Special Ed Teacher Timi Gray Expands her World with Film

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timiTimi Gray of Bowie, MD, is a special education teacher for children with autism. She also loves film. “I’m a school teacher, and that’s my first passion and I’m not giving that up,” is how she describes her first love, so clearly she’s passionate about teaching today’s autistic youth and getting them off to a good start in life. Nevertheless, film has always been something she was curious about. Eventually her curiosity led her to start looking into film schools. In some sense, Timi was seeking out the very same kind of eye-opening experiences and learning she makes possible for others.

“In January 2014 I got on the Internet, I found Film Connection, I liked what they offered but the only thing is I’m not trying to be a director or producer. I’m trying to work my way up from the bottom. I don’t know anything yet. I want to learn.”

But Timi’s apprenticeship schedule had to work with her very busy school schedule. Film Connection met her unique concerns about schedule by having her apprenticeship take place only during the summer vacation, enabling her to start her apprenticeship last summer and she’ll be going back this coming summer for more hands-on filmmaking.

Once her schedule was settled, Timi started could start getting her hands dirty. She did just that under the direction of mentor George A. Stover (of Adventure Productions in Baltimore, MD), an Emmy winning DP, editor, and producer. Stover has had Timi assist on numerous professional shoots, including an array of aquatic adventures. “We did a commercial in Baltimore and I’m like, ‘Wow.’ I got to learn how to lay tracks, dolly tracks. I got to see how it works, how they put that together. George was explaining to me what they were doing and he let me be right there and I got to see all of that. It has only been two summers I was with George so I still have a lot to learn because I’m in school all year. I’m teaching all year.”

The knowledge Timi’s accumulated in her time as an apprentice is finding application in other creative outlets. “I can carry out in the church plays or whatever. In anything that I do, I can incorporate everything I’ve learned with any play that I get to do. At church I just do camera and because it’s stationary, it’s on a platform, so I don’t move around. They only have one camera so I’m just getting shots and sometimes the guy who tells me what shots to get will tell me, ‘Do your own thing.’ I do my own shots. I do camera, too, on that. Yeah, everything I’ve learned can help across the board.”
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And even though Timi isn’t actively seeking out film industry connections, those connections are finding her anyway. One connection she met during her apprenticeship led her to get active in the DC Black Theater festival. That further opened up a panoply of possibilities, including connecting with Tyler Perry’s studio and helping a playwright put on his own plays.

Will Timi’s work with autism and film converge? We don’t know but seems she’s in prime position for things to align and we’re excited about the possibilities.

Whether she’s steeped in papers to grade or is on-set with her mentor, Timi’s quickly growing the awareness of a bona fide filmmaker. Now, she doesn’t just passively watch television and movies, she pays attention to how the scenes are constructed. “Because of my classes [with Film Connection], I’m always looking at all the behind scenes stuff now. I try and figure out how many cameras they’re using, who or what the reason is for setting up those props in that specific way. I’m always looking at the behind the scenes stuff, the sets, the props, the clothes that people are wearing. I’m more interested in that than the actual movie making process after being in the program.”

The Film Connection has helped Timi Gray learn more about the art of filmmaking, and has also enabled her to expand her connections and enrich her life. Now, Timi’s not only tapped into her creative spring, she’s refreshing it every summer!

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