Film has always been a passion of mine. I've been making films since I was 4 years old, when I would get my aunt to film various movies I made with stuffed animals or with my family members acting in them. I fondly remember receiving my first camera at the age of 9, along with editing and visual effects software. It was a toy camera, capable of holding only a minute of footage at a time, and it recorded at a very low resolution. This forced me to be efficient in my filmmaking, as there was rarely time to get multiple takes of any shot. I would spend a large portion of my free time making movies with my friends and cousins. I received the award for "Best Young Filmmaker" two years in a row at the local Dickson County Film Festival. It was only natural that I would eventually major in film, or, more specifically, Cinema and Media Arts, while studying at Vanderbilt University.
What is it about film that interests me? For me, the most rewarding part of filmmaking is getting to see the reactions of the audience. Film is about emotion for me, and the ability to draw emotions out of people. In a sense, film is a form of manipulation, relying on technical tricks ranging from the choice of camera angle to use of ambient noises to create feelings in audiences, even when these techniques are too subtle to be consciously noticed. However, film manipulates audiences in a way that they welcome. Entering a cinema or watching a movie at home means giving the filmmaker permission to take you on an emotional roller coaster. The power of every aspect of a film to control the subjective state of the audience is something that should be considered at every stage of the filmmaking process. I strive to make that the primary focus of my films, always keeping in mind the specific emotion desired from the audience at each point in the story.
While drawing emotions out of the audience is for me the central focus of filmmaking, it gives filmmakers a power that goes beyond mere entertainment. By forcing audiences to empathize with or object to the characters in a film, the filmmaker exerts an influence that lasts beyond the running time of a film, affecting how audience members relate with and understand others in their lives. This means that filmmaking carries with it a social responsibility. Just as the emotional impact of every aspect of filmmaking should be taken into consideration, a filmmaker must also be conscious of the societal impacts of every creative decision. It is for these reason that I have become more interested lately in making films that focus on building empathy for characters who might initially be an object of ridicule, be it the UFO enthusiast who dreams of being abducted or the cowboy whom others unfairly assume is old-fashioned and narrow-minded.