I fondly remember a series of events that revealed my love of film and the birth of my dream of becoming a filmmaker at a very young age. At the age of ten, as was typical, I was interested in sports, particularly hockey. In the summer of 2003 I was taking a mock-news class at my elementary school’s summer camp program. As fate would have it I got stuck at the back of the line and as a result when I was finally reached to pick which part of the newscast I wanted to participate with I was stuck with what seemed the unenviable positions of weatherman, or film critic. I had always enjoyed film as a form of entertainment and so the decision was a no brainer for me. I chose to be the film critic.
I recall sitting with my mother at an IHop restaurant near our home and looking at a newspaper with her. She showed me the film reviews section. I noticed how different films had different star ratings. This resonated with me as a ten-year old sports fan, as it struck me as a similar construct to sports standings. It indicated to me that me that some films were better than others, versus all films being of the same caliber. The first film I went to review was a New Zealand film called Whale Rider (2002). The film was in retrospect, completely over my head. I was pressed to find another film to review. The film that changed my life forever, turned out to be that summer’s Pirates of The Caribbean: The Curse of The Black Pearl (2002). Watching that film, something in that moment just clicked. Watching that film, I felt as if I had a window into another place and time that was as real to me as anything I had experienced and it was as vivid and alive and had the same cathartic value as the images that occupied my overactive boyhood imagination.
I began to watch movies whenever I had the chance and I also read all sorts of film reviews and books about film. When I would go to Target, or any other store with my parents, I would always spend my time in the electronics section reading the backs of all the DVDs. If I wasn’t watching a film, reading the review section in the newspaper, or reading a book about filmmaking or film history, I was on the computer trying to process as much information about films as possible. Unlike anything before the experiences flowed, and it all felt completely natural. When you know you’re meant to do something, you feel it. It didn’t feel like an obsession, so much as a way of life.
From the age of ten to thirteen I wrote film reviews for pleasure and studied filmmaking from the perspective of a film critic. The idea of becoming a director, began to take shape but seemed nothing short of an impossible dream. When I reached the age of thirteen a friend of mine from sleep away camp and I became writing partners. We’d spend hours bouncing ideas off one another and later sharing scripts. My path was unfolding before me. At the age of fifteen I wrote a script for an English class extra credit assignment. My English teacher, knowing that I loved films so much at the time, encouraged me to make the script into a short film. That positive encouragement led to my dream of pursuing a career as a director becoming a reality. I bought a camera, made a studio set in my parent’s garage and directed, shot, and edited the entire short film myself. The making of films came to me as naturally as the process of learning about film had before. From that point forward through each remaining year of high school I made at least one film.
I eventually graduated and went on to study film at the University of Texas at Austin. It was there where I began to really hone in on the self-teachings I had done in high school and began to truly figure out what my own voice was as a filmmaker. While I didn’t make that many films in college, I got to make two shorts that were leaps and bounds above anything I had done previously, learned and formed close relationships with some masterful professors, got to work on some films for some of my favorite filmmakers, and made a lot of new friends.
In 2016 I packed my bags and moved back to New York, where a personal conflict drove me to make my first feature film, Lost and Found (Currently in post-production). Since being in production on that film I have been leading the life of a self-anointed “filmmonk.” I have an abnormal routine that all centers around working on my films and freelance projects, physical activity, and spirituality. Filmmaking has always been a guide for my life. It takes me to places I never would’ve expected, teaches me about myself and my place in the universe in ways I could never have imagined, and creates a pathway for me to connect with people in a way casual social interactions have never been able to.
“We all are born with a certain package. We are who we are. Wherever we’re born, who we are born as, however we were raised. We’re kind of stuck inside that person, and the purpose of civilization and growth is to be able to reach out and empathize a little bit with other people, and for me the movies are like a machine that generates empathy. It lets you understand a little bit more about different hopes, aspirations, dreams, fears. It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us,” - Roger Ebert