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courtesy of Andrew YorkeTy Gibson alongside railroad tracks in Sherman, TX

Coldbeer. All one word. Not two. If it’s two words, it’s not the same thing.

When I first met Ty, he had a proud and thick East Texas accent (he still does), and he was rooming with Daniel. Superficial indicators to the contrary, behind the accent was a smart son of a bitch. He could give a convincing argument and perfectly nail the point. At the time, he was pre-med, though he later switched to law. He could also deftly handle a crowd. I suppose that was among his best assets: Ty could please an audience. And he made it all look easy.

A couple of years later, Ty and I were good friends. I even shared a duplex with them after graduating. At the beginning of 2008, I had committed to making a feature film. I asked Ty to be involved in a pretty crucial role. Never mind the fact that he had never been a part of one before—he looked like he would have fun, and he definitely had something to contribute. He took it as a fun opportunity, and it rekindled an interest he once held in photography. Ty claimed he was no expert, but one could see that he had an eye for it. Before production began on Videotape, he suggested that we relax and go spend a few hours taking photographs. So we did.

courtesy of Andrew YorkeTy in front of an abandoned factory near downtown Sherman

On 17 January 2008, I went with Ty to an abandoned factory near downtown Sherman. It was an old, multi-storeyed building, beat-up and falling apart, where most are not allowed. I’m certain we were no exception, but that didn’t cross our minds. Another characteristic of Ty: rules are made to be broken (remember, I said he switched degrees to law?). As the sun made its arc, the factory revealed old shoes and used needles; hazy, sunlit areas where a ceiling caved or a wall collapsed; rubble and graffiti; and chairs, refridgerators, and other remnants indicating life which once abdicated this busy place. It was beautiful.

courtesy of Andrew YorkeTy looking out a window of the factory

We talked about Videotape while we enjoyed the crunch of broken glass underfoot. His character was fleshed out in tandem with developing a unique kind of script. What is the crucial arc of this scene? We would determine that in good detail and follow when the scene was improvised during production. How would his character react in this situation, and why? We found ways to mirror his own experiences and traits in the character, so that the personality was internalised and required no acting. He constantly asked questions, which reaffirmed for me his continued interest. And, of course, there was something else I could rely on: if Ty was to do something, he made sure to do it right.

courtesy of Andrew YorkeTy on the roof of the factory
Ty overlooking the Sherman skyline

Sometime after we wrapped principal photography, he asked me for a coldbeer as we sat around in the yard. We were very accustomed to the word by then, and I (or one of the guys) tossed one to him. As he opend it, he explained that East Texas has just one word for all brews of beer: coldbeer. It doesn’t matter what kind of beer is brought, cracking open a coldbeer means kicking back and sharing a story. That word defined Ty pretty well too. He was one of my closest friends at college, and I’m glad to count him among them still today. Many months might go by without a single line of communication, but we always pick up right where we left off.

courtesy of Andrew YorkeTy capturing a photograph inside the abandoned factory

Ty Gibson is now in law school. He still drinks coldbeer. «»