At the age of 14, Mark DeMaria ’17 developed a fascination with the merging of computers and design, hybridizing the technical and the creative. This fascination, though, was never of the spectator variety. After a few years of years of experimentation and self-teaching, it has evolved into a passion.
DeMaria initially found his niche in high school when he started modifying video games.
“I loved texturing a new model, importing it into the game, and seeing a tangible representation of my efforts appear in front of me,” said DeMaria.
From there, he explored different techniques such as 3D animation, rigging, and integrating live-action footage with computer-generated imagery (CGI).
“As I grew stronger at post-production visual effects, I began teaching myself the basics of digital photography and the technical science behind cameras and lenses,” said DeMaria. “Shortly after, I started shooting short films, and finally began teaching myself lighting, cinematography, editing, and sound design.”
All of this experimentation led to a deeper understanding and love for science, space, and engineering. When he began thinking about his college career, DeMaria knew that a computer science major would be the best choice.
He credits his design minor with allowing him to grow academically as an artist while he maintains an engineering focus. Particularly, the design concept of “ideation over iteration,” or the process of coming up with ideas and updating them continuously, has helped DeMaria appreciate taking an iterative approach in his own films.
It wasn’t until this past summer, however, that his raw talents could be actualized in full, professional form. UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television’s Summer Institute accepted DeMaria into its Film Production Intensive. He received a Park Enrichment Grant to help cover some of the costs of the six-week program.
“In any creative pursuit, getting experience is the most important thing you can ever do,” DeMaria said. “Therefore, being able to work with professional equipment, in a professional environment, and on a professional timeline gave me, well, professional experience. Up until my time at UCLA, all of my knowledge had been either self-taught or gained through various internet tutorials.”
While at the UCLA Summer Institute, DeMaria was enrolled in digital cinematography, film editing, as well as a film production lab. Led by accomplished professors and graduate students, the institute comprised workshops, exercises, in-class demonstrations, and a culminating six-minute short film project.
Among DeMaria’s favorite aspects of the program, the aspiring filmmaker highlighted a seminar given by Chris Gorak, art director for films such as Fight Club and Minority Report, as the most interesting.
“Speaking with Gorak one-on-one after the seminar was unbelievable, and really gave me a good idea of what it would take to break into the film industry as a writer and director myself,” DeMaria said.
Using a professional pipeline in the making of the program’s final short film project enabled DeMaria to work in every stage of film production. He acted as casting assistant during pre-production, key grip during principal photography, as well as sound designer and final colorist during post-production editing. He believes the contacts made during this learning experience at UCLA will be incredibly valuable when he begins his career post-graduation.
When asked where exactly he sees himself in the coming years, DeMaria said, “Professionally, I’d like to be able to put both sides of my brain together and combine the scientific with the artistic in some manner that challenges me to grow in both areas.”
Currently, he is contemplating possibilities such as developing video and imaging technologies for unmanned drones, or working as a user interface designer, an animation programmer, a virtual reality specialist, or a rendering architect at an animation studio or visual effects house.
But he also envisions the possibility of “Secret Option C” – freelancing as a filmmaker and photographer.
DeMaria is already in the process of realizing Secret Option C this year. With a short screenplay on “what would happen if people could buy the ultimate life insurance policy” waiting in the wings to be produced, DeMaria is also looking to establish himself and his photography at NC State.
“I’ve recently received a tremendous amount of positive feedback from the student body for my photography, in particular a photo of lightning arcing over EB2 on Centennial Campus,” said DeMaria, “And I am working to share my photography in a meaningful way with the greater Wolfpack family.”
DeMaria urges fellow aspiring artists and filmmakers to “be scrappy.”
“When I look back at my journey thus far, I am most proud of those moments when I was outside of my comfort zone: inventing, pioneering, and pushing my own personal boundaries,” DeMaria said. “I’ve tried my hand at animating, modeling, motion tracking, visual effects, video editing, photo editing, sound design, color grading, photography, cinematography, screenwriting, producing, and directing. I’ve built almost all of my own film equipment, produced films for months at a time without a budget, worked off of outdated, subpar equipment, and failed just as many times as I have succeeded. I was able to try all of these things and assume all of these roles because I loved the creative process.”
Story by Lauren Vanderveen