Marvin Diaz (’16) didn’t think he could go to college. He grew up in a single-parent household of an immigrant community with limited resources. He watched the bonded families of TV sit-coms while his peers chased “side hustles.” He grew interested in multi-media storytelling and enjoyed school subjects that engaged critical thinking and literary analysis. When he saw Citizen Kane in his Advanced English class, he was impressed by its artistry and realized filmmaking as a legitimate art form, not just a side hustle. Still, college seemed out of reach.
Two weeks before graduation, when his classmates had already confirmed their college plans, Diaz received a mailer from Liberty University. Taking a chance, he applied and was accepted. He seized the opportunity, moved to campus, and declared a business major.
Liberty launched the Cinematic Arts Department during Diaz’s freshman year. Curious, he toured their facilities and talked with Professor Scotty Curlee who reassured him that filmmaking was a practical as well as artistic career choice. The freshman switched his major.
Although naturally independent, Diaz says film school taught him patience and reliance on leadership in order to meet goals. He learned how to develop good working relationships with faculty and how to pace progress in collaborative environments. He accepted that art takes hard work but is worth it.
After college graduation, Diaz moved to Austin, Texas to pursue freelance opportunities in the indie film industry. He secured a marketing internship and moonlighted on small media projects. Cinematic Arts Professor Danny Carrales, who often networks to match students with job opportunities, connected him to a commercial production company which gave him a number of freelance jobs. By the end of the year, Diaz’s connections landed him a job as production assistant (PA) for the presidential inauguration of 2017.
On the day of President Trump’s inauguration, Diaz worked hard, even emptying full trash cans when he encountered them. One of the producers noticed and commented, “We have 20 PAs here right now, and you’re the only one who decided to throw out the trash.” He offered Diaz a job working the Super Bowl that year as a PA, where Diaz got to participate in football player interviews.
From there, Diaz worked on more large-scale projects with crew roles in camera or G&E (Grip & Electric) departments. Eventually, he moved back home to Washington, D.C for better job opportunities. The freelance lifestyle taught him how to secure continuous work: “I’m interviewing for my next job the moment I step onto set.” Because of his networking skills and job experience, he earned higher positions—like 2nd 2nd AD (Assistant Director)—on some productions. Recently, Diaz worked alongside popular actor Chris Evans who was interviewing politicians for a website project.
Celebrity brush-ups are just one of the perks of Diaz’s developing career. He keeps his eye on his artistic goals: “I got into film because it’s a passion, and I wanted to tell my own stories . . . It pays the bills doing other people’s things, but the goal is to eventually work on my own things. . . Being my own boss has appeal to me.”
Diaz encourages college students to take advantage of the privilege of education. Take ownership over your own learning. Pursue knowledge instead of waiting for it, and you will develop a habit that will become a work ethic for your career, because in the world of freelancing, “if you work hard, it won’t be hard to find work.”