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Magic can exist in the simplest places. It’s a combination of imagination and a spark of curiosity—the kind saved only for creativity…that magic is what tells a compelling story.

For freelance filmmaker and Playing Out series creator, David Sherman, his first glimpse of magic was through a camcorder that belonged to his parents. As a child, this expensive new technology was normally off-limits to him, but when he managed to sneak out the camcorder, he took his first steps as a filmmaker with a few short stop-motion films at the age of 12.

However, the realm of magic was not so unusual for David, who, as a child, aspired to be a magician.

“I was fascinated with magic and saw David Copperfield live. I was obsessed with magic, but I wasn’t a really good magician,” David said, “But when I pulled out a camera, I discovered that with it, I could make magic with a camera, and that was magical, for me.”

Spirit of Innovation

A self-described old-soul, David speaks with both humility and pride of his hometown, Dayton, Ohio. It seems only natural, “It’s the birthplace of aviation,” David points out, “the Wright Brothers are from Dayton, and I think that spirit is still in our city,” David said.

He’s been reading a book on the aviators, and slips-in an occasional reference about their strong sense of innovation. In every way, David can relate his past experiences to a moment of inspiration, and it’s apparent to see that his ideas and philosophies have molded his approach to filmmaking.

Making a film can be quite a personal undertaking; a revealing of one’s inner thoughts in pursuit of sharing a story visually, “I feel close to people when I collaborate with them. Maybe because I’m sharing, I’m being vulnerable. That camaraderie, I feel like they’re family when I’m with them. It goes both ways, it’s about sharing someone else’s vision,” David said.

There is a contagious vigor of creativity that pumps through David’s veins. His modesty and lightheartedness leave quite an impression, and he has a way of making others feel artistically rejuvenated after listening to his views on art and illumination.

“It isn’t that artists are the only creators — everyone should have a capacity for creative thought and flexible thought. And I hate that we separate those two things,” David said. He feels that there isn’t just a creative type or a mathematical type, “they have to be both. A well-rounded human being has to be both.”

Big Adventures

Imagination is often the start of ingenuity, as much of David’s material for his films originates from his own experiences. So when Dayton’s PBS affiliate, Think TV, asked David to create fun and educational material on how to teach Pre-K to second graders about Language Arts and literacy, he delved deep into his own childhood curiosities.

Creating a non-animation piece that was equally imaginative and entertaining was a challenge he embraced. “The Big Adventures of Little Ioda,focuses on the plot of a 3.5 inch tall character who lives in a library. The story, which David rooted in his own childhood fascinations, allows audiences to see and explore the world from the point of view of Ioda, a boy who despite his stature, is full of wonder.

A play on the word iota, which means small and insignificant, gave David’s character everything he needed to create the six-part, recently Emmy-nominated, series, “I wanted to turn that definition around, so I changed the spelling and made it a name. He is small, but he is anything but insignificant. He’s a larger-than-life character,” David said.

The creative process is just as important as the actual filming of a project, and it’s something that David takes seriously, “I’ve often told people that I don’t know myself unless I’m creating something. I’m defined by the product of my creative mind…it wasn’t until I had a camera in my hand, or editing software that I felt like I was in control of something, like I was good at something, and I think being creative is more me than me,” David said.

Going West

David’s adaptability brought him to the west, when he relocated to Denver in September of 2014 to be closer to his boyfriend, graphic designer and DPO board member, Matt Meier. “I am in a transition right now, still, especially because a lot of my work is still back in Ohio. I feel like I have one foot in Dayton, one foot in Denver.”

Of all the things that can bring two people together, for David and Matt it was typefaces. The two met in passing at a college in Indiana, “We started talking about fonts of all things. And little did I know he was an expert on them,” David said.

He has great creative cohesion with Matt, and when David started volunteering and attending the DPO concerts, his creative juices started flowing. David began collaborating on ideas on how to combine music and film, “We have all of these guest artists who are coming in, it’s their first time in Denver, what a great opportunity to show who they are in the backdrop of Denver.”

Media Literacy

David’s sense of community has often shaped the projects that he has done, although, David would say that the projects chose him. One such arts organization, Muse Machine, allows artists to go into schools to perform. Because of his own interest in film as a child, David wanted other kids to have a resource where they could learn about filmmaking, a subject that Muse Machine needed. He stepped-in and asked if he could create a short film about filmmaking, and launched a multimedia show called, “The Magic of Movies.”

The program became so popular after he showed the film in over 60 schools, he was asked to make a sequel, “The Magic of Movie Science,” which tied science and movies together, with “A lot of ‘Back to the Future’ references,” David added.

Many of David’s films teach media literacy, which is a new standard for how kids obtain their information from digital media. After receiving a grant, David was one of the first to go into schools to teach the new subject, “Now there’s this push, we really need to encourage literacy in media, not just reading and writing,” David said. “It requires creativity, to try something that has not been tried, yet requires flexible thinking or creativity, and I’ve always been a big proponent of thinking, not just outside of the box, but being flexible in your thinking. If something doesn’t work, do we just give up and not try anything else? No, of course not, you keep trying. That’s how the Wright Brothers did it.”

It’s easy to see that David puts all of his love and passion into the craft. As long as media literacy has a place in schools and education, David won’t be far, showing other young filmmakers the ropes, “If I could do anything for the rest of my life, it would be teaching media literacy to students. It’s fun, it’s a fun subject, seeing things differently, something you’ve taken for granted. It’s kind of an interesting thing, taking something you’ve never noticed that’s been in front of you the whole time,” David said.

Did you know?

David has numerous hard drives of video files, music video, clips, and when he could no longer differentiate one from another, he began naming them after directors. “I have a Hitchcock, I have an Orson after Orson Wells, there’s a Spielberg.”

One of David’s favorite movies is Alfred Hitchcock’s, Rear Window, “He managed to create art in a very mainstream way … I tend to like artists that take popular genres or popular mediums and do something unique with them.”

In his spare time, David enjoys hiking and the outdoors, going to movies, and listening to music. Although he hasn’t had much time to explore what Colorado has to offer as far as kayaking and canoeing, he loves going out on the water.

Photos (top to bottom):

David filming B-roll for Playing Out with Lawrence Golan; David Sherman; logo and title slide for The Big Adventures of Little Ioda; on set with Isaac Bement as the title role of Ioda; David and his partner Matt at DPO Food Truck Tailgate; promotional image for The Magic of Movies; David performing The Magic of Movies Science.

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Julia Compton

Embedded Reporter