Behind the Lens with Director/DP Herb Kossover, Plus insight on Georgia State University’s Creative Media Industries Institute

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Written by Mollee D. Harper

Georgia Film News sat down with award-winning Director/DP Herb Kossover to talk about his Atlanta-based Kossover & Company, Inc. During our interview, Brooklyn-born Kossover takes us back to the beginning of his career in the entertainment industry as a still photographer in Fashion and Rock-N-Roll in New York City, and shares how Georgia became his home for the past 35 years. Kossover reveals some of his favorite projects, explains how the Georgia film industry tax incentives are helping attract new businesses and great projects, and highlights this next chapter of his career giving back to Georgia’s entertainment industry in new consulting and mentoring roles. 

Kossover reminisced, “I went to school in New York City and started in still photography early on. I was very fortunate to work with a lot of top photographers in Manhattan. And that led me to Rock-n-Roll photography. One day I ended up photographing the Allman Brothers Band a Capricorn Records signed band at the Fillmore East, which was pretty amazing.”

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Kossover continued, “As a result of that shoot, I was approached to consider a position in Macon, Georgia with Capricorn Records.  I flew down to check out the Macon area. None of my family ever moved from New York and of course they thought I was crazy. While I was there I went down to Central City Park to see a Capricorn band called Wet Willie. They were incredible, and got to know these really, really nice people. I took a chance and moved to Macon. It lasted a long time.

Kossover explained, “When it ended, I went to Atlanta and worked with TBS on their first film unit, “American Portrait”, Ted Turner showed up a lot and was really involved; he opened a lot of doors. I remember telling Ted we need to find the best producers, cinematographers and talent in each state, it would really be cost effective. We shot 16mm film on the series. Turner was very gifted and was able to repurpose all the footage we shot into other TBS projects. He was truly a modern day Howard Hughes.”

“I then opened my own company in Atlanta. Looking back I’ve lived longer in Georgia now than in New York” Kossover concluded.

Kossover explained, “I loved doing commercials, then I realized I needed to find a niche. The niche for me was when I started shooing high-end 35mm aerial photography using military technology. Aerial photography was about 30% of my income and 10% of my time. This is really a great niche. I was able to build a large library of images that were saleable. I get calls to this day to do aerials for films and television.

His aerials of Atlanta can be seen on every local Atlanta television station and are used to promote the City of Atlanta by The Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau. Kossover’s images were recently used in the CW TV series “Containment”.

Kossover has captured aerial images of many U.S. cities including Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco, Miami, Dallas, Las Vegas, New York and Los Angeles.

During the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, Kossover was one of the directors of photography hired for the Official Olympic Film directed by the legendary Bud Greenspan. His work was so well received that he was asked to lens the 1998 Winter Olympic Games for Greenspan in Japan.

Kossover described his latest project. He said, “Georgia State University was building a state-of-the-art media center with a grant from the Woodruff Foundation and I thought that would be a great opportunity for me and approached them. What they did was very smart, by going out of house; they found four professors of practice. Colleges and Universities do that, they find high profile consultants who are working in the industry. not just people who teach.” 

Kossover added, “I am now a Professor of Practice of Georgia State University and helping them put together a new art media center called Creative Media Industries Institute. I hope to have a seminar series called ‘Bursts of Excellence’ with some really high profile names from the industry to participate and partner with us. The new Creative Media Industries Institute will include virtual reality, film, music, and more. Doors should open around April 2017. It’s going to be gorgeous and something that will have an international focus. I’m real excited about this new phase of my career consulting, mentoring and teaching cinematography.

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Kossover attended Columbia University in New York City, and received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in communications. He also studied film and writing at New York University. Kossover has over 30 years of experience producing, shooting and directing films, television and commercials as well as working as a photographer, image consultant and professor. Since 2015, Kossover has served as a Professor of Practice at Georgia State University and Adjunct Professor at The Art Institute of Atlanta. He serves on the Board of Directors for Curing Kids Cancer and is a member of Atlanta Production Partners.

Kossover when asked of his favorite projects over the years recalled “It’s not necessarily the highest paid project or biggest project, but one comes to mind from five or six years ago. I did a documentary about the most violent prison in the country in Louisiana at Angola, a maximum security prison with 5,000 inmates. They started a Bible college for inmates it had such a huge impact and made the prison a lot less violent. The warden took our film around the country and it helped open 15 Bible colleges in other prisons systems. Echolight Studios are in the process right now of making this story into a major film. It was such a great project and a very cool story. That is one project which I’m very proud of more than likely I will be one of the producers on the film when the time comes.” 

Kossover’s award-winning productions have earned him 22 Telly Awards, four Emmys and numerous film festival “Best in Show” honors and other awards. His credits include working on music videos for Billy Joel, Cyndi Lauper, The SOS Band, TLC, Emerson, Lake and Palmer and the musical CATS. Kossover was series Director for ‘First Flights’ hosted by Neil Armstrong. His work has been seen on NBC’s ‘The West Wing’ and Fox’s ‘Vanished’, and over 200 national commercials for notable companies including: Coca-Cola, Kroger, Citicorp, Buick, The US Post Office, Disney Parks, Holiday Inn Worldwide, and Fox, ABC, TBS, WB and Turner Sports. Kossover served as a Lighting Consultant to Pixar for ABC’s “Toy Story of Terror” and one of the second unit Directors of Photography for Tyler Perry’s ‘The Have and Have Nots’, ‘For Better or Worse’, and ‘Love Thy Neighbor’.

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Kossover said of the Georgia film industry tax credits, “On some of the higher end productions, I’m coming in to handle second unit effects. A lot of times when I am working on a large commercial, I get back credit on all kinds of supplies and effects and services for my business. The film tax credits have really helped smaller one to five million dollar independent films. You don’t have to be Marvel or a large studio to get the benefits of these tax credits. It’s available for everyone who works here. I sometimes hear people refer to them as one of the reason to shoot in Georgia.”

Kossover added, “A lot of people are coming into this industry here in Georgia now. It’s almost table talk at dinner time now that films are being made here. And, a lot of people want to give back. I do, and I want to continue to be viable. I joined the digital age early and love giving back. I work with a lot of young people. It’s good for a young director or producer to collaborate with a veteran in the industry.”

Kossover added, “I want to be a part of the group that helps Atlanta become number two, maybe even number one, who knows. Being number three is huge though. People don’t realize that. The amount of money that comes into the state is significant. I think what the Governor and state senators have done is great to keep the tax incentives in place to keep enticing people to come here and do more. It brings us so much clean industry. We aren’t doing something that’s bad for the community like digging for oil. The entertainment industry builds new businesses and enhances the landscape.”

Kossover concluded, “I think we are in a great place in Georgia and just want to see this momentum continue. The crew base is becoming really deep. The state is really beautiful so there are new landscapes and backgrounds to film here that people haven’t seen before. There are a lot of places Georgia can be. I want to become more of a part of that and I believe the media center at Georgia State University will help in that effort to tell the world what’s here.”

For more information on Herb Kossover and the Kossover Company, Inc., visit http://www.kossover.com/.

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