Scholar Spotlight: Tonia Tyler

The Corvias community is filled with amazing individuals who are constantly doing fantastic work to better themselves and their community, and each Alumni Summit we are dazzled by the stories of some of our outstanding Scholars and Alumni. One Corvias Alum, 2007 scholarship winner Tonia Tyler, is currently in the midst of a project to take her own story to the big screen through the creation of a short film. In addition to owning and running the video production company Mal Compris, Tonia is also finishing her studies to receive a Master’s Degree in Film from the Savannah College of Art and Design.  She is currently working on a short film titled “Cautious”, which depicts an encounter between a happy family heading out on a Christmas trip and a rookie police officer on a first patrol. Tonia agreed to take some time away from her production and fundraising schedule to answer some questions for the Corvias Connects blog, and we’re thrilled to share this update from this exciting member of our community!


What was your motivation for creating this specific story?

My husband and I were pulled over one night. An officer told us we made a right on red where a sign was clearly posted. Long story short, there was no sign and we got a ticket. That wasn’t the biggest takeaway for me that night. We were pulled over shortly after the most recent in-the-news traffic stop that ended in a victim’s fatality. The fear of that moment, I can’t describe but I knew I could piece together with visual imagery. I was afraid, confused and even angry that I felt we were wrongfully pulled over and now had a ticket to pay, had to make a court appearance – and there was no sign. I sat in the passenger seat fighting the urge to tell the officer, “There’s no sign back there, we live over here.” In the midst of my emotional rollercoaster, I looked up and made eye contact with the officer. I saw fear, I saw anticipation of what would happen next, and I saw a man that felt he was doing just doing his job. That tore me even more. The situation was so complex! I started writing that night.

We’ve heard that this will be your ‘thesis film’ for grad school. Could you explain what a ‘thesis film’ is?

A thesis is a document created to support consideration for an academic or professional qualification. In film school, you have to do a written thesis research paper in addition to spearheading a creative from conception to post-production. That creative can be done in the form of a music video, short film, documentary etc. Both are submitted to several departments and reviewed for a candidate’s graduation.

What does it mean to you to make this film?

It means a lot. It’s a challenge because there are supporters of various movements that don’t necessarily agree with what I’m doing. I honestly don’t think they fully understand it. I don’t really get the chance to explain it sometimes before it’s shut down. Even in those moments, it reminds me how much more understanding the entire world needs when dealing with and communicating with one another. Creating this film, examining another perspective is not my way of diminishing any other perspective. I have no doubt that some people have personal biases and reflect those in their decision making on the job. I’m not denying that, I’m just not creating from that perspective. I feel like we’ve seen that already. This is an already ignited topic, but with a conversation that has hit a wall. My goal has always been to create things that become bigger than the original idea in terms of the positive impact it has on our world.

Where are you in the filmmaking process right now?

The production team just called our selected actors to thank them for being a part of the audition process and invite them to join the cast. We’re having our first rehearsal Thursday night and I’m so excited to get started with performance aspect of it all. Up until now it’s been grind work, trying to network, setting up the campaign, meeting with crew, etc.

What’s been the most exciting part of this project so far?

It’s exciting for me when I get to share about the film with someone and they’re on board, immediately. They understand it’s importance and support everything it stands for. At the callbacks the other day, I released the script to the then potential actors we were considering. At that point, they’d only seen a few lines of the character’s they were auditioning for. I gave them a few moments to read the entire script. The wave of energy that went through the room as each person finished it, it swept over me in waves.

What’s been the hardest part of this project so far?

I would say the hardest part has been finding funding, honestly. A lot of the people I know and have worked with  are struggling artists. As much as they want to help, most of them can’t. I’ve really been reaching out and trying to expand my network to get the project in front of the right people. Funding is so important because as a student filmmaker, you don’t have money and you fill whatever roles with whoever you can. For this film, there’s certain positions that so vital to its success. For example, the sound mixer, the colorist they have to be great, not even just good at what they do. People that are great at what they do and have the required experience, cost money.

We know that many Scholars have taken on projects that involve a fundraising component. Could you explain a bit of how you started an IndieGogo campaign, and what that process has been like?

I started the campaign by making a video explaining the project and the inspiration behind it. That involved facing my fears of being on camera! It’s been interesting. I’m doing so much research, writing so many letters. Just trying to be concise but informative about the goals and purpose of this film. All while trying to attract an audience to the film.

We know you’re an incredibly busy person: how do you balance this project, grad school, and everything else you’ve got going on in your life?

I actually don’t feel like I’m busier than the average person pushing for their dreams. I’ve always been around people that are moving and shaking the world. So when I’m not, and it’s not a time of intentionally focused rest, I feel weird. I want to do things. I have to move and shake things up to feel “normal.” We live in a world where there’s so much potential for growth and change, that alone motivates me to push. I remind myself of a quote often, “Your dreams don’t care if you’re tired.” When it’s hard to get out of the bed, I’m playing  inspirational/motivational videos. They help a lot. I have a super supportive husband, who is also in the industry. So it’s not something I have to explain and try to get him on the same page about. We both get it, in terms of how busy things can be sometimes.

Who are your biggest influences at a filmmaker?

My biggest influencers are all the brave filmmakers, newly well-known and those underground that are telling stories we haven’t seen before. The ones that are giving voices to those who haven’t had a chance to be heard or seen in film. They’re trailblazers and I admire all of them.

What comes next for you–both in the process of making this particular film, and after this film is complete?

After making this film, I’ll be making sure it has a successful run in the film festival circuit. In the larger scheme of things, I’ll be finishing up the other requirements to officially attain my masters in June. In the meantime, I’ll keep writing and creating.

Cautious: The short film is conducting a fundraising campaign on IndieGogo for the next 15 days. If you’d like to contribute, you can find out more or make a donation here.


A Corvias Scholar in 2018

Dear fellow readers,

It is an important time to be a Corvias Scholar.  There is a certain energy in the atmosphere, across the United States, across the globe — from the globe.  Have things always been so happening, or are they happening more often these days?  While each of us gets along from day-to-day, I’m sure we all know somebody who is afraid, or uncertain, and angry to top it off.  And then there’s all these things that come between us at work, at home, and online.  It doesn’t matter what side of the aisle you’re on, we’re all feeling it.


Corvias is a different energy; Corvias is a coming together.  It is a community, conceived just ten years ago by John Picerne.  It is a reinvestment in a community, and it has raised up the lives of 131 scholars from student debt.  In a decade it has grown, and it is now a network for personal and professional connections.  Corvias has come to represent opportunity, hard work, and compassion.  All year round, Maria, Melissa, and Erin keep lit a flame, inspiring us to use our hands for local volunteerism, to reinvest into our own communities.


I am sometimes embarrassed writing about Corvias, because I so often find myself talking around changing the world — with good reason, that’s not light reading and that’s definitely not rEaLiStIc.  But it is with good reason the subject always comes back to saving the world — Corvias was founded with the very intent to incite passion.  John Picerne was one man with the means and the wherewithal to start something, a scholarship foundation for military brats.  He set an example for me, of the kind of person that makes an impact, of the kinds of actions that make a person great.


The world needs example-setters, participants of a healthy community.  Corvias is a coming together, and sometimes that means a setting aside.  We’ve all got something in common, an opportunity we’ve shared.  The community that has since emerged is a testament to the power of giving back.  It should make any scholar proud to reflect upon.  The world is looking for leaders with compassionate hearts and hands ready to work.  It is an important time to be a Corvias Scholar.


PS.  Dear readers, you won’t believe how hard I tried to fit this fact into the post, but alas.  I love it too dearly: Corvias is a mash-up of two Latin words: corvia meaning ‘heart’, and vias meaning way.

My Last ID Card

Over my school’s winter break, I was lucky enough to visit my family at their current home in Wiesbaden, Germany. After my parents picked me up from the airport, we headed on post, and my siblings practiced our well-rehearsed routine of passing up our ID cards for the gate guard to scan.

As I pulled mine out, however, something caught my eye: the expiration date. In just a few short months, my ID card will expire–for good, I think. On my 26th birthday, I’ll lose my eligibility for TriCare Young Adult health insurance, and thus will lose my ability to keep a military ID card. I’ve been able to fend off this milestone for a while–first through going to college, then by using TriCare Young Adult after graduation–but it’s coming, and this time there’s no avoiding it.

This should have been a trivial moment. I only go on military bases a few days a year at this point, I never shop at the Commissary or PX without a family member beside me, and I’m not even on TriCare anymore. But in that moment of realization, I felt a sort of visceral shock and sadness. That ID card marks the official connection between myself and the US military, and once it’s gone, I’m not sure my relationship with the military will ever be the same.

The military has been perhaps the single most important institution in my young life, and I suspect that’s true for many of us. It shaped where I lived, who I interacted with, what I valued and wanted to do with my life, and so much more.

At this point, however, I’mmaking many of those decisions for myself, and my reliance on the military has faded fast. The vast majority of the people I work with and hang out with have little or no connection to the armed forces. I now see the army from much more of an outsider perspective, and as none of my siblings have any plans to join the military, I’m not sure I’ll ever regain that sense of belonging I once had.

My Dad is still active duty, so my family is still pretty attached to the Army,but once he retires, I’m not sure how, or if, I’ll still feel connected. The military has already left a massive and indelible mark on me, but will I continue to feel a part of that broader community once my physical connection becomes obsolete?

I know many Corvias Scholars and Alumni have already negotiated that transition away from the military, and I’d love to hear how you navigated that path. Do you still feel like a part of the ‘military’? Are you as comfortable identifying yourself as part of the military community? Is there anything you miss about having an ID card? (I know I’m already dreading not being able to use the gym when I visit my family…) Your advice would be incredibly valuable to those of us fearful of giving up our MWR privileges, so please share in the comments!