Daniel Connor Wilson’s interest in the technical and creative aspects of filmmaking started early in life.
Like others of his generation, he was drawn to the impact of visual storytelling, at first through the tiny lens of his smartphone, which allowed him to capture snippets of life on the fly, and later through the lenses of higher-quality digital cameras with more robust cinematic capabilities. Along the way, he learned and grew, honing his artistic eye and developing a lifelong passion for cinematography.
This May, Wilson is graduating from CU Boulder as a second-generation Buff with a bachelor’s degree in cinema studies with an emphasis on film production. His goal, he said, is to combine his interests in nature photography, music, sports and art to launch a career in cinematography, working for a major sports team or in the film industry.
“I am thankful to have had the opportunity to be able to study moving image arts at the University of Colorado, as I have been able to meet some of my best friends and colleagues. CU has provided me with many experiences that I will never forget, and I will keep them with me as I go forward,” Wilson said.
The combination of art and technology came naturally to Wilson while he was growing up in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, where he and his parents shared a love for music and films and spent weekends at movie theaters or going to concerts. Some of the films that stirred his imagination with motion-capture and other tech wizardry and screenplays were Titanic and the Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean series. He was in awe of the film scores of Hans Zimmer and Danny Elfman.
He wanted to learn more for himself. In high school, he filmed hours of video while his drumline ensemble practiced for indoor percussion competitions, producing the annual ThunderRidge High School Grizzlies drumline documentary. Later, he was recruited as a documentary filmmaker for Colorado’s Rise Percussion, a world-class competitive drumline team that competes annually in the Winter Guard International (WGI) “sport of the arts” competition.
Growing up near the Colorado Rockies fostered his love of nature photography and filmmaking. On family trips to the mountains, he hiked to remote locations and captured drone footage of the rugged beauty of mountain passes and high-elevation lakes and forests. On other trips, he slung his camera pack over his shoulder to capture images of waterfalls, mountains, beaches and lifestyles in the Pacific Northwest, Canada, California, Mexico and elsewhere.
Last spring, he attended the world-renowned Telluride Film Festival with classmates and a film studies professor, an experience in his own backyard that cemented his desire to be around other filmmakers and creative people who are actively working in the film industry.
As a Colorado native with deep family roots in southern Colorado, Wilson said he will always carry the stories of his family and the state with him wherever the future takes him.
“So much of film is about recreating a time and a place and sharing other life perspectives,” he said. “As a Coloradan with deep cultural and family roots in this state, Colorado’s history and stories will always move and motivate me. They have given me a foundation for life.”
Get to know Daniel Wilson:
What is one of the greatest experiences or lessons from your time at CU Boulder that you’ll carry with you into the next chapter of your life?
Studying the arts at CU allowed me to learn how to step out of my comfort zone, while still being able to have creative freedom on my projects. I was able to explore different styles of filmmaking that allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of the industry entirely. Being exposed to various styles of art culture has strengthened my knowledge in the world of visual art.
What is your best piece of advice for incoming students?
My advice for incoming students is to experience all of the events that their program has to offer. If I could go back to the beginning of my college career, I would take advantage of the many screenings and promotional film events that occurred on campus. The university has so many incredible opportunities right on the main campus.
What does graduating from graduate school represent for you?
Graduating from college allows me to look back on all of the memories that I made. While much of my time on campus was for my studies and projects, I was able to make friends and connections that I will have for the rest of my life.
What continues to drive your passion for your work after graduation?
I am looking forward to taking my skills to the next level and seeing what my true potential is in the world of cinema. I hope to be able to see the world through the lens of a camera and create content that people will enjoy. I think of all of the times that my mind was blown by a piece of cinema and hope to be able to give that feeling to someone else one day.