Siroki Brijeg, Bosnia & Herzegovina //


It was 4:30 in the morning. One of my students, a mentor, and I had just set up the gear on a hillside just outside of town to capture what would be a sunrise time-lapse for our documentary.

The moment we pressed record, rocks seemed to scatter just a few hundred feet below.

I looked down to see where they may have landed, but before I could do so, out of the near pitch black two giant orange eyes grabbed my attention. 


Something was staring straight at us… and that something was moving slowly up the hill in our direction. 

Whatever it was, it’s gaze did not waver… however, my legs did. 

You know, I’ve seen and been around a lot of wildlife in my time as a native to Washington State… but nothing can prepare you for coming across two glowing eyeballs moving towards you when it is pitch black out at 5 am (especially after pulling an all-nighter editing, running on Coca-Cola and Milka chocolate) 

The only thought that crossed my mind was about a conversation I had just one day earlier with some of my students. 

“Do you have mountain lions here?” 

“Yeah. That and wolves. But we don’t really ever see them.” 


My instincts kicked in… “TURN ON SOME MUSIC! Grab some rocks and start banging them together.” 

Before I could even think I was throwing dodgeball sized rocks down the hillside at… 

“Wait, where did it go?”

“Omg, it’s over there!”

It was as if its eyes knew of no where else to look except at the lanky white American giraffe-looking-man throwing (attempting to throw) small rocks in his direction. One of these things was a terrifying sight. 

Whatever it was continued to look straight at me as it bolted up the entire hill, darting around the side of us, in an incredible (what should be a world record) 1.5 seconds. 

The animal found its place on a rock about 150 feet away but it’s eyes would not turn another direction for another 2 (going-on-eternity) minutes. 

Finally, it vanished. 

And I may never be going back to Bosnia & Herzegovina. 


I already thought I might never make it back to that country. 

Let me explain. 

You know, last year I travelled with a non-profit called Outside the Lens to Eastern Europe for my first time to help lead a group of high school students through the narrative filmmaking process. We were to conceptualize, shoot, edit, and screen a film at the Mediterranean film festival all in the matter of 2 weeks. 

Filmmaking typically is madness, but MFF School (the program we teach) is a whole other level. 

Very little time means very little sleep means very little room for error… all while teaching a bunch of high schoolers how to use equipment some of them have never even heard of. It was quite the challenge in 2018, and I was just along for the ride then. You can see the whole blog here. 

Regardless, my purpose for going last year was to be an emergency last-minute replacement for MFF school’s editing educator. So naturally, my initial feelings when 2019 came around would be that I wouldn’t be asked to come back.

I couldn’t be more wrong. 


When I got the call to make the journey across the pond again, I would learned that Outside the Lens wasn’t asking me to fill any position similar to the one I had previously occupied. No, they had that filled with the educator they had always used. 


To my surprise, this year they were requesting me to add on a whole additional documentary portion to MFF School, which traditionally centers itself around the students creating one single narrative film. 

That’s right. This year we didn’t make just 1 film in 2 weeks. WE MADE TWO. As if we weren’t mad enough already. 2 films that would screen at the end of the week for everyone from the students parents, to the US Ambassador to Bosnia & Herzegovina, to film producers from all over the world. 

My intrigue reached an all-time high. 

Narrative was one thing… it is scripted, planned out. Documentary is, well, documentary is completely unknown in both time and subject matter until it’s being shot. Which meant the room for error was pretty significant. 

Yet, my documentary mind couldn’t help but say yes to the opportunity. 


The doc crew would consist of about 6 students and 2 mentors. Our goal was to capture the essence of all that MFF is, but to also not lose the heart and life-changing influence this program has on these kids. 

Let me tell you a little secret about when you put camera into the hands of people from a community where you are shooting… 

- Getting heart into a project is the least of your worries. -

When you see the eyes of a community through the eyes of someone who is from there, suddenly transformation is happening not just in front of the camera, but behind it, beside it, and all around it. 

Watching these kids run about their community this past week… we no doubt had some setbacks learning equipment/dropping equipment/running away from equipment ;-)… yet the turnover on the back end once everyone understood and was able to really take ownership of their role was more worth it than even our final doc could capture. 

A film for students, by students. 

By the end of the week, we felt like a well-greased machine. I nearly didn’t even need to go out on set, and the story was falling into place like clockwork. I became so proud watching as these kids fell in love with an aspect of film that is so dear to my heart, all while capturing their own stories. 


Don’t get me wrong… we had some major setbacks - 

  • A student accidentally stepped on our Ronin Camera Stabilizer and broke part of it on about day 4.

  • Another student dropped our camera on day 5. **Side Note - In all of my filmmaking, this has been the 1st time I/we have ever broken a piece of equipment. Needless to say, crazy that two things broke within a day of each other!** (Praise God for really good insurance).

  • The narrative film rushed to finish everything in the two week amount of time… but however rushed they were, doc felt even worse. Imagine trying to find time to interview people who are creating a film from sunup to sundown. Undeniably, there were tense moments where the doc crew had to cut corners to get in some interviews in time.

  • I mean, you remember me talking about the wild animal, yeah?


I’m not going to tell you that documentary filmmaking is the hardest thing in the world (although, **Side note again** getting doc equipment through International TSA may very well be). But what I will say is documentary is really hard. Trusting that a story is coming, that something is going to all fall into place somehow (in a matter of two weeks) is hard. And doing that whole process with 6 high school students is hard.

Taking on this role as an educator grew me as a filmmaker for sure. 

But in the end nothing, and I mean nothing in the entire world will be as hard as explaining to my mother why she should trust me to travel half way across the world again. 

And that’s the real reason why I might never (get to) go back to Bosnia & Herzegovina… despite how much I want to 🙌🏼

Shoutout to all you moms in the world. Keep sneaking pepper spray into your kids bags… because one day they might be peeing their pants on the side of a hill in the middle of the “old country” and really, really wish they had it. 





This may come as a bit of a surprise, but this past week was actually really hard on me.

Offical Webby Headshot from Photoshoot.

Offical Webby Headshot from Photoshoot.

The Webby Awards.

It is strange how something so distant, just another website on a computer screen, can quickly turn into something involving itself in every aspect of my life.

Last week, the Webby’s got involved in my family, in my art, and in my personal well-being. It took me for a loop into a world that I had never really desired to enter, but soon found myself completely wrapped up in.

The film industry.

Cipriani Wall Street (Interior) before the show.

Cipriani Wall Street (Interior) before the show.

As I looked around at the hundreds of influential artists filling the banquet hall, I couldn’t help but be filled with two feelings at the exact same time.

Bewilderment - that someone like me, that a family like mine, was about to partake in an event as immaculate as The Webby Awards. An event that would take my farmer of a father and put him on a red carpet. An event that would allow my mother, who always dreamed of becoming an actress, a chance to finally dress the part. An event that would bring my elder sister and I to a city we only dreamed about coming to as children.

Cipriani Wall Street (Exterior) with Holly Starr.

Cipriani Wall Street (Exterior) with Holly Starr.

Well, we didn’t have to just dream about it anymore. No, in fact, we were standing in the Cipriani Wall Street - a building whose pillars stretched almost as far to the sky as those dreams we had as children.

I couldn’t believe it was all happening to us. I couldn’t believe it was all happening to me.

Confusion - It was all happening to me. This was never the reason I got into filmmaking. In fact, red carpets and premieres were never in the cards for this humanitarian documentary filmmaker. My goal was always to work with communities around the globe, not find myself back in the States walking between star-studded cocktail hours and after parties.

Red Carpet press shoot before the show.

Red Carpet press shoot before the show.

Standing there, amidst the plethora of fancy cutlery (which I could not figure out the use of) and mountains of booze, I found myself feeling very distant, very foreign. Some may call it the “imposter syndrome” but I don’t think that quite identifies what I was feeling.

I wasn’t feeling as though the work I had done was insufficiently deserving of this award. No, I was suddenly worried that the message of my work was being confused for something that I didn’t want it to be - my work, my voice.

I started this company so that those who we might not otherwise hear could find a platform from which to project their voice.

In a sense, I would say we accomplished that goal this past week. We were able to get Migwani, Kenya in front of the eyes of thousands. In front of the eyes of leaders of companies in the likes of Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and more. And isn’t that something worth celebrating?


Being interviewed by the Webby’s podcast.

Being interviewed by the Webby’s podcast.

But it isn’t something I want to celebrate at an event with a bunch of people who either won an award or paid upwards of $500 to attend.

No, I want to celebrate with Migwani. I want to celebrate with Ngonza, with Mutei, with Eunice, Naomi, Irene, Jane, Janet, Muvana, Loise, Nah, Annah, Nzambi, Muthili, Makaa, Muli, Mwende, Nzyuko, Kanlinga, Kasiva, Kalunda, Mutei.

But the reality of the situation this past week was that I couldn’t. I had to represent a community of which I am not a part. I had to walk a red carpet that I did not deserve on my own.

I want to be honest in this post when I say that I am growing as a creative.

I am growing as a humanitarian filmmaker.

We are growing as a company.

And that means we are still figuring things out with what all this entails.

Last week was one of the greatest of my career as a filmmaker. But I don’t want to stop with this award, with this accomplishment and say, “Look, we did it. We figured it out.”

Our poster for “Our Children - Twana Twitu” on the big screen at the Webby’s.

Our poster for “Our Children - Twana Twitu” on the big screen at the Webby’s.

No, what I do want this award to say, if it must say something about the work we are doing here at Circle3Productions, is “Look! We struck a chord! We scratched the surface of a type of filmmaking that people need to see - a new way of documenting communities around the world. But we are just getting started. We have so much learning to do. Here is the direction, now let’s run with it.”

There are many things the Webby's did for me this past Monday. Many firsts that I will remember for the rest of my life. But what it really boils down to for me is that this event helped me to clarify even more so my vision for this company, for the communities with which we work.

I can assure you that one day, very soon, I will look back on this post and think, “Wow. You had so much to learn.”

And I am excited for that moment.

I am excited to one day be able to fully celebrate both at an award show and with a community.

May this Webby push me to continue learning, continue growing, continue reaching out.

May it help us as a company to continue researching, continue connecting, and continuing making content WITH rather than just IN communities.

This past week was hard on me. Yet I am okay with that.

It was refining me. It was refining Circle3Productions.




To the 1 year old boy that dreamed,


You came into this world in the great upper left of a country whose lands are as diverse as its people. In a part of that country some would say was the last to be discovered on this planet - the great unknown.

But we know that couldn’t be true.

No. For there were others that graced these farmlands long before ‘ole Lewis & Clark ever made the journey out West.


Alas, you were born. And you were born to the hands of a farmer and a CPA. And you were born in the land of apples, (although onions would be the only smell that you called home). You were born to a town of migrants… people from lands you would only hope to one day discover. People who would teach you such beautiful tales of humanity, of difference, and of bravery.

Consider yourself Lucky, Lukey. (Your grandmother will never remember which is your real name).

One day you will realize that this ground - these fields where your life was planted - means something. And it means a great deal. For it is these very neighbors (or lack there of), these very dirt roads, and yes, even these very star-studded skies that you were born under that make up who you are… and that will bear forth a life and a story worth telling.

Take advantage of every second. Even the millions you will be spending on that bumpy tractor. That “normal” life, one day under a very different, distant lens… will become one of the most extraordinary experiences you will ever have.

You were born on a farm. That is a gift. Not a hindrance.

To the 16 year old kid that dreamed,


I know you must be incredibly frustrated. Frustrated that you are stuck in a town that seems to only know just within the barriers of its own limits, cornered by signs reading “Opportunities Unlimited.” If I had one thing I could tell you, it would be…

Believe it.

Believe that what you have there is all you need to have to get… here, there, anywhere.

It must have been only a few days ago that your parents told you that they didn’t think you should go on that exchange to another country in your 16th year of life - you had too many responsibilities to finish up with.

I know that might feel like a dead end… but trust me when I say that dead end is the first of many realizations that your timing, however honest, is usually not the best timing for you.

Keep discovering. Keep feeling. Keep trying. One day those borders are going to swing wide open.

It isn’t today.

But today prepares you for tomorrow. And you have much preparing to do.

To the 19 year old traveller that dreamed,

It is true. You have completely fallen for a country you never before had called home (and you FINALLY, by some miracle, were able to become an exchange student.) All your life you spent wondering what it would be like to live the reality of someone outside of your farm, your town, your country. What a crazy ride it has been.


It is also true the feelings you are having about non-profits. No, not every non-profit you are finding is doing sustainable good in Perú. In fact, you are going to grow a lot more disappointed as time passes… but with the disappointment will come vision. And with the vision comes dreams… and the dreams will lead you to realize that maybe film & photography - something so foreign to you at the time - might be an idea worth pursuing.

That maybe, just maybe there is a way to influence these organizations, these philanthropists.

You may not know how to get there, but if you trust those initial gut feelings that this is a space you are meant to speak into… it is going to take you on a wild ride.

But before going on that ride, drink another Inka Cola, give your host mom another hug, and relish in your final days living in your favorite country on earth.

They will end soon… but your passion for that land, that people never will.

To the 26 year old filmmaker that dreams,

I don’t think you ever thought you would be this old.


It’s a miracle that you are even alive after all that has gone on. Peru. Israel. Wisconsin. Los Angeles. UCLA. And finally, Circle3Productions.

Remember this moment.

Take a breath.

Remember all the breaths you took to get here and with whom you shared each of those spaces.

It’s been quite a long time since you spent your nights living under those starry skies back in “God’s country,” as grandpa calls it - 8 years to be exact.

You feel strange when you look at the parts of you that are no longer so soft around the edges. The parts that a city has roughened up. You look out a window into this “city of angels” as you edit the very films you shot around the world, and you wonder how this could be your life.

When did you become someone who lived in a city?

You spent the last 6 years of your life running down a road that you were unsure of where it would lead.

You had an idea in your head to help people, to run back the very stories of those rural desert dwellers you had learned of so many years ago. So you took up documentary filmmaking.

Somehow, in a strange way… you were able to use film to turn your love for people into a vocation, into a passion, into a way of life.

And I am so proud of you for that. (I don’t think you say this to yourself often enough.)

This month you found out one of your films was nominated for an award. That has never happened before. And oddly enough, it has caused you to rethink all those steps that got you to this point.

Each. Individual. Person.

But more importantly, the God that directed those steps before even that farmer and CPA welcomed you into their home and called you son.

Stick to your roots, son. In your roots lies your story, your power, your voice.

But as you grow, open up. Continue finding ways of connecting with those people whose realities are oh so different from yours… because they might not be as different as you would think.

This is still yet the beginning of the journey, and you have still yet so much to learn.

Happy reading, happy living, happy breathing, my friend.


To the old man that will dream,

You must have the most intricate stories of humanity to tell, and please, do tell.

Tell your children. Tell the world.

I hope you are still proud of the time you spent with a camera in your hand. I know your good posture might be running on empty, but surely your heart is full.

So here is to your first nomination for an award - The Webby Awards. Maybe there were many more, or maybe this was the only one.

Either way, I am proud of you, wherever you are. And you should be too.


The soul you have known your whole life. Inside that body. Inside that mind.