Digital Cinema Student is the Definition of Passion and Perseverance
Born and raised in Southern California, Maxwell James always envisioned he would graduate high school and “go off to a four-year university and live on campus just like in the movies.” But after struggling with severe depression and anxiety during high school, Maxwell missed a lot of their junior year, and the chance to apply to a variety of colleges. While attending Mt. SAC Community College, he had a life-changing revelation and later received a well-timed email from FIDM — both of which altered the course of Maxwell’s life. After earning an A.A. in Digital Media from FIDM in 2019, he continued his studies in Digital Cinema, and will earn a B.A. this fall. We caught up with Maxwell, who is working as an editor for fashion stylist William Graper, to learn more about their inspiring FIDM story.
What was your path to FIDM like? My English teacher convinced me to at least go to community college while I figured out what I wanted to do. So I swam for Mt. SAC in Walnut, California. After swimming for the women's team for almost an entire season, I made a self-discovery and came out as a trans man. This was obviously a very big deal and I decided to take a year off from school to focus on myself. That year turned into two years and I quickly realized I was becoming complacent in my job, but I wasn't fulfilling my life's purpose. Around this time, I received an email from FIDM saying they had extended their transfer deadline, so at around one in the morning one night, I decided to apply to FIDM on a whim. I met with an advisor and we figured out that Digital Media was the best course for me and within that same year I started at FIDM in the AA program.
How did you become interested in Digital Media/Digital Cinema? In high school I went through a very dark depression and watching movies was honestly what saved my life. Then my senior year I decided to take a film class and I fell in love with it. We had an assignment where we had to make a silent film. I went all out. I spent hours cutting out cardboard "set pieces" and painting them to use as props for this film. In that class, as well as with my own experience, I realized that movies truly have the power to change the world and I wanted to be a part of that. I want to help tell the stories of those whose voices aren't so often heard. I want to be the representation that I wish I had had when I was younger.
Tell us about your new role as an editor for William Graper: I met William through FIDM Productions. He was searching for an editor and my advisor felt that we would be a great pair. I have been working very closely with William on a pitch deck for a TV show. I've been working with him since January of this year and while I can admit that I was definitely nervous at first, we have been able to work collaboratively and it has been so refreshing to be in a professional setting where my opinions are valued and validated. This whole process has been extremely rewarding and I couldn't have asked for a better person to work for.
What are you enjoying most about this position and why? I have really enjoyed the entire process of building a pitch deck from scratch. It is so cool to see where we started versus where we ended. The original version of the pitch deck is way different compared to version four, and even more different by the final version. I think it's just really solidified to me that trusting the process is vital to every creative art form.
How did FIDM help prepare you for your career? FIDM taught me how to manage my time. While going to school at FIDM, I was working full-time. At one point in my school career, I was working three jobs. But deadlines are important, so I learned how to budget my time wisely, and even more importantly, I learned when it's okay to take a break. When it comes to the education I received, FIDM has prepared me for really any job in the film industry. Thanks to this school, I am equipped with the knowledge to make a film starting from pre-production all the way through to post thanks to the Digital Cinema program.
Any favorite FIDM lessons or memories? I've met some of my best friends at FIDM and people that I plan to work with for the rest of my life. For me, going to school was my escape, I was able to do what I want to do for the rest of my life. The homework wasn't always my favorite, but I was always happy to be on campus.
What are your ultimate career goals? I would love to be an award-winning director and screenwriter.
Anything else you'd like to share? There were definitely moments in my FIDM career that I didn't think I would get to this point, but I am proud of myself for my perseverance, and I wouldn't change my experience for the world.
Keep up with Maxwell on Instagram @maxwelljbudds and @maxwelljamesmedia.