F.C.H.S. graduate launches his filmmaking career

The following was published in The Brookville Democrat newspaper in May 2011.

By Melanie Padgett Powers, Special Contributor

“E.T. phone home. E.T. phone home. E.T. phone home. …”

“I’ll be right here.”

“Be good.”

These memorable lines from the classic Steven Spielberg film “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial” instantly conjure up images of E.T. and Elliott riding a bike through the night sky, passing in front of the moon, or E.T. touching Elliott’s forehead before walking up the spaceship gangplank.

It’s been nearly 30 years since E.T. first appeared on the big screen—before Drew Dillman was even born. But every time Dillman prepares to start a new project, he sits down to watch “E.T.” all over again. Dillman is a freelance videographer, a filmmaker, who is reminded of the genius of Spielberg every time he watches “E.T.”

“It’s a big reminder of how to use a camera,” he said. “I’ve never seen someone so able to get an emotional reaction out of an audience.”

Dillman, 24, is a 2005 Franklin County High School graduate. His parents are Andy and Kimm Dillman. Dillman currently lives in St. Louis, where he received a bachelor’s degree in film production at Webster University.

Dillman has been making movies since he was 10 years old, although, not surprisingly, his skills have improved since elementary school. His first film was a “Star Wars” knockoff. “I stole my dad’s video camera one day and decided to shoot a little movie,” he said. “I threw some [Star Wars] toys in there and did some really cheesy voiceovers.”

He was hooked and spent his childhood coaxing his friends to get in front of the camera. In the days before digital technology, he explained how he edited his films: “I would steal all the VCRs from each room in the house, and I stacked them on top of each other and cobbled a bunch together.”

All that practice paid off at Webster, where he didn’t have to start from the beginning. Instead, he could focus on fine-tuning his skills and learning new technology. “I had a very, very good understanding for having made all the mistakes since I was 10 years old,” he said.

Dillman shot three narrative—or fictional movies—for the St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase. Two of the films went on to the St. Louis International Film Festival. And one, “Oranges,” in which he was director of photography, won several awards and had a successful film festival run in 2009­-10. The five-minute film is about a girl trying to get the attention of a boy at a fruit stand. It won Best Film, Best Drama, Best Direction and Best Score at the May 2009 Webster Film Festival and the Grand Prize for Best Film at the Silver Screen Film Festival in Columbia, Mo.

“There’s a lot of pride that comes with that, affirmation definitely,” Dillman said about the film’s success. “I love telling a story for the camera while having a script.”

Dillman has also shot interviews and edited footage for nonprofits. He filmed national television spots for the United States Fallen Heroes Foundation and helped edit the group’s convention video. He also worked on an antibullying video and shot footage for a reality TV show pitch about a guy teaching American football in Ireland. Dillman shoots weddings and edits videos for individuals, such as hunters who want their personal videos of hunting trips edited to look like their favorite TV shows. He also studied photography and creates high school senior portraits.

Dillman is currently working as a copy clerk at Webster University to help pay the bills, but his aim is to work on his freelancing business, Dillmanography, full time. (More information can be found at Dillmanography.com.) He is currently taking marketing classes so he can better promote his business.

Dillman’s goal is to own a small production company. “I want to offer high quality work that is affordable and live off that income doing what I love every day,” he said.

Like most budding filmmakers, he once considered trying to make it in Hollywood, but his goals have changed. The Los Angeles area is so competitive that he knew he could work for 20+ years before ever making a big film. Instead, he wants his life and filmmaking to start now. “I want to take the bull by the horns,” he said. “In lieu of that struggle [in Hollywood,] I want to struggle for a short time and do what I love, like the Fallen Soldiers video.”

Dillman plans to spend this summer in the Brookville and Cincinnati areas, continuing to shoot video and senior portraits, edit videos, market his business and network. “I’m trying to slowly make the conversion from freelancing to a full-time job,” he said. “Seeing people happy with what I’m doing—not only do you feel good, you know they do, too.”

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