LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION: A look into the life of a student film maker and photographer

Maria Celis and Kenzie Glass

When he’s not at school, NHS junior Tyler Cowan is often found staring at his computer screen. He’s editing photos, finding actors for his films, and completing the countless tasks to tie his final products together. From writing short stories during his free time to breathing life into them through film, Cowan is finding his place in the world of media. With this film making passion he developed a love for behind the camera work, therefore, taking pictures and becoming a photographer became a big part of what he now does. For Cowan, the process behind each of his projects means much more to him than simply a plot and a cast. 

“I’ve always loved being creative and making all the ideas I have come to life,” Cowan said. “It takes a lot of hard work, but the end result is always so rewarding and makes me feel really proud of the work everyone put in.”

His passion for writing stories began at an early age. Creativity had always been a large part of his life; his love for storytelling came from his childhood.

“I used to think I wanted to be an author, and as I wrote novels I kept asking myself ‘Why can’t this just be a film?’ and then I realized it can be,” Cowan said.

Although viewers may not notice it in the final product, the actual process of planning and brainstorming for a film can sometimes be the trickiest part. For Cowan, this rings true.

“Ideas are the thing I struggle with most. Coming up with an idea that is not only entertaining and original, but also something that a student filmmaker with no budget could do is always the hardest part,” Cowan said.

Even with horror films, his genre of choice, Cowan has a way of incorporating his personality into his projects. While staying true to its style, he injects a hint of humor throughout the film.

“I add a comedy aspect into my films; having lighthearted, funny moments while being overall scary has always been what I’ve gravitated towards most,” Cowan said.

Filmmakers utilize a variety of strategies to bring their ideas to life, and in Cowan’s case, plans often come to him in the moments he is alone with his thoughts.

“The way I get ideas is overthinking,” Cowan said. “My favorite genre to create is horror, so most of my ideas come from the random thoughts I get that draw things out of proportion, like ‘Someone’s gonna break your window right now.’”

Cowan has involved himself in several films and photo shoots throughout the journey of his growing business. ‘Barbie: Raquel’s Revenge,’ a film Cowan shot in December, is just one example of the projects he has successfully led. 

Junior Kat Logue, who portrayed one of the main characters, Raquel, believes that Cowan not only brings his ideas to life in his films, he creates a positive environment for his crew while making the film.

“While he acts professional, he still is very funny throughout the entire thing, and it’s really fun for everyone involved,” Logue said.

Junior Kira Dunn, who portrays Barbie in the film, agrees with Logue about the worthwhile experience she gained from working with Cowan.

“He was super patient when we couldn’t stop laughing and messing up our lines,” Dunn said. “He was just a joy to film with.”

Tyler Hindman, an animation and film production teacher at J. Everett Light Career Center, has seen Cowan improve in multiple areas, including editing and script writing in the year Cowan has spent in his class. According to Hindman, Cowan’s work showcases his growth and ability to utilize the entire production process in an effective way.

“Tyler is a very creative person and is able to come up with great ideas for his films and other projects,” Hindman said. “He is a good director and cinematographer, and it shows in his finished work.”

Not only is Cowan devoted to film, he is also involved in the photography world. He successfully splits his time between school, film, photography, and music.

“He’s started a name for himself and has his own business. Not many people our age can say they’ve accomplished that,” Logue said.

While Cowan works independently on most of his projects, Marin Brooks, a junior at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School, often serves as Cowan’s assistant for his photography. 

“Usually my job entails helping to pose the person being modeled as well as assistance with photo editing,” Brooks said.

Brooks believes that she has learned valuable lessons through assisting Cowan, and she realizes the experiences she has gained from their time together may help her in other areas of her life, not just in the photography world.

“It’s really fascinating to watch how Tyler makes his vision come to life,” Brooks said. “Before I was his assistant, I was not very involved in photography. But I’ve been able to learn so much from his creativity and passion for capturing people’s life experiences.”

To create the many visions he might have in mind, the models Cowan works with help him bring his ideas to life. Senior Gabbie Manns modeled for Cowan and left the photoshoot feeling confident. 

“He wanted a more dark and edgy look for this shoot, so of course I was down to help him bring that image into his photos,” Manns said. “He made me feel so comfortable and important.”

A typical session with Cowan is not simply a photoshoot. For Cowan and his crew, a photo session is a form of expression, a way to explore and display the personalities of his models. 

“We always have a good time, talk about life and hype the model up, and get great pictures for whatever the occasion may be,” Cowan said. “I just love getting to see people shine and being the reason they do shine.”

According to Cowan, the true joy he finds in photography comes from the people he works with and the way everyone feels after the shoot. He says it’s what makes him continue to do what he loves. 

“Knowing I can help people feel better about themselves,” Cowan said, “while doing something I enjoy, is everything to me.”