F Your Scores

I’m pretty much an open book yet I don’t think I’ve ever actually discussed this. Growing up I was educated in the public school system of Newberry County. I attended Little Mountain Elementary, Mid-Carolina Middle and then Mid-Carolina High School. I must say I had a pretty good childhood.

But I struggled with learning how to learn.

Over the span of my time in middle school I was apart of program that helped kids with learning disabilities. In the morning I would check in. They would then make sure that my homework was complete and that I was prepared for the day ahead, quizzing me for spelling words, or prepping me for my pre-algebra quizzes.

You all get the gist.

Now what exactly gages how to determine if one has a learning disability? In my case it just so happened that it stemmed from having lower than average standardized test scores. In fact according to my standardized test scores I would NEVER graduate from high school let alone go to college.

And indeed that was told to my mother.

“YOUR SON WILL NEVER GRADUATE FROM HIGH SCHOOL WITH ALL HIS LEARNING DISABILITIES!”

This was simply not an option! I would graduate from high school. Then I would go on to college.

And that’s what I did.

I graduated from high school. I then graduated from the University of South Carolina. Oh and lets not forget I graduated with a 3.6 and on the Deans List.

My mom never gave up on my success. When I was in elementary school she’d come to my class before heading to work just to grade my test. She had several aunts and cousins to help tutor me over summer breaks. She even enlisted several teachers to help after school.

Why? Because her child would not end up some statistic based on a standardized test!

Cut to: August of last year. I’m at a funeral sitting in a small room with the family avoiding the larger crowds. We’re all trying to keep it together as much as possible and to distract ourselves.

My cousin and I begin chatting about her daughter. “My daughter has a lot of learning disabilities but you’d never know it just from talking to her.”

“Wait… Ok. I’m going to bank on the fact she doesn’t actually have a learning disability. She just learns differently. I am the same way. They told my mom I would never graduate from high school.” Holding up my hand showing off my college ring. “And guess what, they can suck on this beauty!”

We as adults must refuse to stand for standardize test or “for profit” companies determining what our standards for America’s education system. We also need to make arts a key curriculum as if it’s a Language Arts or Mathematics course.

Friends who do work in the education system please feel free to message me here or privately to tell me what I can do to help get the word out! This needs to be our top priority.

Closing I want to thank those who helped during those earlier days and most importantly thank my mom for never giving up. I guess I get my stubbornness from you.

 

 

#FYOURSCORES

 

Two Films, Two Screenings, One Month

Exciting news,

This Friday, October 14th my film, Parental Guidance Suggested, will premiere at the 2nd Act Film Festival brought to you by The Jasper Project. The film is a comedy short about a newlywed couple whose lives are turned upside down after having a child. The film stars Morgan Monnig, Robert Zobel, and introduces you all to the very precious Rivers Gavia.

On Saturday, October 22nd my documentary film, Wood: A Family Affair will also screen in Town of Little Mountain SC, apart of the Movies in the Park series.

tolbert

For more information about the 2nd Act Film Festival please visit the link provided: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2605929

Danny and Matt

For more information about Little Mountain’s Movies in the Park series please visit link provided: https://www.facebook.com/events/1415526908754455

An Open Letter to Supporters of S. 1203 aka “Bathroom Bill”

Regardless of what side you are on with the issue of Senator Bright’s S. 1203 “Bathroom Bill”, I want you all to read this carefully and really challenge your belief system.

First: Why do we need a bathroom bill saying MEN have to use the MENS bathroom and WOMEN have to use the WOMENS bathroom? Have we ever had an issue with this before? I can’t recall and if so please educate me, I’d really love to know. To my knowledge we haven’t had this issue before, yet the transgender community has been around since the dawn of man. 

Ask yourself, have you or anybody you’ve known or loved ever encounter someone of the opposite sex in a public restroom? Odds are probably not. The argument Bright is making with this “BILL” is that he wants to protect the “WOMEN” and “CHILDREN”, however, did you know a transgender person is killed every 29 hours? Not to mention ladies do y’all not find this extremely misogynistic? I do. The women in my life can handle themselves. Heck I’ve even seen several kick doors down and beat the crap out of men.

What Sen. Bright has done is fed the public both suspicions and fears painting the transgender community as if they are perverts or criminals. What he’s also done is place this idea and notion into the heads of people who are actually perverts and criminals. Individuals who say, “OH NOW IF I DO THIS I HAVE AN ESCAPE GOAT.” He’s the one placing this negative energy into the universe. Not the transgender community.

Now why would he do this? Some say, he’s doing this to try and save his failing political career. – SC Chamber of Commerce president Ted Pitts stated this, not I. However, it’s my opinion that this is actually a deliberate attack stemming from Marriage Equality becoming legal nation wide. It’s also a way for Conservative Republican Representatives to try and regain control over the state. But guess what guys South Carolina is changing for the greater good! It’s becoming more progressive by the minute regardless on if you like it or not.

On another note that needs to be addressed:

I keep seeing comments about how sick and perverted being transgender is. I’ve seen comments calling this community mentally ill, an abomination, and my favorite a choice. Pretty much the same things homosexuals get called on a daily base. None of these are true and I want you to really ask yourself this, “Why would anyone choose to be so different? Why would anyone choose to lead a life of so much hardship, so much discrimination?” The answer is nobody would! It is not a choice. It’s the way we as humans are created. So I beg you all especially the people on my Facebook who are devoted Christians yet openly encourage discrimination of others who are different. This is not the way. Open your hearts. Show compassion. Love thy neighbor. And as Jesus said, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7
Just food for thought.

The Story of a Non-traditional Student

College is always an intimidating step in life. You are starting over for the first time, beginning the rest of your life. For many it’s the first time you’re off on your own. Your parents and the friends you’ve grown up with nowhere in sight. You’re on a campus with a bunch of fresh faces and the only thing being in common is your age. Now take age out of the equation. Try quitting your job and returning to school at 25 when a majority of your peers are still in their teens with fake IDs.

To be honest I never thought college would be for me, at least not a four-year university. When I graduated from my local technical college in the fall of 2009, I had no real plans to ever return. Why would I? I just wanted to work and make money, travel, and live. However, I quickly learned that an Associate in Arts wasn’t going to get me into a job doing exactly what I wanted to do. But then again, what did I want to do? I was still so unsure.

Before I knew it, I was working stacking lumber in a wood yard. And to make matters worse, it was in Newberry. I had become what I never thought imaginable, a loser, living at home, working a dead end job.

“This couldn’t be real could it?” – I would find myself asking day in and out.

Nothing was changing.

What I didn’t realize was things weren’t going to change until I MADE them change!

One night while doing the dishes and talking with my mother about all the chaos going on in my life she looked at me and said, “Quit your job. Go back to school. We’ll help you as much as we can.”

“I can do that?” I asked questioning everything.

“Yeah. Save up some money, quit, and go back to school.”

That night I went to bed thinking about how things were about to change; however, I prepared myself for the fact that they wouldn’t change right away. I had a few loose ends to tie up, plus I wanted to know exactly what I wanted to do when I returned to college.

The first thing on my list of ‘Making a New Me’ was ditch the idiot leech I had been with for two years. Sorry not sorry-we’re friends now and if you’re reading this, sorry but you were a leech! The second thing I needed to do was quit one of my two jobs. Oh did I not mention that before? Yeah at the time I was working two jobs. First a part time park job, which I had worked since 10th grade of high school and the second working at the wood processing plant full time. Now I didn’t leave the full time position but I did arrange my schedule so that I would be in the office four days a week. I also got a slight promotion working logistics as well as filling in on the floor. While you can take the guy out the park you can’t take the park out of the guy and because of this I began traveling to all 47 State Parks in South Carolina. Each park had some crazy thing to explore from lighthouses, castles, and beautiful mountain trails. Every weekend there was a new destination usually accompanied by my best friend, Carrie. Things were amazing. I was living this adventurous life, exploring new territories, trying new foods, and somewhere along the way I realized I was falling in love. No not with Carrie, with myself. It wasn’t something that I was completely aware of either; however, one weekend when Carrie couldn’t travel with me I decided to go on my own and for the first time in my 23 years of existence I actually enjoyed being alone.

I began documenting my travels. Taking video and photographs while I was on the road and then when I returned home, I would spend hours and days editing my adventure together. Then I created the avenue in which I would share. Enter, Operation Adventure, a production company and series dedicated to the every day adventurpreneur. Here I released my adventures, and my inspirations. I was creating a dialogue and maintaining it, not only with my friends, but also with people who had similar interest.

There for a while I wasn’t sure if I actually wanted to leave my job. I was living the life I had always dreamed. I was traveling, I was telling stories, so what if I had to make four day sacrifices each week. Things were going better then they had ever gone before.

The universe, however, has a funny way of telling you it’s time to shake things up. For me it came in watching a show, which shot about four hours away. It had run for eight years and for those eight years, I massively hated on the show. (Yes I know, I know.) After a long week and coming down with a bad cold I decided not to embark on my weekend ritual of traveling. Instead I stayed in and indulged in Netflix. Flipping through the options only one thing looked interesting.

But I couldn’t watch it. Hell I had hated on it for years, why would I change my mind now… I’m not going to watch it… I’m not going to watch it…

Ok. FINE!! ONE TREE HILL, YOU WIN!!! Besides there’s no way in the world anyone will find out.

Naturally I became addicted. What’s not to love? I identified with Lucas for being a loner, Peyton because of her insane love and taste for music, and Brooke. Brooke was special. Despite not watching the show over the years I had followed Sophia Bush because I genuinely loved her worldly views and her passion for education. So Brooke, Brooke was special. I identified with her heart being hurt, creating a clothing line, and excelling at it when others didn’t believe in her. That was me I was her. I give a lot of credit to One Tree Hill because it was the final push that I needed to change the world I live it — in fact, when I hung with the cast last August, I made sure to tell them that!

Around September 2012 after a long day of work I came home to find a card from the Bridge Program at the University of South Carolina. During my time at tech I was enrolled in the bridge program, which was geared for students who wanted to continue their education at a four-year university.

Was this a sign? … Had to be!

I looked at the different majors listed at the University of South Carolina specifically in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, settling on Visual Communications. The next day, after work, I went to my old advisor’s office and asked if she could help me sort through the details and without hesitation, she did so (thanks Mirium!!) I had honestly put off college for so long because I was afraid of the courses I would have to take if I decided to pursue my educational career, such as History, Political Science, even Math! Yet as we compared the curriculum between the courses I had already taken versus the courses I needed, it was very clear that I didn’t have many basic courses to take. And better yet — NO MATH!!

That night I applied at the University of South Carolina.

But how would I do in a college setting after being employed and not in the classroom? When comparing curriculum I had noticed several courses such as two histories and a political science course were offered at tech. Things were becoming clearer and clearer. I’d continue to work through spring semester, however, would attend classes at night at tech and in August I would quit my job and become a full time student again.

And that is what I did.

Fast-forward seven months.

It was Spring Break and I decided to fly up to Washington, DC to explore with my best friend. While exploring Old Towne Alexandria, Brittney and I found a wishing well. She took out a few pennies and said, “Let’s make wishes.”

I smiled and said – on camera, “I wish for a magical weekend!”

She laughed at me at and replied, “You’re not suppose to tell. Now it’s not going to come true!”

But she was wrong. It was a magical weekend.

We returned to our hotel to take a nap and rest up for the night. When we woke a picture message greeted me. My sister was holding a package up with a three-letter word across the front from USC … It read YES!! I did it! I actually did it! I got into the University of South Carolina. Was this real life? It was and for the first time in my life things were about to finally make sense.

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I kept the news quiet, telling only my friends and loved ones, and began making plans for the next two years. One of the first people I told was my Nanny Joyce who had been encouraging me to go back to school ever since I had taken the job in Newberry. Even with 500 miles of distance between us, I could hear the smile on her face and that moment will always be with me.

In late July, I made the announcement that I would be leaving my job to return to school. That was the best two weeks notice I had ever given! Work didn’t ease up, but it didn’t intensify either, and on my last day at work I spent it with my friend, Moises. We laughed and chatted about the last three years. “You know Mike. Most people just go. They leave without giving notice. You’re the first person I’ve ever seen give notice here.” Moises said to me that day and to be honest I don’t think that I will ever forget them.

The following week I began school at the University of South Carolina in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications. For the first time in a long time I didn’t know what to really expect. I knew absolutely no one and children who were in their late teens surrounded me. What is interesting though are the people who stuck out to me then, are the people I ended bonding with the most.

There was there girl who had these ridiculously cut bangs.

A woman who wore Wonder Woman chucks.

A guy who always cracked jokes and kept the mood up.

A girl with a thick country accent and sass to go along with it.

A photographer who grew up in the neighboring town.

Two global citizens, both activists, and one who also enjoyed This American Life.

And a girl, who changed her hair weekly, wore black, and always had her head in the clouds consumed by brilliant music.

After a few weeks of classes one classmate who I’m still really good friends with approached and asked/said, “Hey we’re going to 5 points this weekend. Do you have a fake? If so you should come!” Keep in mind I was 24 at the time and when I turned 25 a month later she commented on my Facebook wall and said, “Guess you don’t need a fake, old man!”

My goal when I entered school was to continue learning how to build my brand and that is exactly what I did. The first thing that I took advantage of was to learn how to build my very own webpage. Then I took all the content that I had been releasing and sharing over the years and built a nice multimedia platform. What’s funny is the fact I had been building multimedia packages over the last five years, I just didn’t know that’s what they were called.

Since I started at USC opportunities have only grown. In-fact I haven’t stopped working on projects since. In late 2013, I was apart of a team, which filmed a feature length science fiction thriller here in South Carolina. I filmed/starred in a web-series filmed in Columbia. Worked on multiple short films that have premiered worldwide. Directed and produced several short films of my own. And in the fall of 2015, I wrote, co-directed, and starred in a science fiction thriller.

It’s insanely crazy how things have changed over the last seven years. I have changed. For the first time in my life I have been excelling and actually feel apart of something bigger then just me.

Each semester has brought on various challenges and various achievements. In the spring of 2015 I produced a short film called, Wood: A Family Affair, which centered around a family of three generation loggers living in South Carolina. I also created an interactive multimedia site dedicated to urban exploration in Columbia, SC called The Urban Pilgrim Project. It includes gifs, which allowed the view to navigate through the world of urban exploration into the underground catacombs, an abandoned school, and the old Palmetto Compress Building.

Last fall I tackled another milestone by producing a short film about intersectionality called Even Further off the Straight and Narrow. What’s interesting about that piece was the fact that I partnered up with April, a classmate who was in a different class with the same professor, to produce this piece. When we pitched our professor the idea of merging what we were learning in two different classes to make the film, he immediately jumped onboard and even replied afterwards that he would be sharing it in other classes. Last semester I also teamed up with April to film a Doritos commercial for our Branding/Advertising class and on a whim, we decided to submit to the Student Ad Show. And guess what, we took home the Gold Award, which included a $100 split between the team members. Not only that several friends have sent me photos and videos from their classes as they repeatedly watch the commercial.

Projects over the last two years

Prelude to Infusco

Drifts

The Gullah Project

50%

Underground 13

Degrees of Guilt

Wood: A Family Affair

Urban Pilgrim Project

Even Further off the Straight and Narrow

Doritos Commerical

Operation Adventure

Alienography

Alienography: Greetings From the UFO Welcome Center

Podcast Series

Graduation is approaching. And now I am faced with the same realization I was faced with two years ago… I’m about to enter a world where I know absolutely no one and the possibilities are endless! However, I’m not going to lie. It’s scary knowing that I won’t have the comforts of school to fall back on everyday. Because despite being overwhelmed at times and annoyed at the work flow, I really do enjoy being in the classroom and having the sole privilege of consuming knowledge be my career.

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Operation Adventure

In 2011, I began traveling through South Carolina, first starting with the 47 state parks. Through these adventures I really discovered who I was because it was the first time I was taken completely out of my element.

When someone asks, which out of the 47 state parks is my favorite to travel to and I find this question to be the hardest to answer. Why? Because it’s not really the state park itself, its the adventure traveling to and through each one of them.

There are four sections that divide up the state parks, The Mountains Region, The Lake Region, The Sandhills Region, and The Coastal Region. Each region is full of remarkable beauty, from waterfalls, castles, even desert like terrain. Traveling through the state parks is truly an adventure and we at Operation Adventure encourage everyone to do so who is looking for an adventure.

Even Further Off the Straight and Narrow

Have you ever pitched a project to a professor with another classmate the catch being you were both in separate classes and wanted to cross connect the two? Well this semester I did just that with April Sundell and came out with a phenomenal short film.

This semester Theories of Mass Communications was nearly the death of me. No literally, an 8:05 on Monday’s and Wednesday’s, what was I thinking? One of the theories that really stuck out to me was Cultivation Analysis Theory with a concentration on mainstreaming. Cultivation Analysis Theory basically suggests that television is responsible for shaping ones sense of social reality. For our project, April and I decided to pick up where Further Off the Straight and Narrow left off discussing the evolution of LGBT representation in the media and intersectionality.

Naturally we didn’t want to do a slide show discussing these issues. We wanted to make a short quality film and talk to an expert about these topics, so I turned to OK Keyes a professor at the University of South Carolina and the pieces fell right into place.

During the last week of exams I decided to stop by Professor Campbell’s office. He’s the professor who taught my theories class and he had nothing but positive things to say about the film. He even stated he was going to use it in future classes and even recommend that students cross connect classes like we did. So score another one for us April!! Clearly we make a great team.

Doritos

This semester, like last, has been extremely busy and even more productive. In my Principles of Ad and Brand Relations course I along with several classmates produced/filmed/edited our very own Doritos commercial. Because we were thrilled with the outcome we decided to submit it to the University of South Carolina’s Student Ad Show and before we knew it we had been accepted.

Last Friday, December 4th was the night of the student ad show so naturally I along with several of my teammates decided to attend. We ate delicious food, browsed all the creative print ad’s on display, grabbed amazing seats for the awards ceremony, and patiently waited.

Guess what … We WON!!

Well we won the Gold Award and did I mention we were the only video to actually win an award? Pat on the backs to us. Even though I didn’t walk in front of the crowd to accepted the award mostly because I was super tired I must say that this was a huge accomplishment and I’m extremely proud of this.

GO TEAM!!!

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My First Podcast – Adding to my Multimedia Experience

Last weekend I tackled a new media experience in the form of a podcast. Over the last year I’ve been working on the science fiction film, Alienography, and with that has obviously come new opportunities. With our first podcast we first paid homage to The War of the Wolds, aka the granddaddy of science fiction thrillers. Then the group discussed the age old question, “Do you believe in aliens?” And last but not least, how we were going to celebrate the Halloween weekend.  To top everything off we released it at 9:00pm, which was 1 hr and 77 years after The War of the Worlds board cast. Yes I’m aware I’m a dork to know random bits of information like that.

On Saturday, October 31st several of my colleagues gathered after we wrapped filming in Bowman, SC, and recorded our second podcast, which will be coming out later this week, so make sure to tune in.

Listen to the podcast here:

Alienography Crowdsourcing this Science Fiction Thriller

“It’s an incredibly demanding role, it’s physical, it’s smart and witty. What I really love about this film is we’re really able to take an old genre and mix it with a completely new genre of filmmaking. Films in the 1950s were about body-snatching and science fiction horror and as of late real life stories have dominated the film industry. With this we’re able to tell a completely fictional story; however, we’ve been able to nicely include actual historical points in South Carolina history. And I think people will respond well to that.” – Michael Tolbert 

I could be biased; however, this film has truly been the best experience I’ve had to date. Check out Alienography’s official Indiegogo Campaign and please donate to help make this film happen. That way we can continue to feed our cast and crew, buy new equipment, and submit this film of festivals all over the world!

Visit the Indiegogo campaign here.