Mar 09, 2020

How One High School Class Changed the Trajectory of a Young Filmmaker’s Life

By Lori Draz and Victoria Campbell Pater

Victoria Campbell Pater

Welcome to Teen Scene. Each month our young authors write, in their own voice, stories that will educate and inform fellow students and parents. If you are a teen who would like to write your story, contact The Journal. We’ll help you polish it up, so don’t worry, let’s just get to sharing.

This month’s author is 18-year-old Victoria Campbell Pater, a senior at Middletown High School and a student of the 2018 Educator of the Year Christopher Corey, as named by the Garden State Film Festival (GSFF). For the past 18 years, the GSFF has offered a vital platform to youth and students, showcasing the works of many emerging filmmakers. One such voice is Victoria whose student films like “Sock Monster” and “Sweet-ish Fish” have won numerous awards. Victoria’s films, “Till Death Do Us Part,” “Garbage Friends” and “What’s Your Favorite Part of Life?” are screening at the Jersey Shore Arts Center as part of the GSFF on Sunday, March 29 from 10 am to 12:30 pm. Through film, Victoria has found her way to overcome social anxiety and find her own deeper personal value. Here is Victoria’s story:

My love for film has been quite a journey. On the first day of freshman year, my brother and I realized we had a class together and that just wouldn’t do. The only classes left that I could transfer to were economics or TV/film production. I made the serendipitous choice to study film, and that decision has changed my life.

Before this class, I was an anxious, unsure and quiet kid. I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin. Perhaps part of my anxiety may have come from being raised as an Army kid with little control over my life. I feared making friends only to lose them when we were uprooted again. It made me hesitant to dive into new things. That all changed when I became a filmmaker.

Christopher Corey and Victoria Campbell Pater

Film allowed me to express myself through projects that I developed and managed while building my confidence in the art. I could take charge of something in my life which allowed me to channel the things that were giving me anxiety. As I developed as an artist and grew with each project, I became more confident and balanced, not only with my work, but with myself.

Now my life is going to be changing once again when I go onto college. I feel as if I had finally found my place here. I’ve become a part of my community, I’ve made friends, I’ve found my calling, and I’ve established a home. Leaving all these things and giving up control is something I’ve done before. So why is this different?

I am determined to major in media and communications in college to perfect my craft for a future career in film. But it’s a scary thought. I and everyone I know always imagined I would have a career in theater. I didn’t want to fall short of those expectations, but I’ve seen what I can do in film and I am sure that this is what I want. So what happened? Maybe, it wasn’t my calling that changed. It was me.

Without film, it’s scary to imagine who I would be today. Theater is demanding and you really have to love it to pursue it. When I was focusing on theater, I wasn’t in a healthy mind space. For me, film taught me that you don’t have to look or act a certain way to be successful.

While I was in theater, I assumed I had to be perfect in every way, especially physically. So I changed in ways that I am not proud of. I let other people dictate how I was going to live my life. When I created films, all my insecurities and doubts faded away. For me, I think that filmmaking encompasses almost every aspect of life. It allowed me to explore creative endeavors and present them to the world. The films I have created encompass elements of dance, animation, stop motion, acting and poetry. So, in a way, I’ve been able to grow in these disciplines as well. I realized that as long as you stay true to yourself, you can succeed to the highest degree possible.

As I think about moving to college, I am less scared because I am following my own path. Never before have I trusted myself enough to make such a big decision based on my own aspirations and ambitions. But I’m a different person now. I’m someone who is honest and respectful toward her mind and body, thanks to my film class. If you take anything away from my story, let it be this: you are beautiful no matter what the world expects of you. Stay true to yourself and you will never feel lost. Stay on your path and fight for your future even if no one else will. You are the creator of your own destiny. Following these rules, I know I am one step closer to where I want to be: a leader in the industry. What began as a begrudging afterthought of a class has become my future as a professional woman.