When I went to elementary school, the government gave our school $50 for each of what they considered the top six ‘gifted’ students in the school. The kids were pulled together to discuss how we could pool our money and use it to learn about a subject we were all interested in. They would then buy the materials necessary and contract a teacher from outside to teach the children about the subject they had agreed upon.

I was fortunate enough to be a benefactor of that program for seven years. In third grade, we all decided to learn photography. So the school spent our money and bought darkroom equipment, chemicals, and a couple of cameras. We learned about taking pictures, lighting, lenses, how to remove film from the camera and onto a spooler in a dark bag, how to develop our own film, and make our own prints.  It was crazy how fast we were learning all of these things!

Our teacher was a young man in his 20’s.  I recall his enthusiasm to share what he had learned about the craft. I loved taking still pictures. I remember him explaining how black and white was full of emotions, showed the different shades of life, and the contrast and balance between objects, living or still. To this day, I appreciate black and white photography more so than color.

Still photography held my interest for years and I became quite good at it. However, it only took 4 months after taking that class for me to want to discover more – taking it to the next level to moving pictures. I worked for my neighbors to earn enough money to buy my first silent movie camera, a Kodak, from Sears! I was so excited!


My first movie camera – Kodak XL55 Super 8

I mean, this camera had some amazing features! A button the left side allowed you to zoom in closer to your subject and zoom back out! And a button on the right allowed you to film at regular frame speeds or you could flip a switch and the press of each button would take just one frame of an image allowing you to do stop-motion animation! And…well, that was it!

I had saw a film in November of 1971 called Duel starring Dennis Weaver on television. A film made by a youngster named Steven Spielberg, an unknown. That film inspired me. I wanted to make high quality production films with a little camera and a lot of ingenuity! And so it began…

Many filmmakers at the @SundanceFilmFest share a similar story. Their origins can be traced back to a story of their beginning – what sparked them, who inspired them, and why they are driven.

And that’s what the Sundance Film Festival has always been about. Storytelling. Giving the ‘everyperson’ a voice. A chance to say something unique, to change one thing, to move one person. To make viewers think deeply on what they just saw and heard after they’ve left the theater.

This year, what will ignite the spark in you?


2 thoughts on “Ignition

  1. So True! It is ALL about story isn’t it? The Story. Ultimately –your individual story. The Festival seems to attract each of us for a different reason. If we’re not writing the stories, we may be interpreting to film it, or perhaps looking to collaborate and be part of someone else’s ! And YEAH…call me amateur…but I had NO IDEA that [a young] Spielberg was the Director of that [still] great truck movie The Duel!! See you at The Festival!!


    • Indeed! Another interesting tidbit. The story was written by Richard Matheson who adapted the screenplay as well. Matheson wrote for many TV shows like Star Trek and The Twilight Zone. However, he was more notable for writing other series like Kolchak: The Night Stalker and movies like The Incredible Shrinking Man, I Am Legend, Stir of Echoes, and Somewhere In Time. 🙂


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