Filmmaker (Director, Producer, Writer)
I make historical documentary films and series for PBS.
I start work at anywhere from pre-dawn to 8:00, depending on what I'm doing (shooting, editing, business) and keep working for ten to fourteen hours.
My mentor said: Go, See, Do, Be. Don't be trapped by the expectation of others or the self-imposed false expectations we foist upon ourselves. It's a Socratic process of asking yourself: Who am I? To know yourself is to realize that whatever you choose, it requires extraordinary perseverance & nothing will be handed to you. It's terrifying but exciting. Emerson said 'find what inwardly rejoices.' I followed my voice, found out whether I had something to say, and how to say it-and I'm grateful.
Here's the first step for college students
Know who you are. As Robert Penn Warren said, "Careerism is death!" I can't tell you how to become a documentary filmmaker because each person's path is their own. That's both a blessing and terror, but I'd rather have that tension than be an automaton toiling away at something that doesn't grip me. You don't want to wake up at 50 and go, "What happened? Where were my dreams?" I can't prescribe any one method, but I do hope the conditions are such that you're able to do what your heart wants to.
"You should work for someone else, not yourself"
I focused on 2 things: knowing who I was & what I wanted; and persevering in the face of near constant resistance & friction. Perseverance is often just the patience to be turned down. I used to keep a binder with hundreds of rejections for my films. I kept them as a reminder that one can out-wait the naysayers. Steady streams of failure made me consider giving up, but I didn't want to wake up at 50 with my abandoned dream hanging over me. I moved to NH to live meagerly & develop and persisted.
Moved to NH, lived on nothing, refused to have a "career." Worked hard, waited. In my early NYC days I couldn't afford rent & considered deserting film. I decided to move off the grid & work on my dream. I learned to be uncompromising, and live the same way now as I did then.
At 11 when my mom died, it was a grenade explosion in my life. But I would not be who I am today if my mother hadn't died. Her death gave me an impetus to seize opportunities. Tragedies can provide the catalyst and courage to go forward and do things.