You might call Eric Schwartz the unintentional filmmaker.
The profession certainly wasn't high on the 28-year-old Battle Ground High School graduate's short list when he started out — although he said he's thrilled that his first short film will air at this weekend's Wizard World Portland Comic Con.
When he left school, Schwartz wanted to be a firefighter.
"When I was going through school, I did the cadet program in Battle Ground," Schwartz said. "And from that, I went down and volunteered after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans for several months. When I came back, I tried to work for the Vancouver Fire Department, but they said I didn't have enough life experience yet."
To get more, Schwartz signed up for the Navy and became a medic, where he was attached to a Marine infantry unit that served in Iraq.
But when he returned, things had changed.
"After that I didn't really want to be in the medical field," Schwartz said. "I saw a little too much."
Diagnosed with PTSD, Schwartz started meeting with a psychologist at the Vancouver Division of the Portland VA Medical Center. And she asked him about hobbies he used to enjoy.
"I said I used to do slide shows, and she said, 'You know, people do this for a living,' so she sent me to the Art Institute of Portland," Schwartz said.
In interviews with the school, he said he wanted to get into motion graphics.
"And (the interviewer) said, 'No, you look like a film guy,'" Schwartz said with a laugh. "So that's how I got into films."
He graduated in June with a bachelor's degree in digital film and video, and he's been working on short films since.
The career seems to suit him. His first major short film — an eerie piece about missing kids — was selected to be part of the Wizard World's short film competition Saturday.
"It's a short little mystery adventure piece about two girls," Schwartz said. "In this town they live in, kids go missing all the time in this forbidden forest. So they decide to try to solve the mystery."
The 10-minute film is a prequel to another longer movie he wants to work on, and he also has several other things cooking.
He's done some work for Portland State University and for the "You Can Play" campaign for the NFL. And he recently got a full-time job as a visual communications specialist with an engineering firm in Wilsonville, Ore.
"The Void" won't be made public while it's part of the competition. But afterward, Schwartz said he hopes to be able to share it. The website for the piece is www.thevoidinoakridge.com. He also has a personal website with more of his work and upcoming projects at www.ericfschwartz.com.
"I'm really grateful that all this is happening," Schwartz said. "And it's not just my movie. It's everyone who helped me. Friends, family, cast, crew. I couldn't do this without them."
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