Stephen Dixon The Factory Digital Filmmaking Program Graduate
The Factory Digital Filmmaking Program Graduate
Stephen Dixon grew up in an area close to Douglas Education Center. His friends in high school all talked about the Savini Program, so when Stephen graduated from high school where he took many AV classes it was only fitting that with his growing interest in film he would attend DEC. But, life has a way of changing plans and at the time of making such a decision, Stephen opted for collecting work experience in the construction business. When one of his AV instructors passed away a few years after he graduated high school it was at her candle light vigil that he decided he was going to go back to school and study film and DEC was his top choice.
Stephen entered The Factory Digital Filmmaking Program in January 2011. During his time at DEC, he formed great memories of his experience during the learning process and with instructors leading the way. One of Stephen’s most vivid memories came while working on the Veterans Legacy Project. “We were on such a deadline. I was buried in the editing booth or the sound room for three whole weeks and had to use the showers in the make-up room to get cleaned up!”, Stephen explained. When the project was completed, Stephen was so proud to have been a part of it stating, “Just getting the opportunity to watch footage was worth all the late nights because it was so amazing to hear all the stories of the soldiers who fought as early as WWI.”
He also enjoyed working on various student shorts on the green screen because it was fun to see his friends ideas come to life. “I was also able to use my construction background to put up old film reels on the bottom floor of the digital film building. That helped create the vibe of a film studio which was cool.”
Stephen’s time at DEC was also influenced by many instructors. Stephen remembers one of his first days at DEC striking up a relationship with Robert Tinnell (lead instructor of “The Factory”). “Bob told me that I reminded him a lot of himself at my age. That was the start of a great relationship,” Stephen recalls. He also has lasting impressions of a particular guest speaker and instructor, Kelley Baker. “He was a big time sound guy who has worked on many Gus Van Sant movies. Since I knew the area better than any of my fellow classmates, I offered to pick Kelley up from the airport.” On their way back to DEC, Kelley and Stephen got to talking not just about film but about life. “I found Kelley’s lecture to the students to be very insightful. He taught us that no matter what bad techniques you have (i.e. bad camera or bad lighting) viewers will always forgive those mistakes but never will they forgive bad sound. That is a lesson I will never forget.” Stephen still speaks with Kelley from time to time. He is very proud of the friendships he has made and enjoys helping Bob and Dorian Cleavenger, the Lead Instructor for Allan and Wilson’s Digital Illustration Program, on projects. Stephen states, “I feel as if I am giving back to the people who gave me so much.”
Today, Stephen works freelance. He believes it is kind of hard to work on actual big film projects because of the way the tax credits are set up here in PA. However, working with companies like NPV, which he does very frequently, helps subsidize those costs. He says working with NPV is just wonderful. They create such a wonderful work environment. He also works with another company called Kingfish Worldwide which is located in Uniontown, PA. He works a lot with that company on different projects that they do for the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and Lady Luck Casino. Lots of shoots that he has worked on with them involve filming event footage that has included some of the biggest names in the music business such as Maroon 5, Mariah Carey, and Train. In a few weeks he is going to be a part of a crew with Kingfish Worldwide that is going to be shooting behind the scenes footage for a very popular ABC television show that is going into their season finale; however the show has to stay a surprise he says. Going back to NPV Productions he says that working with them is a very different experience because he works on a lot of training video packages. He worked on a group of training videos that were actually filmed right here at DEC and featured some of the students. The videos are being used to help teach autistic children how to do with social situations that they find uncomfortable. He also worked on projects for the Autism Society of Pittsburgh that were filmed at the Pittsburgh International Airport. The focus of that project was: how to help autistic children through their experience in the airport, such as going through security checkpoints and dealing with crowds. The videos that he helped produce were also used by Delta Airlines in order to help train their staff on how to accommodate and treat autistic children on their flights. He found this particular project to be very rewarding because he has a cousin that is autistic and knowing that he did something that benefits his cousin is heartwarming (his cousin has watched the videos and they have helped his family travel better).
As for future plans, he is hoping to be out in LA more. At the beginning of the year he went out there to assist on a short film entitled “The Third Experience.” “It was an amazing experience because it was the first time that I have ever flown out to the West Coast. It’s a very different atmosphere out there. I am used to a much faster paced environment and in LA everything is so much more laid back and a “take your time” kind of pace,” Stephen explains. He admits that he enjoys that type of atmosphere but Pittsburgh and its surrounding areas will always be home. He wants to be able to travel to many different locations but keep Pittsburgh as his home base.
Stephen is always interested in finding more work and improving his talents along the way. With the ever-changing world of technology, Stephen finds that his learning never stops which “is the best feeling because you know it means that you’re pushing forward and continuing to educate yourself.” This is a wonderful outlook and should prove to lead Stephen down the path of more success. “Be proud of what you’re working on and give it everything you got because the timing between projects may be awhile. Make your current project your masterpiece until your next one.” These are words of wisdom from someone that has been in the industry since graduating from DEC in 2012.