daughter is dating an internet millionaire, leading to a bitter rivalry, all told with a deft sense of visual storytelling. The director credits Kachikis—a total newbie in the world of big-budget Hollywood films—for having brought a lot to the party.

Why him? When No Film School asked Kachikis how a relatively unknown DP was able to make the impressive leap from shooting commercials to a high-stakes, $40 million narrative feature, he was disarmingly modest.

"I'm this commercial guy who nobody knows except for Christopher Guest," Kachikis laughed. "But that helped."

"Comedy is much harder to shoot than drama."

In fact, Kachikis started out as a writer. He grew up in Milwaukee making films for fun, then moved to California, working as an on-set electrician by day and writing at night. "I'd always loved photography," he said, "but I saw myself as a screenwriter... until I found myself gravitating towards the DP, asking questions, making suggestions. And people liked my ideas."

Then fate stepped in. "Spike Jonze was going to make this Julian Lennon video," Kachikis recalled. "Lance Acord was supposed to shoot it with me as his gaffer, but then Lance couldn’t do it. He said, 'Have Cheeks shoot it.' So I did, and it turned out well. Then I did some skateboard movie stuff for Spike, and when people hear that you’re shooting for Spike, well, you get called to do other stuff."