Imagine a quiet New Mexico landscape nestled near a national forest with views of deer, a creek and mountains. For companionship you have a cattle dog named Banjo, two cats and your loved ones. This is the quarantine setting that 2001 Episcopal graduate John Graham has enjoyed. It’s a world away from the Los Angeles apartment he once called home, but he’s found that it’s an ideal setting to spark his imagination.
John was born in New Mexico and lived in a small village until his family relocated to Alaska when he was nine years old. After three and a half years in the tundra, the family moved to Louisiana, where John began attending Episcopal in fifth grade. At the time, he was also introduced to shrimp etouffee and fell in love with gumbo. Louisiana was a change, but John says he was “young enough to roll with the punches.”
"I learned how to learn at Episcopal.”
“I was not an exemplary student at EHS,” says John. He emphasizes this point, saying he didn’t get algebra and some subjects at the time. However, as a college student at the Savannah College of Art and Design things changed. John says when he got to college, he “realized the value of Episcopal.” He saw classmates struggling while he excelled. “I learned how to learn at Episcopal,” he says. “I feel confident I can figure things out.” John also found that the algebra he initially didn’t get became important when it was used to solve problems he cared about. One day, as he calculated the ideal distance from a subject to the camera, it struck him. “My teachers were right. I did need it in real life!”
In John’s real life, he is a filmmaker with seven independent films to his credit. He is involved in all aspects of his projects from concept creation to editing and directing. Recently, he celebrated the release of his latest endeavor, a movie titled “Switched.” “Switched” tells the story of a mean-spirited bully who becomes switched with the classmate she torments. “The message is love your neighbor as yourself,” says Graham. He points out that to truly love your neighbor, you must love yourself, highlighting the importance of taking care of your body and your mental health.
John’s life has not always been an adventure. When he initially graduated from college, work was difficult to find. Determined, John took an office job in order to meet people in the film industry. That commitment to his dream paid off, and he met the right people. He landed his first job in the industry as a production assistant. From there John continued working toward his goal of filmmaking, directing his first movie titled “Home Sweet Home” on his parents’ property in New Mexico.
John has a gift for connecting with others whether at Episcopal or in Hollywood. As a Knight, he was a member of the Drama Club and the Thespians. He was voted the Homecoming King his senior year. Visual and Performing Arts Department Chair Paige Gagliano remembers John well. “John is a positive, industrious and creative young man,” she says. “A great person to be around.” Throughout his career, John has cultivated relationships with talented people and worked with them on multiple projects. He thinks he connects with people because he is kind and listens. He also says, “I am go with the flow.” That laid back attitude serves him well when challenges present themselves in settings like a rigid film schedule. “Creativity and not panicking become important,” says John. At the same time, John appreciates the good that comes from a challenge. “Constraint sometimes gives you a brilliant moment,” he says. “Adversity is a way to grow.”
“I always wanted to be a storyteller.”
John has established a successful career through hard work and determination. He offers the following advice to current students. “Try your hardest so you can get where you want to be. If you find something you love, find a way to make your career doing that.” He also reminds students to be kind. “Be cognizant of how you treat each other,” he says.
From the American west to Woodland Ridge Boulevard and back again, John has pursued his dreams while having adventures along the way. We can’t wait to see what this creative will do next.
You can check out John’s latest adventures on Instagram @johnkdgraham. His film, “Switched,” is available on DVD or VOD.
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