"I was just one of those kids who always had a camera in my hands," he says. "Photography was always around me, and I remember very distinctly my Fisher-Price PXL2000 [a toy black-and-white camcorder produced in 1987 that uses a compact audio cassette as its recording medium] that I got when I was about 10 years old. My friends and I would mess around creating mini action and comedy videos, if you could call them that."
"While at USC, I just shot everything interesting that I could," he recalls. "I was also crewing in other positions, as well, but mainly just doing all I could to get my hands on the camera."
In grad school, he built an impressive reel and shot the Oscar®-winning short film, West Bank Story (2005), a bold musical-comedy take on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It got him and his fellow filmmakers a lot of recognition, but he says the struggle to ‘make it’ in Hollywood is still significant.
"Again, I was back to shooting everything I could and just making all the connections possible in the professional world, outside of school," he says. "I tried to focus on indie features that had stories and characters I was passionate about, since I felt my best work would come out of that."
Since graduating, Kelly has been director of photography on 18 feature films, and since the RED cameras debuted at NAB in 2007, he has shot many of them on that ever-evolving digital sensor, and used them on many commercials and music videos. Back in 2011, he worked with director Rotimi Rainwater on a low-budget feature called Sugar, about a group of homeless kids in Venice Beach.