It started with a tweet...
Actually, it started with a depressed feeling after watching The Pianist and also failing at everything else I wanted to complete one rainy evening this past summer. To cope, I searched relentlessly on Netflix for a pick-me-up. I came across “Shelter Me”, a documentary highlighting the lives of shelter pets and how they have improved the lives of those who adopted them. In this process, new pet owners are providing these special animals another try at life, allowing them to avoid being euthanized and worse – living a life without love. After reading the summary, this was my tweet:
Consequently, @ShelterMeTV caught wind of my tweet, “favorited it”, and followed me. I am still new to Twitter etiquette (seeing that I only began using it for a few months) so my apologies if it seems weird to some people that I sent the account a DM thanking them for the follow. I also mentioned that I am from South Jersey and that I go to school in Philadelphia expressing my interest in helping out if they are ever filming in the area. To be honest, I did not expect a reply, let alone the announcement that they were actually filming in the Atlantic City vicinity in a month.
I offered my e-mail address, continued to send, what I thought, pestering DMs on any updates and waited weeks with little response. I actually began to forget about the opportunity once the semester started. But then I received an e-mail from Mr. Steven Latham, director and producer of the Shelter Me series asking if I was available to chat on the phone the following day.
Praise the Lord that I decided to skip my first class that day or else I would have missed his call. When I answered, he gave a quick summary of what the Shelter Me project is all about. The filming in Long Beach Island (LBI), NJ focuses on a bloodhound named Tex, who went from shelter animal to a beloved member of the LBI police force. He also became the delightful pet of Officer Mike Tyson of the LBI Police Department.
He then asked if I had ever done anything with film or productions. I replied no, I am Philosophy major. I was just a fan of the story. However, I did mention my growing interest in photography and how I basically took my dad’s old camera and messed around with it sometimes. He said great. Take the camera to take some pictures too.
The most amount of publicity my photos ever gain is being chosen for a friend’s new Facebook profile picture, let alone having them serve for a T.V. series’ documenting process.
Regardless, I traveled to LBI on a Sunday evening three weeks later with an apprehension of the thought of what I could have possibly just gotten myself into.
However, the next three days of helping Shelter Me’s production was more than I could ask for. My responsibilities on top of taking pictures included holding reflectors, posing as pseudo-Tex for camera angles, and assisting the crew with errands up and down the island. As simple as these tasks sounds, I was basking in the opportunity to be helpful in anyway. Being in the midst of the experienced team put me in complete awe. They have worked with National Geographic, the Travel Channel, MTV, as well as many other popular networks. They even worked together on The Future We Will Create, a documentary that tours the annual TED conference event. Officer Thompson has been working with the K-9 unit for almost a decade. He spent five years to get certified to train dogs like Tex, which he claims, “never stops.”
The most humbling of this experience, though, is found in the Shelter Me stories themselves. They glorify the dignity of shelter pets, giving them a second chance, and allowing them to form that bond between animals and humans that is impossible to describe within one blog post. Before Tex became an honored member of the LBI police force finding lost kids on the beach and chasing down car thieves, he was waiting in an enclosed area at a local shelter just hoping to know what was in store for the rest of his life.
Finding another niche...
I can’t say that I came back to school aiming to change my life and switch my major to something media related. I will say, however, that my time working with the Shelter Me project has encouraged me to use my progressive interest of taking pictures to tell stories like Tex’s in a creative and artistic way. I basically found another niche. Regardless of my wonderful experience and new perspective on the way I see photography and telling these sorts of stories, I am even more humbled by the fact that none of this would have happened had I not reached out to those involved via Twitter. Those who know me have heard my strong distaste for this social media paradigm, but I am willing to admit how wrong I was. It took something so minor to give me an experience I can say I will always be proud to be a part of. Call it fate, luck, divine intervention, but I think Forrest Gump said it best: “I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze, but I think maybe it’s both.”
It ended with a tweet.