“Story, as it turns out, was crucial to our evolution –
more so than opposable thumbs.
Opposable thumbs let us hang on; story told us what to hang on to.” ~ Lisa Cron
Terry Pender is a passionate storyteller, always has been. Now he has the tools to take his art to the masses – and he is.
Sensitively, succinctly revealing the real-life challenges his sister and brother-in-law faced when their twins were diagnosed with heart conditions before they were born and weaving a tale of incredible conquering of fears, enduring heartache, and finding peace, all to inspire other parents, Terry has found his calling. He’s a student at Anderson College, in our Film and Video Production – Storytelling for the Digital Age program, and we could not feel prouder of what he has accomplished with the skills he’s learned and the talent he’s put to video with verve.
As you know, student stories speak volumes about our programs and can offer keen insight into what to expect and how a potential student can leverage what’s learned to carve out a successful career path. We were thrilled Terry took the time to share his experience with us. And if you too have been bitten by the storytelling-bug, or even if you just enjoy a good yarn, you will undoubtedly appreciate what he had to say.
We asked Terry to let us see behind the curtain and share a little of who he is and why he was drawn to our program.
“I really am a storyteller at heart. Ever since I was a child, I wanted to make movies, to act, to write and to direct. The problem is that, living in Windsor, I never knew exactly how to make that happen without moving away to, let’s say, Hollywood, Toronto, or Vancouver.”
Like many artists, Terry, to follow his passion, had to find a way to balance his creative pursuits with making ends meet and didn’t have the funds to travel away to learn in the larger markets.
“I worked all kinds of part-time jobs including Walmart, and currently I work at a retirement home as a server and a dishwasher in a kitchen. So, obviously I haven’t gotten to exactly where I want to be, and I wasn’t really sure how to go about it. Honestly, I didn’t think any opportunities would arise for me here in Windsor, until my girlfriend, Alycia Murr, noticed a link on Facebook about Anderson College for the Film and Video Production program. And that, in the moment, seemed to open up all kinds of wonders for me.
“When I first did my research, I misunderstood and thought that we would be learning how to make films, but the program actually introduced us to the corporate world, which is a great opportunity if you want to be a videographer, to start to make a lot of money, and to really get out there and try all kinds of new things including camerawork, audio, writing, scripts, video editing, directing and producing. As a result, these are all the areas I became interested in as soon as I started this program.”
I guess it’s a sign of how much Terry loved his experience, because he shared, “I had an amazing time and I’m saddened that after one year the program is over; I really miss the classes and the assignments that we worked on.”
Terry did research other film and video programs and said that he’d considered Fanshawe in London but decided against it because he’d have to make the move to London. “I’m sort of a homebody and I’m close with family and friends. So, for me to just take off and go somewhere was not the right thing to do at the time; I was very uncomfortable with it.”
We asked Terry about his experience in the program and what has come as a result.
“By taking this program, I learned a lot about myself; it helped me to shake my low self-esteem and become more confident. At the very beginning, in the first semester, I struggled with my self-esteem because all I wanted, at that time, was to write and act. It wasn’t until semester two that I started becoming more open minded to trying new things. This opened a door of opportunity for me, and Dwight Coughlin, my production teacher, saw something in me right away. He stayed on me the whole school year, encouraging, pushing me, and motivating me because he knew that I was destined for great things.”
To gain some further insight into the details of his program experience, we asked about his classes and what really jazzed him.
“I don’t really think there was a class that I liked less than any of the others. I enjoyed all the classes. I think my favourite class was storytelling though, just because writing is my signature strength. Ever since I was a child, I’ve been writing so it’s something that I’m very good at and I enjoy doing it. It’s more a talent than a skill. Over the years, I’ve acquired more skills. I’ve learned how to get better at it as I got older so it’s something that comes easily for me.
“Production is another class that I really enjoyed because that’s when we actually learned how to shoot our videos. Every Tuesday and Thursday we had production classes, but Tuesday was remote; we did it just online. Thursday was the day of the shoots. We would go out and actually do the work; I enjoyed that very much. At first, I was uncomfortable with being on camera and operating a camera, which I didn’t actually start doing until semester two. But once you’re out there and you’re making your videos happen, you’re creating magic and it’s just so fun. It’s an exhilarating experience. One that made me realize that there’s really nothing else that I could imagine myself doing.”
Seems his Anderson experience sparked a deeper understanding of where Terry could take his talents and his future.
“This production piece is really the whole world for me now and taking this program helped me to understand that more clearly. When I was a kid, I always thought that I wanted to make videos and films but now, I know that is exactly, for sure, what I want to do.
“Another class that we had was postproduction. In this, I learned how to edit videos. This is something I’m actually trying to find a job in right now. I really enjoy video editing too because I love the pacing and the placement of your video clips and how you tell the story. Because I’m a storyteller, it’s different than just writing because now you’re doing it from a visual sense. In putting together the music and the sound effects it’s just another excellent way to keep the viewer interested and to tell a very captivating story.
“And the last class that we had, was marketing. It’s more from a business perspective. In that class, our teacher Carson taught us essentially how you become a producer. When I found out we were having this business/marketing class, I wasn’t interested in it. I didn’t think I would like it because I didn’t understand business very well. But it was a wonderful experience; our teacher was amazing and knew just how to reach us. It became a very personal thing for me, I’m now interested in becoming a producer moving forward.
“I’m also opening doors to find full-time work within a production company or a digital media agency, again, a corporate world. But on the side, I also want to invest my money into funding productions of my own so that I can make my own films and I want to start with short films. I have a script already for one that I wrote called “Mama’s boy”. To get it going I need locations, some actors, and more equipment for gear. But, to finance this I’m going to need a full-time job first. So, I’m trying to strike that balance between working in the field and creating independent works.”
We asked Terry about platforms and where he focuses his efforts to get his videos out into the world.
“I have a YouTube channel and, during my last semester of school, I started taking videos that I have worked on throughout my school year and uploading them to share. I’ll share across all major social media platforms, but YouTube will probably be the main one. I’ve got some videos there now, most have about 20 views, some 40, and others only 10. But the documentary that I made for my sister and her daughters, I uploaded on March 6, and it already has over 8,300 views and it feels amazing.”
Terry’s documentary will move you to tears and have you rooting for these precious, tenacious, little one and their mom and dad; it’s truly a work of art.
“I didn’t even expect that it would reach that many people, but the documentary was very important for me to shoot, to tell that story, because it was so moving and these girls are heroes, they’re troopers and they kept fighting through it all.
“I wanted to share their story with the world because I’m hoping that I can inspire and give hope to those who may be going through a similar situation. If they’re feeling like they’re alone, and that people don’t understand them, I want them to know that they’re not alone, and that they’re not going through this on their own. There are people out there experiencing similar heartache and finding courage; there are support systems available to them.
“I can’t really talk about this project fully, without mentioning my girlfriend, Alycia Murr. She made it all possible. She encouraged me to tell the story and helped me bring it all to life. She was an assistant to me and is incredibly important in my life. We make a great team. She’s just as passionate about my projects as I am, and she’s always believed in me and is my biggest support system. I love her very much.”
We then took a deep dive into the making of the documentary, what the experience was like with his sister, and Terry had this to share.
“My sister actually shared her story on a radio station before we made the documentary. But of course, that wasn’t on camera, so she wasn’t used to talking on video. In the beginning, she was really nervous. Alycia really helped though. She told my sister how powerful her story is, how it needs to get out there. My sister has also known, since I was very young, that this is the career and life I want. I want to make films, so she knew how important it was to me. Because of this, although she was nervous, she was on board from the beginning. And the more she opened up, the easier it became for her to just naturally tell the story of what she had been through.
“I think on a therapeutic level, it was important for her to talk about it. It really helped her to explain the details of what happened and to not just keep it inside. By the end of the experience, I knew that she felt relieved because she had got it out there. It became an opportunity for other people and the world to hear it, and to understand what she had gone through. I think she felt a major weight being lifted off her shoulders when she finally opened up.”
The response to her story and the comments that were made, demonstrated the impact her heartfelt expression of what she’d been through meant to others.
“My sister read the comments and was very moved by them, but to be honest with you, my YouTube videos don’t get a lot of views, people don’t normally leave comments. So, honestly, over a month had gone by without me noticing how many views the video actually had. I just popped on one day to view my channel and then I suddenly saw it … the documentary we made had over 7,000 views. I called my sister right away, I took a screenshot, and sent her a picture of how many views we had. She got very emotional about it; she couldn’t believe that it had sort of blown up that quick. It’s one thing for someone to say, “We’ve got this story to tell”, and to put it out there and another to get people to watch it.
“Those who’ve connected to the story, we’ve connected with. They know the story, they’re familiar with these precious girls, they liked the video and some left comments. Honestly, we couldn’t be happier.”
We chatted about the next steps after receiving such heartfelt responses and experiencing the success they’ve seen so far.
“My girlfriend’s brother works in animation, and I talked to him about creating a film poster for the documentary because I want to submit it to the Windsor Film Festival (WIFF). I want to see how much further we can expand this, how many more views we can acquire, how many people we can reach, because I want to promote the film on their website. My goal is to be able to advertise the documentary on June 11, this year, which is the day that the girls were supposed to be born last year in 2022. (But they were born on April 5, a little earlier than that).”
Our focus at Anderson is on the continual improvement of the support and services we offer, so we wanted to touch base with Terry on his experience with our staff and administration.
“All the teachers that I had throughout the year, really seemed to take a liking to me. They all saw something in me and became more than just teachers to me. They were more than mentors. They are my friends, and I still talk to them. To this day, they always want to hear how I’m doing, and they were thrilled about my documentary.
“I really had an amazing time at Anderson College. I would recommend the program to anybody who wants to learn videography and make a career out of it. And if you’re not sure how to go about it, how to make videos, this program will teach you a lot. The best part about it is that it will teach you how to be independent, like I had to be in our last semester. We had to do our own independent projects, our own assignments, and it really puts you out there in the world, practicing and honing your craft and that’s the best way to do it.”
Terry had this sage advice for students.
“I would just say, “Sign up for this program, be open minded and try anything new, step outside of your comfort zone. That’s exactly how you will make the kind of life that you’re dreaming of. You want to jump on any opportunity that presents itself to you. You want to make the best of it. Even if you try it and it turns out not to have been the most positive experience or it didn’t work out the way that you planned, at least you learned something from it. You can walk away from that and apply what you did learn to the next opportunity, or your next job. You just have to keep going, growing, and never stop.”
We asked Terry to share his final thoughts to wrap up our amazing time together.
“Personally, there’s nothing else that I want to do with my life, nothing else that makes sense to me. So even if I fail, I’m just going to want to keep on going, I want to keep writing. I’m going to want to keep making videos, to keep doing my thing. Even if I fail in one area, I’ll just try harder the next time.
“I want to give thanks to all my teachers at Anderson College because they all believed in me, and they all took the time to keep me motivated, pushing me to reach my full potential. And for them to see something in me. I mean, that really means the world to me.
“Finally, I’d like to share that, during this program, we were a small class of just six but I made very good friends with everyone and together, it felt like we were just one family. It was really nice to be able to have that experience, to be so close to everybody that I had worked alongside, and I wish them all the very best. I hope that together, we all make our dreams come true.”
We are grateful for the time you took Terry, to share your story, your talent, and your passion with us. We are thrilled we got to be a part of your story and we cannot wait to see what you do next!
You can see Terry’s incredible documentary firsthand here, Ella and Sophia’s Journey at SickKids – documentary.
If you’re reading about Terry’s experience and feel called to explore our Film and Video Production – Storytelling for the Digital Age program, you can see if your interests align with this field by taking the “Anderson College Career Training Readiness Quiz” or connect with one of our admissions advisors and we’ll help get you started. Book a virtual appointment today.