What does a part time woodworker, previous roller derby player, fencer, and bass guitarist all have in common? They’re all found in the media department at ARS.
Mr. Roger Soden, who teaches media technology at Ann Richards for grades 9-12, was born in Houston Texas, and then moved to California for his dad’s work, where he attended middle and high school. Throughout all of the changes in Mr. Soden’s life, on thing has remained consistent longer than the others. Film has always been a constant for Mr. Soden. Ever since he was little he loved watching and analyzing movies.
“Actually when I was a kid what I wanted to do was make special effects models for movies, that’s what I really wanted to do,” Mr. Soden said.
He was inspired by the spaceships in Star Wars and wanted to pursue making effects models until his parents moved to Texas from California. Unfortunately, they didn’t offer film classes where Mr. Soden went to high school, but that didn’t stop him from being a cinephile. He was involved in other sorts of extracurriculars.
“I did all the science olympiad kind of stuff, but I also played football and I was also in band for awhile.” Mr. Soden said.
One of Mr. Soden’s favorite high school memories was in 9th grade when the local comic store was giving away $500 worth of comic books to the 100th person in line. He skipped school to get a crack at the prize and counted the people in line until he could make his move.
“When I got to 97, I went inside grabbed an X-Men comic, got in line behind 2 people, bought it and won the grand prize,” Mr. Soden said. “It happened surprisingly early in the day around 1 pm or so. So I had to kill time before I could go home, or I would get caught skipping school.”
To end the day as well as he started it, Mr. Soden spent the afternoon at the movie theater with his giant stash of comics, until he could go home.
“I never got caught skipping school, and it was the greatest nerd day ever,” Mr. Soden said.
In college, true to his passion for learning new things, he took a fencing class, really liked it and joined a team where he continued to practice his skill. He participated in competitions and even won a couple of tournaments. Around the same time he got into fencing, Mr. Soden also became bassist in a band.
“I was not good at it and it was not a good band, but everyone should join a band at least once in their life,” Mr. Soden said.
They played songs like R. E. M.’s It’s The End of the World As We Know It, grunge rock, and some original songs which he does not care to remember. For college, Mr. Soden attended Texas A&M, where he studied archeology and english.
“[A&M] is very conservative and I’m very not so… It was interesting going there” Mr. Soden said. “It’s fun in a way because I was one of the weird kids at A&M, whereas if I went to someplace like UT everyone is weird so it would be harder to meet people, I guess.”
To help pay his way through college, Mr. Soden filmed and edited wedding videos and other events. Even though that could have been his career, it was too repetitive for him, and he stopped after college.
“I started off by charging not very much and I didn’t like doing it, so I started charging more and the more I charged, the more people wanted me to do it,” Mr. Soden said.
After college, Mr. Soden worked editing commercials and doing motion graphics and animation for commercials.
“The biggest drawback was that I sat and my computer was in a very small cubical thing and I talked to nobody all day, every day,” Mr. Soden said. “I didn’t like that, and I at least wanted to talk to students.”
There weren’t many film teaching jobs available on Mr. Soden’s job hunt, which is one thing that led him to Ann Richards, but there’s more to why Mr. Soden chose ARS.
“I really believe in the fact that more women need to make films,” Mr. Soden said. “Women go to see films all the time, but films are made by men. Women make less than 10% of the films that you see in the theatre. Which is what they see, but they’re half the audience. Somebody needs to fix that; I saw this as a good opportunity to encourage women to go into film.”
Mr. Soden’s class teaches filmmaking and animation to ARS high school. The visual storytelling process is a long one, which is why there is almost always a plethora of students in his room. With his love of learning new things and switching hobbies, film has always been there.
“Each story that you’re trying to tell is a different story, and they always come with different challenges and problems that you have to overcome and learn how to get past those,” Mr. Soden said. “So that’s partially why I like film, is because every film is different.”
Aside from film, Mr. Soden’s current hobbies include woodworking and gardening. At the moment he is working on building an arcade machine. In his free time over the summer, Mr. Soden has an interest in house flipping, which is when you buy a run-down house, give it a makeover, and sell it for a lot of money.
“Me and my wife have done that over a couple of summers, we’ve done four houses so far,” Mr. Soden said. “I already knew how to do a lot of that kind of stuff. It’s part of the woodworking carpentry that I like doing, so I know how to repair houses and electrical, plumbing and that kind of stuff.”
This summer, Mr. Soden will be taking 16 mediatech students to California to look at colleges and have fun at the beach and filming some teacher trainings in Orlando. Although he didn’t expect to be a teacher, he really likes his job, and
“Don’t stress out so much,” Mr. Soden said. “There are lots of things in life and in high school that want your attention but are not very important in the long run. Prioritize all of those things and take a look at them. There are always a few things that you are stressing out about that you can do nothing about. So stop worrying about those things and concentrate on those things you can do something about.”