From an early age, kids are told to build their lives around their passions. As a recent college graduate, and aspiring filmmaker, I will tell you that making a living doing what you love is difficult, especially when it doesn't guarantee a paycheck every week. Every month is a struggle to pay student loans and rent to live at home (mom says it's a "life lesson") but when you love what you do, struggle is worth it. Every time I reach a crossroad, I think to myself, which road would make for a better story line in this movie I call Life.
In high school, my only concern was getting recruited to play college basketball. I believed it was "uncool" to be a part of anything that wasn't physically competitive. The arts only mattered when I needed an easy "A". Yes, I was "that" student. My senior year, I enrolled in a video production course, figuring the teacher would be old and tenured with no interest in dealing with crazy kids. Well, I was wrong. My teacher was drop dead gorgeous. I had two goals in that class: I would impress her with my work and I would bring her to prom. She said no to prom...but I don't regret asking.
As the months went on, I worked hard on goal number one and it got to the point where I was actually signing the camera equipment out of the classroom to make my own personal films. That's when I began to notice a change in myself. For the first time, my focus was subtly moving away from my one true love, basketball, and into the world of filmmaking.
When I had a basketball in my hands, I felt freedom, and in a way, creative control of the court. The thing is, being behind the camera made me feel the same way. My camera became my outlet. I started to look at everything differently. A brick wall wasn't just a brick wall anymore. I could now look at a brick wall and ask, "How could I use that brick wall to tell a story? How would that brick wall look on camera if I placed two people in front of it?" My world was changing.
I got recruited to play basketball at a small school in upstate New York and I loved it despite it not having a film program. I was able to fill that void by taking a mini DV camera up to school and when I wasn't at basketball practice, I was shooting short films on campus. I started on the team as a freshman, had new friends and was now living away from home with no rules, but that adventure didn't last long. I fell severely ill with mononucleosis and was forced to miss my second semester of school.
I had to move back home with my mom, which is devastating for a new college student who just had a taste of freedom. I was forced to make a decision that would ultimately dictate my future. I had the option of returning to upstate, New York to play basketball and continue my studies in Sports Management or transfer to a commuter school closer to home that had a much lower tuition. My mom suggested that I pursue a career behind the camera in Broadcast media because she saw that I had a passion for it in high school.
I still thought of camera work as just a hobby. But with some convincing from my mom, I decided to transfer to Montclair State University with hopes of getting into their very selective Broadcasting program and continuing to play basketball on the college level. I knew it was the right decision and a risk I was willing to take. The only option was to work for what I wanted because nothing was guaranteed. Fortunately, I was good enough for a roster spot on the team and I was also accepted into the Broadcasting department, the program that would ultimately change my life.
Through the program, I met a professor named Steve McCarthy. He is a guy living an everyday adventure. I listened intently to him talk about producing for 60 Minutes, traveling the world and bringing stories to life through his camera. I knew I wanted that life for myself and I would do anything to make it happen. Even though I was a broke college student living on Easy-Mac and beer, I volunteered for any production work he had.
As the months went on, I proved myself. I showed up on time, worked hard and before I knew it, Steve asked me to be on his team to shoot and produce school-funded documentary projects overseas in Austria, Italy and Jordan. One of those films aired on NJTV last June. As a 22-year-old, I had my first film and television credit as a producer, shooter and editor. The camera took me places that I have never even dreamed of going. I had the opportunity to see part of the world, meet new people and experience new cultures. Production wasn't a hobby anymore; it was turning into a career, a career that I love.
It is so important to follow your passion and do what you love on a daily basis. It just comes down to following your heart and going with your gut instinct. My heart told me to pursue a career in filmmaking. You only have one chance on this earth to live your life, so why not live your passion?