Your destiny isn't written in the stars. It's written by your actions.
My story. I guess I could begin by saying I’ve never felt comfortable in my own skin, I had the hardest time understanding what this world meant and my place in it. I had this addiction to immersing myself in other worlds from an early age, worlds I could get lost in the only way I knew how, through storytelling. Whether it was reading books, watching movies or playing with action figures. To be completely honest I played with action figures until I was fifteen years old, and when I say play I mean I played for hours. My favorite part about visiting my six-year-old nephew was being able to play with his x men and batman action figures, I would create entire worlds in front of me, all I had to do was move the figures with my hand and make the sound effects. Right now you might be imagining how that went down and your probably dead on as to how that looked like, a 6 foot fifteen year old on the ground with toys in his hand making explosive noises with his mouth; yes, that was me. For the most part, immersing myself in these imaginary worlds had a tremendous affect on my social life; I had the toughest time finding a seat in the cafeteria because I didn’t know how to interact with people. I was so busy in my own world that I didn’t know how to relate to others or maybe just people who weren’t like me. Some of the best friendships I had were in middle school, with kids who people looked past because they were different, because they weren’t part of what was normal, I was one of those kids people didn’t pay attention to. I was that kid that always had a book in one hand a deck of Yugioh cards in the other, at least in middle school I was. I remember writing songs for my project presentations instead of giving formal ones, I remember making comic books my entire 6th grade year, I made a whole series, theme song, plot twists, villains, heroes, you name it. I must have made about twenty-five different episodes, ten pages each, a total of about two hundred and fifty pages! I remember showing those comics to some of the kids in my classroom and they laughed at me, they just didn’t get it and that’s okay, but that was the type of kid I was in middle school.
I fell in love with basketball the summer going into high school. I tried out in middle school every year but never made the team, so that summer I worked my ass of everyday, watched air bud about a thousand times and made the team my freshmen year. Up until that point that was my greatest accomplishment, making the basketball team. Now that I look back at it, I defined it as my greatest accomplishment because unlike my comic books or my silly songs, people didn’t laugh at me for making the team, they congratulated me, it was as if people accepted me now, that’s really what it was; acceptance. Basketball became my life and it helped me make new friends, some of my best friends today actually, but it also disconnected me from the awesomely weird, creative friends I had in middle school. Basketball taught me everything, teamwork, discipline, work ethic, determination, basketball became a part of me, I lived and breathed it. I stopped with the action figures, the fantasy novels, the singing and just really focused on basketball. I never even thought of playing in the NBA, but I did want to play college basketball. Once my senior year came around I had no offers from any division one schools. Shit. Was I not good enough? No, that couldn’t be it, I worked too hard, this was my purpose, I believed the only thing I had to offer this world was what I could do on the basketball court and if I couldn’t play after high school what would I do? I chose Rutgers University because I heard that they did walk on tryouts, my only reason really, and because the cafeterias looked awesome. So I decided to go to Rutgers with the purpose of making the team and everything else secondary. How can I sum up my four years at Rutgers? For the most part I was just a number. Take some classes, eat, go to the gym, party and do it again. I couldn’t find my purpose, and while most students go into college to find themselves I believed basketball was my calling and to be as passionate about something else other than that, I believed, was a waste of my time. I wanted to be a social worker, then a pediatrician, and then finally a decided on being a physical therapist, but in reality I just wanted to play on that damn basketball team. I even got a tattoo on my right arm to not only describe my love for the game but my love for my sisters who both play collegiate basketball. As for me I never made that team, I tried out my sophomore year and came close but Mike Rice said no, real nice guy. That was tough. I remember telling my friend Charles on a Thursday night while walking back from a party that I just don’t know what I’m good at. I started crying in front of the guy, tears of frustration, sadness, and for the most part fear. Here I am, a junior and I don’t know what the hell I’m going to do with my life. The next day I had to submit my papers to officially declare my major, exercise science. I took the bus to Douglass, entered the exercise science building and walked all the way up to the receptionist. I just stood there in front of her looking at the piece of paper, ready to declare my major. She spoke first:
“ Are you here to declare the major? It’s the last day to do so.”
I remember taking a deep breath, so many things going through my mind, I looked the paper and then at her and I said;
“ Sorry, I’ll be right back.”
I never came back. I took the bus back to my apartment on Easton Ave, ripped the paper declaring my major and flushed it down the toilet. I went to sleep, I couldn’t hand in the paper, I just couldn’t.
The next week I did a lot of soul searching which included a lot of life conversations with my closest friends, those conversations were the best. They all knew I had some creative spunk in me and they said I should pursue film, and while I’ve always loved movies the thought of just jumping into that scared the shit out of me. I had experience behind a camera but nothing special. My friends kept pushing me to focus on it, I still remember those conversations and how stubborn I was to being open to the idea. It wasn’t until my a week later, my birthday when I had dinner with my brother. I’ll never forget it, he asked me about school and I told him I didn’t hand in my papers for exercise science and then he asked why. I said;
“ I think I want to do film, I love movies and I love to write, it’s something I could see myself doing”
He responded by saying;
“ You shouldn’t do that. You should stick to exercise science; it’s to late now. People who do films start early, your twenty years old”
It was something about someone telling me that I couldn’t that inspired me to be to think that I could.
The next day I went to Douglass library, the only library at Rutgers that has a whole section on filmmaking. I went to the library everyday from October to December, some two in half months and read a ton of books on filmmaking. I still needed a lot to learn but just from the books I felt that it wasn’t impossible to pursue it as a career. Finals week, first semester of 2011 I was in the car with my mother, terrified at what she might say if I told her I was switching to do films and not a career in medicine. I said:
“Mom, I don’t want to be a physical therapist, a doctor or anything health related”
“Okay, so what do you want to do do? It’s not anything illegal is it?”
I laughed and said no, and with much tremble in my voice I said I wanted to be a filmmaker”
And because I have the best mother in the world she replied:
“ Well, you don’t have a camera, lets go get you one.”
From 2011 to 2012 I made some pretty crappy films, films that I am extremely proud of because I learned so much through them, you need trial and error to get good at anything you want to do. I didn’t win or was recognized for anything film related until a year in a half later, April 2013, with a short film my friends and I made called “The Youth”. That film took us to Hollywood where it was screened and so many amazing things have happened since. I’ve been interviewed on live national television twice, was recognized as the future of film during the live broadcast at the 86th Academy Awards, traveled to Zambia, Africa to shoot a documentary, and will be travelling to the 2014 Cannes Film Festival in France this May. While all of these experiences have stories on their own, they are all a part of my beginning. They are a blessing from God, products of hard work, faith and amazing friends and family. At twenty two years old my story doesn’t have a middle or end because I’m not there yet, but if the beginning is any indication of what the middle and end will be then I will continue to work hard to see them through.
I have learned from all these experiences in the past year that I for most part of my life have been at war with myself. The kid with the crazy imagination, the comic books, the silly songs, the action figures, that’s a part of me, I had to remember that in order to follow through with filmmaking. We all have these ideas about ourselves and sometimes we aren’t open to other purposes, to other possibilities that we can take ourselves too. We all have the potential to take ourselves to far greater places than even we had in mind for ourselves, that’s exactly what happened to me. There is nothing wrong with being a physical therapist, a doctor, or a lawyer, there are plenty of people who find joy in those careers and all in their own way, make a difference in the world by doing so. I wasn’t born to be a filmmaker but I took a leap of faith, worked hard, and in the process became one. I still have much to learn and much to prove but I’m enjoying the journey, I’m finally at peace.