Passion is a unique aspect of our individual humanity. It’s wired into the fiber of our beings in special and different ways, and it’s often the driving force in major life decisions—like our work and hobby choices. It can keep us persevering through insurmountable odds or it can drive us to despair.
My name is Silas Firth and I’m a 22-year-old filmmaker in Anchor Point, Alaska. Growing up in Alaska shaped me into a lover of the outdoors: hunting, fishing, hiking, and the simple joy of living in the extreme beauty that surrounds us every day. Like most everyone, stories, and specifically movies, were also an inspirational part of my youth.
As a young teenager diving into photography, it wasn’t long before I had my eye on making movies. Behind-the-scenes featurettes always intrigued me and I can remember working with my first 3-megapixel digital camera and my scissors-and-glue version of Photoshop trying to create a movie poster for Tolkien’s book, The Hobbit. Scenes would play through my head as I read, and I dreamed of one day making the film. Unfortunately, that opportunity was taken by others in recent years, but the excitement I felt while making that poster never left. The 3-megapixel gift from my grandmother was upgraded to a 12-megapixel Kodak point-and-shoot that even had a video setting! I dabbled briefly in stop motion and shot short videos with my brothers (which were ‘expertly’ edited with default settings in Windows Movie Maker), and soon I started to be the kid in the back of the room with a camera, taping lectures and events.
Initially I thought of filming as a hobby. I just enjoyed doing it, and as a young kid, I wasn’t too concerned about the future or what I was going to do with my life. But then in 2010 I remember going to see the newly-released Narnia film, Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Looking back, no, it’s not the greatest film ever made, but it had its moments and managed to achieve some of that heart-soaring magical emotion in a teenage boy. I remember walking out of the theater that day with the realization that people actually do make movies. I decided that’s what I wanted to do with my life.
It’s been a long road since that day—years of participating in online forums pretending to know what I was doing, occasionally running a camera at events or shooting a little video, and practicing my photography. Living in Alaska is a source of endless opportunity, but there just aren’t many people here, making film collaboration and motivation a little tough. But I still had a burning passion to make movies. In 2013, I found out about the 168 Film Project in L.A., called a couple friends and in 168 hours in Fairbanks, Alaska, we made a movie. It was hard work, it was embarrassing, and I think I’ve only watched it maybe twice after it was done, but we made a movie.
At that point, I began to get more serious, and in 2015, quit my day job to launch a video production company, Standing Tide Productions. With my company I specialized in event and wedding videography, while hoping to grow it as an independent film studio.
The next major step in my dream to make movies was a project that began almost 4 years ago. My mind thinks very visually a lot of the time, and I was struck with the image of a homeless boy in a dark alley holding a yellow rubber duck. That thought developed into a short coming-of-age story about childhood innocence titled, Rubber Ducky.
I had been making some connections in film for several years, and in the fall of 2015, began making phone calls and sending e-mails, assembling a crew to bring the Rubber Ducky project to life. I don’t know why they answered my calls or what they were thinking, but a team came together that was much more talented than me. In June of 2016, we shot the film in 6 days in the Anchorage/Mat-Su area. During the countless hours of preparation leading up to the production, I’d never felt so terrified and excited in my life. But principal photography went amazingly well, and I can only attribute that to a lot of answered prayers and an amazing crew and cast. Rubber Ducky premiered on September 30th at the Homer Theatre in Homer, Alaska, and we’re currently entering it into the film festival circuit to see where it goes next. You can watch our 16-minute film on rubberduckymovie.com.
As with any good film, Rubber Ducky was a passion project, attempting to capture not just what I love about cinema (visuals, characters and imagery), but also themes of family and child-like faith that I think are valuable reminders in our broken culture. I’m proud of what our team accomplished and I hope it is a stepping stone for bigger projects in the future. I’ve learned and grown a lot over the past year, and one of the biggest things I’m realizing is just how important working with others is. My goal isn’t an Oscar, money or fame, but rather for my films to affect other people. I want a young boy in a theater to be inspired to work hard at doing something with his life. I want a father and mother to decide to make the hard and sacrificial choices that will impact their children for eternity. I want my cast and crew to leave the set encouraged and uplifted, to be stronger and better in their own lives. We human beings are relational creatures, and you’ll never make it far if you don’t invest yourself in others, encouraging and trusting them, and also surrounding yourself with people who are better than you.
There is no easy path to success or good art. Passion is a blessing and a gift—different for every individual. You’re not born good at whatever that gift is, or at least I wasn’t. Talent isn’t dropped from the sky like a meteor, but rather is planted by the Master as a seed, is nurtured and grown by those around you and ultimately it is your choice whether to pursue and harvest, or let it be. It takes time. Use your passions to make it through hard times, when it seems like something’s impossible or when you’re scared sick of the future. And use your talents, not for fame or money, but to make the world a better place.
By Silas Firth