My path in the business began in high school. In my junior year my days were filled with electronics and computer programing classes and I had some uninspired notion about studying engineering in college. The work suited my logical side, but I distinctly remember feeling ambivalent because some creative spark was missing. As a child I loved to play with Legos, and in middle school my friends were big into role-playing games (Cyberpunk 2020, not D&D, if you must know). These were group activities that blended a rigid systems-type thinking with the more unpredictable nature of creativity.
Everything changed one afternoon when a friend invited me to help him tape his public access show after school. Eric’s show was called Pinhead Nation and he booked local rock bands to perform in his backyard on the deck of his parents’ house. Then he’d interview them afterwards. All I remember from that afternoon is running around to clear off the deck and lay audio cables with intense purpose. There was a feeling of camaraderie that is familiar to anyone who’s worked on a set. It was so exciting to be part of a crew. This collaborative approach to creativity is exactly what had been missing. The feeling electrified me and I was ‘hooked’. By the following year I transferred into my high school’s the television production class.
My high school’s video production program had a small studio with two pedestal cameras, an ENG camera, a control room with A/B switch, and an S-VHS linear editing system. In retrospect, I was lucky to have access to a high school program with so much equipment. At the time (1998-1999) that analogue gear probably cost our school district a small fortune.
The class had a variety of projects, but my favorite was a newscast I wrote set during Roman times. It was a multi-step project. First, I had to write the script in the A/V format (original hand written script). Then I had to tape and edit an ENG package that would be ‘rolled-in’ into the main newscast. From here it was a natural progression to go on to major in video production in college.
In college I gravitated towards documentary production. Looking back now, I think I realized that it was easier to create high quality documentary productions than scripted narratives, because narrative is SO resource intensive. A scripted production requires costumes and sets, in addition to lighting and sound; while documentary, especially *cinéma vérté*, requires so much less. Also, I enjoy learning and a good documentary teaches you something new about the world. It can be creative and emotional while also feeding the logical part of the mind.
In college I also started the FDU Film Guild. A campus club that purchased extra equipment and props to encourage fellow students to get out there and make films. It served the purpose of building a community of people who help each other by contributing their unique skills. One of our primary fundraising activities was filming campus events, creating DVD’s, and selling those DVD’s to the organizations. Event videography, but lucrative nevertheless.
I also spent two years working at a company in New York City called iNextv. It was like Youtube, just 5 years too early, since almost nobody had fast broadband internet at the time. My first assignment on the job was to assist the studio engineer with soldering the remaining cables to their bnc connectors. During my two years on the job I had opportunities to run studio cameras, assist the Avid Media Composer editors, and learn Final Cut Pro. It was a sad day when I came into work and learned that the company had became the latest victim of the first dot com bubble.
The year after graduating college I moved to Washington, DC and landed my first job as an Assistant Editor. But that’s a story for another post…