Although alum Jeff Camarra didn’t know a thing about making documentaries only two years ago, he will be showing his first at the Manhattan Film Festival this month, an honor many more experienced filmmakers do not easily get to experience.
“This one is big,” the 2006 alum said of the film fest, naming Michael Cera and other famous industry folks in the festival. “It is definitely cool to be involved with a big event and it premiers in New York. We are all from New York and are excited to have our film here.”
Camarra directed and produced the documentary "Up and Down" with the help of his friend Dan Zin, (HHHS ’09), brother Chris, (HHHS ’00), and friends Johan Quickmire Pettigrew, Nayim Saati and Bryan Kobel.
Always a basketball fan, Camarra was inspired by NBA Developmental League and its players, particularly Trey Johnson. After learning the Knicks were thinking about picking up a D-Leaguer Camarra spent his winter break from Michigan University in 2010 figuring out how to make a film abou tit. He emailed the Bakersfield Jam (the D-League team on which Johnson played) owner and got both the NBA and Johnson on board to allow him to live with Johnson for eight days while he participated in the D-League Showcase.
The documentary follows Johnson through his one shot to make it to the NBA. Johnson made $25,000 a year playing on the D-League and had two daughters to support while he strived to make it to the NBA. He could have made a good living playing in Europe, Camrra said, but his dream was to play in the NBA and he was determined to make it come true. Johnson ultimately did make it when he got called to play on the NBA Los Angeles Lakers team. Camarra wants the film to inspire people to go after their dreams, even when there is a lot at stake.
“I tried to be as objective as I could but he is a guy you wanted to see do well,” Camarra said of Johnson, with whom he became friends with during the filming. “It was Trey’s shot to make it and it was really my first attempt at making a movie,” Camarra said.
“It was just an idea. I didn’t know what to do,” Camarra said when he was first inspired to make the film. So he contacted a friend, Jonah Quickmire Pettigrew, who had been roommates with , an MTV star who is also a Hen Hud alum and is responsible for the current successful Pettigrew had the experience to help make the film a success.
Camarra is proud his alma mater runs a film festival for students interested in his new field of documentary making. He also hopes to one day return to HHHS for a film fest as a successful filmmaker.
Camarra currently lives and works in New York City doing recruitment for a medical equipment company. And while he works to get “Up and Down” in as many festivals and on as many networks as he can, he also has a few ideas in the works for his next “feel good story” documentaries.
Read more about the documentary here.
“Up and Down” will premier on June 30 at the Manhattan Film Festival. For more information on that, click here.