Nik Owens: Cinematographer

Bears in the Wild: Nik Owens, cinematographer and co-founder at Aperture Ocean Productions
Posted on 02/25/2022

Each school year, Tahoma High School video production students put their film-making skills to the test in the “Insomniacs Challenge.” With essentially a single weekend from concept to final product, teams of students have 60 hours to create a short film using parameters set by teacher Rick Haag. That includes working in specific props or a line of dialogue (things you couldn’t just “add in” to an already half-baked project).

Nik Owens jumped right into the Insomniacs Challenge his freshman year at Tahoma in 2009-10.

“My first year we made an action film. Lots of guns… typical student film. Way too many things for our skill level,” Owens joked.

By his fourth Insomniacs Challenge as a senior, Owens had clearly honed his craft during his Tahoma tenure.

“We had to use the candy Smarties,” Owens remembered as one of the rules that year. “There's a famous line from an action movie: “not today.” So we had to use that in one of our scenes. We made a cop story called Booker and Craig, and we played two cops that chased down high schoolers for eating too many Smarties. So one of the cops tells a kid, “not today,” and we steal the Smarties out of his hands.”

Owens graduated from Tahoma in 2013 with a pair of Insomniacs Challenge awards, and more importantly, a skill set that would turn into a career and growing small business in Maple Valley.

Nik Owens AOP studio

After graduating from Eastern Washington with a film degree, Owens went into the corporate world. Not long after, he knew he wasn’t on the right track, so he shifted his focus to starting a run-and-gun film operation of his own.

Cascadia Pizza offered me a part-time job while I started my company,” he said. “So I built my pipeline of clientele, left Cascadia to go into film full-time… and then COVID hit.”

For many filmmakers, along with startups across a number of industries, the pandemic brought projects to a screeching halt. For Owens, the decision to set up shop in his hometown allowed him to keep charging forward. He produced video updates for the City of Maple Valley, found work locally where he could, and his company, Aperture Ocean Productions (AOP), is thriving in 2022.

Owens has a pair of business partners: Bryan Anderson (2012 Tahoma grad), and Jordan Obaya. They’ve split up the duties of the business, which allows Owens to focus on cinematography while his colleagues handle editing and marketing.

Aperture Ocean Productions StudioAperture Ocean Productions Studio

The growth also lets Owens do what he’s most passionate about - supporting the next pack of Tahoma Bears.

With occasional guest appearances in Haag’s classes, and the bandwidth to bring on a Tahoma high schooler as a summer intern, Owens has seen firsthand the value of helping students build community connections from a young age.

“When I was that age, I wish someone had come in and told me that I could really do this professionally,” he said. “Getting alumni involved and having us come back is a huge blessing. It’s motivating for small business owners to come in and show kids that it’s possible.”

Owens said the opportunities that Tahoma’s Career & Technical Education (CTE) courses like video production provide put Bears at a competitive advantage coming out of high school.

“When I went to film school, I hadn’t seen any of the new tech because we didn’t have it yet at Tahoma. Students now have 6k video capability to go out and create anything they want. They can release National Geographic quality films. Haag has a camera that’s used by Netflix. So when students are walking into college or professional spaces and they already know how to use the equipment, it puts them ahead.

Our intern, Henry, came in last summer and spent a few days a week working on our 6k and 4k cameras. Now he’s in college doing cinematography for the university as a freshman. That’s unheard of when you walk into a four-year school that specializes in this industry and can say ‘I’m ready. What do you need from me?’”



February is Career & Technical Education (CTE) Month. To read more about Tahoma’s CTE opportunities, CLICK HERE.

Aperture Ocean Productions is a Maple Valley based company located on Maple Valley HWY SE. Their feature clients include the City of Maple Valley, Maple Valley Food Bank, Cascadia Pizza Co. and more.

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