Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?
That would be when I became program director for the college TV station at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. I learned to produce entertainment, sports and news programming for the broadcast market. It was hectic, overwhelming, and unbelievably exciting for a 19-year-old. I soon realized that my dream of a TV and film career could become a reality.
How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?
I incorporate my 30 years of real-world experience into class projects to help transform students from filmviewers into filmmakers. I encourage them to explore a variety of filmmaking techniques and see for themselves which options work best on any given production. Casting talent, organizing crew, scouting locations, renting camera gear, dealing with weather issues, applying for permits, gathering releases, overcoming time and budget limitations...filmmakers face those challenges every day. So when students overcome those same hurdles, they become more confident—and more prepared for the professional world.
What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?
A student might have hundreds of good ideas. What matters is what they do with those ideas. My students take their ideas through the entire production process, from script to screen. By building on their creativity thorough the process, they learn that a good idea plus careful execution can equal a successful career in the film business.
How does collaboration contribute to students’ success—particularly when students from various programs work together?
Films are never made by a single person—and we wouldn't want them to be. From writer to director to editor, many opinions and lots of hard work go into the production. By pooling talents from disciplines like fashion, audio, visual effects and design, a film can appear to have a much higher production value than the budget allows. Through teamwork, each individual's talents contribute to the film's overall success.
What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?
Today, all you need is a cell phone camera and editing software on your tablet to call yourself a filmmaker. What does that mean for filmmaking as a career choice? Has filmmaking been killed by Vimeo and YouTube? Not if we elevate filmmaking to something new. Students need to be daring and challenge themselves to change the way we look at films and TV. With new media outlets forming every day and screens popping up everywhere, the opportunity to connect with audiences in meaningful ways has never been more exciting.