I grew up in a small town in Maryland about 20 minutes from West Virginia. It was surrounded by farms, and what some would consider “cow ‘n corn country.” My high school would celebrate with events like “take your tractor to school day” and would have “cow pie bingo” where they let cows on the football field, and if one took a shit in your hula hoop you won tickets to the drag strip in the next town over.
I was pretty young when I realized that I thought a little differently than a lot of the kids I went to school with. As I got older I didn’t like what the valley had to offer me; so I ventured out into the world and discovered skateboarding.
Skateboarding was not only my creative outlet but the catalyst that introduced me to so many life experiences. It’s first influence on me was music. The first time I heard “Bring Da Noise” by Public Enemy feat. Anthrax was a defining moment for me. They captured my frustration and energy. It opened up a world I would have never been exposed to. The social issues Chuck D references in his music were very apparent growing up in a town with outdated traditions and philosophies.
Where I’m from there’s not much to do, and in a small town there’s not much for the police to do either. Officer Harris and I became very familiar with each other over the years, but hundreds of dollars worth of skateboarding tickets couldn’t stop me. I would ride any chance I got. This lead me to meeting an incredible community of people that placed value on creativity and authenticity. I had found my oasis in a desert of rednecks. Everyone I skated with was an artist. They were either a musician, a painter, or an illustrator, and we all inspired each other.
So I stole my mom’s camcorder and started making skate videos. I was probably 11 at the time. I did in-camera titles so our names came up, and if you messed up the trick we had to rewind the tape so we could film over the fall.
In high school I attended a vocational school for television and multimedia. Most of our projects consisted of creating PSAs about drunk driving or promoting student networks like SkillsUSA. Making these videos didn’t appeal to me. I would use the school’s equipment to help create a skate video titled, “Better Days.”
After high school and now applying to college I had to make the decision if I was going to pursue film or not. The only school I got accepted to was Suffolk University. Not a school exactly known for their film program. I knew if I enrolled as a film major I would be forced back into a box of making PSAs and broadcast material I had no interest in. Instead I decided to pursue a degree that would give me an effective life skill that I could apply to my independant filmmaking.
Deciding to pursue freelance videography full time after graduating was one of the scariest but best decisions I ever made. I was working a lot, for a little money, and things got pretty tight. To make matters worse my computer crashed in the middle of my biggest gig that winter. Every mistake I made, or opportunity missed, literally cost me. With everything on the line I was able to successfully build my business. Just about a year ago I wrestled with the decision of using a crowdfunding site to buy a new computer. Instead of doing that, I just put my nose to the grindstone and a year later I’m opening my own studio.
Developing and building my own brand under the name Downlow Productions has been the greatest learning experience of my life. Everyday was trial and error, from the early days of being taken advantage of and working for “exposure” to eventually growing our clientele to national brands like Frito-Lay, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and Sofar Sounds. It certainly didn’t happen overnight and it took a lot of hard work, and plain noodles for dinner.
I still have an incredible amount to learn and I want to pursue filmmaking to the fullest extent. I want to maximize my trials and minimize my errors by learning from the best. I want to make an impact with my films the way Public Enemy made an impact on me. They inspired me to be creative and explore what else the world has to offer. So I’m doing just that.
In June of 2014 I was struck by a car while riding my bike. I woke up in the hospital the next day with serious head injuries and what’s now a scar running across my already oversized forehead. My life didn’t flash before my eyes, and I didn’t have any type of spiritual awakening, but it made me realize that if you want to achieve something you have to work towards that goal every day. Cause you never know when the next opportunity will come, and you never know when it could all be taken away.