How did you find your “story” for Maybe Next Year?
I started out with the idea to objectively explore Philadelphia Eagles fan culture and show where all the passion comes from. They obviously have this notorious reputation and I wanted to explore and humanize the people behind some of the legendary stories. What started out there quickly turned into me capturing the greatest football season on record for the city and capturing history when they finally won their first Super Bowl.
Is the film you wound up with the film you set out to make?
Not at all. I wanted to make this little short film that would be this character study and then as the season grew and they kept winning we kept going back and my crew kept growing and growing. On the day of the Super Bowl we had an 8 camera, 16 person crew capturing the energy around the city, drones in different parts, and even a crew out in Minnesota where the game was being held.
Was there a breakthrough moment where you remember gaining the trust of your subjects?
Every character was different and I obviously had so much in common with them being a huge fan myself. One of our main characters Jesse’s story is very intimate as it focuses on the idea of legacy as his father is the man who taught him to be a fan and is now dying of brain cancer. Gaining the families trust to be there for these very personal moments came over time with us showing our intentions and bonding with them over months and months. A lot of times the most important moments in documentary happen when the camera is off and you’re just having these human connections with your subjects that you build on in the work.
The Super Bowl win was obviously a benefit to the film, what production or editing challenges did that cause for you?
Them winning was obviously a blessing but also a responsibility to tell the story in the best way we could as we knew we had captured something that meant so much to the city. We restructured it to make the material have the biggest payoff in the end and that was taking the audience through the whole season even if it felt like certain weeks didn’t matter. We had to make the fall of Carson Wentz really hit so the climb of Nick Foles winning would be as dramatic as it felt in real life. We lucked into this incredible underdog story that reflects so much of the towns values so it was just about bringing all those details to the surface that were already there in the material.
As a young filmmaker, how do you balance the projects that pay your bills with the aspirational work that moves your career forward?
It’s tricky and sometimes I feel like a rodeo clown trying to keep all the balls in the air at once. For me I try to keep the work that interests me the most in focus while squeezing in paying work. I had to figure out what my bottom line was when I moved to NYC and made sure I hit that every month then I went off and did the work that I wanted. As you build clients and you build trust you start doing less and making a bit more and you get some breathing room. But then you have off months and it’s important not to panic in those times. All in all I didn’t get into this business to play it safe so it’s important to continue to do work that is meaningful to you so you don’t end up getting caught up in the rat race.
How did Drexel prepare you for your career and making this film?
The documentary space has changed so much in the past 5 years with all the streaming platforms allowing for larger audiences to see such great documentaries that I kind of fell in love with the form. Expanding my career from music videos and commercials into the documentary space I found myself producing more to get my personal projects off the ground. Drexel gave me such a well-rounded filmmaking foundation that I felt comfortable wearing multiple hats to make sure everything got done. I was able to break down the budget, call places and people to find new locations and characters, cut dailies between shooting days to review footage, and even operate the camera when needed. I feel grateful that I learned so many different positions at Drexel outside of just directing.
What advice do you have for current students?
Find your collaborators and find your voice. It’s important to surround yourself with people that you can grow with and challenge you as a creator--people that help with your weak points and help shift your perspective to get the best out of the material. Then grow your voice by continuing to try news ideas, fail, figure out what you liked and didn’t like about the work, then try again. For every project I’ve had that’s had success there are twenty projects that were terrible and failed. Keep working to find the stories that you want to tell, in the way you want to tell them.
I’m starting work on some short form documentaries this month. I loved working on a feature length film but I’m itching to work on smaller and shorter stories that have been building in my head. Besides that – continuing to be a rodeo clown juggling all the balls.