As an adolescent I was a drifter. I had been enrolled in six schools by the time I reached the eighth grade and become accustomed to temporary friends. I was always the “new kid.”
I was in the first grade when Dad asked me what I wanted to be when I get older. “I want to be a professional fisherman or hunter. I want to have a fishing and hunting show like Bill Dance and Roland Martin.” The words flew off my tongue like a dusting of snow in a stiff wind.
“You can be anything you put your mind to,” Dad replied.
The greatest part of adolescence is the innocence of a child’s mind. A child dreams and they believe. They don’t face competition to achieve success. It’s a beautiful state of mind to be in, to dream freely unobstructed by interference.
By ten years old Dad was already telling me to think ahead on my future and the possibilities. The reality of life was beginning to make sense. Candy on the shelves in the checkout line cost money and money meant more than trade value, it also meant trading time to work and earn more.
Dad instilled my passion for the outdoors and explained the benefits of becoming a fireman went beyond healthcare, a modest wage and a great retirement package – whatever that was. A fireman could work twenty-four hours on and have forty-eight hours off, which meant one thing – more time in the woods and on the water.
In the sixth grade a teacher asked the classroom to take turns revealing what each student wanted to be when they grew up. I was in the classroom sitting one row ahead of the last and the second isle of desks to the left when you walked into the room. There were future policemen, doctors, scientists and teachers in the room that day.
As the boy in front of me professed his dream of becoming a pilot the teacher shared well-spoken words of encouragement before shifting her eyes to me. Shy as the new guy but sure of my words, when prompted I explained, “I’m going to be a professional fisherman and a hunter. I want to have a TV show.”
Time seemed to stand still until a pair of giggles broke the silence. The teacher acknowledged me with a simple smile and moved on to address the little girl behind me. I don’t think I heard another voice that day, I was lost in my own words last spoken - I still believed.
Living arrangements would change mid-year and I would soon be the new kid at another school finishing off the sixth grade. I’d move again for the seventh grade and then again leading into the eighth.
I suppose moving often and being an only child contributed to my imagination and how I passed the time. I spent a lot of time observing the behavior of things, like how the leaves of a tree indicate an approaching storm when they flip from bright green to their dull underside when the wind kicks up. I took notice to the purkinje shift of reds gone dim under overcast skies while greens turn almost fluorescent. And I had deep appreciation for sharp contrast created by natural light, such as the silhouette of objects at early morning light when the world around me appears in shades of blue.
My mom had a VHS camcorder back then. Not the kind you think of today, there was nothing handy about it. It was big, bulky, and quality was mediocre at best. As a pre-teen I was already trying to capture a leaf detach from a limb until it settled on the ground on film. I would settle the lens up tight to the ends of melting icicles to catch the beading water drip. My creativity was a product of benchmarking remarkable cinematography I’d seen on Nat-Geo and the History channel. I had no idea what I was doing and no plan to use the film I was capturing, but I was compelled to do it as a way of expressing myself.
I filmed my first successful hunt after repeated attempts using that bulky black camcorder. The setting took place behind the house when I was in the eighth grade. I positioned the camera just so, pressed record and stalked a rabbit with my bow. I had failed dozens of times, but finally found success and I did it on-film, albeit the action appeared a mere spec in the frame.
As a penniless university student, I carried an inexpensive pocket-sized digital camera along on most of my adventures. Using the most basic video editing software I would clip various random scenes and combine them into a sequence of events, burn the project onto blank DVD’s and hand them out to my closest friends. They would always say things, like “You should do this full-time,” or “I love how you can make something out of nothing.”
I guess when you’re a writer you learn how to manipulate as few words as possible to express the most meaning behind them. The same logic applies to video production. You take what you have, try to make sense of it and then blend it together to create a visual story line that captivates an audience.
I’ve since gone on to film and produce for respectable outdoor shows and film productions featuring some of my most memorable hunts and fishing excursions and met a lot of inspirational people along the way.
My camera equipment has come a long way since that ancient camcorder Mom had twenty-five years ago and so has my editing software. When I look back to my earlier work and assess the strong points and weaknesses along the way it becomes so evidently clear – it’s not just a skillset that improves with practice, but developing your style and personal touch to your work that makes it stand out from the crowd.
In December of 2016, I launched Chase Nation with the help of my friend, Brad Werwinski, who not only came up with the name, he has helped produce several episodes each season since the inception.
As Chase Nation transitions into its fourth season I reflect on all that I’ve learned along the way and how far I’ve taken the childhood dream since my Dad first asked the question, what do you want to be when you get older?
It’s been a ride.