HARTFORD, Conn. - In October, one of Jamie Tobias’ dreams came true: He premiered his short film, “Triple R,” at local Bow Tie Cinemas.
“I grew up in Bow Tie, when it was known as Crown Theater,” the 26-year-old said. “It’s a great cinema experience and I wanted to keep that home element, to show people that this is something that anyone can achieve, no matter what people say about you or how they may view you.”
Tobias didn’t always envision himself as a film director. In fact, in 2011, Tobias was on a full scholarship for track and field at Morgan State University in Baltimore, with plans of being an architect. That all changed on Dec. 31 that year.
As he was driving home that rainy night, Tobias took a bad turn, lost control of his vehicle and crashed. The result: pneumonia and a blown-out knee. Tobias’ knee would never be the same. He had to forfeit his scholarship.
But Tobias says he’s at peace with what happened: “I wouldn’t be where I am now.”
Tobias transferred back to Central Connecticut State University and, in 2015, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in digital printing and graphic technology. After interning as an IT specialist during his junior and senior years, Tobias knew office life wasn’t for him.
“I saw how unhappy my co-workers were, and this is what I was originally planning on going into grad school for,” he said. “So I asked myself: ‘What can I do to challenge myself?’ That’s when I decided to apply for grad school in film and TV production, because at that point in time in my collegiate career, I saw something I loved, so why not invest in something that you love as opposed to doing something you don’t enjoy?”
Tobias applied to master’s programs at New York University and Sacred Heart University.
“I was rejected by NYU, but accepted into Sacred Heart for their M.A. program,” he said. “But I kind of wanted [to] leave my comfort zone, so I applied to this school in London. My uncle lives there and I visited England once before, so I decided, why not? I filled out the free application and got accepted.”
In 2016, Tobias enrolled at the University of Hertfordshire. At first, he felt intimidated by his fellow classmates.
“Everyone that was in my class had this great background in film; they knew a lot about British film, directors, and filmmaking,” Tobias said. “Whereas, me, I was just a kid who had an iPhone and a vision.”
Through self-education, researching IMDb’s top 250 movies and conversations with his classmates, Tobias says he was able to master the art of filmmaking. In 2017, for his final project, he was tasked with producing a short film. It premiered Oct. 10 in Hartford.
“Triple R” is about a man named Larry Hill Jr., who Tobias met at church in 2014.
“We formed a bond, a connection,” Tobias says. “I was able to hear about his background and how people treated him based on his appearance and persona. I was inspired to tell his story, because one of my purposes in film is to highlight the neglected culture — the people who … do not have that voice themselves.”
As someone who credits “Boyz N The Hood” and “Crooklyn” as his favorite films, Tobias admires the portrayal of vulnerability, gentrification and other issues that minorities face on a daily basis. “This film is about who [Hill] is and my understanding of what he’s been through, whether it be physically or metaphorically.”