As a life-long creative and professional filmmaker, Parker Gayan (STM ’14) has used “think outside the box” as an essential mantra for school, work, and life.
During his time at St. Thomas More, Gayan took the call to be a Man for All Seasons literally. He stayed active, playing four years of football, joining the powerlifting team, and participating in creative writing competitions and art-related activities. He also played intramural basketball for a memorable couple of weeks — before his teammates dismissed him for constantly yelling “Kobe” while shooting.
“It was important for me to avoid any kind of cliques or solely identify with one specific group,” Gayan recalled, “which allowed me to be a pretty open person.”
Gayan was a regular in STM visual arts courses and he credits the program’s diversity for helping him grow artistically and professionally. “Ms. B [Jodi Brzezinski] allowed for an open-ended art program, giving me the flexibility to try out new things all the time,” he described. “Sometimes I would spend time making sculptures or drawing; then I would bounce around to work on a short film all within the same week.”
Near the end of high school, Gayan decided to pursue art as a career. He attended the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD), and although MIAD did not offer a traditional film program, Gayan adapted the curriculum to accomplish his professional goals.
“I would twist prompts and ‘re-interpret’ assignments to cater towards my intended career,” he explained. “Even though I was the only film student, I was still able to get a decent amount of video work…although a lot of it was not what I would call particularly ‘cinematic;’ for example, I shot a lot of wedding videography and ads for cheese.”
After graduating from MIAD in 2018, Gayan worked as the head of photography, video, and social media for a coffee company, which, he said, “ultimately led to an untimely separation and life-long aversion to coffee and trilby hats.” That job, however, led him to a position at a creative agency in Los Angeles, working on content for Netflix movies and shows.
With many productions delayed during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gayan used his free time to write a feature film screenplay and work on a few smaller projects.
“Productions were forced to cut back quite a bit, but I luckily still found myself able to work on multiple projects in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Milwaukee,” Gayan explained. “It was definitely hard for some aspects of filmmaking, but in an era where you’re able to meet with a composer in London or a producer in Miami all while never leaving a home office, you can’t complain too much. My philosophy is always roll with the punches and make it work the best you can.”
Filmmaking has allowed Gayan to utilize his vibrant imagination and creativity. “The whole filmmaking experience is just playing make-believe as an adult, with added problem solving and thinking on your toes,” he said. “There’s no other art form that combines all other art forms the same way film can, so you’re given the chance to express ideas and emotions in a unique way that’s not possible in real life.”
For any current high school students interested in filmmaking, Gayan’s advice is simple: “Just start doing it. Creatives in general want to be recognized for thinking outside the box, so don’t be afraid to be atypical.”
About the Author
Katlyn Putney (STM ’10) has been the Marketing and Volunteer Coordinator at STM since fall 2015 and serves as graphic designer and editor-in-chief of the Spirit. She was recently named Assistant Athletic Director, and coaches with the girls’ basketball and girls’ soccer programs.