Calling Myself a “Filmmaker” in My Instagram Bio is a Power Statement

I grew up in a family that appreciated the importance of storytelling.

I grew up at my mother’s heels in the kitchen watching her move and gracefully juggle everything that came with the roles of a wife and mother. I remember she would tell me in detail about the dresses her late mother wore while simultaneously seasoning chicken, cutting vegetables, and asking my brother how middle school was. To her, these stories keep her mother alive.

I grew up with stories.

He would come home tired or annoyed or sore or sick yet always have a story to tell. I didn’t understand for a very long time. But, my father worked constantly when I was younger so that things would be easier for my mother, brother, and I. He made the mundane sound magnificent. My mother’s stories are all detail, background information, and extremely visual. My fathers stories? All drama. They include different voices, acting out body language, grabbing random nearby objects to indicate distance, repeating for emphasis, and always- a life lesson.

In other words, storytime in my household was never boring.

I grew up surrounded by love and stories.

For my Colombian parents, supporting my brother and I in our small suburban New Jersey apartment was the American Dream. He and I were given endless freedom in terms of our future.

But I never knew what to do with myself. So, I went through phases like every other child. I wanted to be a chef, a toy maker, a fire fighter, a writer, a surgeon. The longest phase was ages 14–17. I was prepping myself to go to business school for marketing and work somewhere in social media for a non profit.

Besides a bad haircut and raccoon eyeliner, something else very noticeable was happening when I was 17… I had a camera. I began to teach myself to edit. I started writing again. I started to realize just how much I loved asking people questions.

I started creating personal video chronicles of my months. No, not vlogs. Imagine a diary entry of just images. They were feelings caught on (digital) film edited to the song I felt the most important to me that month. These videos caught my first college acceptance letter, my junior prom, how I looked without makeup, who my friends were, and what made me happy. I played around with video hosting sites until I started my youtube channel in May 2013.

By the time I graduated high school in 2014 I had shot and edited: 2 documentaries, 13 non fiction shorts, 1 stop motion, and 1 music video.

Yet, I didn’t call myself a filmmaker.

I applied and was accepted to some of the top film and television programs on the East Coast.

I still didn’t call myself a filmmaker.

I was set to move to Rutgers University the August after I graduated to pursue a degree in English or Journalism and a digital filmmaking certificate through the esteemed fine arts school. Yes, film classes. Under a fine arts school.

I still wasn’t calling myself a filmmaker.

“Filmmaker” felt so…heavy. It felt professional, assured, creative and interesting. It was a title I was not ready for.

I have written before about my slight obsession with how I presented myself on instagram. But a selfie or photo of my lunch was so much more different than the terrifying challenge of including “filmmaker” anywhere near my bio.

To understand why this was such a large struggle for me, you have to understand that I was a very shy, very smart, very creative, but insecure child.

As a teen, I was tall, gangly, quiet unless I was in a classroom, and I spent most of my time listening to music or writing poetry in tribute to Sylvia Plath. I was in no way prepared to label myself as something that was so large, so loud, and so overwhelmingly confident. That was not me.

In my head, I didn’t deserve the title. Did I possess the qualities that earn a human the title of “filmmaker”? By my the second semester of my freshman year of college, I was proficient in three different video editing programs, was creating my first scripted short film, and of course still had the 17 videos I created in the 2 years of first owning a camera. Some might have already labeled me “filmmaker”.

What was holding me back?

I can’t say it hit me one day. I can’t say that suddenly I felt confident and secure in the label because I asserted my dominance or stood up for myself somehow. I didn’t fearlessly add it to my social media bios and wait for questioning from those who followed me.

It was gradual and there were signs. That second semester of college hit and I stopped awkwardly dancing around the title. It was slowly realizing that carrying two harddrives in my purse was something I was proud of. It was the process of drafting my first real script and creating shot lists for grades. It was converting my gym bag to my “on set” bag and buying a clipboard. It was being one of the only girls in my film classes and the only Latina in those classes. It was learning curves and crying. It was time.

“Filmmaker” was never meant to be a label that defined everything. I learned that for me, it was meant to be a name for another identity I held just like viewing myself as female or Colombian.

The moment I started calling myself a filmmaker last spring- I never went back. It’s been an “it’s in my instagram bio but also my email signature” kind of full force.

Since I started to leave fear behind and accept that this word describes just too well who I am- I’ve been lucky enough to be featured on Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, ambitious enough to rent a bus to shoot a film on, and interned for some of the coolest ladies on the internet. Embracing myself and how I choose to identify in any context has been one of the best decisions of my life.

I was waiting for something life changing to cause me to call myself a filmmaker but I didn’t realize that the act itself would make an impact.

I’m 20 and I still call my parents for new stories. Their stories inspire me to write and show my own to other people. I know my current favorite story to tell is the pride and enthusiasm I hear in my parents’ voices when someone asks them what their daughter does.

“Kimberly? Kim’s a filmmaker.”