Lucky Stars

My name's Brennan. I used to work in advertising sales for PacificSD and loved it, but I left about two years ago, when UC

Berkeley admissions offered me a free ride to finish school. I had been a student at San Diego City College nearly a decade earlier, but dropped out when my girlfriend and I had a baby during freshman year.

In 2012, I was a struggling single father. I worked and went to school full-time, trying to provide a better life for my son and myself. I applied to the impossible-to-get-into Berkeley, because I thought getting their rejection letter would be cool.

The impossible happened: I got accepted. Then, reality set in, and I realized that leaving my job just wasn't in the cards for me, financially.

In 2013, I reapplied, and the impossible happened again. This time, the offer included a complete free ride with full scholarships. I was one of the unimaginably lucky ones that not only got into Berkeley, twice, but also was selected to study there for free. A couple months later, my son, Sebastian, and I bid a sad but temporary adieu to our PacificSD family, headed north to Berkeley and settled in.

Now 32 years old, I'm one of the oldest college sophomores I know. Soon after arriving back at school, I felt like a kid again, only this time more eager to learn and grow. And it didn't take long for me to find my niche as an aspiring writer/director and president of a film-networking organization called Berkeley Film Friends (BFF), which led me to another opportunity - the chance to attend, report on and create a web series surrounding the Sundance Film Festival . The festival requires all red-carpet reporters to have an official media property submit applications for their press credentials, so I reached out to my old boss at PacificSD to see if he'd write a letter to Sundance on my behalf. He said yes.

Then, so did Sundance. It gives me the chills just to think about it.

It was mid-September, and the January 2016 film festival was fast approaching, so I hit it hard. First, I hosted a recruitment event, hired 28 students for a production crew, raised $17,000 through crowdfunding and set out to take Sundance by storm.

The next thing I knew, I was on the red carpet, interviewing celebrities.

On the first day, I talked with director Kevin Smith about his new movie Yoga Hosers. The next day, I had brunch with Danny Glover and met Spike Lee. Then, Katie Couric talked with me about gun control, and Nick Jonas and I had a serious conversation about the rising violence in frat houses across America. I also met the likes of Elijah Wood, Robert Redford and Jack White, and I'll never forget the thrill of those priceless moments.

In the end, the feeling I'm left with is gratitude - gratitude to Berkeley for giving me another chance, gratitude to my PacificSD family for sticking by me, and gratitude to my son for helping me grow to become the father he deserves. Hey, that actually gives me an idea for a movie script...

Pictured here are highlights from my trip to Sundance with the Berkeley Film Friends crew. Meeting and interacting with celebrities and some of my Hollywood heroes was over-the-top cool.

 

 

One of my favorite interviews from the festival was the one I had with YouTube star Jessie Kahnweiler, whose web series "The Skinny" made history by being the first webisodes ever to premiere at Sundance.

Kahnweiler writes her own stuff, stars, directs and produces. Plus, she lived in San Diego for a year and had this to say about her experiences:

San Diego will always have a special place in my heart. I plan on returning there again when I'm old, rich and fat, and ready to die. I followed my ex boyfriend there right after college... got an apartment in Golden Hill that was like walking distance from the Turf Club. My roommate and I would split a drink - because we were too broke to each get our own - and plan our epic world-takeover. Being an east coast Jew, I was initially not used to the SD vibe: everyone was tan and friendly and just chillin'. I thought they put Xanax in the water. It was lovely to spend my first year as an 'adult' in San Diego. The whole place just feels like one long hug. Unfortunately, after a few months of making lattes and movies, I found out that my boyfriend was putting his carne asada in some tacos all over town. I was both devastated and empowered at the same time, and soon after got a U-Haul and booked it for L.A. to chase my dreams. I'll cherish my time in San Diego, from dancing my ass off at Scolari's Office to eating my face off at Big Kitchen. I'd like to come back soon for a visit, maybe hit up the Turf Club, but this time I'd get my own drink. - Jessie Kahnweiler

Kahnweiler is hilarious, and her story is so cool, so I wanted to share a portion of the interview...

Jessie Kahnweiler: I am so sorry, I have no excuse [she had missed our original interview time]. I was writing, but then I wanted to go write at the pool, and then I had therapy.

Me: I thought you made films because you couldn't afford therapy?

JK: No, I got to change that. I actually have two therapists.

Me: That's probably good. Well, I watched the premiere of "The Skinny." I loved it.

JK: Oh, my god. You were the only white guy in the audience.

[Much of the interview deleted here for space.]

Me: The difference between those people and you is that you actually have the balls to say it. And not only say it, but freaking film it for millions of people to see. That's ballsy.

JK: I do have a mustache, but I don't actually have balls.

Me: I know, I saw it, it looks nice. [We both laugh] Just playing. Where is this chin hair

you keep referencing? I'm not seeing that. You must have a really good, uh-

JK: Oh, honey, I'm glad you're not, because I've got a date tomorrow. Wait, so where do you live in San Diego?

Me: Right now, I live in Berkeley, actually.

JK: Oh. I thought... isn't this for San Diego something?

Me: Yeah, you're gonna love it. Let me show you the magazine. Have you seen it?

JK: Oh, it's an actual magazine. Cool!

See a webisode of this and other celebrity interviews from Sundance on the "BFF at Sundance" channel on YouTube.

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