When I started my Capital University journey as a nervous and excited first-year in August 2013, I had no idea where that journey would take me. I met countless kind, dedicated, hardworking, talented, highly intelligent people, whether they were faculty or staff or fellow students, who motivated me extrinsically and intrinsically, whether that was in the classroom, on stage, in the community, and even just sitting by the fountains with friends.
Now, I am incredibly humbled by the support I am seeing from that same community as my debut feature film, “Cadia: The World Within,” which I began writing during my junior year at Capital, is getting a U.S. release on Amazon Prime, Vudu, and other platforms.
It was a no-brainer to film several scenes on Capital’s campus, especially in Mees Hall. Several people I went to Capital with – and some who are still students – were involved in the production.
The #CapFam is real, and our film wouldn’t exist without it. My very first film role was in a student film at Capital, and it was in those student films and productions at the Cabaret Theatre that I developed and sharpened my skills, both as an actor and as a director.
The time I spent at Capital directly contributed to this film in a myriad of ways, and unfortunately, I can only capture a few here.
Thanks to Capital’s liberal arts core, I was exposed to new ways of thinking and new philosophies. I was allowed to encounter my preconceived notions of what was “true” and ask myself tough questions, and I was encouraged to grow and develop spiritually. Capital’s vibrant and rich religious tradition – now led by the incomparable Pastor Drew Tucker – allowed me to question my religion and instead discover an inclusive and loving faith, a great deal of which impacted “Cadia” and found a way into the script and ideas of the film.
Thanks to my acting and directing classes, I gained the necessary skills and confidence to approach, sign, and direct big-name actors like two-time Emmy® and Golden Globe® nominee Corbin Bernsen (“Psych,” “Major League,” “LA Law”) and James Phelps (the Harry Potter saga), who filmed several scenes on campus.
Thanks to my public relations classes, I learned the essential skills to build a marketing campaign and publicize a film, since we didn’t have a studio doing it for us. Thanks to my playwriting class with Dr. Kennedy and all my literature classes, I had a foundation to begin learning the art of screenwriting, which has become a significant part of my career.
As an actor, Dr. Heaton and Dr. Kennedy made sure that I was always pushing myself and discovering new ways to approach a character. As a director, Dr. Kennedy taught me almost everything I know; yet without the storytelling class from Dr. Heaton, or Jeff Gress’s theatrical design course, or Dr. Croft’s advice and expertise, or Jim Higgins teaching media, or Dr. Summers teaching Shakespeare, or Dr. Pike’s openness and attention, I would have never known where to start with making a film. They all invested so much and cared so deeply. That’s the CapFam.
Yet it goes beyond education, doesn’t it?
It’s in the organizations – whether it was the Capitones a capella group, or the Quidditch Club (y’all gotta bring that back!), or my fraternity, I was surrounded by friends and peers.
In addition to that, I was an Admissions Ambassador all four years of college. The entire Admissions staff was so great and so supportive. Seeing them in the audience on opening night of the plays and musicals that I was in or that I was directing meant the world to me. Knowing that I could go to them for advice was a constant comfort. And they still keep in touch and support what I’m doing. It went far beyond my four years, far beyond my being an employee in their office. They cared.
Then there is the biggest thing to happen to me in college: being diagnosed with cancer, just weeks after I had decided to change majors and pursue acting full time.
My professors went so far above and beyond to accommodate me as I balanced surgeries and radiation therapy and classes, because I didn’t want to take time off as a student. Deanna Wagner in the Student and Community Engagement Office was always there with a smile and a hug when I needed it. Stacie Wickham was always ready to listen and laugh. Karen Lawler and Judy Clark in Yochum became two of my best friends on all of campus. Again, there are too many – far, far too many – names to mention, but what is important is that they were there. A kind word goes a long way, and the texts and calls and cards I received after surgeries and during treatment made the CapFam come alive in an extraordinarily real and visceral way for me.
Thanks to the people I had around me on campus, motivating me and encouraging me, I had the belief in myself that this film could happen, that what we were trying to do mattered. The film industry is brutal and unforgiving, and without the CapFam, I don’t know if I could have powered through at times to get this film made. When I was still living in Columbus, when I would get stressed with the project in post-production, I would often find myself sitting at my favorite spot on campus, the fountains, where I wrote the first several drafts of the film. Now, every time I am in town, I make sure to visit the fountains at least once (usually following a trip to Cherbourg Bakery).
In the theatre and film industry, success is often determined by who you know. I would argue, though, that it is equally determined by who you are.
Are you a kind person? Are you hardworking? Yes, talent and intelligence matter, but are you someone people want to invest time in? Are you someone who big-name actors will take a leap of faith with? Are you someone who remembers the lessons you learned in the classrooms and theatres and dormitories (shout out to Saylor-Ackerman, my home for three years) and dining halls?
Are you someone who asks, thinks, and leads? And, lastly, are you someone who remembers where you came from and who got you to where you are, and, when you need to, remembers the moments by the fountains with friends, the moments that built who you are?
Capital University shaped me into the actor, the filmmaker, and, most importantly, the person I am today. I am forever grateful for that. #CapFam, now and always.