Three months before I was due to graduate and launch a career as a print journalist, the realization struck like a lightning bolt: I want to make movies.
With my rational mind furiously battling my heart, the easiest thing would be simply to sideline my vision and walk stiffly out into the working world. But I'm an Ashevillean, and in this town we nurture our dreams.
Hatchfest was born in Bozeman, Montana, in 2004; Asheville debuted as an East Coast partner last year. Designed to inspire and enlighten the next generation, the festival brings together mentors from a variety of creative industries in an explosion of cross-disciplinary conversations and workshops.
Along with five of my UNCA classmates, I was chosen as a "groundbreaker" journalist for this year's HATCHfest Asheville, which ran April 15-18. We were given the royal treatment during an event designed specifically to connect tomorrow's creative minds with today's successful professionals.
"I've learned more in the last three days than I have in the last three years," gushed 22-year-old Ian Shannon, the bright-eyed star photographer for UNCA's The Blue Banner.
Dubbed "hatchlings" by British director Jon Amiel, the groundbreakers in film, fashion and journalism were thrown into a remarkable real-world opportunity. Getting face time with bona fide professionals — all of them eager to give advice, see our work and help us get connected — was incredibly empowering.
During my recent voyage to Haiti [see "Surviving Port-au-Prince," April 7 Xpress], I dove into the world of documentary filmmaking armed only with a camera, a vision and a story. But at HATCH Asheville, I was given the kind of emotional support that can help me make this dream a reality.
The festival's mentors and organizers all seem to have one thing in common: the understanding that life is not a passive endeavor. Being successful in this world takes more than just showing up, and luck, they maintain, is really the result of timing and preparation — both of which can be created via hard work and focused effort.
After three years of studying media law, theory and history, I'd pictured Charles Annenberg Weingarten as just another suit-and-tie, a stony, New York Times sort of presence in the backbone of the communications industry.
Guess again. Clad in a jean jacket and seated on the floor with his golden retriever, he introduced himself as Charlie.
We learned to tweet together, playing with brief, boiled-down sentences and discovering that it's actually kind of fun. To find myself tweeting with the scion of an American media dynasty is a powerful metaphor for the changing face of media and the world today.
"I am still searching and learning," Annanberg said during the social-change panel later that day. "The desire to help people has always been a part of my life."
And Barnet Bain, who produced What Dreams May Come, giggled as he talked about the collapse of LA's economy, which cost him and everybody else in Hollywood a good deal of money. But for Bain, life is a continual state of transformation, and he wouldn't have it any other way.
Follow your passion, he urged me, because it's the message, not the means, that matters. "Your time is now," he added with a smile.
About to embark on a monthlong journey into the belly of an earthquake's devastation while continuing to hunt up funding for my film, I anticipate moments of tremendous doubt.
But even as I search for my own true north, I am bolstered by the knowledge that I'm standing on the shoulders of giants. Beginning with UNCA alumna Amber Munger, who opened the door to Haiti for me, mentorship has played the greatest role in my education to date.
"It doesn't have to look the way you think it does," Munger said about one's journey through life — changing mine forever.
This is a period of great flux and uncertainty, and for the children of my chosen profession, the past year has often been a dark and scary time as we graduate into the "dying" newspaper industry.
But it's the same story now for everyone: For the laid-off executive gone back to school at 65, or my stepfather, replaced by someone younger and cheaper after building a company for 30 years, the future no longer seems carved in stone.
And even amid this doom-and-gloom economy, I am dreaming in color. For me, HATCH Asheville transformed the future into an untamed wilderness alive with endless possibilities. If it's not out there, create it; if you don't like it, change it; and if you haven't found your calling yet, keep searching.
What do we have to lose?
"I hope we all continue to play in the world of possibility with a sense of wonder and open-hearted optimism," local coordinator Katie Kasben wrote to the "hatchlings" on Monday morning, wishing us the best.
They say a rising tide lifts all boats. In this country, we have the incredible luxury of creativity, the ability to take chances and discover ourselves. And here in Asheville, we have our community behind us to help us realize our dreams.
The energy Hatch brought to this town is the kind of feeling you want to preserve and carry with you. The kind of thing you want to spread all over the world, as these mentors have done, sharing inspiration with the lost, the fearful and the unconnected. Now if only I could bottle it and take it with me to Haiti…
And as I step off the commencement stage and into the great unknown, I won't be afraid. Instead, I am sharpening my oyster knife, hungry for what the world has to offer…
Asheville resident Lorin Mallorie is working on a documentary and a novel on sustainable investment in Haiti's rural provinces. Her blog is at http://haitilivesnow.com.