There was something about Mary.
I would often watch re-runs of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” with my mother. From what I saw, Mary sat in her office talking to Murray while Ted occasionally reported the news and Lou walked around tossing off an insult or two. There were neither any real work done at WJM-TV, nor deadlines or ratings. Yet, somehow, at the age of six, I had a vague sense of my desire to be a television producer - I wanted to be Mary Richards.
And so began my quest to satisfy what felt like an innate love for film and writing - a journey that is still just beginning. My first attempt to satisfy my inner-Mary came at seven with my television debut as a Grouchkateer on “Sesame Street.” As the director instructed us to jump up and down and shake our heads, I whirled in circles, flailing my arms in blissfully ignorant rebellion. Between shots, I attempted to visit Oscar the Grouch and relentlessly banged on his can until Big Bird told me to stop. They, no doubt, thought I wasn’t ready for TV; I prefer to think that it wasn’t ready for me.
Next up: middle school, and my effort to revamp the home video. My cousin and I did not bring idle reminiscing to the small screen. Instead, we created quirky vignettes that only slightly exaggerated true stories of our painfully suburban family. There was the time, for instance, my brother threw the dog who couldn’t swim into the pool, or the time we spent nine hours assembling an exersaucer for a two-year-old, or when I tricked my aunt into thinking she won a million dollars with a fake scratch ticket.
When I got to high school, however, it all seemed like kid stuff. Oscar’s trash can? Silly family stories? I was an artiste. The workings of the camera and the art of the pen struck me intensely, as would a low angle shot of a mastermind villain for the viewer or an unexpected climax for the engrossed reader. A good narrative provides catharsis for the insightful writer and a camera lens provides a feast for weary eyes.
I produced two films junior year, “Umbrella,” a silent, black and white short film noir, and “Opposites Attract,” a bizarre romantic comedy. Both found me waking before dawn and taking the subway to that day’s location with carefully annotated scripts, filming schedules, and continuity notebooks in hand.
Amid days upon days of wacky film jokes and countless “lights-camera-action,” we would stop to make an edit or take a coffee break. Working with actors from the Screen Actors Guild was no stroll down “Sesame Street.”
It took more than enough takes to recognize the relationship that bonds my mini-Sony DV with my flimsy tripod, that fuses Final Cut Pro with Avid DV Express, and that merges my beloved fixations of filming and writing. Things have come a long way from the time I sat in front of that TV wanting to be just like Mary to the present as I sit at my editing station in school or at my desk writing a scene at all hours of the night. Where will the next reel find me? I don’t know. But I’m sure of one thing: In some way, it will be something like Mary. -
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.