Joe Lewis began creating short films as early as sixth grade, adventuring with a best friend every weekend to film anything from a clever spoof to a complete original. Arriving at Plattsburgh State as a TV-video production major in the fall of 2015, Lewis never imagined he would be a president, co-founder, executive director and Senate speaker by his junior year.
“I liked the campus and the small school,” Lewis said on why he chose to come to Plattsburgh from his hometown of Red Hook, New York. “I already knew some people here, and I knew I could make connections.”
Half-way through his college education, Lewis switched his major to English literature. He values the English department at PSUC for its wide variety of faculty with different levels of knowledge and teaching styles.
“They really know their stuff,” Lewis said. “They’re also super enthusiastic about what they teach.”
One of Lewis’ favorite freshman courses was Introduction to Film and Literature, taught by Professor Jon Chatlos. After developing a close relationship with Chatlos, Lewis became a teaching assistant for one semester.
“Any class I take with [Chatlos] that has to do with film, I usually like a lot,” Lewis said.
Because there is no film major at PSUC, Lewis reasoned that a degree in English literature would be the best possible career move.
“I thought if I could further my storytelling ability, and know literature in general, I’d be able to further my film techniques later in life,” Lewis said. “So I thought, why not make it go toward an official minor?”
After he declared his minor, Lewis realized the college lacked a certain film presence on campus, as the film studies minor was brand new at that time.
“My freshman year was its first semester as a minor,” Lewis said. “So we decided to create the Film Club.”
Lewis currently sits as president and co-founder of the Film Club at PSUC. Along with producing short films within the club, Lewis encourages members to participate in the annual Lake Champlain International Film Festival, hosted at the Strand Theatre in downtown Plattsburgh.
As an intern for The Strand during his sophomore year, Lewis was able to help create the 72-Hour Cell Phone Film Contest in 2016, which featured short films from over 100 participants. Participating in the contest the following year, Lewis and his friends created their own cell phone film and won.
Along with making movies, Lewis enjoys making music. With a small singing background from his time in high school, he auditioned for PSUC’s student a capella group Minor Adjustments his freshman year. Lewis is currently the club’s treasurer and former executive director.
As executive director last year, Lewis was tasked with coordinating events and performances with other clubs, as opposed to creating musical content.
“To give myself a little less responsibility and relaxation this year, I decided to run for treasurer,” Lewis said.
In addition to handling the club’s budget, Lewis also helped arrange pieces in his spare time for the group, like “This Is Me” from the 2017 film “The Greatest Showman,” which the club will sing in later performances this year.
While making movies and music, this is also Lewis’ second year as a residence assistant for Whiteface Hall. Making someone else’s day better by giving a compliment, asking students how they are and answering their questions are a few of the things Lewis enjoys about being an RA for PSUC freshmen.
Living in Whiteface, Lewis sees value in watching his residents grow from beginning to end of the academic year as they become more involved in campus activities.
“They’ve done something that I knew was around, but they didn’t, and now they’re involved in it,” Lewis said. “You see a vision of new people coming in from start to finish.”
For the Student Association, Lewis works as a videographer with their public relations team to promote events, take pictures for their Facebook page and provide photos for other PSUC clubs.
Prior to this semester, Lewis worked as speaker of the senate for two legislations. His job consisted of keeping track of updates from 15 senators, create the agenda for their weekly Wednesday night meetings and solve any issues brought to the table.
“Basically, my job was to represent the senators outside the Senate,” Lewis said. “I was the face of the meeting.”
With a lighter schedule this spring, Lewis has room to breathe when he decided not to rerun for Speaker.
“I haven’t had a single weekday night free [since] my freshman year,” Lewis said. “Not having to go to something on Wednesday nights anymore is a relief.”
Speaking from personal opinion about the SA’s involvement in the Maria Gates scandal last month, Lewis thinks the association did the best they could with doing what students asked for.
“They signed up to be students serving students,” Lewis said. “People were angry about the lack of action and responsibility, so I think the SA accurately represented a group of students in the moment.”
Although Lewis has decided to ease his extracurriculars, he is still actively involved in four clubs and organizations on campus.
“I’m still kind of [all of] those things this year. I’ve just taken them down a little notch,” Lewis said.
In terms of the town of Plattsburgh as a whole, Lewis argues that art and places like the Strand Theatre are “hidden gems” that go unnoticed.
“There’s a good amount of art going around [downtown] that not a lot of people know about,” Lewis said. “When it’s not snowy, believe or not, Plattsburgh is pretty nice.”
After Plattsburgh, Lewis hopes to have a future in the entertainment business. Viacom and ICM Partners are just some of the businesses Lewis has interviews lined up for a possible internship this summer in New York City.
“I don’t really know what exactly I want to do, but I do know being in the entertainment business is for me,” Lewis said. “I’m not an accountant. I can’t sit at a desk all day.”
Email Emma Vallelunga at firstname.lastname@example.org