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Film student earns degree, learns to navigate life as an Uber driver

By

Kristen LaRue-Sandler

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2020 graduates.

When Christian Sherman transferred to Arizona State University from a community college in southern California, she didn’t know what to expect. She had been treading water in her job at a small-town Starbucks. She loved her coffee, but she had bigger dreams: She wanted to work in film, and she wanted to experience everything.

“I want to travel the world,” she said. “I think there is so much beauty and I want to see it all.”

Sherman was introduced to ASU through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan. She enrolled in the university’s film program and her life began to take shape.

Of course, there were twists and turns in her plan. When she got involved in several film productions, Sherman needed more flexibility in her schedule. So, she left Starbucks and began driving for Uber. She also relocated to the Phoenix area.

“I think Uber-driving really helped me learn the city of Phoenix,” she said. “I absolutely love the Scottsdale and Tempe area. Also the sunsets are amazing.”

In addition to the scenery, Sherman enjoyed the “schmoozing” opportunities that arose from interacting with her passengers. “I came into contact with some amazing people — even some who had watched films I had worked on,” she said. “I met retired producers and actors while Uber-driving so it was an amazing way to network and just spend the day talking to great people.”

The past year has not been without its challenges, including moving again – this time to Texas to help her mother – as well as dealing with COVID-19 in her family, but Sherman has stayed focused and relentlessly optimistic. This fall, she is completing her BA in film and media studies through ASU Online.

As for what’s next? “I am currently working on a feature script,” she said. “So look out for anything with my name on it!”

Sherman shared a bit more about her career plans and her drive to succeed in an interview for ASU Now.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study in your field?

Answer: I would have to say my “aha” moment happened when I worked on my first TV series. It was shot in the middle of the Mojave Desert and it was about 115 degrees outside. All of the cast was covered from head to toe in dirt and we were sitting in a gutted-out airplane. The plane was extremely hot and even had controlled fires set all over it. I remember jumping out of this plane onto a huge slide and then the rest of the shoot was us laying in the dirt on tarps from sunup to sundown. I just remember everyone complaining about the heat and not wanting to show up the next day and I was like, “This is the best thing ever!” I was so amazed by everything going on around me, and I knew this was where I wanted to be.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: I think moving to Arizona from a small town in itself was a huge learning experience, from driving in a city to realizing that there are more jobs in the world than being a teacher, doctor, etc. I was shocked that there were these huge buildings with thousands of people working in them, in careers I had never even heard of. That’s small-town living for you! I also think my mind was opened to the struggles all different people go through, from cultures to race to homelessness. Many of those things I really was not privy to before and seeing the struggles outside my little fish bowl really made me aware and a more compassionate person. I am always searching for a way to do more and learn more.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I actually worked for Starbucks and working there led me to ASU. However, at the time I had many film projects come up and decided I needed something more flexible so I started driving for Uber so anytime a project came my way I could drop what I was doing and go. It was the best thing I could have done. It allowed me to meet great people and really hone in on my craft in the film industry. Although I definitely miss making my hazelnut mocha with soy every morning.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: I definitely have had some amazing professors, especially during COVID. I have had extremely helpful professors such as (New American Film School faculty) Chris Chandler, (religious studies Instructor) Doe Daughtrey, and (Arabic and linguistics Instructor) Umar Sulayman,  just to name a few. All my professors have offered extra time for video chats and help with any of the students’ questions. They have all been really great! I think, though, my screenwriting professors have been my most influential to my career, because I really grew as a writer and was encouraged to submit my work and follow a career in screenwriting for a major TV series. So I would especially like to thank Hesser, Osbourne and Winters for making me a more confident writer and teaching me different ways of creating enjoyable content. I also want to thank my adviser Linda Sullivan because she has been my greatest advocate next to my fiancé. She is an amazing person and I was truly honored to have worked with her over the years through my schooling.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: The best piece of advice I have would be to keep going no matter how hard it gets. You are not alone, you can do anything you set your mind to! It’s OK to change your mind and if you're passionate about it, do it, don’t let others discourage you from your dreams. YOU GOT THIS!!! Oh and if you need that extra cup of coffee, go ahead and drink it!

Q: What was your favorite spot for power studying?

A: My most favorite place to study would be in front of the fireplace with instrumental music, a great smelling candle, and a cup of hot chocolate in my favorite motivational cup. Also, I am an online student so I had to create an environment at home that felt perfect for my studies.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: Due to COVID, some things have been temporarily put on hold. I actually am planning on taking an elementary school teaching job and spending time with my younger siblings before they graduate high school next year. So for the next year, I will be in Texas. I actually just arrived last week. Once things go back to normal I have a couple internship opportunities with a couple different production companies all I need to do is pick one. I am really putting the time into thinking which one I will choose because after my internship I will be working for the company and want to make sure I choose the right fit. There are so many great opportunities out there and I am excited to see what the future holds.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I am passionate about many things for which I could use $40 million dollars, such as protection of wildlife, (reducing) homelessness, and (helping) children in foster care. So I definitely would put the money towards one of those. I think I would probably do my research and figure out which needs the most help and start there. I am very sensitive and emotional when it comes to anything or anyone being in pain or suffering and I think all three things definitely need to be addressed. I think as a society we need to appreciate the world around us and all do our parts to make a difference. Even if you can only help one person, child, or living thing, then you have succeeded. There is a quote I absolutely love and want to leave you with by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children… to leave the world a better place… to know even one life breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”