Teaching in Mazatlán 2017

In the summer of 2015 I packed my things away in my parents garage and headed off to New York City in pursuit of a job opportunity. A friend and I were going to bring his car from St. Augustine, FL back to NYC where we would part ways and I would begin a sweet new job. Looking back, the plan was too perfect to be true. 

I was lamenting my decision and burning through my cash in NYC while my good friend and business partner was teaching a filmmaking class with his wife in Mazatlán, México. They heard things weren't panning out with the job invited me to Mexico for a week of teaching. I bought my ticket that afternoon and in the morning I was on the first plane out of JFK to Mazatlán. 

I don't know why I went - I had always proclaimed myself to be a terrible teacher. If I was teaching addition I would have asked, "What is 4?" and the students would respond, "A number." "Wrong! 4 is 2+2. Now you know addition." But my students would not have known a damn thing about addition. 

At this time I was also feeling frustrations in my own career. I wanted to be the next great thing - the next Martin Scorsese - making big bold films while preserving the history and art of cinema. 

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"The World Needs

People That Love What They Do." 

This graffiti was one of several phrases written on walls around Mazatlán. The tag is a heart with the phrase "Acción Poética Mazatlán", a movement that started in 1996 Monterray, México. The only rules of the group are not to paint political or religious slogans, and keep a loving tone. This one hit me at the right time. 

I often described what I did as play make-believe with cameras. But somewhere along the way I forgot how to play. I fell out of love with what I was doing. I discovered the rules, followed them, and thought that was my guide to success. 

The greatest part of teaching is when somebody asks, "But, why?" I never questioned why I had to do anything, I just knew, "do this and that will happen." I never looked at the rules and decided how I would interpret them; never asked the rules, "Yeah, why do I have to do it that way?" My creativity was gone. How could I get people excited about creativity if I had none to share? 

When a student asked, "Why?" I began asking the rule too, "Yeah, why do we do that?" So we experimented! We tried doing it the way the rules said not to. Most of it was terrible, but sometimes we struck some gold as well; we even made a film about waking up and getting coffee that was quite hilarious. I loved it so much I stayed for a month and helped make more films. 

This year marked my 3rd year returning with Brian and his wife Anni to teach filmmaking in Mazatlán. It is by far one of my favourite weeks in the year. This year was an incredible gift. Everyone came with curious minds, playful personalities, and an innate desire to improve the world through visual storytelling. What a great feeling it is to help them on their journey and allow them to guide my own story.