Our oldest son was 7 years old when he was infected with the film-making bug.
He recruited his younger brother and sister as actors, and asked me to shoot them making a movie. I’m sure it’s something that kids in lots of homes have done at that age. I showed him some basic editing skills in iMovie, added sound effects and some special effects, and he had his first movie, “Dr. Cortex’s Magic Plan.”
It was a crazy screen play that involved inspiration from Narnia, a plan to destroy the world and lots of random costumes.
For the next few years, I served as my son’s video editor and producer as he came up with script ideas, recruited actors and begged me to point the camera in his direction.
By the time he was in fifth grade, his grandparents had given him a flip camera so he could shoot his movies without having to wait for his mom to fit it into her schedule. Any kid that has been a friend of Andrew’s over the last decade has been recruited at some point to become an actor in one of his films.
At age 10, he filmed his first series, “Old Grandpa.” Then, he and his brother created the characters, “CJ Watermelon and Bub Franklin.” Many of his projects have involved some kind of music video element, starting with “Turkey in the Straw”, our first attempt at using a green screen when he was about 9, and my all-time favorite, “Thanks, Mom.”
Over the years, my role has diminished from movie editor to editing consultant to the person who asks my son for editing advice. We both started with iMovie, then graduated to Final Cut Pro. The summer after fifth grade, he invited groups of friends to come over, assigned them roles, filmed their movies and then conducted a class to show them how to use iMovie. A few summers ago, he mowed lawns weekly, then spent all of his savings on special effects packages.
In the past ten years, this kid has created 76 movie projects of his own. Not bad for someone who is 17.
These are the kinds of things I think about when I sit and watch his latest short film being played on a screen at the local high school as part of the annual Film Fest. These moments are the compilations of years of investing in a child’s interests, offering advice and supporting every new idea and endeavor. I think about all of the times he’s come running in the door, exclaiming, “Mom! I have an idea for a movie!” It’s been amazing to see a kid so passionate about something, and then invest so much time and energy into pursuing what he loves.
Sometimes, he has irritated people with his style of using cinematography to create a film that looks deadly serious, only to find out he was being sarcastic the whole time, as in the short film devoted to a man’s obsession with “Pudding” or the guy who wouldn’t die in his western “Bulletproof.” There’s no hiding the humor in his series devoted to making fun of his crazy younger brother in the series, “Day in the Life of Matt” or his take on “The Office,” played out in his own series, “Picnic.”
He doesn’t shy away from talking about his faith in projects like this one. He has created public service announcements for his school and event advertisements for his church youth group.
He was so blessed his sophomore year of high school to get to take two broadcast journalism classes with a teacher who really invested in his interest. This teacher started a Film Fest at the school to give students a format to display their creative work. He learned a lot from his entry last year, which ended up taking second place.
This year, Andrew asked two friends he met from participating in school plays to be the actors in his short film. His actors are hilarious, and he had so much fun working with them on his entry, which had to fall into the theme of “friendship.”
Both years of the film fest, another student has walked away with first place. Although the students are heavily judged by professionals in the industry on the writing of their screen play and plot development, the other student has taken her script from the Internet both years. The organizers of the event have given her permission to submit a film that isn’t an original work, but we are hoping that at some point, they will consider creating a separate category for films that weren’t actually written by the students.
Anyway, that disparity has taken some of the joy out of the Film Fest competition. It’s probably hard to imagine how much time and energy go into creating a story, filming it, working with actors and then all of the editing and production. We can rest in the way Andrew handles himself with so much dignity and humility. We’ve encouraged our son to learn from the judge’s comments and enjoy the reaction of a room full of people, laughing along with his original work.
These days, I often find myself in a bit of a role reversal from back in the days of Dr. Cortex, Old Grandpa and CJ Watermelon. I’m always in need of video producers to help me create content at my job, and often end up begging my son to work one of my projects into his schedule.
As he wraps up his junior year of high school and we visit colleges this spring, we are starting to really figure out what it could look like to help our child turn a lifelong passion into a college major or a career. I think I just needed to take a few moments to look back at how far he’s come over the last 10 years. The Film Fest wrapped up a stressful week that also included four days of high school baseball tryouts for our other son, who is a freshman. (Hopefully, I’ll write about that soon, too!… He made it!!!)
Thank you to everyone who has shared in this journey with us, and thanks for reading! Leave me a comment to say, “hello!”