I first ran across Kellen Dengler’s work last year on Vimeo. For what it’s worth, I believe Kellen had the best cinematography reel that I saw in 2011. His reel featured all kinds of work from shooting NYC hoops, to  Nas, to Snoop, to even covering a Miami Heat game. From his vimeo page, I started following his website ( and his twitter (@KDengs) just to see the latest work he was dropping.

Kellen is currently growing a body of work that, I believe, is one of the best collections of visuals currently in the game. It is only fitting that he is working with one of the best up and coming rappers in the biz Stalley and ultimately one of the hottest cliques doing it right now: Maybach Music Group.

I reached out for Kellen for an interview for the Cheats Movement and though he is extremely busy, currently on the road with the BET Music Matters Tour featuring Stalley and Kendrick Lamar, he was able to answer a ton of my questions via email. In addition to the travel, his new visual for Stalley, “Fountain of Youth” is currently being featured as MTV’s Jam of the week. Shout out to Kellen for always being on the grind and putting out some of the best, most innovative, work coming out right now. Follow him on twitter and Vimeo to  keep up with his amazing work.

Kellen Dengler 2011 Cinematography Reel from Kellen Dengler on Vimeo.

Cheats:  If a person walked up to you on the street and asked you what did you do for a living – you would say? 

Kellen: I’m a director/cinematographer, but I do a lot more than that. I feel like in today’s age with so much content being produced so rapidly and with smaller budgets than in previous years you have to be able to adapt to the situation and wear many hats. Yeah I direct, shoot, and edit, but I also write, produce, consult etc etc. It all depends on the job, the client and their needs, and the budget.

I knew I was in love with photography when…

I knew I was in love with photography/filmmaking when I realized it was something that I could totally do on my own, for myself without initially needing help or guidance. I feel like I was lucky to enter the video world right at that time when video was going from analog to digital. Digital allowed the cost of equipment to become much more affordable to the consumer and other resources such as software, computers and online learning all became a part of it. A lot I learned in school, but I think I learned more on my own. I learned how to do everything analog which is still very important knowledge to have even in 2012. I’ve done several projects over the last couple of years that require managing archive media that came in all of these old school analog tape formats. I feel like a lot of kids learning today don’t know what to do with that type of stuff, which isn’t a bad thing, after all it is 2012, but there are some things I’ve done that require analog knowledge and experience.

For me, filmmaking is a way for me to…

For me filmmaking is a way for me to express my creativity in a way that I enjoy, and something I can fully control and create myself. Yeah a lot of projects have some sort of corporate influence or objectives, but you need that to pay the bills. I like to use that money to fund my own projects that have no creative boundaries or obligations. I’ve been working on a very big project this year that will be a true testament of my own creative efforts and is truly the biggest project I’ve ever created. More details to come soon…

Fool’s Gold Day Off 2012 from Kellen Dengler on Vimeo.

In regards to being a professional, I would say my first “real” break came…

In regards to being a professional I would say my first real break came when I realized that I could do this on my own. My last year in college I had an internship with MTV here in NYC. After graduation I was offered a job with them and dropped everything and moved here. That was right a t the time when the US economy went to shit. Everyone who I had interned for had gotten laid off and left me without a job. It forced me to figure things out myself. It wasn’t easy at first and there were a lot of hurtles, but I ultimately started working more and more and then at some point in 2010 I quit the job that I had at this production house and just went for it on my own. That was the moment that I really felt like I had it in me.

I first met Rick Ross….

I first met Rick Ross while working with Stalley who I have been documenting the past few months. It was earlier this year when Stalley’s mixtape “Savage Journey to the American Dream” dropped. The MMG crew was in the city and they did some promo stuff together that I covered, and then Stalley had his release party at the Beats By Dre store in SoHo.

The concept of a MMG NYC Take Over film came from…

The concept of the MMG NYC Takeover film sort of came about after I realized what I had. Initially, I was focused on just documenting Stalley and what he was doing that week with the Self Made 2 promo. I realized pretty quickly that I was the only camera that was sort of allowed “all access” with MMG during those 3 days. I pretty much rolled non-stop and was as non-obtrusive as possible. I wanted the real behind the scenes moments that most people never really get a chance to see. Once those 3 days were over, I realized that I did in fact have some pretty exclusive content that captured these guys very naturally and candid. MMG didn’t have a video like that with the whole crew that was really just a “behind the scenes” type piece. That’s what sort of sparked the idea to package it together into a longer format piece that could really offer that true behind the scenes look. I think it was pretty well received overall, I wasn’t looking to make a MMG fanboy piece, and I feel like the majority of people realized that and accepted what I had made as not being that and appreciated it for what it was.

MMG Self Made 2 – NYC Takeover from Kellen Dengler on Vimeo.

Right now I’m working on…

Right now I’m working on getting organized to head out on the BET Music Matters Tour with Stalley and Kendrick Lamar for the next 6 weeks. I’m busy closing out some other projects and preparing to be on the road for a while to create some video pieces for the tour.

My inspiration comes from…

My inspiration comes from my friends, this city, and online. I’m lucky to have a lot of really talented friends that do so many cool things from fashion to music to design to art. That all rubs off on you just from being around them. NYC is such a cultural melting pot that you pick up inspiration almost naturally. The way the internet has evolved also inspires me so much as well. I sometimes log on to check my email and then end up browsing a few things, then look at the time and hours have gone by and I didn’t even realize it because I was so drawn into whatever things I was reading about or videos I was checking out. It’s amazing to me how the internet offers this platform to showcase your creativity in such cool ways, pretty easily.

The best advice I’ve ever received….

The best advice I’ve ever received was from a mentor of mine in college who taught me the importance of being a “one man band.” Basically being able to do everything on your own since the landscape was changing so much in the digital age. Knowing how to direct, shoot, produce, edit, design, consult etc. Ideally, you won’t always have to do all of those things and you can just focus on what you like most or are best at, but knowing how to do all of those things is really important and has helped me a lot.

The best city for a person to do what I do…

The best city to do what I do is New York City. Period. Yeah LA has more readily available crews, equipment, and studios because it is Hollywood, but I think what NYC has to offer is almost more important. There is so much culture and creativity here all mixed up in this relatively small area (in comparison to LA) that it’s almost impossible to walk out the door and not become inspired. I think LA is great, and I do work out there a fair amount, but NYC has been so good to me and really molded me into who I am and what I do now that I don’t see myself ever planting roots anywhere else. This city breeds culture.

Stalley’s “The Tune Up” Video took me _________ long to make? I really like this video because….

Stalley’s “The Tune Up” video took me a day to shoot, and probably a day or 2 to edit. I really like this video because I tried something something knew that I honestly didn’t even know was going to work or not after I shot it. It’s a very simple concept, but what you have to do to ensure those layers of video match up and blend together was the challenge. There were things I overlooked in production that almost ruined it for me, mostly lighting stuff, but I ended up making it all work and I think that turned out pretty damn for for it being my first real video that I directed.

Stalley “The Tune Up” from Kellen Dengler on Vimeo.

Before I go – all I want you to know about me is…

Before I go all I want you to know about me that I did it myself and on my own. I’ve still got a lot to learn and a ways to go, but I’ll figure it out. You can to.

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