Work and hobbies are typically opposite for most people, but not for Carson Broom.
“Learning is a hobby,” said the 19-year-old documentary producer, chef, and musician. “Right now, I’m learning jazz piano from an online program called Masterclass which is taught by Herbie Hancock. And I’m also really interested in cooking.”
Two of his greatest loves are photography and film. Broom has one award-winning documentary to his credit and another will soon premier.
He credits his grandfather, Steve Pettit, for getting his interest piqued at a very young age.
“My grandfather gave me my first camera before I was even in school,” Broom reminisced. “He was a great photographer and he took me lots of places to take pictures.”
As a freshman, he began taking senior pictures which then led him to videos.
“When I was a sophomore, I worked on a history video about the Magna Carta,” he said.
That video was submitted for a state-wide competition and Broom said, ‘’only placed third.’’
To most people, that would be a great accomplishment their first time out.
“I wasn’t even close to being satisfied with third place,” said Broom.
That same year saw Broom becoming involved with the Future Business Leaders of America (FLBA) where he concentrated on a graphic design project.
“We had to develop a family entertainment center,” he said. “Branding and marketing were key elements.”
Winning first place in the state FBLA competition sent this project on to the national conference where it placed tenth.
This only powered his determination to improve.
“In my senior year, I had my last shot to win,” he recalled. “This time I entered the publication design category, and I took it way more seriously.”
His publication for a plant-based meal delivery subscription service, “Roots,” again won first place in the state FBLA competition and headed for the nationals.
“When I was called to the stage with the nine others who placed, I didn’t have any idea where I would land in the group,” he said. “My stomach was in knots. I realized that I wasn’t up there just for me. I was up there for my school, my teacher Ms. Ball, my community, and my state.”
When his name was called for first place, Broom said, “I could hear the distant roar of all the West Virginians there cheering for me. It was amazing.”
Broom considers this as a milestone in his life, leading him to focus on technical skills.
Mike Ruben, director of the Ripley Convention and Visitors Bureau, already appreciated Broom’s skills prior to the competition.
“I was working as Mike’s co-op during my senior year,” Broom said. “He had so many ideas, one of which was producing a documentary about the last public hanging in West Virginia.”
When first introduced to this concept, Broom thought it sounded interesting, and video was something he felt comfortable doing.
“Then Mike started talking budget,” he remembered. “It dawned on me that he was meaning a serious project.”
Broom said he had no concept of how complicated the 45-minute docudrama, “The Last Gallows: John Morgan’s Farewell,” would turn out to be.
“There was so much pre-planning and development of the script by Mike,” he said. “Then we had to find a way to shoot the scenes, find locations, and rent equipment. It was a huge undertaking on a shoestring budget.”
While directing presented challenges, editing was the most difficult and time-consuming process.
“There were hundreds of hours and almost as many cups of coffee,” Broom said with a smile. “I finally got it where it needed to be. But the saying ‘Don’t let the director see the first cut,’ is so true. It’s agonizing.”
The premiere, held on June 23, 2019 at Ripley High School, nearly didn’t include Broom.
“I really didn’t want to go,” he said. “I was afraid of people’s reactions and, honestly, I’d seen it so many times, it was nothing new for me.”
He did go to the premiere and was surprised at the reaction of the crowd.
“People were amazed,” he said. “I finally saw it through their eyes. Now it’s available at Tamarack, has been shown multiple times on West Virginia Public Broadcasting, and won an Exceptional Merit Award at the Documentaries without Borders Film Festival.”
More importantly, it opened Broom’s eyes.
“I realized that I can actually do this,” he said. “It added fuel to my dreams.”
Broom and Ruben are teaming up for another documentary.
“We’re filming, ‘Trials, Tragedies, & Triumphs: Jackson County Courthouse @100,’” Broom said. “This is a more traditional documentary style and will premiere on March 15 at the Alpine Theatre.”
Ruben has nothing but praise for his young filmmaking partner.
“Some people have talent, but may not have a great work ethic. Carson has the combination of skills and the drive to succeed,” he said. “I know the film industry is very competitive. I would not want to be competing for a project knowing that Carson Broom is the opposition.”
That talent is next leading Broom to New York University in May where he will earn a certificate in filmmaking, concentrating on narrative short film and commercial work.
“I don’t have everything figured out right now,” Broom stated. “This certificate, along with my associate degree in business from WVUP, will open some doors. I’m giving myself 10 years to filter out what I don’t like and figure out what I do.”
Broom credits his parents for supporting and encouraging him.
Owners of Swiftees Custom Apparel, they have always included him in the business. Starting out just doing odd jobs, he now handles marketing, social media, branding and design.
“My mom encouraged me to follow my dreams,” he said. “My dad did the same, but added that I needed to have a plan to achieve those dreams. That’s what I’m working on now.”