Pencil crayons, pro wrestling & a point-and-shoot
My adoration for cameras always stemmed from a simple desire to create my own content. The idea of another person watching something that I created with my own vision and technical capacity was addictive - even at a young age. And once I had a taste, I really never looked back. But well before I held a camera in my hands, I was creating things far more tangible.
My work was first seen on the "big screen" as a very young kid. By big screen, I mean the egg-shell white wall in my bedroom closet. If you were born around the year of 1995, you will remember your school teachers crouched over an overhead projector. Now, I am not referring to the new fancy projectors that connect to a laptop or tablet - I'm talking 'old-school'. Just like the teachers who used a floppy sheet of plastic paper and dry-erase markers with their prehistoric classroom tool, I also had a projector. While much smaller in size and made of plastic, the science behind the machine was the same. A light-bulb, a mirror, and transparent slides to draw on. My parents might not know it, but this was one of the best toys I had as a kid. I got to see my very own work on the big-screen. I could critique, celebrate, and improve my art. And by art, I of course am referring to borderline scribbles of flowers, houses...the usual childrens drawings. With the closet as my theater, all I was missing was an audience. Surely my parents would have come and viewed my art-shows, but I was too impatient and would erase my masterpieces to start a new one. And as I grew, so did my art. Things went in a weird direction. Que 'pro-wrestling'.
At the mid-way point of elementary school, it seemed that everyday I was eagerly awaiting the 3:30pm school bell. I had places to be, such as my 'studio'. Gone were the days of the bedroom closet workshop. I upgraded. The studio was now an oak island in the middle of my parent's kitchen. My throne was a stool, not quite tall enough to be comfortable with my small stature. I know this because my kneecaps suffered during my creative hours as they warped into the shape of the wooden seat like a malleable clump of putty. From the moment I came home until my parents served up dinner, I knelt upon this stool and drew. I had no rules in this new workspace. Though my father did have one rule - always have a sheet of paper under whatever I am drawing and no permanent marker because it might damage the oak.
It is not an exaggeration to say I drew until my hands were sore. I often didn't stop until the 11x17 paper was filled. Sometimes this meant desperately scribbling to fill in the incomplete areas - probably not a trait you want to have as an artist. I don't think Vincent van Gogh would have done this, but I also don't think he painted middle-aged men in bikinis. By the way, I was drawing professional wrestlers. Dozens upon dozens of them, from head-to-toe. My brothers and I were wrestling fanatics. This oak island became a war-zone, filled with shrapnel. A mess of whittled-down pencil crayons that had accumulated over the years from my older brothers' school supplies. The crayons all lived in a flimsy, recycled, cardboard box. Most cherished within this box was the black pencil crayon. I'm not sure I ever truly had the pleasure of using a brand-new black pencil crayon. They were always in high demand, and therefore, were always microscopic stubs barely long enough to properly sharpen. Maybe this was the reason why none of my drawings as a kid had any shading. But that was the least of the flaws. My dad always made sure to offer up one piece of 'constructive criticism'. He regularly reminded me that the hands of the wrestlers I drew needed to be the same size as their faces. And despite his thorough and comprehensive demonstrations that involved him holding his hand to his face and it being abundantly clear that he was right, my face-to-hand ratio remained at 10:1.
Eventually, pencil crayons didn't cut it for me anymore. Technology seemed new and exciting. Maybe I could make movies or be a photographer. So like many kids growing up in the early 2000s, the first step to becoming a 'filmmaker' was by borrowing your parent's camcorders or small point-and-shoots. It seems like in most households, the cameras are never used for much more than family vacations. And I suppose with cellphones having such impressive cameras, that hasn't changed much. For me, it was a simple, little tool that sat in a blue canvas backpack beside our bags of potatoes in my childhood kitchen.
I wasn't the first brother to have his hands on the family camera though. In fact, I was the last. Before this, I was actually the star of my brother's 'productions'. This included many roles that you won't find on IMBd. I was a professional wrestler in the TWA (Trampoline Wrestling Association) with the stage-name Komodo Dragon, a successful basketball player's sidekick, an upholsterer on the hit show "Pimp My Van", and the list goes on. In the years that followed, I realized being in front of the camera wasn't where I belonged. I became fascinated with what happened to the footage after the camcorders mini-DV tapes were digitized.
I spent any spare second away from school shadowing my brother as he explored various video-editing programs. I sat quite literally like a bird on its perch. I was a pest and I bugged my brother regularily for updates on the edits. I couldn't seem to fathom the idea that footage of my debut wrestling match wasn't his main concern. I wanted it to be done. I wanted to show it to people. I wanted to put it on the projector. I wanted to draw posters for the premiere. The visions would flow. But until I outgrew my perch on the arm of the couch behind his computer desk, I watched his every click. I had to absorb everything he did so that I could be the editor in charge of my own videos. Thinking back, it's quite surprising that a little kid enjoyed watching his brother working on a computer. In a sense, it was a tangible tutorial - and free! It was through him that I learned Photoshop, the basics of video editing, how to use a camera, how to download files, how to record audio, and the list goes on. Since then, I never really looked back.
What initially was me piggy-backing off my older brother's many successes in the industry, became something far more personalized. My childhood gave me a strong foundation. My brothers and parents gave me certain tools that an education never could. My drive to create, my thirst to learn new things, my longing for feedback - these were all established when I was a kid. And only now am I starting to put all the pieces together. Everything will eventually fall in place. Lives are made up of thousands of pieces that you grab from various stages in your life. And you can only hope that once day in the very-distant future, they will form a complete puzzle that you look at and smile.
Fast-forward 15 years later and I'm making 'real' documentaries. Films that people beyond my two brothers and parents watch.