So ... What's Your Story?
One of my most enjoyable responsibilities in the reality TV industry was the free reign to discover interesting people with fascinating stories to tell. My job was to identify, recruit, and empower undiscovered storytellers to tell their stories and unite global audiences on cable networks like Discovery, TLC, or History. Stories come from anywhere. Sometimes they smack you in the face out of nowhere. Other times you gotta consciously open the blinds to let the sunshine in.
My first attempt at nonfiction storytelling came back in 2011 (it feels so long ago) as a film student for a classroom assignment. My task was to interview an interesting individual and cut together a monologue with an emotional storyline. These early experience helped influence the kinds of dramatic, personal stories I want to share with the world.
I ended up interviewing two different individuals:
Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi
Dr. Siddiqi is the religious leader to thousands of Muslims in Southern California at the Islamic Society of Orange County in Garden Grove. On September 14, 2001 -- at the invitation of President George W. Bush -- Dr. Siddiqi spoke at the National Cathedral to help mourn the deaths of the 9/11 terrorist attack. I figured he might have a story to tell and wanted to gain his perspective at being Muslim in America in the days following the collapse of the Twin Towers.
Ms. Violette Bender
A kindergarten teacher of 33 years (2011). One of those unsung heroes, pure at heart, motivated by the service of others. I'd called up the local elementary school, curious to meet the teacher with the longest tenure. That teacher was Ms. Bender. My goal was to find out what powered her to return to the classroom year after year with unwavering enthusiasm and a deep personal connection to her students.
My interest in telling impactful human-interest stories that add value to the world has continued since these early lessons in 2011. Here's a brief glimpse of a more recent project I was developing in late 2017: