A crowded and cluttered living room in a low-income townhouse. Stansfield bends over to see Leon lying in his own pool of imaginary blood that soaks into the already stained carpet. Leon uses his last ounce of strength to lift his clenched fist up to Stansfield. He opens to reveal a grenade pin, Ã¢â‚¬Å“For MathildaÃ¢â‚¬Â¦Ã¢â‚¬ï¿½
At maybe thirteen years old, this might have very well been my directorial debut. I had just watched The Professional earlier that week and was telling my cousins about it. Describing the whole movie I arrived at the climax and decided that I really wanted for them to capture how the ending played out. So I set them up, fed them their lines and fetched a few props, or in our case whatever resembled a weapon. I tried my best to describe to my acting cousins how to play each part. Eventually, with all the noise we created, we gathered the family and held an impromptu performance.
I would like to say that this was the moment that I realized that I wanted to be apart of the film industry. That at that very second in time, everything simply clicked for me and I knew what I wanted to do the rest of my life. Of course this wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t the case. It was a gradual decision and agreement with myself that I found my senior year of high school. Like choosing which child you love more, I had to choose which dream to follow. That of music which I have been involved with for so long, or that of a newly found passion, cinema. I was weighing more towards the latter when I discovered a school that offered Cinema in my home state of Virginia, it felt like a godsend. Okay, maybe I was being overly dramatic, but nonetheless, I decided that I wanted to go to Virginia Commonwealth University for cinema.
Being accepted into VCUÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Photography/Film, I found out about the actual Cinema program a bit late to apply effectively. So I decided to dedicate my first year to prepare myself for cinema. I chose to major in Philosophy, which would be my intended secondary major should I be admitted, for my interest and curiosity in politics and everyday life. It would in addition help me creatively, crafting more intellectual and meaningful ways to portray messages in film. Also, working at Media and Reserves in James Branch Cabell Library has also helped me with its extensive collection of great movies. From Stalker to Talking to Strangers, I have taken the advice IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve read from many filmmakers, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Watch a lot of movies.Ã¢â‚¬ï¿½
I started out like many young filmmakers my generation, with an imagination, a few friends and a handicam. I would direct and shoot straight-to-You-Tube short films about anything and everything. Starting with the time traveling Sylvia Plath to music videos and of course, the ever-popular Star Wars fan films. Eventually, with the popularity of my shorts, my name got around school and I was offered a job as a video editor through a peerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s aunt and her wedding videography business. During this time, I had the opportunity to shoot with a more satisfying camera. I took advantage of the chance and started the production of a new project. Taking a different approach with his short film, I decided that now with a more professional camera, everything else should be taken up a notch as well. I worked harder during pre-production, developing the script and casting actors besides my close friends, specifically adults. With the story taking place in my school, I shot during class hours which upped the production value however also added a lot of factors to work against me. I had to fight against the clock as well some rushing teachers. In the end, we created a satisfying ten-minute short, Yanni.
After I showed just about everyone I knew the movie, I passed a flyer for a 5-Minute Video Competition displayed in my school. I was really excited for this until I read that the deadline was in a few days. I settled on submitting Yanni and cutting five minutes off of an already taut movie. A few days went by and I received information on an awards ceremony for all the competitors and that I was a finalist for the contest. The day of the ceremony, I walked into the dimly lit high school gymnasium and saw all of the other contestants. I spoke to some random Comcast superior, whose company sponsored the event, and after a bit of unintended schmoozing, had a seat in the back corner. I felt kind of alone being the only competitor to represent my high school. All of the other kids were laughing around the platters of food describing their favorite parts in each otherÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s submissions. The ceremony had begun and the projectors began to roll. I was beginning to get nervous to see how others would react to my film. However, hopefully without sounding too ostentatious, to my surprise the videos I saw lacked much merit. Most were home movie-esque images of themselves playing lacrosse laced with title shots and sound effects. Still, I slouched down in my seat when my video was next in line. I think it was well received by the audience after it was shown. There were three other finalists in my category. My mispronounced name was called to stage second receiving an honorable mention. I couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t help but have a big grin on my face when I walked up and shook the announcers hand. Afterwards, I mingled with some of the contestants and we congratulated one another. A few numbers were exchanged and some ideas for collaborating were brought up. I left that night feeling accomplished and compelled to continue my life as a filmmaker.