Hi! My name is Eric Rustum and I’m a student at Freestyle Academy, which is an amazing program for creative arts at my high school in Mountain View, California. Freestyle students take regular high school classes for half the day, and spend the other half in a creative discipline, like digital media, filmmaking, or visual arts. I take no credit for having gotten into Freestyle–the selection process happens by lottery–but now that I’m in, I’m trying to make the most of it.
My whole life, I’ve been exploring creative arts. First I drew comics, and then in middle school, I learned broadcasting and how to produce and edit videos, and now I’m taking the next step in Freestyle and learning everything about film-making I can. Actually, I’m trying to learn everything I can about storytelling, in my writing and my comics and now in my film work.
I think the best thing about my film class, and my other Freestyle classes, is that I’ve been challenged to think outside of what I know and feel comfortable with in terms of written and visual expression. I’m used to literal, narrative filmmaking, which makes things like avant-garde and documentary films really difficult for me. I’ve worked on my analytical and narrative writing skills a lot, and now I’ve been grappling with abstract themes in poetry and doing a mix of academic and creative writing for documentary production.
I also started doing weightlifting in high school (I am not really an athlete) and I’m starting to think of creative arts like I do about setting personal best goals in weightlifting: with each challenge, I discover something I can do that I could never do before. There’s a lot of failure, frustration, and head-scratching along the way. There’s also collaboration, friendship, and learning about being a leader AND a contributor.
I get the most inspiration from classic and modern films. I’m still working on my list of classic movies to watch, but so far my favorite ones I’ve watched are Big, The Sting, and Rocky. I also continue to watch new movies, some of my favorites from the last few years include Creed, Arrival, and Get Out. I am a huge fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, especially the Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America movies. I look to these movies for inspiration on artistic angles and creative story building, things I always need to improve.
I think what I enjoy is making content that other people enjoy. I’ve posted countless comics and weird little video snippets on Instagram and made funny commercials and video reviews. Comedy appreciation is huge in my family; we really like to laugh. We just had a Japanese exchange student stay with us in March of 2019 for a week, a great guy whose family had hosted me the year before, and in the orientation for the host families, we were told that Japanese people “don’t get sarcasm.” That week he was here, my family was the most restrained and polite and un-funny as I’ve ever seen them be. It was strange.