My interest in film had begun at a fairly young age. My first theater experience was when my mother had taken me to go see The Lost World: Jurassic Park. As a five year old boy, I was naturally filled with both excitement and fear when my mother had told me we were going to the movies to see dinosaurs. Upon arriving to the screening, my excitement quickly turned into terror when I began to realize that I could be eaten by dinosaurs. In a last-ditch effort to get to enter the theater, she told me something that I never forgot,
“It wasn’t real. It was only a movie.”
After learning that there was no Isla Nublar, I had many questions, like who the hell created these dinosaurs and how did they make them look so realistic? The idea that someone could construct something so lifelike never really occurred to me. This event sparked my creative interests and was the first time I questioned the world around me.
Growing up I was also a huge fan of the animated show, Dragonball Z. Monthly, I would go pick up the latest copies of Shonen Jump, which inside featured fan art from across the globe. I was inspired by the others artists, but there was something in me that strived me to do better, to achieve perfection. This sparked me to constantly draw characters and posters to strengthen my skills. I wouldn’t stop until I could perfectly emulate what I was seeing. When I felt I had achieved my goal I moved on to my next big challenge, emulating real life.
This was a step away from simply drawing cartoons, I had branched onto realistic portraits. After trial and error I gradually became better, but always frustrated that I couldn’t emulate what exactly I was seeing. It wasn’t until college, did I discover something other than a number 2 pencil. I had found charcoal, which proved to be one of the creative tools that allowed me to achieve the realism I had been looking for.
I suppose portraiture, for me, was a way in which a viewer could be able to bring that person to life and perhaps somehow I could feel connected with that person. After each drawing, nothing satisfied me more than to step and see something more than just marks on a page. I had created a character. Not just any character, an identity. A representation of a living breathing thing.
What I found so fascinating was that I had the ability to create something so precise and well crafted that someone could believe that my drawings were photographs. I had the ability to create an illusion for my audience and make them feel as if something was real. This is why I feel filmmaking drew me in, itself being an illusion. Film manipulates audiences to feel for something that was actually constructed. Filmmaking gave me the opportunity to fool the audience on a grander scale, well at least more than a drawing could.
I thought film could be beneficial to my work because of how accessible it could be. We live in the Internet age where billion of videos are available at just the click of a button. Film is a medium that allows anyone to view it and could potentially last forever. I figured why not take advantage of that. My work could branch beyond the physical world and exist to a much larger audience. Being the frequent movie goer that I am, I knew just how much satisfaction that could bring.
After entering in the film department at KCAI I began to explore the ideas of emulation in my films, just as I did in my drawings. I wanted to achieve the exact look of what I had been observing. I began a turn towards making films that were highly referential and containing characters that believed they could become what they saw on screen, someone other than themselves.
This brought me to research identity, more specifically psychological identity, relating to self-image (a person’s mentality of him or herself, self-esteem, and individuality.) In all of my films there has been a character going through a crisis to determine who they are, a coming of age story. Tommy, in my film Cause & Effect, relied heavily on movies to determine who he was. In one of my previous films before that, was a character who constructs an entire persona on what he grew up with as the definition of cool. These are characters that strongly feared uncertainty and relied on media to find themselves. The main question in most of my films is how are we defined? Through ourselves, through our peers, or our society? This is something that interests me deeply when examining or creating an artwork. This is a question that I think everyone struggles with and what draws me to a character is their path to answer that question. “Who am I?” is an ongoing question that I pursue in my work, an exploration of character, an exploration of self.