Many Brownstown graduates have gone on to do great things with their lives. One man in particular has left the small, rural Brownstown scene to seek his dream at Northwestern University, only later to settle down in New Jersey, where he now works at Sundance TV in Manhattan, New York. I had the opportunity to correspond with Alexander Schwarm through email to catch up with him.
As a young boy Alexander loved to watch TV and movies and developed a love for the art. When he was ten he received his first still camera and began creating videos at age 14. “My elementary and Jr. High art teacher, the late Teri DeShazo, was incredibly supportive and influential in my artistic development and passion for the craft,” said Alexander. His family was also very supportive with his career choice. Alexander’s mother encouraged her son’s interest in movie making by buying him his first video camera and searching for summer programs where he could study screenwriting and filmmaking. The faculty at Brownstown High School were supported of his interest as well. During the spring semester of Alex’s senior year, Principal Wilson, Mrs. Hardiek, and Ms. Jenkins helped him create an independent study for film making. Alexander stated, ”When I graduated from Brownstown I already had a strong foundation of support, both at home and school, which helped me pursue my dreams of filmmaking with ease and confidence.”
After Alexander graduated high school in 2005, he attended Northwestern University in Evanston,IL, one of the best filmmaking schools in the country. He majored in radio, television, and film and minored in religion. During his senior year he directed a short film called “As Ever, Stan”, which is a true story of the return home of his grandfather from World War II. The film played at over 20 film festivals across the nation and won Best Student Film at First Glance Film Festival in Hollywood, and Best Illinois Short Film at the Route 66 Film Festival in 2010.
He graduated from Northwestern in 2009 and is now currently the Manager of Scripted Development at Sundance TV. He started working at Sundance in 2011 as the Coordinator of Unscripted Development and Production which works on the genres of reality television and documentaries. He later received a promotion to Scripted Programing in 2013. Before Sundance he worked for Law and Order: SVU as a Production Assistant.
In Alexander’s free time he loves to watch baseball, basketball, and football. He also enjoys playing centerfield on his company softball team and playing fantasy football. Alex loves photography, enjoys framing his photos from past vacations and displaying them around his home. During the holidays he has a great time baking desserts such as pie, cakes, and cookies. Mr. Schwarm currently lives in Weehawken, NJ, with his wife Samantha and his puppy named Remy. He works about 20 minutes from his home in Manhattan, NY.
I asked Mr. Schwarm if he had any advice to give to Brownstown students wanting to enter the entertainment business. He said that hard work and diligence go a long way and you have to be a pleasant and easy person to work with.”Success in the entertainment industry is very reliant on relationships. Meeting new people and building a personal network are both crucial in order to find and obtain new opportunities within the industry. It's a big industry, but a small world, so cultivating and maintaining relationships is a must.” He also said that even though Brownstown is a small rural community far away from an entertainment town such as Los Angeles and New York, it is still possible to find your way to those cities by “blazing” your own train. You need to make the most of the opportunities provided to you, whether it is the school play, art class, or a writing assignment. It would also be helpful to seek additional opportunities such as community theatre or to create your own independent research. He finished by saying, “In this digital age, the Internet is a more powerful tool than ever. Use it to educate yourself, practice your craft, share your work and connect with others who share your interests”.
Mr. Schwarm’s personal story is a perfect example of a passionate, intelligent student who pursued his dreams. For us still in school, this reminds us that even a small town student can achieve big dreams in a big city.
by William Andrew Koonce
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