Something I’ll never forget during my time at Dodge was attending the rotunda dinner with filmmaker Ed Zwick while his film Blood Diamond played. Which firstly, if you haven’t seen Blood Diamond stop reading this and go watch it.

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RJ Collins on set directing his digital series SIMI VALLEY

Ed opened up to the group by telling us, “The best piece of advice I can give you is leave this dinner, take half of what you’re paying in tuition and travel the world, get your heartbroken, make mistakes, feel pain, really mess things up. It wasn’t until I was 30 that I understood everything I learned in film school, so don’t waste your time here.”

I didn’t listen to Ed. I graduated in 2012 and haven’t regretted it for a second, but I think about Ed’s advice all the time. In my opinion, here’s what Ed was right about; I turned 30 this year and in my time since graduating, and to no surprise, I’ve had my heart broken multiple times by lovers and friends. I’ve made mistakes, massive life-altering ones that have defined and shaped me and my current life. As a result, I have some passionate opinions about life and what comes with it. Here are a few big ones:

Always be honest with yourself and others, avoiding the truth is just prolonging its arrival. Shortcuts in life will only lead you to short-lived destinations – there is only longevity in the hard-earned path. And lastly, if you love anyone profoundly and for long enough, they are going to let you down. And this fact isn’t a bad thing. The heights of love only have value when contrasted with the depths of pain.

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RJ and Greg Cotten (Film Production ’12) shooting the Dodge College Commercial

To say the least, Ed was spot on. I didn’t find what I wanted to say as a filmmaker until I had gone through those experiences. But here’s where I disagree with Ed’s advice.

Today I finally know what I want to say in my films, but more importantly, I also have the people I want to make these films with. Every single one of my filmmaking endeavors to date has been supported, crewed, and conceived of with the help of many of the people I went to film school with, and I suspect this will never change. So my advice to all of you, before you graduate, is to cherish those friendships and creative collaborations, nurture them because they become the most valuable thing you leave film school with. And after you graduate, continue to support these people creatively and personally, because after all, life is about sharing moments with the people you love most. And for myself and I’m sure many of you it’s about making movies with these people… which is what I am doing right now.


RJ recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for a Sci-Fi Film that will commemorate his Grandmother. His film entitled Ready or Not follows Lily, a 15-year-old tech whiz, who after the death of her father, is determined to complete his time machine to go back in time and prevent his death. He and his team are looking to raise $25,000 to shoot and finish the film, submit to festivals, and eventually release it online. The completed short will be used as a proof-of-concept for a feature film version.