Whether you’re into horror flicks, documentaries, dramas, or romance, Jefferson City native Andrew Droz Palermo has probably worked on a film you’d enjoy.
May 29 will be a special day for Andrew Droz Palermo. That’s the day his most recent project, a film called “The Green Knight,” will be released to the public. The piece stars Dev Patel and serves as a fantasy re-telling of the medieval story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. As the movie’s cinematographer, Droz Palermo spent nine months of 2019 living in Ireland shooting the film. It’s an exciting moment for a kid who grew up in Jefferson City dreaming of being a filmmaker.
Droz Palermo’s path to the movie industry wasn’t simple. As a Mid-MO youngster in the early late 1990s and early 2000s, opportunities and resources to learn the craft were limited, so he took it upon himself to transform his hopes of making films into a reality. He burrowed down in art though middle and high school, mixing up mediums along the way.
“At that time, there wasn’t an easy route. It was hard to imagine how it would happen, but I did everything that I could locally,” says Droz Palermo. “I have to give a shoutout to Jefferson City High School’s art department. It was such a North Star for me in Missouri [where] I could express myself and learn things.”
Droz Palermo’s efforts soon paid off. He started with small projects, including school newscasts and classroom assignments. Eventually, Droz Palermo found himself creating music videos for friends in local bands, like White Rabbits. From that point on, he says it became clear that his big goals might not be out of reach.
“Getting that kind of exposure [made me think], Oh wow, we can do this and it can be seen by the broader world,” Droz Palermo says.
Additional freelance projects followed, and he was soon receiving national recognition. In 2011, Droz Palermo helped create a horror film shot in Columbia called “You’re Next.” Others approached him about creating more scary pieces, but he didn’t want to be pigeonholed into one genre, a goal that he has maintained throughout his career.
“I really try to ping-pong as much as I can back and forth to different things. It keeps me, as an artist, growing,” Droz Palermo says. “It’s more fun for me to not be doing the same thing over and over. I grew up with very eclectic tastes and like a lot of different things.”
More success came in 2014, when his Missouri-based documentary, “Rich Hill,” earned him accolades, including the grand jury prize, at the Sundance Film Festival, the largest independent film festival in the United States. The film chronicles the lives of four kids coming of age in rural southwest Missouri; it was later aired nationally on PBS.
“Winning was a really surprising and shocking and surreal thing,” says Droz Palermo. “Sundance was a festival that I read about and heard about when I was younger, and to win the grand jury prize was a really crazy achievement. Never did I imagine nor even set a goal to do that.”
Droz Palermo has now lived and worked in Los Angeles for seven years, and the majority of his cinematic portfolio is available for streaming on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Apple TV. A career as a filmmaker has taken him around the world for shoots and premieres. “It’s one of the great perks of my job,” Droz Palermo says. “It’s amazing.”
His work on films, commercials, and other projects also finds him rubbing shoulders with stars including Casey Affleck, Kiernan Shipka, and Timothée Chalamet, but he maintains that it’s just like working with co-workers in other professions.
“All of the best ones that I work with, it just feels very normal and there are no airs. We do the work and have fun,” Droz Palermo says. “For the most part, the people that I work with are famous because they’re very talented. And that’s really cool to see.”
Despite his busy schedule, Droz Palermo continues to carve out time to make it back to Jefferson City and visit family and friends.
“I definitely miss the greenery. Los Angeles is a desert,” he says. “Everytime I come home, it’s really lovely to just walk around and be outside. Wildlife in general is such a highlight of Missouri.”
He also maintains a connection to the people who helped him get where he is today. And he has advice for other area students who want to follow in his path or blaze their own trail.
“Keep practicing what you’re interested in and don’t attach yourself to one thing,” says Droz Palermo. “You can keep shifting and changing. It’s best to just keep learning different skills and different art forms. Just be a sponge.”
Rich Hill on iTunes & Amazon
A Ghost Story on iTunes, Amazon, & Netflix
One & Two on iTunes & Amazon
The Green Knight Out May 29, 2020