(15 minute read)
I think it's only natural to start off my very first blog post with a little about me! If you've stumbled across my page and you're going to be reading what I post then I think you should know who I am and what my experience level is in the film industry. So here it goes!
When I was a senior in high-school (Boca High), I took a technology class and one of our projects was to learn how to use a camera and edit together a video using iMovie on an apple laptop. The camera was something like a JVC Everio or close to it. Around that time I had started taking free surf lessons at a local surf shop (Island Water Sports) and thought, why don't I record my experience taking these lessons. I slept over a friends house (Andre), made plans with my older brother (Levi) to meet us there and woke up before dawn to get to IWS in time to register and grab a board. I knew nothing about video, I knew nothing about editing, I simply pointed the camcorder and recorded. When I got to the edit, I thought, "I should put this to some great music!" Sure enough I found a song from my favorite band (Passion Pit) and started putting together the clips I had captured. I remember not knowing where any of the buttons were or what they did and spending an incredible amount of time putting this thing together. I naturally just edited together my clips chronologically. I didn't know this was story-telling, All I was doing was trying to get my assignment done.
Once I completed my video, I felt this sense of accomplishment, I watched my video over and over again. It wasn't because I thought what I had made was groundbreaking or incredible but because I was re-living my very fun experience over and over. It wasn't just the surfing experience that I was re-living my very first filming experience too. At that moment I felt incredibly passionate about filmmaking but I didn't realize it. I bought my very first camera shortly after that, it was a point and shoot camera unlike the camcorder I used from school but it was waterproof! The Casio EX-G1 wasn't only my first camera but one of my favorites, it was so sleek looking and this really cool matte black. I carried this camera with me everywhere from then on, I discovered Vimeo which fueled my creativity and passion and I began filming my everyday activities as well as trying out new projects. Eventually I had a ton of clips and made a montage that I called a "memory bank video".
By this time I had evolved from Windows Live movie maker (PC) to Sony Vegas Pro. My memory bank video would be my first real test at editing on Sony Vegas and I remember spending all of my free time one weekend putting together this memory bank video. I remember getting very upset and feeling very defeated when my computer crashed and almost my entire edit was completely gone (auto-save people, and save manually every 5 minutes!). I unfortunately didn't know about auto-save or did I save manually so I had to re-do my edit and I couldn't remember which clip went where exactly or how long a clip would go and what beat I was matching cuts to and I basically started from maybe 10% after being probably 75% done. None the less, I finished my very first memory bank video and I felt this sense of accomplishment again but at an even higher level! I still watch this video from time to time 8 years later and I am still extremely proud of it and I love to recall the memories when watching it.
I graduated high-school, and at some point accidentally got water in my waterproof camera (one minor design flaw in this camera, I guess a major one since it leads to water in the camera). the latch had opened where the battery and memory card go and sea water washed over everything. I took a break from filming mainly because I didn't have money to replace my camera and I continued working at the movie theater where I had been working throughout Junior and Senior year of high-school. I didn't have any plans for college since I didn't know what I wanted to do as a career and I was positive I didn't want to go unless I had good reason. As I worked at the theatre I had the wonderful opportunity to work as a projectionist! I learned how to thread film through a projector, check the gate for any dust and operate this very huge and very expensive piece of machinery. I watched my co-workers splice together 6 reels of film (film reels came in separate metal canteens), they would cut/tape each reel together to make a full length movie for people to watch! I spent my time working with film and watching movies. I made it a point to watch every single movie that came to theaters no matter if I heard about it or not. I stayed after work to watch the movies we spliced together to make sure no frames were missing and in any conversation I had I pretty much talked about movies. This is when I realized I love FILMS and this is when I said I want to do this for the rest of my life.
With my new reason to go to college, I researched local schools in Florida that offered a degree in film. I wanted to go to Full Sail but I couldn't afford tuition. Florida Atlantic University offered an impressive Bachelors degree that was much more affordable but I hated school and couldn't imagine doing 2 years of an AA before getting into the meat of what I wanted to do. I found Palm Beach State College (at the time Palm Beach Community College) offered a 2 year Associates in Motion Picture Production Technology. It was 15 credits of General Education and the rest was pure cinema! I was fortunate enough to have grants from the sunshine state of Florida and didn't have to pay for my schooling! I took every single class needed to complete the program in just over two years. I went in thinking I wanted to be an editor and found out through my schooling that I really loved the camera department and cinematography. Although I took classes like screenwriting, producing, production management etc. I was very passionate about the technical aspects of camera work. I was fortunate enough to have been a camera operator on a student feature film (Sidekicked) where I learned how to build jobs and use sliders and doorway dollies and actually operate a camera and capture what the view would see on screen one day. The next summer I had the pleasure of working as a 1st Assistant Camera/B Camera Operator for another student feature film (The Big Frozen Gumshoe). Both of these experiences made me very aware of what I was naturally skilled at and what I loved. Being apart of a three man camera team was what I wanted to do in the industry. At this time a good friend of mine (Shelby) I met in lighting and grip class at PBSC was already working in the industry. He was an office PA for some films that came to south florida such as Bastards (now known as Father Figures with Owen Wilson), and Oscar award winning film Moonlight! Baywatch was set to film in south Florida and he was going to work on the production while it was here.
By this time I was married and my wife (Nicky) and I just bought a 1976 Serro Scotty Camper that we were planning on living in full time. Shelby recommended me as a Wardrobe PA for 1 day in Fort Lauderdale and the team liked me enough to invite me on for a couple of more days. The next week the Visual Effects team was flying in and needed a PA for the production so the Office Coordinator (Patty) recommended me since I was doing a good job over in wardrobe and I had my first interview at the Boca Raton Resort the night the VFX team flew in. The VFX Producer (Jaime) and VFX Supervisor (Joel) told me a little bit about what I would be doing and asked if I was familiar with cameras and lenses and how they worked and I was absolutely sure that I was! They liked me enough to hire me and I would be the Production Assistant for the Visual Effects team during the 3 weeks Baywatch was filming here! The main person I would be assisting was the data wrangler (Patrick). On the first day of shooting the VFX team broke off for lunch and we ate of set at an Asian cuisine down the road. They were discussing the logistics of a big scene they were going to shoot in Savannah, GA that was very heavy visual effects. I of course chimed in and said "That seems like a lot of work for just Patrick, do you have a PA there to help him?" They of course knew exactly what I was indirectly saying and responded with "Well, you see, we can't afford to bring someone up with us so we are going to have to hire locally." and this is a very true statement! Luckily, my house was a 40 year old camper that I could take with me anywhere so I responded with "My wife and I just bought a camper and we have been wanting to travel so I would love to drive up to Savannah, GA and park there and continue working on this production if you'll have me! I was hired as the VFX PA for the remainder of the shoot right then and there!
I texted my wife Nicky right away and told her "We are moving to Savannah!" She has always been my #1 supporter and was thrilled to go on this adventure! As I post more to my blog I plan on telling you about each experience I had on each production I've worked on so I am going to run through the next couple of paragraphs rather quickly. We moved to Georgia and finished the production, came back down to Florida for a month then road tripped in our little 40 year old camper to California. I had 1 main contact there that said she would be able to get me work once I got to LA (Thanks Michelle!), and I worked on an Amazon TV Show (Good Girls Revolt) the week I got there.
That Sunday Nicky and I went to a church (Mosaic) in Hollywood and ran into Joel (the VFX Supervisor from Baywatch). The chances of running into him there was nothing short of a miracle! That church is huge and has a lot of services and it was both of our first time there! Patrick had put in his 2 weeks at the VFX company and they needed a replacement. So Joel hooked me up with a job as a Data Wrangler/Visual Effects Photographer and from then on, I worked on various movies and TV shows such as Stranger Things, Death Note, Beyond Skylline and continued working on Baywatch in post=production.
After about a year Nicky and I made our way back to Florida (we really missed our family & friends) and began where we left off as professional Photographer (Nicky) and filmmaker (me). When we got back we found out we were pregnant and as I am writing this my little girl; Noelle is 5 months old! I absolutely love my family and I want to be present in Nicky and Noelle's life which is why I have slowed down working on set and I am concentrating my efforts as a freelance film maker and trying to work on my own projects as well as productions that are more local.
A typical day on a production set is 12 hours if not more. If I continued in that type of production I would most likely be driving to Miami which is about an hour away so I would be working 14 hour days at least. It's not that I don't love it, because I very much do. It's that I really want to be a present husband and father, so I am putting my aspirations to work in the big leagues on the back burner for now and focusing my efforts on the local and smaller productions.
If you're still with me, I thank you! Now you know how I got started and my background in the film industry. My plans for the rest of the blog is to teach those who are interested in learning about video production the knowledge they need to know to make successful videos and to share my experiences working in the industry.
Leave a comment below and don't forget to subscribe!