Sitting in film school I pondered why in the hell I was going to film school nearly every day. It seemed that everyone who was about to graduate from the film program there was hopeful about getting a good spot in the unemployment line and starting to collect food assistance due to the dwindling prospects of making films in Michigan. I came in brimming with gleaming optimism and turned every assignment in as directed, by every deadline, and slowly realized that maybe I was alone at times. I was 27, older than the majority of my classmates, so maybe that was part of it. Possibly it was my perception and my suffering from an overly sensitive ego. Part of it was surely my lack of ability at ever using a Mac and feeling inferior from a technological standpoint at every turn. It just all around felt like I wasted a shit ton of money. It felt like I was better off being a Soup Salesman (that was actually my 9-5 job at the time).
So come to a documentary I have to make. Our teacher was one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. He was an insanely criticism laden older man who I really think is stuck in a perpetual loop of teaching and has literally lost his mind. He told me everything I wrote was shit, in one way or another. Needless to say, I liked him, he was honest. So this documentary I had to make had to be about something I could find opposing views for, yada yada. As someone in recovery, I decided to do it on the St. Clair County Jail for the innovative rehabilitation they integrate into incarceration. I planned it all out, my teacher told me it was still kind of a shitty idea, but I ran with it. I didn’t have many people in my class who were willing to drive to Port Huron to help me film this, so I put some calls out on social media.
I forgot to mention I am also an avid Detroit Lions fan.
One of my Lions friends (which really means people who are hapless souls and support this team and we friend each other for the reason we love this shitty team until we realize we have more in common than this shitty team) reached out to me. He said his brother had moved into his place in Port Huron and is really good at film. “Yea he’s really good” Adam said. I asked him some more shit about his brother and he mentioned that he’s only 19. “A dick measuring, snot nosed kid” I said in my head. “Thanks Adam, I’ll let you know if I ever need help, I already have some people who reached out”. Even though I didn't really have any help yet, I figured the last thing I was going to do was work with a 19 year old kid brother of some crazy Lions fan who paints his face.
Needless to say my friend Joe who always has come through on artistic projects since I was in elementary school came through and helped me. In the process I told him my next project was a music video and if he knew any bands. He did of course and referred me to some guys I went to high school with for their band (A) rare animal.
The deadline for the music video was approaching and the only person I really liked and trusted in my film class was pregnant and couldn’t drive to Port Huron to help. Joe of course agreed to help, but I still needed someone to run camera.
This snot-nosed 19 year old kid.
I went back and forth and didn't really want to call him as I was aware from school how filmmakers are at the ripe age of 19. I was out of options though; the weather was getting colder and colder, and we had an all day Sunday to film this. I had to reach out.
I texted Adam and he sent me his brothers number. The kid’s name was Tyler, definitely a “snot nosed” name I thought. I texted him. He texted me back pretty fast. “Yea I can help”. Hmmmm, most 19 year old filmmakers don’t reply that fast I thought. I then proceeded to act like I knew what the fuck I was talking about with cameras and such. At the time I was using a borrowed Nikon D90 and grilled him with a few basic things about the camera to see if he really knew anything. He did. He said he would meet me at my house at 10 am on Sunday to film this music video.
I had worked a lot on some shot list ideas with the band and the basic premise of what we would be shooting. I figured I was in for a long day of baby sitting this “wunderkind” who went by the name of Tyler.
He arrived promptly and on time (which may be the only time he has ever done this). I introduced him to the band and went over things. He looked older than 19, and acted like it. He wasn’t measuring his dick the minute he walked through the door and telling us about all the shitty high school film awards he won. He didn’t have snot on his nose. He took direction well and didn’t bullshit about how awesome he was. The motherfucker didn’t make but a peep except for a few good suggestions. I am not a good film director and I am awfully scatterbrained, but I did take note of this throughout the day. I ran a camera, and he ran his camera. I didn’t see much of what he filmed at times, but I knew he was filming. “Hopefully some good B Roll” I chuckled throughout the day.
It was a long day. We shot at my house, a friends house, a graveyard, another friends house and ended in a field. Tyler rode with me to the final shoot and we talked. He wasn’t a bad guy, but granted it was the first time I met him, he was just good at hiding the 19 year old I figured. We talked about some deep shit for a first day meeting someone, family shit, death, destruction, all the important stuff. This kid had already lived in Germany, went to high school in Canada, and other crazy stuff. He didn’t brag about how cool he was though. All in all I figured, he’s a good dude for a 19 year old. I’ll work with him again. I still questioned what his footage would look like, there’s the real test.
I look at the footage in the next few days. I am utterly blown away. It was amazing, the angles, the run and gun ability to catch shots, his steady camera movement. My footage looks like shit compared to what this 19 year old did. I text him compliments up and down. He doesn’t react like I or most others do, just a humble “thank you, glad I could help”. Even though I didn’t quite know it then, I had found the reason I went to film school.