I’ll see if I can make this relatively short. I was born in the West Texas minor city of Abilene. It’s not too big, but not too small. My parents had their hands full with their two kids. Most of that was on my part. Hey, it’s not my fault I have ADHD. I couldn’t sit still. I asked a million questions and wouldn’t shut up. Many would say not much has changed. Thankfully, my Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Pemberton, realized that I just needed to be challenged academically and had me tested for the gifted/talented program despite my affinity for eating the homemade peppermint play dough at “centers time.”
At the ripe age of five, I was labeled gifted. That meant I got the G/T certified teachers—code for “trained to deal with Matthew.” While the other kids did busy work, I got to do special projects like hand making puppets out of brown paper bags and performing my own show for the class based on the book Miss Nelson Is Missing. A great literary work, you should check it out, seriously.
Prior to third grade, a larger number of kids are tested for G/T because at this point G/T kids are entered into the ALPS program. Each of Abilene’s 25 elementary schools were assigned one day a week on which the G/T kids traveled to a special site for most of the day where they participate in creative enrichment and what not. I really do think that without the ALPS program I wouldn’t be nearly as creative as I am today.
The summer after fourth grade, I went to my first camp with the Northwest Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church. It was the most important event of my life. This is where my connection to story really began. It was a pretty typical format for a Christian summer camp. Small group times, afternoon activities, worship—VBS on steroids. I think it was Wednesday afternoon when they did movie time. The movie was the 1979 animated version of The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe. Sadly the 2005 version was still 10 years away. For those of you that don’t know what it’s about, check out Wikipedia. The allegory of Aslan’s sacrifice led me to salvation that day. Though I had been raised in the Church, I didn’t really get Jesus’ sacrifice. C.S. Lewis’ tale—no matter how poorly brought to the TV that day—was all I needed to put two and two together. Thus began the significance of story in my life.
Despite the lack of quality in the aforementioned animated film, I was a child of the 90s Disney classics. The Little Mermaid (technically ’89), Beauty and The Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, Hercules, Mulan… I really liked animation. I couldn’t draw, but I knew somehow I would figure out how to be an animator. Once we got our first home PC with Windows 95 and Office 95. I took it upon myself to reanimate Beauty and The Beast with PowerPoint. It was pretty impressive if I do say so myself. I concluded that computers were my solution to not being able to draw well.
Fast forward to high school. As I progressed through various computer classes, I realized that computer animation was based more on code. That didn’t sound too creative. Thus my lifelong dream of being an animator seemed less and less appealing.
My junior year of high school brought the exciting world of Pre-AP World History. I was lucky enough to get Mrs. Wilson. She had the reputation of making history entertaining, and that she did. She came up with all sorts of crazy projects and pop culture tie-ins to help us actually remember what we learned. These creative endeavors into history ended up taking up more of the semester than she had intended. So as the end of my junior year approached, we were only finishing up 1890. We had three weeks of school and the entire 20th century left to cover. Her solution: divide and conquer. We split up into eight groups (the 90s were deemed recent enough to not be covered). Each group was assigned a decade from the 10s to the 80s. Mrs. Wilson felt the best way to show what we learned was to create a video.
I did my research and convinced my parents to buy a Pinnacle video editing card and software. In my directorial debut, we made a silent film about the 1920s. We got a 100 on the project, of course. I also helped out my good buddy Jon on their project on the 70s entitled “Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll”. Cliché maybe, so let’s just say there was some sniffing of powdered sugar involved. It was quite amusing. I got an extra 5 points for that. Anyhow, I realized that film could be a great replacement for animation.
My senior year, I was appointed as a Student Council officer. Among the various projects I was a part of, I was tasked to assist the Senior Class officers with freshman orientation. Our idea evolved into a live stage parody of Dawson’s Creek with me as director. It had a musical number from Moulin Rouge and video opening credits very close to the real thing. Though I never took theatre in high school, this project allowed me the opportunity to collaborate with our theatre director, Mr. Freeman. Once the project was over, he asked about my college plans. I admitted that I wasn’t really sure where I wanted to go, but I had decided on film production. USC and NYU topped the list, but I hadn’t decided on any Texas schools. He suggested I check into the film program at UT. As many of you know, that’s where I ended up.
I loved film school, but as graduation approached, I knew I didn’t want to do the typical Hollywood thing. I was highly involved with the Wesley (United Methodist Campus Ministry) at UT. Through the Wesley I ended up making connections that landed me an internship at a local church. That led to meeting my good friend Matt at a mission camp which led to him thinking of me when a Media Ministry Director job opened up at his church. I took that job and moved to the suburbs of San Antonio once I graduated.
After a year at that church part-time and six months part-time at Apple, the opportunity for my current job opened up. I’ve been here three years now. The storytelling aspect of my vocation has diminished a bit over the years. I realize things change, but I can’t help but wonder. Where’s the story in my life? So now I turn to contemplating what it looks like to grow my inner storyteller outside of my vocation. I know God has some great things planned for my future. I’m still ADHD and sure don’t like waiting, but I think that’s what I’m supposed to be doing right now. I’m happy with my life, but part of me is always a bit restless—waiting for the next chapter in the story.