While other students were typing up their essays, a then thirteen-year-old Ariana Hoshino was bent over a stop motion animation of “Flowers for Algernon”. With her mom’s old still-life camera, Hoshino was coaxing movement out of still images and stories out of clay.
At age 14, she was gifted a camcorder. Video was also a collection of still frames, but now they blurred together—faster and more cohesive. Camcorder in hand, Hoshino now took on documentaries. “They were easier to do alone, but that also meant that I had to learn everything myself,” she said.
For National History Day, she was able to interview the Romanian President for a piece about the Romanian revolution. Hoshino herself is Romanian and moved to the United States with her mom when she was young.
For the first time, Hoshino was given the chance to watch as her documentary was aired. She remembers that “people thought it was really powerful and started crying,” she said. Through stop-motion animation, Hoshino had fallen in love with the art of filmmaking. On National History Day, standing before a teary-eyed room and a screen rolling end credits with her name on them, Hoshino was hooked on the effect her storytelling could have on others. “I had this tool that could really touch people,” Hoshino said.
From promotional work to founding a cinema club, Hoshino never stopped getting her hands dirty. When she enrolled in her college’s film program, she soon discovered that it was completely theory-based with no production at all. In response, she founded the Cinema Club. “It was less to make the best films ever and more to have fun,” she said.
There, she branched out into narrative films—following people. After college, she, in turn, followed this passion to Los Angles. As Hoshino puts it, “Everything film is here”.
Despite her many years of cinematography experience, Hoshino was still terrified by her first professional job: a two-week indie feature. She was asked to be the DIT. The night before, she was googling “what is a DIT”?
A DIT, also known as a Digital Imaging Technician, is an incredibly technical job. Hoshino’s friend, Vivian Lau, came to her rescue. She told Hoshino exactly what equipment she would need, what she would be expected to do on set, and assuaged her fears. “In this industry, you need to make connections,” Hoshino said.
She fell in love with this job—despite the workdays that start at twelve hours and only go up from there and the heavy camera she lugs around. “I think it’s very cool to work with cameras and make creative projects with people,” she said “so that’s not a problem for me.”
“Follow your dreams,” Hoshino said. “It’s not always possible to make money in the thing you’re really passionate about…I spent a lot of time trying to do ‘the right thing.’ The thing that would make the most money or be the most impressive. But now that I’m in the professional world, I’m asking myself, ‘What do I like? What makes me happy? Who do I like working with?’ I wish I had asked myself those questions earlier.”
As a Camera Assistant and Director of Photography, she spends much of her time pulling focus. Hunched over a monitor, it is her job to make sure that the subject is always in focus. If the focus drifts, the take is ruined. “You have to anticipate what the subject to going to do,” Hoshino said.
Far from her seventh-grade stop-motion animation, Hoshino coaxed images from foggy blurs and gives people their shape.