Back in June, I was asked to give a 40 minute talk to a bunch of investors. I was the main event, sandwiched between an update on solar funds and company news. I’d been working on a video for their company, and they took an interest in me and my lifestyle, and just asked me to share about my adventures abroad, creating, and especially how my values impact my work. I was pretty fresh off the plane from my trip to the Philippines to make a short film, and was still pretty frazzled (I love that word) from the experience, but I was happy to just go and show clips and talk about what I was doing, and how it’s great to love what you do––but also how easy it is to find yourself going down a path you never intended.
I told a story of my trip to New York in October. I’d been twice already since the summer, once in June to explore and finalize the Son Lux – Lanterns Lit edit with Ryan Lott, and another in September to film this video with Zerbin. (Each of those deserve their own post — another day perhaps!)
I had such an inspiring, positive vibe from the city each time I went. I just couldn’t get enough, so I booked a red eye on Aeroplan miles and took off for two weeks, staying in Jay (the bass player from Snowmine)’s bed until they got back from tour. (I did their video for ‘Tidal Wave’ as another passion project because I’m in love with them, um, I mean, their music — and they paid me in a free bed, concert tickets and merch. Actually not a bad trade considering how expensive NYC is!)
I went because I wanted to pretend I lived there for two weeks. Not to run around like a tourist in a frenzy, but to take my time, sit in coffee shops, wander aimlessly, and meet/hang with a few people I’ve admired from afar, like Nick Bentgen, Adam Kane, Cody Dulock from FilmSupply.com and musician DM Stith.
(I also attendend Shane Hurlbut’s Illumination Tour — highly recommended!)
Ok, get to the point Sam! haha…
So I was sitting in Toby’s Estate, which felt a bit like a hipster exhibit in an ironic museum (one that serves truly incredible espresso), thinking about how nice it would be to live and work here. So many of my favourite creatives––writers, photographers, musicians and filmmakers––make NYC their home. My ego would love to feel like I belonged amongst them; to post regular instagram photos of NYC skylines and Brooklyn hipsters, to drink beer in dive bars with the best up and coming musicians; to brag about my awesome life here to people back home; to one day casually bump into Sufjan Stevens and instantly become friends. Basically, to turn into the filmmaker version of this:
And that’s when it hit me: “I need to go back to the Philippines.”
I’d been there in the spring of 2014, and managed to produce a couple of music videos/short films there in just a couple of weeks. I loved photographing the country and the people, but more than that, I loved doing something that I felt mattered: empowering the youth by encouraging them to act and create, and telling stories that I hoped would bring awareness and empathy to their situation.
I felt that I was creating with purpose––a purpose that lined itself up with my core values: to create films that touch on social justice issues. They might not be filmed on a Red Dragon or Phantom Flex with perfect lighting and extravagant aerials, but hopefully they capture real emotions and real moments, even if they’re filmed on a DSLR because that’s all I could fit in my backpack.
That’s what I’m about as a filmmaker, I decided. That’s what would help me stand out––not filming the New York skyline for the zillionth time, but filming the jungles in San Fernando for perhaps the first time.
Filming with a purpose: to make films that are about the story, not the style.
That’s who I am as a filmmaker. That’s my purpose. What’s yours?
(Part 2, on what happened in the Philippines, coming soon!)