I’m a storyteller from West Texas. My father was a Scottish Cowboy, the son of a tobacco farmer turned preacher. My mother is Indigenous, bought on the black market for three thousand dollars. There are cowboys and Indians fighting over the same horse in my heart.
Mom is a retired nurse and empath. She sees ghosts all the time. Fortunately, I do not.
Dad could fix anything - from race car engines to the little mechanism that makes the bedroom blinds open and close. I once watched him spend an entire Saturday going back and forth to the hardware store to repair a lawn chair that had frayed and split from the burden of my uncle’s enormous ass. I remember thinking he could just buy a new one, but that wasn’t an option for my dad. There was still a heart beating in the old chair and a puzzle to be solved.
I’m not mechanically inclined the way my father was. I used to think this meant we didn’t have much in common. I know it frustrated him that he didn’t see himself in me, physically or otherwise. We did bond around hunting and fishing, but after I shot my first deer, I decided killing large mammals wasn’t my gig.
As I got older, I realized that my father and I had something profound in common. We both liked to build and fix things, take them apart and put them back together. For him, it was car engines and for me, the engine of a story. Any story. What makes it go? Or hum? Will it go or hum? What makes it a race car, or a farm truck or a foreign car? What makes it a taxi cab or something too precious to drive? I like figuring that out.
This nexus between what my father did and what I do figures prominently when I consider my eclectic storytelling journey. I’ve written and directed both documentary and fiction, short form and long form. I’ve worked in the world of film marketing, commercials , reality tv and virtual reality. I’ve often viewed my career as a feral animal that would probably be better off in some kind of wooded yard that passed as a small forest or on a leash so long I didn’t realize it was there, until it snapped me back home - to storytelling. Story is the place where all that I am, professionally and personally, is nested. And editing is the one aspect of filmmaking that I feel contains all the others. It’s the engine room, the control tower. The film’s pulse is there, sometimes faint, sometimes pounding, but a good editor hears it.
When I began editing, it was on six plate Moviolas with guillotine splicers. In those days, you held your film in your hands, literally. Every edit was an actual incision, which could not be undone, only taped back together temporarily. This meant you spent a lot of time thinking before cutting.
The technology of editing keeps changing, but I still value the thought before the decision. The decision before the incision. Editing isn’t about how fast you can try things and undo them. It’s about making choices that arise from some sense of the story’s DNA, choices that carry the integrity of a particular moment, scene, sequence and movement. Yes, you have keyboard shortcuts. You may own the fastest fingers in the west. But there’s no shortcut to a film’s optimal structure or to the center of a character’s heart.
I love working with passionate collaborators and being in high level story discussion. I love being a mentor and I love being the one in the room who knows the least. As a storyteller, I never want to stop learning. And I want to put good medicine into the world, something I can look my kids in the eye and be proud I was part of.
Stories have made it possible for me to fix things like my father and see ghosts like my mother.