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Liberal Arts Graduates

Kevin Alexander

WHAT I DO NOW:

I am the Founder & President of Creative Control Films based here in Shreveport. Creative Control Films is a video & digital cinema production company specializing in online distribution. We produce corporate films, branded entertainment, web/TV/cinema promos, documentary short films, & other video projects for companies with an active social media presence and a niche market. We also produce a variety of other in-house films and web TV series which are also targeted to niche markets.

 

MY WORK/JOB CONSISTS OF:

I've been in professional video production for over 10 years. I started at KTAL in 2001 as a news videographer while I was also attending LSU-S full-time. A few years later I went to work at KTBS, also as a news videographer. In that time my main responsibility was shooting news stories with reporters and operating microwave and satellite trucks for live broadcasting. I covered many national stories for local news including the 2003 Columbia Shuttle Disaster, numerous hurricanes, the 2007 BCS National Championship Game, and even witnessed the catastrophic damage in New Orleans less than one week after Hurricane Katrina. Although it was very tough working such a demanding job and going to school full-time it was a great experience. I was able to get real-world experience which complemented what I was learning at school. (Although I remember at least one time when I was in the middle of a test and was called in to work to cover a hurricane. I didn't do so well on that test!) I left the news business in 2008 to work for a marketing company in town, but mainly to have time to work on my own independent video/film projects. Last year I formed my company, Creative Control Films, and two months ago was able to start working on it full-time.

 

HOW I GOT TO LSUS (OR WHY I CHOSE LSUS):

I am connected to this community. I was born and raised here. I went to C.E. Byrd High School, where I had my first experiences in video production. All of my family and my closest friends are here. Since I was interested in video/film production I used to dream about going to film school in California. But I simply didn't want to leave home. I love Shreveport because it's not just a city... It's my home. My first year of college I did move away, but I just didn't enjoy being away from home. So I came back here and enrolled in LSU-S where I was closer to my family and friends.

 

FOND MEMORIES OF LSUS:

Since I was working in the TV news business, which is an extremely hectic lifestyle, I didn't have much time to engage in campus life. But I saw many of my colleagues, even some of my competitors, on campus during classes. Many of us were working in the business while also finishing school. I have to confess that we stuck together quite a bit, simply because there was a shared experience of knowing what it was like to work in such a demanding, stressful, but extremely rewarding industry. Most of our time away from school consisted of the extreme pressure of working in the field or behind the scenes on live TV. So it was quite refreshing to have even a few minutes before class we had to just talk with each other.

 

LSUS FACULTY WHO HELPED ME:

I had great professors in the Mass Communication department, but my favorite class of my entire college career was Introduction to Philosophy with Dr. Vassar. Even after I graduated, that class had a tremendous impact on my life. Over time I learned what it meant to think deeply, and truly reflect on the deep questions of life. It inspired me pursue my own studies. In fact, I probably read more after graduating college than I did in college itself! You see, I learned that education really is a lifelong process. Many people quote that as a cliché, but I learned to appreciate that deep, down in my heart. For me, education moved beyond memorizing information and passing tests. It became a lifelong pursuit to acquire knowledge and better myself. Over time I developed a keen interest in Christian theology, and went on to pursue a Master of Arts in Theological Studies. When people ask me why I pursued the degree I tell them that I just wanted to learn - not just to get a degree and advance my career - but to truly learn. Pursuing a Master's wasn't just about learning information, it was about learning how to think. The approach to life I subsequently learned actually began back when I took that class with Dr. Vassar.

 

HOW LSUS HELPED ME SUCCEED:

I was working in TV news for most of my time in college. And since I'm from Shreveport, I found myself working with reporters and anchors I had grown up watching. Every day at work was a new experience seeing how the business was in the "real world". But then when I was at school taking Mass Comm classes, I was learning the theories behind what I experienced on a daily basis. It was a truly unique experience that many people may not have. I wasn't just working and going to school, I was working in the business I was studying. Therefore, there was a great balance between learning through experience at work, and learning the foundational principles and theories of the industry at school.

 

ADVICE TO COLLEGE-BOUND STUDENTS:

Well, I have quite a few suggestions that I have learned from experience. First, if you're from this area ask yourself if you really want to move away from home. Some people do, and they have great experiences. But I know many people, myself included, who moved away and simply didn't enjoy it as much as others did. Whether you move away or stay at home, the primary determining factor in the quality of your education is yourself. You are the one who will choose to learn, and ultimately I believe that's more important than all external factors in your education. Also... Learn! Don't simply memorize information to pass tests. Take the opportunity to devote your time to study. You'll never have a season in your life quite like college. It's obviously important to make good memories in these years, but it's equally important to take advantage of the opportunity you have to get a solid education.

 

ADVICE TO SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO ENTER MY FIELD:

Well, I'm going to approach this from a few angles. Although now I primarily work in video production, my job as a news videographer was really a position in the journalism industry. So, to anyone who wants to go into journalism: Get a well-rounded liberal arts degree. One day you will sit in a city council meeting and if you don't know how government works then you just can't report on the story effectively. Or perhaps you will have to report on the economy, but you never took an economics class and don't really understand how the system works. Well, how can you tell others what you don't know? You absolutely need to major in Mass Communication, but when you get a chance to take electives choose as many subjects as you can, because one day you'll need to have a lot of knowledge about a wide variety of fields. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly... While working as a news videographer I realized that my typical day was often someone's worst day. I have covered more tragic stories than I can remember. Many of them stick with me, even today. Realize that you will see things you never imagined you would see, and you will likely never forget them. There will be days that are more stressful, more chaotic, and more consequential than you can possibly imagine. You will witness unspeakable tragedies on a daily basis, and you must find a way to retain your composure while retaining your humanity. There is a tendency in any career to become so focused on what you are doing that you get tunnel vision. But in journalism that will get you so distracted you will miss the real story, and you might end up unintentionally being extremely insensitive towards someone who is going through a tragedy.

 

TO THOSE WHO MIGHT BE CONSIDERING A CAREER IN VIDEO PRODUCTION:

The news business is a great way to get started. You will produce content on a daily basis and will learn how to work on a deadline. Actually, given enough time you won't be able to operate without a deadline, and will learn to love the pressure. You will always need to improve your technical skills, even after college. But perhaps the most misunderstood concept I've seen over the last few years is related to the incredible advances in video camera technology in recent years. Many inexperienced videographers and filmmakers seem to think, "I simply must have that camera!" Why? Because it's the latest fad. Now, I love technology. I have quite a few cameras myself. But ultimately it's more important to focus on what you can do with the technology you have access to rather than the technology itself. It's more important to learn the principles of filmmaking than focus too much on the bells and whistles of the latest gear. I've been in video production for over 10 years and I'm constantly learning new things.

 

TIPS ON CHOOSING A MAJOR OR CAREER:

One of my favorite quotes is from Albert Einstein: "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." The most important thing about choosing your direction in life is to simply search for what you love to do, what you're good at, and simply do it. Whatever direction you ultimately choose in life has to be matched to what you love and what you're good at. Anything else just leads to misery.

 

MY TOUGHEST PROFESSIONAL CHALLENGE:

There are many stories that I covered that just stay with me. I still think about them to this day. Seven years ago on one hot, muggy Tuesday afternoon in New Orleans, I stood on the steps facing Jackson Square. The cathedral was right in front of me. But it wasn't business as usual in the French Quarter. I took out my camera and snapped a quick photo of an experience I will never, never forget. There were no cars on the road. There were no people... anywhere. In a place that was normally crowded and busy any time of the day, the only motion at all was from a Louisiana State Trooper tank driving down the road. The SWAT team was on patrol. Covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was literally the experience of a lifetime. I had covered a few national stories before, but nothing like that. I had seen extensive storm damage before, but nothing like that. I had encountered tragic stories of loss before, but nothing like that.  It's indicative of the emotional and psychological aspects of working in journalism, things you never really think about when you choose to into the business. And quite honestly, this story and many others are still with me, like they happened just yesterday.

 

MY TOUGHEST PERSONAL CHALLENGE:

When I left the news business about five years ago it was quite difficult to adjust to "normal" life. I spent seven years in the news business, and in that time I had a lifetime of experiences. Some were incredibly positive, but others... I'm an expressive person, but I just can't describe some of those experiences. I think I had grown so accustomed to tragic situations that I had grown incredibly numb. You can only cover so many shootings, stabbings, house fires, car accidents, and other such tragedies before it just wears you down. Many people last a lifetime in the news business. I needed a break. But through it all I have learned that no matter hard how things get, be compassionate and sensitive, because someone else has it worse. And part of life is learning how to push past your own pain to help someone who really needs you.

 

SUCCESSES IN MY LIFE:

In the last few years I have had some amazing experiences traveling across the world. I shot a short documentary on-location in Siberia in the middle of winter. There are no words to describe how cold it gets there! My wife and I traveled to Ireland to shoot some web videos for her website, www.glutenfreeworld.tv, about living with Celiac disease and maintaining a gluten-free lifestyle. We've had some other amazing experiences traveling and shooting videos across the world.

This last year, however, has been one incredible experience. One project in particular has dramatically changed my life, and started me on this path of pursuing my dream full-time. You see, I have a rare genetic condition called Phenylketonuria (PKU). PKU is caused by a genetic mutation which leads to an inability to process the amino acid phenylalanine. If undiagnosed at birth this disease causes severe developmental impairment and lifelong institutionalization. But thanks to newborn screening programs this disease is detected and diagnosed at birth. The only known treatment is lifelong adherence to a strict low-protein diet. Last year I produced a short documentary called "My PKU Life" and released it on YouTube. It has received over 12,000 views since last year.

 

Since releasing that film I have become an international advocate for PKU and newborn screening. Most importantly, I have connected with many others across the world affected by this disease. That's quite incredible considering there are only 50,000 known cases of PKU in the world. Also, it has opened up many incredible opportunities for me and my new company. I'm currently a correspondent for Patient Power, a health website that produces stories on a wide variety of health issues. I am the host of their PKU programming. I was also the keynote speaker at the 2012 PerkinElmer Annual Newborn Screening Symposium in Naantali, Finland. In December I'm speaking at a newborn screening symposium in Curitiba, Brazil. I have partnered with PerkinElmer (an environmental and human health corporation which manufactures newborn screening testing machines), the Association of Public Health Laboratories, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on an upcoming campaign in 2013 celebrating 50 years of newborn screening in the US. I'm a member of the International Society for Neonatal Screening and I also serve on the National Advisory Committee for Genetic Alliance, a non-profit organization which raises awareness of the importance of newborn screening. In addition to this advocacy work I have also gained some national and international clients, including one in Boston which manufactures special low protein food and medication for those with PKU.

 

I'VE LEARNED THIS FROM LIFE:

"No man is an island, entire of itself." ~ John Donne | Quite simply, we were made to be individuals living in a community. There is a difference between the healthy concept of individuality and the unhealthy habit of becoming a hermit. I think many times people have negative experiences in life and decide to go at it alone. That sounds nice and heroic, but it just doesn't work. We were made to live in relationships with others; anything less than that really isn't life.

 

WHAT I'D BE DOING IF I HAD ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD:

I'm at a unique stage in life where I can honestly say I'm doing what I really want to do. I've started a new company, and discovering what it means to be an entrepreneur. I'm dreaming and making plans for the future. But most importantly, and definitely most rewardingly, I am sharing my story of living with a rare disease with the world. Every day I answer emails or Facebook messages from people from all over the world. Our community is quite small, and many people aren't really connected with others with this disease. So any connection we have with someone else affected by this disease is meaningful. Just today I spoke with a mother in Boston, a college student born in China, a mother in Russia, & a woman from Australia. As a journalist I was trained to tell other people's stories, not my own. But when I opened up and told my own unique story it turned into the most meaningful work I've ever done. It's an incredible feeling to know people appreciate your creative work, but it is absolutely amazing when they tell you it has tremendously touched their lives. It's quite amazing, actually.