I like working with young talent.
It's fun. It adds some variety to my life and work. And I'm often impressed with what they come up with.
Nearly 9 months ago, I got an email from a college student, Josh Lawler (Check him out Instagram). He was a senior film student at Eastern Carolina University. A young, ambitious outdoorsman with a passion for video. His senior project was almost underway and he hadn't yet decided on what this project, the longest film of his college career, was going to feature.
The day before he was supposed to turn in his plan, my Instagram account showed up on his suggested pages to follow. He reached out via email and asked if I would be willing to be the feature of a documentary style film he was creating during his final academic year at ECU.
For some reason, even from his first email, I liked him from the start. Maybe it was because I was just like Josh in college, sort of a fish out of water in my major (pun intended). Most times creative majors like design, painting, film and music don't have much room for conservative kids who grew up hunting and fishing.
I remember in a painting class my junior year working on a composition of flying blue-winged teal and feeling the pressure to make up some vague, artsy, deeper "meaning" behind the piece, just to get a good critique from my professor and peers. In a building of young creatives focused on social disruption and countercultural "fine art," you're actually somewhat of an outsider if you like to paint, or film, deer and turkeys.
For Josh to choose my work as his subject was a pretty bold move in and of itself. To spend two semesters dedicated to project that may or may not be well-received showed dedication and commitment on his part. He was staying true to himself, and I respected that. In addition, if my life and career were to be shown in an accurate light, I knew that it would take the trained eye of a dedicated outdoorsman to portray it that way.
I believe he did.
After concepting and planning the video, Josh and his dad came up during a weekend in October to begin filming. We shot interviews, b-roll and whatever else he needed to start piecing the story together. In February, they traveled to Charleston, SC for a weekend to include footage of The Southeastern Wildlife Expo in the film. Finally, Josh came up for a couple days in April to chase longbeards with me in the Appalachian Mountains around my studio in Boone, NC.
Throughout the process, I was impressed with Josh's dedication to his craft and a willingness to do whatever it took to get a shot. One day we chased turkeys so hard he didn't even eat. He had left home early that day to drive to Boone, rolled in mid-morning, immediately changed into his camo and loaded up his gear for the hunt. By 4:30 that afternoon, after several moves and eventually crawling into our final setup with a longbeard only 75 yards away, we had one on the ground. He had the footage he needed and I had my largest turkey even in North Carolina. We took a few minutes to celebrate, headed into town for a sandwich, then back up the mountain to film b-roll until dark.
I'm proud of his final project, and I hope he is too. Josh took a concept from an idea to completion in a way that few kids his age could, or would be willing to. Seven minute videos are not easy. Neither are large paintings. They take commitment, time, vision and dedication: things that die-hard hunters can understand.
I hope you enjoy this piece. It's a glimpse into my life and studio that I don't always show on social media. It's well-done. It's authentic. It's #WildlyOriginal.