There aren’t many typical work days for David Lovejoy. The closest thing to average, last week, involved him waking up at dawn, brushing his teeth with a half-frozen water bottle and trekking through the spongy Alaskan tundra in shin-high muck boots, following people as they hunted moose. It might be surprising to think that only days before, he was wearing the first tuxedo of his life, walking the red carpet alongside Hollywood’s A-List celebrities.

Lovejoy, who graduated from Messalonskee High School in 2006, was one of eight crew members to win an Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography for a Reality Program for his work on the series “Life Below Zero.” The ceremony took place on September 17.

The show, which is in its ninth season, follows a handful of Alaskans on their everyday journeys to hunt and survive in the coldest and most remote areas of the state. It is produced by BBC Worldwide and airs on the National Geographic Channel. This was the program’s second win — and fourth nomination — in the cinematography category, and the first time Lovejoy was credited on the accolade.

David Lovejoy, a 2006 Messalonskee High School graduate, was one of eight crew members to win an Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography for a Reality Program for his work on “Life Below Zero,” a BBC Worldwide production that airs on the National Geographic Channel.

Lovejoy, a camera operator, has been working on the show for over three years. He said that the creative freedom and risk-taking that his producers encourage set the show apart from other projects — especially other reality television series.

“That’s really what got us in the position to be winning the cinematography Emmy,” Lovejoy noted. “A lot of the times, cinematography in reality TV is just these very simple wide shots, where you need to get across what’s happening. On our show, I really feel like we get the freedom and incentive to highlight the beautiful places we’re in, so the crux of (“Life Below Zero”) is not only what’s happening but the place in which it’s happening. We do whatever we can to highlight that, whether it’s slow-motion photography, time lapse photography, drone camera work, using GoPros in unique ways — everything we can think of.”

At times, this approach has enabled Lovejoy to experiment with filming techniques that he otherwise wouldn’t be able to try, which is a real highlight for him. Through his work on “Life Below Zero,” Lovejoy has become an adept drone pilot and particularly enjoys flying the devices through trees and mountains to follow people in close proximity. In June, Lovejoy shot some of his favorite footage, following character Jessie Holmes on a boat trip.


“There’s this beautiful expanse of a field and we were like, ‘Hey, let’s try and get an entry here and I can fly really low over this field and come up over these bushes and reveal the river, and Jessie can drive by right at the same moment, like, whoa, here it is, and then fly out and you see the whole area,'” he said. “We thought of it within 10 minutes and then set it up and got it on the first try.”

As with most risky ideas, the plans don’t always pan out, though. Once, Lovejoy and the director of photography he was working with repeatedly climbed nearly 30 feet up a tree to anchor a cable system that would enable a camera to shoot a diagonally angled time lapse over a 100-foot long stretch.

“It would have been a very interesting shot, but I found out the Cablecam doesn’t like to be mounted in that way and it just sort of stuck,” Lovejoy said. “I couldn’t get it to go through, so we just had to settle for a much less elaborate setup.”

Having grown up in Oakland, Lovejoy frequently camped around the town and the state of Maine with his father, but venturing into Alaskan winters with camera gear was an entirely new experience for him. He has had to use disposable hand warmers to keep his camera batteries warm enough to function and has shot in temperatures as low as minus 35 degrees Fahrenheit. In these conditions, Lovejoy and the camera team look like self-described “marshmallow men,” sporting Carhartt bibs, thick expedition jackets and double-insulated army surplus boots. In especially harsh climates, the four-person crew — which includes a safety guide — sleeps in arctic ovens. Lovejoy described these as “big, insulated tents that we can put oil stoves in to keep warm.” But the low-flying puddle jumper plane rides the crew has to take to get on location are scarier to Lovejoy than the isolation and extreme cold.

David Lovejoy, a 2006 Messalonskee High School graduate, on location for “Life Below Zero.”

“If there’s ever an accident, God forbid, it would be one of those planes — going down, not being able to take off,” he said. “The few times that I’ve really felt scared is when we’ve hit particularly bad weather or the plane starts hitting turbulence. You’re only a few hundred feet off the ground to begin with, trees start going by, you’re over water and you can’t help but panic a little.”

Lovejoy said that his experiences at Messalonskee inspired him to pursue a career in film at a young age, although at first, he wanted to be an actor or writer. He went from having a non-speaking role in a musical to playing John Proctor in the school’s production of “The Crucible” all in a year.


Mandi Favreau, who still works for Regional School Unit 18 as a communication coordinator, was the theater director at the time.

“He was always this quiet, humble kid, who just gave his all to whatever he was focused on doing,” Favreau said. “A lot of students would force themselves into the limelight, but he just stole the spotlight by doing what needed to be done instead of trying to steal the limelight.”

“We’re all very proud of him,” she added.

In his senior year, Lovejoy starred in fellow Messalonskee classmate Nick Alden’s student project, titled “Lovely Crimes.” The feature-length detective film noir was shot in downtown Waterville. Although it never made it to a festival, Lovejoy looks back on the experience fondly. It was participating in the high school’s media program that provided him with some of his earliest experience behind the camera, though.

“We’d make small projects and try to do a news show and stuff, and that was really cool,” Lovejoy said. “That helped me a lot, definitely, down the path that I went.”

While in high school, Lovejoy spent many afternoons assembling videos of his brother, his friends and himself skateboarding, jumping off of rope swings and doing other “silly things.”


“I started to try and make them better and get into watching movies with my other friends … and realized that I really just had a passion for it.”

At the University of Southern Maine, where Lovejoy earned a degree in Media Studies, he realized that cinematography was his specific interest.

Pictured on the Rockland breakwater in this undated photo, David Lovejoy, a 2006 Messalonskee High School graduate, was one of eight crew members to win an Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography for a Reality Program for his work on “Life Below Zero,” a BBC Worldwide production airing on the National Geographic Channel that is filmed in Alaska.

“I kind of reined it in gradually over the years to something that made sense for me, … just appreciating a scene and a story and then figuring out how to get that across in a visual language,” he said.

He also noted that being able to watch arthouse films at Waterville’s Railroad Square Cinema was an important influence.

In the coming months, Lovejoy will continue to work on “Life Below Zero,” but will begin filming another BBC Worldwide production as well — a reboot of “Port Protection,” also set in Alaska.

“I think I’m starting to specialize fairly severely,” Lovejoy joked.


Although he enjoys working in extreme Alaskan climates, he hopes that a project in the future will take him outside of the United States.

“I want a show that can bring me to Papua New Guinea or Australia or somewhere in Asia or something,” Lovejoy said. “I’d love that. I’d absolutely love that.”

In Maine, Lovejoy has worked for Engel Entertainment in Farmington, Maine Media Workshops in Rockport and Left Right in Portland, as well as a handful of other companies across the country. He is currently based in Los Angeles.

Meg Robbins — 861-9239

[email protected]


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