Veteran follows filmmaking dreams

FORT MEADE, Md. — Cars crashes, intense fight scenes, dramatic and emotional scenes are just a few ingredients in any Hollywood blockbuster. Yet for one filmmaker, using her cinematic and writing skills in the service of her country is better than any blockbuster.

For Candy Knight, a native of Compton, Calif., filmmaking has filled the days and hours of her life since she was a child. It is also become one of the most challenging professions as more and more entertainment jobs drop off the market. Nevertheless, Candy continues pursuing her craft for the sake of the art, not allowing her motivation to waiver.

Formerly a staff sergeant in the United States Air Force, Candy now is a Department of Defense Civil Servant in the Public Affairs field. This field not only allows her to showcase her skills, but also gives her a unique opportunity to continue serving her country.

Framing shot for very emotion scene. On set of "Do Unto Others."
Framing shot for very emotional scene for the short film “Do Unto Others.”

“I’ve always been a storyteller,” she said. “For me, if told correctly, a story not only entertains, but educates as well. This is part of why I love to tell the Air Force story — educating the world on what our outstanding men and women do for their country.”

The youngest of six children, Candy first became interested in filmmaking when she was eight years old. Around that time her father bought her a video camera. She would use the camera to film special programs at church and community events.

“At first, I spent most of my time running around the neighborhood trying to capture the next America’s Funniest Home Video and winning the $10,000 grand prize,” Candy said. “Didn’t quite get there though.”

Although this motivating aspiration faded with the time, Candy’s passion and dedication to developing her talent and enhancing her filmmaking knowledge only grew.

It was not until Candy’s junior year in high school when she finally found a school that helped her enhance her skills and creativity, and she began yielding professional results.

This historical time-stamp in Candy’s life took place at the first magnet high school in Nevada’s Clark County School District, the Southern Nevada Vocational Technical Center, now known as the Southeast Career Technical Academy. It was at “VoTech” where Candy completed the Television Productions Vocational course, graduating with a 3.98 grade point average.

“VoTech is where I first worked on a real production set with professional equipment and actors,” she said. “It was remarkable because, at that time, I still didn’t realize how much went into making a 30-minute production.”

Looking for a change of scenery, Candy applied to California State University, Northridge in hopes of turning her talents into a career that would last a lifetime. She graduated from CSUN, earning a Bachelors of Arts degree in Radio, Television and Film Production with an emphasis in screenwriting.

Shortly after graduating from college she enlisted in the United States Air Force to serve her country, travel the world, experience new cultures and develop her filmmaking skills further.

“Truthfully, I needed a job with a steady paycheck,” she said. “But the opportunity to travel and live in different parts of the world was something I always wanted to do, and I couldn’t pass that up.”

Filming Maurice on set of "Do Unto Others."
Filming Maurice on set of “Do Unto Others.”

However, not everything went as planned. It was during her first assignment where Candy truly learned the meaning of  “service before self,” as she served in the communications/intelligence career field, and not the broadcasting field she wanted.

“Comm and Intel weren’t exactly the same as broadcasting, but I learned quickly that you go where the Air Force needs you,” she said.

Candy was a filmmaker in the comm/intelligence field and couldn’t have been more out of her element.  Yet, not one to allow an obstacle to block her way, Candy was able to keep up her filmmaking craft by collaborating with local filmmaking groups in and around the England area, where she was stationed at the time. When not at work, she wrote and produced short films with simple, fun and spontaneous themes, all the while, experimenting with new techniques and methods of filmmaking.

The one project Candy remembers most fondly from this chapter in her life was her short film entitled “Rock and Roll.”

Explaining scene to Nick on set of "Do Unto Others."
Explaining scene to Nick on set of “Do Unto Others.”

“The film began during a road trip when me and my friends saw a rock rolling down a hill, then another rock followed,” Candy said. “For some strange reason, we stop the car and filmed a rock rolling down from the top to the bottom of a hill and turned it into a 3-minute short film about how life has many ups and downs we must face. It was just a spur-of-the-moment thing that turned out to be a lot more fun than the film we worked on later that day.”

Moments like these sustained Candy’s talent and motivation, as well as her true reason for filmmaking – the fun of telling a story.

“Candy is a person who knows what she wants and where she is going,” said Alex Lopez, Knightime Productions/Films actor and producer. “She is very driven and there is little that will keep her from accomplishing her goals.”

After eight years, one month and 22 days of active military service, Candy was honorably discharged due to injuries sustained during her years of service.

“I didn’t want to leave but it wasn’t really up to me,” Candy said.

It would take Candy three years after separating from the Air Force to find a steady job. During those three years, she faced many difficulties, including financial hardship and even homelessness.

Directing scene from "Do Unto Others."
Directing scene from “Do Unto Others.”

“Before I got out of the military, and during all the ‘transition’ classes I attended during this time, I was told over and over again that private companies will be lining up to hire you because of your military service and the vast amount of skills you have,” Candy said. “I learn the hard way that this couldn’t be farther from the truth.”

Though she faced hard times, Candy’s will to succeed never wavered. She continued applying for jobs, including applying for more than 250 government jobs with various agencies in 2010 alone. Meanwhile, she continued pursuing filmmaking internships and menial jobs that paid little or nothing at times.

“Sometimes it’s the small things that lead to something bigger,” she said.

Today, her hard work and diligence has paid off. In 2012, she earned an internship in the Air Force prestigious Palace Acquire Program as a public affairs specialist, and is successfully progressing through the three-year program.

Although hard times may seem long gone for her, they still are ever present in Candy’s memory reminding her every day that life is worth chasing dreams.

“Candy has earned the recognition she has because of her hard work  and education. You don’t get that without a lot of drive,” Lopez said. “The fact that she is still young, well-traveled and educated speaks volumes of her perseverance and her ability to overcome most circumstances.”

Regardless of her day-to-day duties and commitments, Candy stays firm in her dedication to the Cinematic Arts and continues to grow, learn and share her talents with the world. She is extremely inspirational and motivated in finding ways not only tell the Air Force story, but her own stories outside of the military world in her own unique way.

Article written by Desiree Montenegro, 27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs, June 2013

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