(Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Call Myself What I Am)
Okay, so cute title aside…deep down, I’ve known for a long time that I am, in fact, a filmmaker. Saying that aloud, to strangers? Another story altogether. It’s been a major journey for me to get to the point where I can confidently tell someone, “I’m a filmmaker” without looking at my feet and awkwardly mumbling something along the lines of, “but I mostly do corporate video.” And truth be told, sometimes it’s still really hard, but I also believe that developing that muscle memory is one of the most important things I’ve ever done for myself, both professionally and emotionally.
Part of what I’d like to do here is examine why that is (hint: it’s because I was [am?] an insufferable film snob), but I’d also like to share a bit about my story, what it feels like to have gotten around that self-erected obstacle, and what the path forward may look like.
Straight Outta Film School
Picture this: I’m in my early 20s, and I’m about to graduate from film school and move to LA with my DP to “make it.” I’ve got a short film that I’m illogically proud of, and grand plans to adapt it into a feature. I’ve parlayed my internship as a reader into a job as an assistant to a producer, and now it’s only a matter of time until the right someone sees my short, or reads my screenplay (once I get around to writing it [I never did]), and then boom: I’ll be on the fast track to making my first feature by the time I’m 25.
And then I just couldn’t hack it. Or, at least, that’s what I told myself at the time.
I quickly realized that working in a producer’s office was not for me (almost as quickly as the producer herself realized it) and within a few months I was working at a movie theater and largely living by myself once my DP met and began to date the woman he’d eventually marry. A year later, I was back at home, in my childhood bedroom, trying to figure out my next move.
Orson Welles, I was not.
Straight to Video
By the time I had reached my mid-20s I had figured out that while my filmmaking dreams maybe weren’t going to happen the way I wanted them to, I did still have a specific skill set that I could monetize through video production. So I saved up, bought a DSLR and a tripod, and got started.
The problem was that at that time, in my head, there was a major schism between “filmmaking” and “video production.” Filmmaking was pure and worthy and important, and what I wanted to be doing, while in my auteur theory-soaked brain, video production felt utilitarian and gross and a little bit desperate, and it was what I needed to be doing. Those first few years of pursuing video production did not go well, suffice to say.
Then life, as it does, happened, and before I knew it, I had met an amazing woman, and I thought I might want to settle down and start a family (or, in this case, become an insta-Dad), and suddenly making money became much, much more important. So, I doubled down, and really focused on trying to be the best “video guy” I could be. Lo and behold, the more seriously I took it, the better at it I got, to the point that just before our daughter was born in 2017, I took the leap, and left my full time job (as a video producer at a health clinic) to focus on building my own video production company. As with everything, this all unfolded in fits and starts, and I’d be lying if I said that I’ve now got it completely figured out, but looking back at where I started, I can’t help but to be proud of what I’ve accomplished.
And yet…I still wasn’t completely comfortable with myself, or where I was in life. If I met someone at a party or a social gathering, when asked, I’d invariably say, “I do video,” while screaming internally, I’m a filmmaker! Strictly speaking, of course, the former was true – but it didn’t feel right. The siren song of film and filmmaking and being a filmmaker never truly went away. The strange thing, though, is that it took a move to Boise, Idaho to get me to start seriously listening to it again.
my own private idaho
When we moved to Boise, I could never have imagined the supportive, independent-minded film community I’d find here. In a lot of ways, I credit the friends I’ve made in and around Boise for helping me find the confidence to step into myself, and own who I am.
It’s a longer story, perhaps for another time, but when I met and became friends with Daniel Klamerus, it didn’t take long (just a quick road trip to Reno and back) to start the wheels turning on what would become our first short film together, ‘Wednesday.’
We shot the film in one day, just the two of us, and once we finished the edit, a week or so later, we were both feeling extremely proud of what we’d done, and hopeful for what might be a fun little festival run. And then COVID shut everything down. So much for best laid plans.
But, of course, things all happen as they’re supposed to, and ‘Wednesday’ still played at a few virtual festivals, even taking home the Spirit of Indie Filmmaking award at the Twin Falls SANDWICHES Film Festival, and we’re still awaiting programming at a few more festivals. Most importantly, the experience of making the film, and the reception it’s gotten, has lit a fire under me unlike any I’ve felt before.
I’ve got three short scripts written and in various stages of completion, and we’re eyeing shooting all three in the next calendar year. We’re also batting around ideas on how to pull off a micro-budget feature in the next few years. And yet there’s still commercial work to be done, deadlines to meet, clients to serve. The difference is, now I’m confident enough in my processes to be able to strike a balance between what I need to do and what I want to do.
I produce videos for corporate and commercial clients. It helps pays our mortgage, and puts food on the table, and clothes on my children’s backs, and I’m grateful that I’m able to do that. And I’m also a filmmaker. In fact, the two “sides” of myself aren’t really even different sides – it’s just the whole. I am a filmmaker. I make films and I make videos for clients. Neither is more noble than the other. Both things make me a filmmaker.
Over the years, I’ve become a better narrative filmmaker because of the experiences I’ve had doing video, and as I become a better filmmaker, the quality of the videos I produce can’t help but to improve. It’s all ebb and flow. The secret, I’ve discovered, is not to bifurcate the two parts of me, but rather to embrace both. For years, I twisted myself into knots, trying to create clear, distinct lanes for myself to keep my video work separate from my film work, almost as if doing so would keep my aspirations pure. What I know now is that I was actually hurting myself more than helping.
That changes now, and I’m so, so, so excited to be able to share what’s coming next.