Capturing the Moment with Tim DaGraca
Tim DaGraca is a creator of photos, film, and words who makes work with inspiring intentionality. Speaking with Tim is a reminder to tune in to the smallest of moments and most simple of gifts, keep moving even when failure gets in your way, and listen to your nagging intuitions. Lucky for us, Tim’s also a coffee lover, who brings the same attention to detail to brewing a morning cup -- read on for the full routine run-down!
You've shared movie going and getting your first digital camera helped launch you into video production and photography. Can you share more about how this inspired you to start capturing moments with your camera?
For sure! While I've always been creative since a young age, growing up in the 90s and 2000s and watching films at the theatre with my brothers and cousins specifically shaped my fascination with the screen and storytelling. There's just something incredibly special about a bunch of people escaping the realities of life and enjoying two hours of peace together; we're all illuminated by the screen and feel the surround sound sending vibrations through our body and beating out the worries of life.
When my Grandma gave me my first digital camera, it ironically wasn't like what you'd expect to see in a movie. You know that moment when the protagonist is given a tool or endowed with a skill to save the world? Yeah, it wasn't like that. It was the complete opposite. I asked and I received although the camera didn't work at the time because the battery needed to be replaced. Being young but still knowing films were created with much larger camera but having a little bit of that ability in my back pocket inspired me to go out and start creating, even if on a small scale. Maybe my Grandma saw something in me - or simply didn't feel like replacing the camera battery - and was simply giving me a tool and planting a seed hoping that I would nourish it and let my creativity bloom. Seventeen years later and I'm still using my camera to tell stories.
What was your first “big” video project? How did it feel to create that work?
I feel like each project always got bigger, even if by a tiny margin. They’re all like stepping stones to the next big thing whether you see it at the time or not. Wedding videos have always kept me nervous (and proud to say I’ve never encountered a Bridezilla!) but working with Mark Tioxon of LeahandMark on many weddings here in Atlanta built my confidence. He gave me my first big few big shots in the wedding industry and most of the stuff after that was cakewalk.
But, if I had to choose one project, it’d be the BTS video for the Through the Glass Darkly film starring Robyn Lively, Shanola Hampton, and Michael Trucco. Autumn Bailey Ford, a friend of mine, produced it and brought me on as the BTS photographer and videographer.
I filmed and interviewed each of main characters, shot BTS footage for different scenes over a number of days, and (wait for it) lost it all when one of my hard drives crashed during the editing process. My heart never sank so fast, and I’ve never felt more unprofessional. In the moments of filming and editing, I felt great and like things were going to take a turn for the best, film-wise, when I turned over the project, but I never made it to that point.
So, in my story, my biggest video project also happened to be my biggest failure, but I learned, and kept it moving. Luckily, I still turned over lots of BTS photos as they were located on separate hard drives, and to this day, I am still friends with the producer.
Can you tell us more about your decision to stop most of your freelance, wedding-centric, production work to focus on screenwriting? What is your dream filmmaking project?
Have you ever had that feeling of anxiety where you know you’re supposed to be doing something else other than what you’re currently doing? Like when you’re scrolling social media but you know you have to deliver a presentation at work, or study for final exams? It’s like that, except it never goes away until you turn your focus to what it is that’s been bugging you.
That’s how it was for me and freelance video production. I wanted to move up to the next level but kept grinding away at freelance gigs that came my way until I burnt myself out. I had to literally tell myself enough is enough and that the only way I’ll become a better writer and filmmaker is to start writing and filming.
My dream filmmaking project isn’t necessarily about the project itself, but more so about the end goal; so, my dream filmmaking goal would be to direct films that inspire, uplift, and educate. I want people to feel moved by what they watch so much that it inspires them to take action at home, in their community, or within their spiritual lives. I truly believe we’re here to serve others and I’d like to think that filmmaking is the tool that I’ll use to do so.
We love how you say, “coffee has helped me through everything” and can definitely relate. Can you share more about how you got into coffee, and how it has become a big part of your life and journey?
Growing up, my parents must have always brewed coffee in the average $40 household coffee maker, but I never really noticed until right after high school when I began drinking coffee in the morning more ritually. And even then, it was still regular, pre-ground Folgers-in-your-cup drinking. It wasn’t until I met my girlfriend (now my wife) that we started drinking coffee -- a lot -- to get through those 6:00am morning commutes to Atlanta, stay up during classes, and ensure safe drives back home at the end of the night. For us, it helped start the day on the right foot and end it on the right note.
Now, coffee is less about using it to power through a task or day, and more about enjoying it together with family in over bread, or after a meal. My wife is Colombian so sometimes we don’t even drink a full cup of coffee, but instead, we drink a “Tinto” which is just a tiny bit of black coffee, usually served in a tea-like cup (with the plate and all!) Pair that with some Pan De Bono and everything gon’ be alright, I promise!
What does your ideal coffee routine look like?
My ideal coffee routine would be drinking brewed coffee from beans roasted the same-day. My current routine is:
- Wake up each morning and pour 4 cups of fresh, filtered water into the Ratio Six.
- Use the Eureka Filtro Mignon (sounds like a steak) to grind 4 scoops of Kirkland’s Colombian Supremo coffee beans at a level 3 for a grind size that’s a little more fine-than-not, directly into a cone paper filter for a rich, clean cup.
- Place the cone filter into the Ratio Handblown Glass Carafe and brew!
If you could create any photo or video project you wanted, centered around any part of the coffee world (sourcing, brewing, enjoying, etc), what would that look like?
I’d definitely say I’d have to fly to South America (Colombia, preferably) to witness and document the entire process from the coffee plants being planted to their beans being plucked, roasted, and brewed. Within that process, I’d also want to explore the ethics behind the industry and hear from those who are out in the trenches doing the work. It’d be incredibly fun, but most importantly, would open up our eyes to the story of the other. Isn’t that what life is all about?