I have lived in Brooklyn, New York my whole life and I currently live with my sister and my mom in a apartment building in Williamsburg. My mom is from Puerto Rico and my father is from Italy. My mom works as an assistant principal at B-SMART in Bushwick, Brooklyn, New York as my father worked as an MTA transit for New York. During my years in highschool , my mother was well aware of my love of drawing. She encouraged me to enroll in a special art program in Manhattan, NY. I was accepted into the Sony Animation Project. It was there I learned about “stop-motion” animation. With a partner, we created two “short” animation videos. At the end of the six month program our work was screened at the Sony Wonder Theatre, where we received a certificate of character creation and cinematography. I attended the program a second time, created more work and received another certificate. After the films were spotlighted on YouTube and the certificates were hung on my wall, it was time to move on.
In my Junior year of high school, I came across an application for a fifteen month fellowship with the “Ghetto Film School” also known as GFS. At first glance the application was intimidating and the curriculum seemed exhausting. Did I really want to go to school all summer, nine to five and even some weekends? It seemed like a lot of work. Each film student would receive a professional camera and would learn about directing, editing, writing scripts, lighting, sound, camera operating, and locations. Though there were over one hundred applicants, I got the call: I got in.
I received two call back interviews and an orientation; later I was well on my way. After two weeks of class work, traveling all over New York City, visiting college classrooms in Columbia University, and taking trips to HBO and Google offices, each student was assigned final projects. We had to write a script, get it approved, hire real actors, secure a location, and direct the entire six minute short film. Only ten students would be chosen to have their movie screened at Lincoln Center. Guess who won a spot? I had to pinch my mother twice when she heard the news.
Fall came, and I was still attending GFS on the weekends. I decided to accept an internship at ISCP- “Into the Studios” funded by the Joan Mitchell Foundation. Here I got to unleash a different kind of art, at a slower pace. I worked in the gallery with other students on painting, sculptures, different types of mediums, and learned the history of other artists. You would think attending programs and keeping my grades up would be impossible, but after the intensity of my summer, it felt like a piece of cake. My heart was in everything, nothing felt like work. In GFS I collaborated on an aired ESPN commercial as the cinematographer and actor. We screened and critiqued in many short films for the class and spoke with directors and guests lectures. By this time, our enormous class had shrunk down to under twenty students, and only five would be chosen to go work on a thesis project in Shanghai, China. After a successful pitch for a lighting director part, I won a coveted spot in the group as one of the five chosen! I was off to film in Shanghai this summer, what an honor!
During the end of that week, all of the ISCP students had a gallery exhibit and I was told to bring my parents. As my teachers started talking about me, my mother and I found out that I had won a summer scholarship sponsored by the Joan Mitchell Foundation to go study in Napa Valley, California to the Oxbow Art Camp. I thought my mother was going to faint. As a boy born and raised in Brooklyn, New York this was a life changing experience, an artist dream. As I watched Mr. Jose Ortiz and my wonderful art teachers from the foundation explained to my mother that it was all expense paid and would not interfere with my China trip. All in the same summer, I felt like someone was going to wake me up out of my dream.
As the summer came to an end, and I embark in my senior year, I leave many things behind as I look towards my future. I leave my fears, limitations, and my insecurities to dream….I’m in a new frame of mind. Going to Alfred State College is just another milestone I’m gonna have to over accomplish.