After reading about the experiences of many other directors over the years, I'd have to say that my answer falls between the cliché and the extraordinary.
Like many directors, I started making films (on video) when I was a young teen. I remember one project – I can't call it a film because we only filmed a few scenes, and never edited the thing together – which was an original story of mine, dealing with teens caught up in playing war and having it turn into a reality. It was kind of like “Lord of the Flies” meets “Platoon.”
That project stemmed from a manuscript I'd written, and I borrowed a friend's video camera and started filming in the woods near my house. There were about five of us sloshing about in this dense, Florida swampland, and we just made up random lines.
I think we filmed about three days worth of stuff. We had old surplus army gear, horribly-made props and some fireworks for pyrotechnics. We even used ketchup for blood – not a great idea in Florida, with all the bugs and ants.
Eventually some of us took TV Production and Drama classes together in our last years of high school, but the stuff we shot just ended up on a video cassette tape and, eventually, was lost to the world.
So, my short answer is that I'd always had an interest in film and film-making. I also have always had a deep interest in writing, so I guess that went hand-in-hand.
However, ask me when did I get interested in how movies were made, and I can't pinpoint it. I know there were some films when I was a kid that impressed me to the extent that I wondered about the craft of making it. Star Wars, for sure, but also older films like “Gone with the Wind,” and “The African Queen.” In my teen years, contemporary films started to stand out. Films by Oliver Stone, Stanley Kubrick and Brian De Palma challenged my developing social consciousness. Then heavy-hitting documentary films started to get more of my attention. Especially Ken Burns, who's film, “The Civil War,” was so formative to me, that you can see its influence in our film, “Fragile Waters.”
Really it was about the time that independent films hit their stride that I started to think, “Well, shit, I could make a movie.”
Folks like Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino and the Coen brothers made such a definitive mark on indy films for me.
Still, I wouldn't work on an “actual” film until 2011, as a production coordinator for “Fly, Colt, Fly” (directed by Adam and Drew Gray). I was 39-years-old and it finally clicked for me. I figured out that film-making is truly an obsession. You cannot do it well, unless you throw your entire life into it. Period. Maybe, before 2011, I was afraid of the unknowns....maybe I still am...but I took the plunge, straight down into the abyss. By 2013, I'd made my first documentary. By 2014, we'd wrapped on “Fragile Waters.” It's pretty amazing how quickly things developed.
There's good reason for that; making movies is a team effort. You're in over your head, struggling to swim – but you're not alone, you've got your cast and crew in the “waters” all around you.
I like talking about this – before I “make it” - because it keeps me honest. I can always think back to the kids with bottle rockets and ketchup, running through the swamp, and think “yup, that's where it all started.”