as we head in that direction, the summers are starting to come back to me.
in 2006, i packed up my trumpet and headed off to a performing arts camp in the Adirondacks. it was an extremely different atmosphere from the reform Jewish sleepaway camp I’d attended for five years prior. the days were divided up into art periods. rock band in the morning, musical theater in the afternoon. lunch and some fishing somewhere in the middle. it should’ve been paradise. but for the first couple weeks, i barely went to any activities. instead, i sat by the lake and cried into an old copy of The Andromeda Strain, the summer reading assignment for my upcoming biology class. i was starting high school in the fall.
i did go to trumpet lessons with Nick, the brass instructor. one day we sat inside his tiny hut, literally a square shack covered in painted messages from past campers with their names and dates, when he told me that he wanted me to tell him a story.
i laughed in his face. i’d had imaginative teachers before, i thought i knew what this was. Nick looked at the piece of music in front of us, the solo i would play for all of the parents in a couple weeks, and told me to imagine the story behind it. the rises and falls in the drama within each part, each phrase, each measure. “it’s all about the quiet intensity,” he said. “and the next time you see me, i wanna hear the story you’re going to tell.”
camp flew by after that. so fast, even, that i never did tell Nick a story. i was too busy playing in pit orchestras for musicals or jumping on stage for ska band performances or god forbid going on the boat out at the lake. i was too busy learning how to be a stupid fourteen year old.
from what i know via Facebook, Nick is now married to the same girlfriend he’d had at camp, the woodwind instructor, with two children. he’s a band director. i’m sure his students tell many stories of their own.
this particular summer comes back to me mainly because i was stuck. i had no idea what i wanted until it all made sense. all i’ve ever wanted is to tell stories. Nick just had to remind me. and in college i switched my trumpet for a camera, promising USC in all of my admissions essays that i would bring a unique voice to filmmaking, that if they just took a chance on me, a weirdo musician from south Florida, i would prove to them i could do it.
they said yes. and now three years later, i’ve made some movies. i learned how to shoot coverage, light a scene with a key, a fill, and a backlight. hold a boom. cut on Avid, edit on ProTools. say “action.” i can do these things.
but maybe, just maybe, they take something away. sure, there’s no way my films can exist they way they do without them, but they distract me from the core, from just me, the way i could just sing through my trumpet and (hopefully) tell a fucking fantastic story, without anything else. when i take away the cameras, the lights, the equipment, it’s just my words. or my voice on the radio. or a performance on stage. and that, i’ve learned, is what gets me going. it’s never about “getting the shot.” ever.
so while i go to film school, and will graduate with a film degree, and do enjoy watching and making films, i can’t call myself a filmmaker. no, i’m more about a quiet intensity. i tell stories, like this one.