I feel that there is some context I need to get into before I fully explain how TENT impacted my life.
Cut back to 2017 sitting at my first cinematography class dreading having to come up with my own idea to shoot. I had never had any sort of leading personality nor had I been particularly assertive before. I had always been the kind of person that sits quietly in doing all the work rather than pushing people to do their part of the group work. I had never raised my hand even when I knew I was right, just in case I wasn’t.
Being in film the first couple of years, I realized I was getting run over constantly because of my lack of assertiveness. It was not because people were inherently mean but more so because the film business encourages aggressiveness and immediate action, there is not a lot of room for hesitation.
I was anxious about applying to this job, especially when I saw that one of the requirements was a letter of recommendation from a professor. I felt like I had not done anything in class that would make my professor write a letter where they would be talking about me in a way that would make me stand out. Despite my hesitation and quite frankly fear of asking my professor to be a reference, I decided to get over it and ask: this was one of the first times in which I remember actively telling myself to get over it and deciding that the possibility of something good happening trumped the fear I was feeling at the moment. To my surprise, my professor not only said “yes,” but he also said he would gladly do it and mentioned that my work for that school year had been excellent. Despite it being a small step, it still felt like it was heading into the right direction.
Next I had an interview, as usual, after it I felt very discouraged and started going over all the things I should’ve done differently. To my surprise a week and a half later, I unlocked my phone to find a congratulatory email from Professor McFarlane, the Program Director, welcoming me abroad and listing some of the next steps. At first, I felt a little bit of imposters syndrome, feeling as if someone would eventually realize that I was just a kid who likes cameras, but throughout the project I was able to explore my skills and have the opportunity to really appreciate what I could do and take on new challenges, such as editing, which I had never done outside of school before.
There was a sense of empowerment that came with being paid to do what I love that boosted my confidence, gave me some security in myself, and made me trust myself more. Eventually the imposter syndrome started to fade away as I started trusting myself more, and I realized that I approached challenges and difficult tasks as a learning experience rather than jumping into the mentality that if I couldn’t perform the task perfectly then I was an automatic failure. I realized that my approach to difficult situations had transformed from a paralyzing fear to a new opportunity to learn and grow.
Fast forward to 3rd year, which is by the way one of the busiest years for the BFTV program, and I could tell that my newly obtained confidence had had been carried forward. I realized that my previous paralysis in terms of coming up with ideas to shoot, originated from an emerging appreciation of storytelling. I challenged myself to secure major roles in my classmate’s projects, where I could have creative input. That is when I truly saw character development within myself. I had more authority and really voiced my opinion when it came to the look of the film or the types of shots we wanted. I also realized that expressing my thoughts, opinions, and concerns was not as daunting as it seemed before: whatever disagreements there might have been can easily be sorted out through talking it out with directors and producers.
Another aspect which I found interesting was that not only was I seeing the effects of TENT related confidence in an academic setting but also in my social life. Before I was shy and quiet. While I still am a fairly introverted person, I have an easier time opening up, being myself, and, in some cases, being the first person to initiate conversation. Before I had a not speak until spoken to mentality but thanks to me being more self-assured, I don’t find it as scary. In fact, I very much enjoy the conversations and interactions I’ve had with people I would’ve otherwise never talked to.
I was able to strengthen my skills thanks to the TENT project. I find that the biggest change was how it allowed me to trust myself more and believe in myself more. This confidence carried out with me to the beginning of my 3rd year at Sheridan. I had enough courage to make my voice heard and show people that I was up to the task. No long will I fade into the background and hope that no one notices me. I have the skills and confidence to voice my opinions and take charge!