Dan E. Tibbs, Filmmaker
It wasn’t until his late twenties that Dan decided to pursue a career in film making. He tried a few different paths before he finally found his passion. So if you are older and just now pursuing your dreams (or if you’re younger and still unsure about what the heck you want to do), Dan’s story is for you.
In high school, Dan wanted to be a professional athlete. When that didn’t pan out, he tried to make it big with his Christian metal band. The band eventually fell apart when the struggle of not being accepted by the church and the secular world made them realize the fame and fortune would not come as easily as they thought.
After high school, Dan tried going to Cameron University. He still didn’t really know what he wanted to be, so he eventually ended up dropping out. He then became a youth minister. It was during this time that he started getting into editing film. A family he knew asked him if he would film and make a highlight video of their child’s senior year. Dan didn’t really know what he was doing at the time; all he had was a camera that could connect via USB to his computer and the editing software his camera came with. He had many struggles along the way (it took him a long time to figure out how to set the video to music and in the middle of the project, his computer crashed and he had to pay to have it fixed so he wouldn’t lose his progress), but overall he had enjoyed the project so much that he was wishing someone would hire him for a similar project. This was the key moment that made Dan realize he wanted to pursue this career. He began working on other film projects for his church and for soldiers at Ft. Sill. While doing those, he met another filmmaker who had gone to school for film making. Up until that point, it hadn’t really occurred to him that he could go to school for something like that. So, at the age of 27, Dan applied for the Art Institute in Dallas.
Now, Dan teaches video production at Great Plains Technology Center. While it’s not what he originally thought he would do after film school, but he feels lucky that it worked out this way. He feels he’s more able to create more than he would in another job and he gets to talk about and teach video production every day. This job also makes it easy to create films on the side with his production company Option D. And because he does not feel pressure to make money from those films, he’s able to enjoy the process of writing and filming whatever he wants. Dan’s award-winning films have appeared in many festivals over the years. His only goals for his film making are to take what he’s learned from his previous films and do better in the next ones.
I had heard a little of Dan’s story before, but this time I was struck by how many similarities our stories have. We both found our passions long after society tells us we should have things figured out (our mid-twenties). As Dan put it, he didn’t have the film making passion early on; there was a “weird road to it,” much like my path from clarinetist to actor/singer. He told me there is no right way to whatever it is you’re pursuing. Everyone’s path looks different, and that is perfectly okay (and normal).
I was also struck by how he said he is able to enjoy film making because he does not put pressure on himself to make money or become famous with his films. I don’t know about you, but I put so much pressure on myself to make something, anything work to get out of my current job that I don’t even enjoy being creative anymore. Instead, it feels like a chore I want to put off (and often do). I have a pretty great job that will support me until I can make enough from my art to leave. I don’t need money right now. Why not just enjoy what I do? That will probably make things work out much better in the long run anyway.
Dan’s advice for aspiring film producers is to just go out and do it. There are no excuses. These days, you can even shoot a film on your phone. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad; it just matters that you are actually doing it and learning from the experience. If you wait to do it, odds are you never will.