For some, the purpose of college is to get an education. For others, it's the first opportunity that an individual has to be away from their parents and live according to their own rules. But I appreciate rules. It may not seem like it because of my criminal record. Nonetheless, I believe that rules make order out of chaos. Therefore, rules should be kept unless they are causing chaos. And when rules are causing chaos, heroes will be viewed as criminals.
But when considering a college education, I wanted order, and I was okay with rules. Thus, in 2005, I began taking classes at Brigham Young University in Idaho (BYUI).
Like the Christian dorms at Disney World, BYUI had strict regulations. Students were not allowed to wear shorts or flip flops. We had an 11 PM curfew. No sex! No drugs! No parties!
This is a music video me and my friends made about life in a Christian college (2006).
The Battle Cat
At some point, I decided that to have a cool story, I needed a cool car. Therefore, I bought a sweet 1993 Toyota Corolla from an old man and painted it with tiger stripes. I named her Bathsheba after a villian in the Old Testament.
Prince Adam of Eternia on his Battle Cat Cringer. This was the inspiration for the paint job on my car.
Moviemaking as a Hobby
Even though my Christian life style forbid me from becoming a professional filmmaker, I continued to make movies as a hobby. By 2005, my videos were getting longer, and my stories were becoming more complex. By 2006, I began experimenting with various story structures.
The birth of YouTube
In 2005, YouTube was created. YouTube was the first popular video sharing website that allowed users to upload their films online. Prior to YouTube, filmmakers like me (nonprofessionals working outside of Hollywood) didn't really have a venue where we could voice our stories. Although I was the most popular filmmaker I knew, I never had an audience over 500 people. But YouTube provided the possibility of sharing my videos with millions of people. Of course, in 2005, I did not yet know what YouTube was. Nonetheless, they were about to change the world.
Below, I have included a video from SMOSH to show where the world of nonprofessional movie making was in 2005. I have also included one of my own videos to provide a comparison that demonstrates where my skills were in relation to the time period. People often criticize my early movies for their lack of quality, but given the era, I was, actually, ahead of the game.
This was a video made by SMOSH in 2005. SMOSH was one of the first YouTube shows to become popular on the platform. Today it's worth over 9 million dollars.
Slaves of Santa Clarita (2005). Although my movies may seem low in quality by today's standards, it was impressive according to the standards of 2005.
My first film festival
In 2005, BYUI’s film program was in its infancy. There were no official film making classes, and the moviemaking organization was an exploratory extra curricular club with less than ten members, no teacher, and no females.
Likewise, the film festivals were attended by less than one hundred people and the films that were submitted were ... not good. Below is a clip from The Princess of BYUI, which was the first film that I entered into the campus film festival.
The Princess of BYUI (2005) is a musical that combines The Never Ending Story with The Wizard of Oz (one of my favorite movies). This was my first attempt at hybrid storytelling.
My own film festival
After winning several film festivals, I took it upon myself to raise BYUI’s film program to the next level. In my second year of school, I became the leader of the filmmaker's club and made it an official campus sponsored activity. Also, I began teaching extra curricular classes on filmmaking and was hired, by the school, to coordinate the film festivals. As coordinator, I elevated the level of attendance from less than one hundred to over a thousand.
An 24-style advertisement for the 24 hour film festival.
The introduction video for my first film festival.
Rise in Fame
As my media presence grew, so did my fame. By my second year of college, I was a celebrity. But fame in college was different from high school. Here, no one cared about my autograph. Instead, I was sought after to attend social events in hopes of increasing attendance and awareness.
Me and my friend Hollan hosting the first campus variety show.
Lending my voice
In the years to come, video making would become a common talent in society, but in 2006, few people knew how to do it. Therefore, I lent my filmmaking talents to various organizations (as I had done in high school) to help under-represented groups have a voice. I never worked for pay because I felt, in some strange way, that this was my duty to society.
An advertisement I made to encourage students to join campus clubs.
Before college, I was aware of copyright laws but had no reason to address them. Before YouTube, there was no way of mass distributing home videos. I was legally justified in using copyrighted material because my movies were for personal or educational use.
The film festivals introduced me to the legal side of filmmaking. In the video below, I composed my first original score to avoid using other people’s material without their permission.
Mikey the Dreamer (2006) is about a boy who can't tell the difference between fact and fiction. The entire video is a rhymed poem. The score is origional, created by me. The film was shown in the Idaho Spud Film Festival.
My media presence at BYUI came to an end over a disagreement with the administration. At the time, I was asked to create a film for the video yearbook about campus life (clip below).
After submitting the film, I was told that I had to cut certain scenes because they did not convey the university’s intentions. I told them that the version of the film they wanted was an inaccurate representation of student life and that my film was a better depiction of reality. They said that by showing what students were, really, like, I was curbing the administrations influence over what they wanted the student body to become.
I told the administration that there is a difference between a story that documents what people are and a story that tries to influence what people will become. If they wanted me to make an advertisement, they should not have asked me to make a documentary. Then, I called them all liars, and I quit.
A clip from Chronicles of BYUI (2006)
With the exception of Melissa, from Disney World, I still had not found a girl who was passionate about filmmaking. For that matter, no girl seemed compatible with me, at all.
Furthermore, I did not understand the logic behind dating. To me, it seemed like the men did all the work. From asking the girl on the date, to opening the door for her, to paying for the meal, it seemed like the men did everything. And the more girls I dated, the, the more I felt like I was being taken advantage of. It made me wonder: What is the female’s responsibility in a relationship?’
In this clip, I'm a zombie who gives kissing lessons to girls.
Define the Relationship
The DTR (Define The Relationship) was a weekly comic that I created that was published in the campus newspaper. It allowed me to voice my frustrations about the female sex. Criticism of the comic allowed me to hear views from women, as well.
The DTR was a weekly comic that I created that was published in the campus newspaper.
I published the comic for a year until I received complaints about the way I drew female breasts (remember, it's a Christian college). I told my publisher that I did not know how to draw breasts because I had never seen them in real life. The publisher (who was female) misinterpreted the comment and I got fired.
Nudity is a sensitive subject in Christian communities. On the one hand, Christians are suppose to avoid premarital sex and pornography. On the other hand, Adam and Eve were naked in public.
Are these breasts drawn right? How should I know? I'm a Christian.
Criticism against men
Because of my own personal complaints against women, I felt it was important to listen to complaints women had against men. In the clip below, I’m playing the part of Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. It was my tongue-in-cheek way of telling women that I am listening to their frustrations.
Gaston performs ME (2006)
The Adventures of Jonny Lekrib
The strict regulations differentiated BYUI from other universities. In the absence of sex, drugs, and parties, many students spent their evenings watching TV. But my time was spent trying to make my life a story worth watching. Below are a few of the adventures I had at college.
Couching (2006). Couching is an activity where you take a couch all over the city and photograph yourself on the couch. Why would anyone do this? I have no idea.
Chester (2006). In this video, me and my friends pranked people with a freaky decapitated head.
Batman and Batman (2005). The time me and my brother realized we were Batman... and then I died.
Helsing (2005). The time me and my brother broke into Castle Helsing and I died.
Hot Potato (2005). Just me and some friends playing with fire.
Learning to dance
In an attempt to make my life a story worth watching, I learned how to dance. My dance team was called The High School Musical Rejects. In our first year, we won the university championship dance competition. This video is from our winning number.
The Party Scene
Not everyone agreed with the school’s regulations. Some students were compelled, by their parents, to attend the Christian college but had no intention of obeying Christian rules. Others found it difficult to conform. In many ways, it was Disney World all over again.
Two parents dissapointed in student behavior at the Christian university.
The thing about being a virgin...
Not having sex before marriage was the ultimate rule. Disobedience resulted in expulsion. But it's an odd regulation because everyone wants to have sex. Christians have hormones just like non-Christians. To make the temptation worse, in the Mormon religion, masturbation is forbidden. This results in a university full of plump ticking time bombs (and, probably, a lot of liars).
To be clear, I didn't have a problem with the rules, themselves. My frustration stemmed from the fact that sex was a taboo topic. I felt that if Christians were going to obey laws that seem to go against nature, we deserve an explanation as to why these laws exist and how they will benefit us. But modern Christianity doesn't offer many satisfying answers. And, the very act of asking questions is condemning. To ask why masturbation is wrong is to suggest that you're doing something you shouldn't be doing. To ask why sex before marriage is wrong is to call into question your worth in the community. In the Christian faith, members are conditioned to refrain from asking why and just obey.
In a futile effort to satisfy sexual tension, some students participated in NCMO (Non Committal Make Out). Although there is no official rule forbidding NCMO, it certainly goes against the spirit of Christianity.
Finding NCMO (2006): Mitchel finds a girl to make out with.
The thing about being gay...
Same-sex relationships were also against the rules. In 2006, the LGBT movement was gaining momentum, but it was still two years away from its real breakthrough (Prop 8). In those days, in that university, I didn't know anyone who was gay. This made me feel even more different than I already felt.
Makeup Video (2006). I was the first boy to take the university make up class in over seven years. My friends joked about it, but I didn't care. I love using the face as a canvas.
Love your enemy?
After wasting a lot of time and money trying to find girls to date who were like me, I concluded that I was unique. Therefore, I took a different approach and began dating girls who were the opposite of me. I dated lawyers and scientists, nurses and mathematicians. These relationships broadened my perspective of the world. These girls taught me about the judicial system, quantum mechanics, genetics, and relativity.
I believed that, so long as Christianity was our common foundation, all other differences should not matter in a marriage. Furthermore, by marrying someone who was different from me, we would be more well-rounded as a couple. The weakness of one would be compensated by the strength of the other so, together, we would make a good team.
So Scared (2007): This music video is about a girlfriend who controls her boyfriend's life. Then she turns into a monster. In retrospect, this video is a foreshadow of events to come.
Looking for an Occupation
By 2005, Hollywood had not improved the morality of their films. Therefore, I continued looking for an occupation outside of moviemaking that would be compatible with my Christian lifestyle. During my college years, I worked in construction, as a pool boy, as a research assistant, and as a professional photographer at Yellowstone's Bear World.
I was employed as a technician who installed security alarms. I was also a public relations specialist for Jamba Juice (Idaho branch). But these occupations frustrated me. I wanted to make films.
Me as a pool boy.
One summer, I went to California to sell pest control service door-to-door. Accompanying me was my brother Jason and some of our former high school friends.
This is a commercial Jason and I made for our pest control service. It never aired.
I filmed the entire summer and made a documentary. This is an advertisement for our show The Slaves of Santa Clarita (2005).
The water boy
I was a pool boy for five years. My job was to make sure the water was clean and available. Part of my time in this occupation was spent building some of the most beautiful pools in the world.
I was hired as a professional photographer for Yellowstone's Bear World. My job was to sell people pictures of themselves, but I also got to play with a lot of baby bears. Furthermore, the opportunity to work in Yellowstone was wonderful. #TigerKing
Part of my job was to care for the animals in the petting zoo. In time,I developed relationships with them. My favorite animal was Stilts the moose. Pictured above is Koda the cub and Fawn the fawn.
One of my award winning photographs
For three years I worked as the official spokesman for Jamba Juice (Idaho branch). My main duty was to dance on the side of the road in a banana costume, but I also did shows at school assemblies. I read stories to kids at elementary schools. I delivered free smoothies to women in hospitals who had just given birth. Also, I made movies!
Banana Man (2006). This is a documentary of my adventures as a banana man.
This is a video from the time me and the army of fruits ran in the Damn Marathon.
Banana Man and the Army of Fruits (2007)
The Death of Isaac
During the summer when I sold pest control, my roommate Isaac got into a car accident and passed away. This was my first encounter with death.
Leading up to his death were lots of strange coincidences and conversations that seemed to foreshadow what was to come. It was almost as though Isaac's life was a structured story, written by a divine author, but I was unable to read the story because I did not know the hidden language of the creator. Nonetheless, I was aware that the book existed.
Then I thought, what if every person’s life is a story. What if existence has a language. What if nature follows some kind of literary method - with rules and patterns. What if our perception that life is random and nonsensical is only because we do not understand how to read the pages of our own book?
If this theory is true, then understanding this hidden language could change the way we perceive the world. It would allow us to know when death was coming the same way a reader knows when he is approaching the end of a book. It would allow us understand our purpose in life and feel comfort in death. It would change the way we communicate with each other. It would change our motivations for living.
But how does one go about learning the language of existence?
In an effort to make my life a story worth watching, I signed up for a study abroad program. I was accepted in 2007 and packed my bags for an adventure in the jungles of Central America.
To continue my story, click here.