Embracing the Brazen Image

College Dropout's Career as Video Artist Takes Off

In a Silver Spring parking lot, Cutter Hodierne, 22, an H-B Woodlawn graduate and college dropout, talks about what it was like leaving college early and being an independent filmmaker. He also films local rapper Raina Rashad of the duo Raina & Pharroah as she performs for their "Cold Blooded" music video. Video by Ian Shapira/The Washington Post
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 2, 2009

In hindsight, Cutter Hodierne views his decision to drop out of college after one year to become a filmmaker as a no-brainer. By his freshman year in college in 2006, Hodierne had already directed a music video for a Caribbean reggae artist that became a hit on MTV. Once he quit Emerson College in Boston, his trajectory zoomed, and he was hired by U2 to shoot and edit footage of the band's recent Massachusetts concert.

Last month, when he would have been collecting his college diploma, Hodierne was in a Silver Spring parking lot. Peering through a Panasonic high-definition camera, he was filming a music video of local rap duo Raina & Pharroah and their song "Cold Blooded." The shoot featured Raina Rashad, 21, clad in combat boots, a denim dress and a peach bra, writhing, vamping and rapping in the back of a burnt orange 1976 Cadillac Eldorado.

He was getting paid to do this.

"Keep moving your legs! Move your hips!" he ordered Rashad.

Hodierne, 22, a graduate of H-B Woodlawn high school, said that leaving college was hard but that all he needs to do is scan his friends to see why the career head start was the savvier play. Many of the new graduates are struggling to find work.

"It felt like jumping out of an airplane and being struck right outside the plane. I knew I was out, was no longer safe, but I didn't feel like I was falling, either," he said. "Most of my friends just graduated in the last week. I hope that it doesn't end up being tough for them, but I know that the reality is probably going to be tough. If no one is going to give you a job, you better just create a job. I feel much safer doing that because I am in control."

New Media Frontier

Like so many in his generation, Hodierne -- whose works are compiled at http://mynameiscutter.com -- is staking his claim in the wild west of new media (and self-branding), making films and online videos. And he occupies an enviable space in an economy that, for the class of 2009, is especially uncharitable. About 20 percent of 2009 graduates who have applied for jobs have been hired, according to a May survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. By comparison, more than half of 2007 graduates and 26 percent of those in the class of 2008 had a job by graduation.

Work in the creative industries is not easy to get, no matter how much education a person has, especially in this economy. But the divergent paths of Hodierne and his college-credentialed friends show that for some fields, the years required for a degree can be a liability.

Raphael Swann, a fellow H-B Woodlawn alum and a "creative consultant" on the "Cold Blooded" video, has one semester left at the University of Southern California -- with a job lined up as a lowly talent agency assistant. Jeremy Albucher, 21, a friend of Hodierne's who graduated from Emerson College to become a filmmaker, is starting a job soon as a production assistant for a movie starring Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan. "Every day, I wish I would have gotten out of school two years early and started what I like doing. I didn't have the most lenient parents," Albucher said. "It seems like everyone who has some fame or reputation who went to Emerson didn't go the full four years."

One morning last week, Hodierne arrived at the Duron paint shop in Silver Spring and prepared to film the Raina & Pharroah video in the parking lot. "I don't know what we were thinking," he said, looking at the packed lot and seeing nowhere to put a vintage car with a scantily clad woman in the back. He turned to Rashad's father, Bryan Rashad, and asked: "What would you say is the closest elementary school?" The father looked stumped.

About a half-hour later, the crew of guys in their 20s relocated the tripods, 1,200-kilowatt lights, cables and two large generators to a tucked-away parking lot in a neighborhood behind Takoma Park Middle School. It felt like the makings of a high school keg party.

Then a new problem surfaced. The vintage car -- the main prop for the shoot -- was supposed to be brought by a friend of the rap duo. But it hadn't arrived. Hodierne was annoyed. "This is why you don't leave a thing up to the artist," he said to no one in particular.

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