From Super 8 to shooting Lady Gaga, Chris Moseley’s rise to the top was a cinematic adventure
A cinematographer is born.
- Written & photographed byKat Monk
Not many people have an opportunity to be on stage gazing out at 75,000 screaming fans—especially if you are not in the top echelon of incredibly famous bands. Hermosa resident Chris Moseley, a movie industry cinematographer, got this opportunity when he filmed Lady Gaga performing with Bradley Cooper for the Oscar-nominated A Star is Born at Stagecoach.
Chris came from a family that dabbled in the business of Hollywood and got his first experiences acting in a few commercials when he was young. Chris’ dad, Wayne Mallory, was a bit actor in television shows such as Twilight Zone and Sea Hunt (shot locally at Marineland, now Terranea Resort), and his great uncle, Guy Madison, was a famous actor in Western films and best known for the television series The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok.
After struggling at California State University Northridge (CSUN), Chris searched his college catalog for what he deemed an “easy A” and stumbled upon a Super 8 camera class. Unbeknownst to Chris at the time, this class would be a defining moment in his life and change his entire life trajectory.
Separated into groups to do a class film project, Chris volunteered to operate the camera—even though he had no idea what he was doing. A cameraman was born, and he soon switched his major and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in radio, television and film.
After CSUN, Chris heard about a short film that the American Film Institute was working on and joined the crew as an assistant cameraman. This was the first real movie Chris participated on, and low and behold, the film got nominated for an Academy Award. There was no looking back now.
You do a lot of stinkers over the years, and you do a lot of good ones … and you do some that are nominated for Academy Awards, but that doesn’t always mean that is the best experience of the movie you have worked on. A Star is Born is one of those special rare movies where it was super-great to work on, super-artistic, challenging and also a great movie! It is one where we knew it was going to be really good when we were doing it.”
Chris worked his way up the ranks over the years, including a stint at the 20th Century Fox loading room, instrumental in getting him into the highly coveted International Photographer’s Guild. The union guarantees you work for life, placing you on a list of experienced workers approved for work on union projects.
As a union member he started off as a focus puller, then a first assistant, then an operating assistant before becoming the director of photography for the second unit crew. The second unit often films simultaneously with the first unit and is tasked with filming shots or sequences of production, allowing the production to be completed faster. He has worked on too many films to mention them all, but a few notable ones include Titanic, Dreamgirls, Blue Crush and Wonder Woman.
Going to work every day in the movie biz can have some perks. As an avid surfer, Chris enjoys when a movie is filmed in an exotic location such as the Bahamas or Hawaii. Even though he’s often working excruciatingly long days, he may get some time in paradise to surf. Another awesome perk: meeting celebrities and getting to hear them sing on set, as he did with Lady Gaga and Jennifer Hudson.
He recalls during the filming of Dreamgirls: “When Jennifer Hudson started she didn’t know anything about acting, and we were trying to teach her how to hit marks and where to go. During some of Jennifer’s performances, we were cringing—not knowing if it was going to fly, but she learned as we went along. And to her credit, she started to figure it out and won an Academy Award. When she sang, it was just incredible.”
Filming can also be grueling, like shooting Titanic at night in Mexico in a water tank for hours on end. That said, Chris says it is all worth it when he sees the finished product. You know you have made it when your family and friends see your name when the credits roll after a movie. Or when someone comes up to you and tell you that the movie you worked on changed their life.
Having worked on so many films over the last few decades, A Star is Born stood out as the most memorable film for Chris to date. Filming Lady Gaga on stage during Stagecoach felt like his “15 minutes of fame moment”—when he just wanted to drop the camera and enjoy the experience.
“You do a lot of stinkers over the years, and you do a lot of good ones … and you do some that are nominated for Academy Awards, but that doesn’t always mean that is the best experience of the movie you have worked on,” Chris shares. “A Star is Born is one of those special rare movies where it was super-great to work on, super-artistic, challenging and also a great movie! It is one where we knew it was going to be really good when we were doing it.”
Various vernaculars culminate seamlessly after a family’s cross-country move.