Some people in life are more fortunate than others, especially when it comes to picking a life career. I always wished I was a born a piano prodigy or mad scientist so that my life profession would already be chosen for me. Photography and filmmaking had always interested since I was a young adult but I never thought I was good enough to pursue one of those professions. Growing up on an American Indian reservation did not offer an aspiring “image taker” many role models. In high school, I felt like I was cursed for not finding a nurturing environment for an unconventional thinker who saw the world differently. I ended learning more about what I didn’t want out of my life than what I actually wanted.
That all changed when I started film school at Syracuse University in 2012. My first three years at Syracuse have been very educational and nurturing. In that period of time, I studied during the summers in the Italian cities of Florence and Bologna. In the spring of 2015, I spent the semester studying in the Czech Republic at the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (aka FAMU) where I learned about 35mm filmmaking.
Studying abroad has allowed me to expand my worldview beyond the perimeters of the reservation, Syracuse and the United States. I am expanding it even further by studying and interning in Hollywood through SU’s Los Angeles Semester program. The semester long program includes full-time coursework along with part-time internship work within the entertainment industry. My coursework includes studying subjects like Hollywood Classic Cinema, Line Producing and Acting for the Camera. Because my courses are taught by academic scholars who operate within the entertainment industry, my understanding of the Hollywood system has greater depth beyond textbook learning.
I am also interning about 20 hours a week at Collective Digital Studio (CDS). CDS is a multi-platform entertainment company that develops, produces and distributes original entertainment programming. CDS manages one of the leading YouTube multichannel networks with over 1,000 channels delivering more than a billion views a month. Being a consumer of digital media, I am learning so much about the current landscape of film, television and digital media. As a filmmaker who dreams to have his films shown on the big screen, I have to be realistic that people are also watching entertainment programming on their desktops, tablets and smart phones. As the semester progresses, I am striving to find a balance between my internal filmmaker who wants his work only shown in theaters and my internal film distributor who wants his work shown anywhere and everywhere. By end of the semester, I am hoping that I can strike a balance between the two.
During my time in Los Angeles, I have learned how to find a balance between my internship, homework and commuting while trying to carve out a social life as well. One of the highlights includes watching a 70mm print of Lawrence of Arabia at Grauman’s Egyptian theater on Hollywood Boulevard. Another memorable experience was when we visited the Motion Picture and Television Fund (MPTF). Located on Mulholland Drive in Woodland Hills, Ca., the MPTF offers a retirement community for those who worked in the film and television industries. We arrived on a sunny Saturday afternoon and met the residents and played the game of bingo for two hours. The event ended with an ice cream social.
In summary, I already know that I am going to appreciate my time studying and interning in Los Angeles. As I reflect back on all my times at Syracuse University, I have come to realize that I have been blessed with the opportunity to pursue my degree in film in a positive and supportive environment. Unlike my younger self, I am learning more about what I do want out of my life than what I don’t want. For that, I am truly grateful.