Teacher Michele Thiery has seen many students pass through her video production classes over the past 19 years, beginning with her time at Key Largo School and now at Coral Shores High School. Several who have gone on to pursue careers in television or film credit her for piquing their interest in the field.
Thiery, however, attributed her former students’ successes to their own drive. “They just have that passion that you can instantly see,” she said. “You can’t give them enough work. They’re overachievers.”
A few of those overachievers include 25-yearold Adam Garcia, currently a production assistant for the Florida Keys-based television series “Bloodline”; 23-year-old Alessandra Lane, a live events coordinator and producer at Florida State University; and 24-year-old Seager Dixon, an assistant editor on MTV’s “Teen Mom 2.” Garcia, a Los Angeles resident who was in the Upper Keys last week getting ready for a long day on set, told the Free Press he initially got interested in video as a child when his father purchased the family’s first camera.
“It was a pretty big deal,” Garcia recalled. “It was the most expensive thing we owned at that time.” Garcia, with his family, eventually moved from Miami to Key Largo, where he enrolled at Key Largo School and quickly found himself in one of Thiery’s classes. He went on to take three years of video production, followed by three more at Coral Shores, when Thiery transferred to the high school. After Garcia graduated from Coral Shores in 2009, he went on to get a degree in digital media for video motion graphics from Valencia College in Orlando. During that time, he worked as a 3D artist on the 2011 remake of “Conan the Barbarian.” He then, with a couple of college buddies, started a production company called Short Stop Studios. Garcia soon made a big leap. He quit his day job and moved across the country to California.
Since that time, he has worked as a freelance camera operator. He hopes to soon make his way into the Camera Operators Union, which can provide opportunities for a steady stream of major gigs. Until then, he’ll spend his time on various sets, such as “Bloodline,” networking with others. He said getting ahead in the business is a lot about who you know. He recently finished his first feature-length film. Called “Sails and Sandals,” it’s a documentary chronicling his four-month, 3,300- mile sailing adventure from Tahiti to New Zealand with a friend. He hopes to showcase it at film festivals later this year. Garcia’s ultimate career goal, though, is clear to him. He wants to become a director of photography, the person tasked with overseeing all the lighting and camera operations on a set. But he knows it’ll take a lot of hard work to get there. “You’ve got to have extreme perseverance and persistence in this industry,” Garcia said.
Alessandra Lane, a Tallahassee resident, also credited Thiery with encouraging her interest in video production as a teenager. She said Hollywood movie producer Jon Landau, an Islamorada resident, also played a part in that. Landau, in the past, has invited groups of students from Thiery’s video production classes to tour Hollywood studios and experience behind-thescenes workings there. “I’ve always been intrigued with what went into a show,” said Lane, a former stage dancer. “And in high school I really started to think seriously about it.” Lane, who graduated Coral Shores in 2012, went on to attend FSU. Though she wasn’t accepted by the university’s film school, which at the time she said was a little disappointing, she did enter the digital media productions department. She went on to get degrees in digital media as well as theater.
Upon graduating, Seminole Productions, FSU’s in-house company, offered Lane a job. She gladly accepted. On a daily basis, among other tasks, Lane spends her time in the control room producing sports-related shows and ribbon board content. She also occasionally does camera work. Just last month, she also found out that she will head the FSU softball broadcasts for the Atlantic Coast Conference Network’s Extra. When asked about advice for others interested in pursuing a similar career, the answer was simple. “Just go for it,” Lane said.
Seager Dixon, a Brooklyn resident, also credits Thiery with spawning his eventual career in the film industry. “I took as many video classes as I could. I just enjoyed doing it,” Dixon said. “But it wasn’t until my junior year [in high school] that I really thought seriously about it.” Dixon, who graduated from Coral Shores in 2010, earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn in 2014. D u r i n g that time, he came to realize producing interested him more than directing. “I like putting the puzzle pieces together that is involved with that,” Dixon said. He has helped produce a number of short films. His latest one was shot in the Florida Keys. Titled “Look Back and Laugh,” it’s a dark comedy that will make its debut later this year at a film festival in Brooklyn. Dixon plans to return to the Keys in July to shoot a documentary that focuses on lobster mini-season. “I’m trying to make as many Keys films as possible,” Dixon said. “It’s my town. I love it.”
He has also worked on some indie films including “Return to Nuke ‘Em High: Volume 1” and “Return to Nuke ‘Em High: Volume 2.” Both combine science fiction, horror and comedy, and have a strong cult following. He oversaw the props set for both shoots. For his current job in Manhattan with MTV, which he says is just a placeholder for now, Dixon edits raw sound and footage for the reality show that follows the lives of teenagers across the U.S. as they deal with the challenges of pregnancy.
Dixon, although still a young filmmaker, has already found a way to give back to those that come after him. In 2016, he started a scholarship fund at Coral Shores. Each year, he awards two students interested in pursuing video production in college with a small amount of funding to go toward obtaining their degree. “It’s just my belief in future filmmakers,” Dixon said.
Garcia, Lane and Dixon are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Thiery’s former students who have gone on to different degrees of success in the film industry. Christi Booth is an associate director with the Golf Channel, based in Orlando. She works primarily on the network’s daily “Morning Drive” show. Nick Manfree is a location assistant with “Bloodline.” He has also worked on a handful of other major television and movie sets filmed in South Florida. Krystle Rakestraw, over the past nine years, has done freelance work for such productions as “Twilight,” “Battleship” and Victoria’s Secret. She plans to open her own studio in Hollywood later this year.