Filmmaking is for Warriors: Teaching

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“Do you know any famous people?” the tiny child asks me.

“Famous people?”

I don’t know what else to say. I’ve been a filmmaker for 10 years, but most of the people I know aren’t plastered on the cover of People Magazine. I do know some actors who have been plastered all over the billboards in Kansas City, which is pretty cool. Mostly just because those actors are totally awesome, and it’s nice to see them achieve new things.

Inevitably, it doesn’t matter if I have an answer to her question, because there’s a half dozen more questions flooding my way. I wave my hands at the brood of small people and do my best to change the subject back to the class I’m teaching and away from my filmmaking career.

Teaching.

I started teaching theater and acting when I was 19. I shouldn’t have, really, because I had no idea how to teach. Those first few years my head was under water and the kids drowned with me. I’m sorry, kids, I didn’t know what I was doing.

But like Dory the fish said, “Just keep swimming! Just keep swimming!”

So I kept pushing my way through teaching, class after class after class. I taught basic and advanced acting, improv, film acting, film production, costumes, musical theater (as a sub, ’cause I don’t do music), black box and radio theater. I’ve assisted in directing shows. I’ve subbed for ages that I would never have chosen to teach – 4 year-olds are not my buddies. I’ve taught subjects I knew very little about and had to research – radio.

And then I was burnt out. And I didn’t want to do it anymore.

Kids take a lot of energy. Kids need a lot of attention and help. Kids are SO MUCH FUN TO TEACH.

Plot twist.

I love teaching. I love talking to those kids. I love playing games with them and seeing them grow. I love seeing how kids learn to rely on each other in theater. I love seeing how theater changes lives for the better – confidence, friendship, coordination, memorization, basic theater skills, communication, trust, loyalty, diversity and a host of other things. I’m sure people learn this stuff in sports, too, but I was a theater kid so I can’t speak to that.

I had a screenwriting teacher who loved his job. He really did. He loved interacting with his different students. I had another film teacher who loved her job. She was the most understanding teacher I think I ever had, always open to giving students a second chance to learn.

And I think to myself, why don’t more people teach?

Because every single person who loves teaching, also hates it. At the end of the day you feel wiped out, left for dead and drained. Your job is to push other people into greatness, whether that is in theater, writing, math, science, robotics, music, computer, filmmaking or military training.

People push back.

Sometimes they do it on purpose. Sometimes they’re just too scared, as some of the 8-year-old students in my class the other night.

The better you are at being a teacher, the more you hold yourself accountable to the things you are teaching. Your students are pushing back, and you are learning more than them.

That’s a cliche. I hate that cliche. It’s obnoxious. Obviously if you’re teaching a child multiplication, you already knew how to multiply. Duh. That kid didn’t teach you that.

But while you were teaching multiplication, that kid was teaching you patience, kindness and long-suffering, because that kid’s probably an aggravating little dude with a numbers complex that needs a reality check.

I subbed for a theater class this week and last. I haven’t taught in a very long time. It was hard work corralling all those little people. I was hungry and my throat hurt and I wondered why I would put myself through all this when I was still in my month of recovery.

But when I went back last night to teach, the kids told me I was an awesome teacher. Their words, not mine.

And I thought, I love teaching. Why don’t more people do this?

On Target Management

I quit my job.  I’m on the last week of working, and I’ve had a chance to kinda say goodbye to about 100 people.  Or maybe it just feels like 100 people.

I’m not leaving because I’m upset or hated it.  I found something new that will actually use the skills I spent all those years in college to refine.

But I want to tell you what I learned about good management while working for the big Red Zero.

1.  They tell each employee right off the bat that it doesn’t matter what you look like, your tattoos or no tattoos, your beard or no beard, or whatever; you are accepted and welcome here.

2.  They reward good workers immediately by calling out their name on the radio and then offering them a free Starbucks or soda from the fridges.

3.  They meet as a team every morning and afternoon to cover basic things, go over safety and codes, and lift up team members who are doing a good job at their job.

4.  They make time to hear out each employee.

5.  They take time to train people right.

This was what I learned in my experience with multiple bosses while working at the Red Zero.  I learned a lot more, but this was the highlights.

Next time maybe I’ll commentary social crazes and viral news…

A Word on American Universities

I attended the University of Missouri-Kansas City.  I liked my school.  It was a gorgeous campus, great facilities, good teachers, mostly helpful administration, located not far from my home…I enjoyed my time there.

But it didn’t teach me how to make money.  It didn’t teach me how to get a job.  It didn’t even teach me how to make a good resume, something I learned the hard way when attending an internship brunch and a potential employer went on a rant and wrote all over my resume the things that were wrong.  There’s few things more intimidating than the representative of a TV station telling you how stupid students are getting with their resumes when you’re attempting to impress him.

Didn’t I spend over 5 years and thousands of dollars paying someone else to teach me something as basic as how to craft a good resume?

“Did they teach you about working with clients?” I asked my co-worker about an internship she did in college.

“No,” she said.  “I wish I had learned that…”

She majored in Graphic Design, focusing mostly on print and drawing by hand.  She told me she wished she had focused more on building websites and digital art.  Apparently we both graduated with ignorance, not knowledge.

Here’s the thing though, I knew that I didn’t have to go to college.  I knew that college was just a way to get to where I wanted to be.  I made a calculated decision–based on my introverted nature–that college would be the better option to prepare me to get to Hollywood.  I didn’t think I would get paid more.  I didn’t think it would be easier to get a job, per se.  In fact, I knew that it was in my future to be at working-class income (possibly lower-class, depends on your point-of-view).

Because I was pursuing art.  And really, how many people make a lot of money at art?

BUT.  I did expect that my university would provide a magic list of steps to take to get a job, equip me with a list of all the jobs (like real companies) that I could apply to, and/or automatically place me on the radar of top people in the media and film industry (like Disney, Pixar, Bad Robot, J.J. Abrams, etc).

Why did I expect this?  I have no idea.  I honestly don’t know who told me that.

Why do people keep expecting magic to happen when they just spent 4, 5, 6, 8 years working, studying, testing, writing, running to class, forgetting their parking pass, going into debt, paying a parking fee, staying up all night to fail a test, drinking too much coffee, watching boring class-required movies, eating ramen, lugging brick-like textbooks everywhere and hating their teacher who just assigned that stupid 7-page paper over the weekend?  Seriously.  Why do we expect that after all that–college–we should hop out of school and be ushered into the job force within the week?

Yeah, I paid a lot of money.  Yeah, I’m qualified to film and edit live events, commercials, web videos, training videos, short films, long films, competitive films; write papers, books, screenplays, blog posts; take orders, directions, feedback, and criticism and not DIE (honestly, I’ve not died once from too much work).  But did that entitle me to walk off the podium at my college and into a steady, paying position at a company within my expertise?

Why do we assume that getting a job shouldn’t require work?

I don’t know.  I know that all that time I spent sitting alone before class I should’ve spent chatting with the teachers, staff, anyone, about jobs in Hollywood, how to build a nice-looking resume, and how to sweet-talk a producer into letting me hold lights or equipment on set for a film.  And I should’ve been making calls, sending emails, messages, snail-mail, whatever, to companies and directors and producers BEFORE I graduated and let them know how awesome I am and that they should consider making me part of their team.

I mean, that’s kinda how I got into college.  I pursued it and they couldn’t say no.  I also paid them a lot of money, but hey, I want Hollywood so that might come with the territory.

But I didn’t know.  No one taught me that.  Or maybe they did, and I just wasn’t paying attention.

A Special Report from an Internet Reader Near You: The Inevitable Generalizations

I will post a film by the end of this month.  It just isn’t gonna be posted today.

Today I have some words, and I apologize ahead of time for the swearing in the following meme.  I didn’t write it.  But I would like to comment on it.  Bear with me?

First impression: that’s so funny that autocorrect made that happen!  Now that kid doesn’t have a computer, haha!

My impression: Wow, what a dad who assumes his son a) got a girlfriend pregnant that fast and then told him through a text message and b) jumps to the conclusion that the girl is a “slut” instead of that maybe his son is a “slut.”

1.  This guy obviously doesn’t know his son well enough to even call and see if that’s the truth–

2.  AND/OR he knew his son was sexually active, but he hoped that his son used “protection.”  If the latter, then he shouldn’t have jumped to the conclusion that the girl was the “slut.”  And who’s he calling a “slut” anyway?  Why didn’t he call his son that, since his son is equally responsible in the creation of a baby?

Now let’s talk about “slut,” a term applied to a woman when she acts like a man.  Why does the girl get it?  Because she obviously corrupted the son into doing things that led to pregnancy?  If the dad thinks that what they did needs a derogatory term, why didn’t he call them both sluts?

Because he believes his son to be a “good” boy, even though he obviously doesn’t know him well enough or care about him enough to call when he got the crazy text.

That’s sad.

Next:

Or cupcakes that are better educated than other people, which may lead to uncomfortable situations.

The generalizations about homeschoolers are stupider than the generalizations about men and women.  There are some homeschoolers that are uncomfortable around other people.  There are some public schoolers that are uncomfortable around other people.  There are some homeschoolers who only socialize with people older or younger than they are.  There are some public schoolers that only socialize with people who are older or younger.

When I was in high school I was involved in 2 homeschool co-ops, a nationwide theater organization, I worked and I attended community college.  In middle school I was involved in 4 homeschool co-ops, choir, theater, art classes and soccer.  In elementary school I was involved with at 2 homeschool co-ops, choir, and art.  Even introverted as I am now, I liked being around people in most contexts.

Generalizations are often just the result of ignorance and unmerited superiority.  A father assumes his son is “better” than a woman and so bestows a derogatory term on her.

That and the need for everyone to be the same.  American media assumes that people who don’t get crammed into a stuffy building with a ton of other people their own age every day are less socially inclined.  Cause that makes sense.

We are not superior.  And we are not the same.

Let’s Get Creative

It’s been a while.  I’m not proud of that.  I made the commitment in my mind when I started this blog that if I didn’t have anything to say, I wouldn’t write anything.  No point in you reading a load of blathering waffle.

It’s the first day of the New Year.  That gets caps because nobody knows why.  Probably because it’s important.  People like beginnings.  In the beginning of something you can’t see how it’s gonna go.  It could turn out great, you don’t know.

Hopefully ya don’t anyway, right?

I’m posting because it’s about time I let you in on my New Year’s plan.  Why?  Because I’d like to challenge you to either do this with me or come along for the ride.  I know it’s possible to accomplish, but I haven’t done it, so I don’t know how it’s gonna go.

In the year of 2014:

1.  My goal is to create and finish something “creative” every week.  That’s 52 things.  This is a super loose goal, I realize, but I’ll refine it more in later posts.

2.  My goal is to live as if I am burdened with glorious purpose, like Loki of Asgard.

3.  My goal is to be unashamed.

4.  My goal is to learn to longboard, well.

5.  My goal is to tell YOU all about it.

So.  What am I doing this weekend?  I’m creating something.  And I’ll post all the pictures…Or video if that’s more accurate to the project…and you can ride along with me as we take on the most mysterious year of our lives.

(P.S. Here’s the disturbing, NOT kids video that inspired the title of this post: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9C_HReR_McQ)

What Not to Post?

I keep reading this stuff about what to post or not post online.  Made me kinda jumpy.  I feel like little demon elves are peeking over my shoulder while I type, making sure I don’t talk about my emotions or post pictures of food or rave about a significant other or rant about an annoying friend/coworker/random person that somehow deserves to be derided.

Good.  Grief.

Let me get this straight, you don’t want people to post pictures of things they eat because you find it annoying?  Psst.  I got this.  Read closely:

Stop following them.

Nope.  Just stop it.

If I’m ever annoying or decide to blather incessantly about my love life (oh my goodness my Sony FS100 is the most gorgeous thing in the world.  Totally gives me all the footage I need and never complains about the cold or being carried all over and….), feel free to stop reading.  I won’t take it personally.  (I may make a quiet phone call in a dark alley to a man I met in a different dark alley, who may or may not know 8 different ways to scare you so bad without even touching you that you confess every sin you’ve ever committed and few of your neighbor’s sins just in case…)

I’m just a little tired of all these people telling us Social Media users what we should and shouldn’t say.  Especially since they only transmit the message over…Social Media.  Guys, we’re all entitled to our opinions.  And my opinion is that your opinion needs to not mess with my opinion.

And for the demon elves out there…I dare you to unfollow me.  If you’re not yet convinced, here’s a picture of what I ate for lunch:

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(I promise I didn’t eat the iPad.)

Football vs. Affluence

I have nothing against people with lots of money.

Okay, maybe I do.  Forgive me, please.

It’s not that I don’t think that he or she has a right to that money–I’m an American through and through.  If you work for that check, hey, it’s yours.  And if your parents worked for that check and gave it to you, hey, it’s still yours.  You have a right to your money and I have a right to mine.

I have a problem with “rich” people who are also high on themselves.  Just because you have more money than I do doesn’t mean you’re better than I am.  You’re not.

On the flip side of that, just because I have less money–dude, I’m a filmmaker–doesn’t mean I’m better.  Get off your high horse you artists out there.

So.  Why am I talking about money?  I’ve been filming high school football games.

The first week, I filmed at a school whose media booth was literally falling apart.  I mean, there were parts of the floor that were so cracked I was afraid to set down my back pack.  Or my foot.  The stadium was modest, but well-cared for and well-filled, despite the stifling heat.  Really, they pushed the kickoff back an hour because of the heat.

This suburb in my city isn’t the most affluent.  Okay, they struggle a bit.  I think of the residents as average, but I come from one of the lowest income areas of Kansas City.  Here’s the thing:  This high school cares about their football team.  I’m sure they were instructed in the game to the best of the school’s ability.  The team didn’t lack uniforms or equipment.  The game was the event, nothing else.

The 2nd week I filmed at a school that intimidated me with its sheer size.  I mean, the media booth was HUGE and brand new and amazing.  Except there was this window that refused to open and then it refused to stay up….Anyway, this was an affluent suburb.  The kinda place where everybody drives a new car and sends their kids to dance and band and JC Penny and whatever else and thinks nothing of it.  Even with all those dance outfits that cost like $75 for one performance.

It’s okay to have that kinda money.  Really.  Money isn’t happiness or fulfillment or success necessarily.  A “poor” person can be perfectly content with life.

But man, the contrast with the first school was so startling that I spent a majority of the game thinking about money and how it changes things.  How it changes people.  You know how you have a group of people who are all middle to lower income and none of them really think about it–even if the level of income is fairly wide.

But then you have a group of high to higher income people and everybody has to show off their nice clothes or their fancy house or their car or their high school football stadium.  And you start to see the pettiness of it all.

Remember, I’m just the videographer.  I just document.  I can’t see into these people’s hearts or thoughts.  I don’t know any of them.  All I know is what I see. And what I saw was two schools from totally different suburbs of one of the most stereotyped cities in America and the vast difference money looked like.

It made me think, do we lower income people have a poor view on higher income people because we judge them only on what we can see?  Like, “This team is gonna be better because their media booth is newer?”  OR  “This team is gonna be bad because the school doesn’t have the money to repair a dangerous floorboard?”

I probably biased you immediately by making the title “Football vs. Affluence” like affluence changes anything.  Football is football and if you can play, you can play.  If you want it there isn’t anything, not even money, that’s gonna hold you back.

I’ve posted my filmmaking story on here and how a lot of people told me I would never make it.  I couldn’t afford the “best” college or the “best” camera or the most amount of time to just make films and not work.  Didn’t matter.  Really.  Money doesn’t change determination, talent, proficiency, and passion.

Rich or poor.  Whatever.

Yeah, there’s a difference.  Yeah, I can see it.  But it’s only as important as you make it.  Remember the group of high and higher income people and their weird need to impress each other?

I ain’t got that need.

Let’s play ball, guys.

Introversion and Art

Some people draw energy from being around other people.  And some people draw energy from being by themselves.

These people don’t hate people.  No, they just hate to be forced into parties and large groups and social events on a regular basis.  It drains the life out of them.

Let’s repeat that, please.  Attending big social events regularly drains ALL LIFE from people the public calls INTROVERTS.

Some artists…maybe a lot of artists…are introverts.  Why?  They spend a lot of time thinking and creating art from their thoughts, while alone.  Writers and film editors tend to be introverts.  Actors, dancers, painters….Lots of people.

The reason I’m mentioning this is because it seems like in Western culture that there’s some kind of misconception that introverts are a tiny part of the populace.  Like they are some kind of rare blood disorder or albino bat.  Ya’ll, introverts run half the world.  They’re not new or extraordinary or unique or unusual.

Don’t freak out when you meet one or when someone tells you they don’t like parties.  Don’t force them to hang out with people more often, because they won’t like it or forget it.

But mainly…Please keep asking him or her to hang out.  Please keep him or her in mind when you need someone to talk to or help you move.  Hold on to your introverted friend–it’s easy to be ignored when you dislike large groups.

Introverts aren’t special.  I repeat, introverts aren’t this magical brand of human being.  They are just human.  Just as lovable or unlovable as an extrovert.  They just need a different schedule sometimes.

I know this is a weird post.  I know I normally write about movies and technology and Kansas City.  I just found this subject very important this past week, since I am an extremely introverted person.  I didn’t know how introverted until the last few weeks.

We exist.  Be aware.