When James Takata was in Ryman Arts, he recalls there being around 40-50 students total with classes held at Otis when it was still near MacArthur Park. James believes Ryman Arts is still fulfilling the same mission today as when he was a student here - training young artists in classical techniques and encouraging them to pursue careers in the arts.
James went to Flintridge High School in Pasadena and earned his BA in Studio Art at the College of William and Mary. Upon returning to LA after college, he started his career in filmmaking as a production assistant and has spent the past 15 years working his way up through the camera department. While working on an ultra-low budget post-apocalyptic vampire film, he recalls filming overnight at an abandoned prison for 22 hours, then seeing the sun come up and realizing that he found what he really wanted to pursue.
James works in a wide range of filmmaking endeavors. He recently directed the feature documentary We the Parents (due to be released on Netflix in 2015) and works as a Camera/Steadicam Operator on TV shows such as Sons of Anarchy and Scorpion. James was also honored with a 2012 Emerging Cinematographer Award for his work shooting the short film Only Child.
When speaking about how Ryman Arts has influenced where he is today, James draws connections between the fine arts education Ryman Arts provides to the daily artistic choices he makes behind the camera. When framing shots, he looks at composition, at depth, at perspective. James also believes that one of the best skills that Ryman Arts taught him was how to give and receive critiques.
“I remember my first critique, it was at Ryman Arts. None of us knew what to say…we didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings…but our teachers guided us through the process of seeing objectively and being able to communicate that clearly...and then hopefully receive it without ego. That experience of evaluating work and being able to dialogue about it is something that I draw on constantly with directors and cinematographers."
His advice for today’s Ryman Arts students is to unapologetically claim their title as "artists," to be persistent in working toward their goals, to be open to finding a mentor who can guide them, and to recognize that the ideas and talent of artists will always be in demand. Speaking to a group of recent alumni, James said, "It may seem to you like I've 'arrived', but I'm really just you all 15 years from now. Figuring out how to have a creative life is an ongoing journey and we're all right in the middle of it."