The Unconventional Teenage Dream

In football, when things don’t go according to plan, quarterbacks can be heard shouting Omaha! Omaha is an audible--a reactively proactive cue given when their planned course of action is rendered ineffective within their situational landscape. Essentially, quarterbacks utilize the everyday practice of what we non-professional athletes call, Plan B.

Within the romance of America and professional sports, children across the nation dream to one day be a professional athlete. And while well intentioned, many social norms, like this, unfairly restrict the authentic teenage spirit. What’s more, it’s easy for parents to assume that their teenager’s life path must exist within predetermined markers, like traditional sports as hobbies, or college before life as an adult.

In the early stages of his childhood, Jon Brooker found himself wedged within the traditional subplot of American culture. Fast forward eight years, as an eighteen-year-old, Brooker has little time to follow professional football, as his free time was quickly and permanently usurped when he began working long and late hours in film production as a production assistant. But Jon’s professional footprint on the film industry expanded greatly after launching his own company, Grip Works, as only a junior in high school, with the encouragement of his parents.

On set wtih Grip Works
On set wtih Grip Works

There is little more powerful than when a young person follows their calling, and Brooker’s story is a living-testimonial to that assertion. And this power only grows exponentially when the child has the unwavering support of parents who champion the pursuit of happiness. So how does a teenage boy, a sports fan, a typical high school student, turn an unconventional dream into a thriving and in-demand business within the cutthroat Hollywood scene? Well, he Omaha-ed.

Like many, Jon played sports growing up. And while fun, it just didn’t hold his attention. Jon found himself more intrigued by camera angles and the optics of instant replay than the scoreline. His audible: trading in his jersey for a camera and press badge. Jon abandoned the bench of high school basketball games and filmed the games instead. His talents caught fire, as he began to produce high-energy promotional shorts and coordinated his school’s film festival. Stepping out of the shadow of typical teenage goals, Jon stepped into the world of infinite possibility. Work within his high school served as the spark that ignited a creative and entrepreneurial inferno. And as fuel sources ran low in familiar pastures, Jon turned outward to fuel his passion.

Being relatively unemployable as a sixteen-year-old newcomer, Jon circumvented began interning for anyone and everyone looking for an extra hand within the world of production. Young, eager, hard-working and creative--Jon’s internships traversed mediums, from television commercials to music videos. Regardless of the shoot, a perceptive Jon began to notice a common theme: frustrated production managers halting shoots in search for needed, yet missing, tools and equipment. In a moment, Jon’s innate entrepreneurial spirit took hold, as he began filling his truck with the various in-demand items and renting them on the spot to production managers. What Jon lacked in age and experience, he made up for with good timing and a low price point.This, paired with his aptitude to correctly predict need and stock his truck accordingly, made Jon uniquely indispensable and thus, a must have on set.

Jon Brooker
Jon Brooker

Gainfully employed, as a high school student, Jon saved his paychecks and soon purchased a small trailer, leased a modest storage unit, and amassed a comprehensive selection of production tools and launched Grip Works. Today, some two years after its creation, and eight years after looking inward for direction, Jon Brooker’s Grip Works disperses a small fleet of trucks and employees to sets all over Southern California. And he’s just getting started! Committed to longer-term thinking within the framework of his talents and passions, Jon will join USC in the spring to take his journey into the world film production next-level.

Personally, as a person who previously spent way too much time doing what I perceived to be expected of me, rather than what I was passionate about, I could have used a Jon Brooker blazing a creative trail before me. Jon’s story serves as inspiration for the creative, disenfranchised, entrepreneurial and marginalized teenagers and to their parents who read this.

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