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Stevens finds success in TV industry

As a Warren County High School student, McMinnville native James Stevens had a dream, a dream he says changed his life. It was a dream that took him to a career in television, a regional Emmy Award and international recognition for his unique computer animation and motion graphics.
Everyone knows there’s more than one kind of dream. There’s the kind that invades our sleep and opens our mind’s eye to amazing but sometimes dreadful realms.
And there are dreams that form our ambitions, that guide us down the path we feel destined to take. These dreams aren’t tied to any locale. They are free to take us wherever we have to go to realize our aspirations.
Stevens, who graduated from WCHS in 1988, knows all about those kind of dreams, and he wants to impart that knowledge to those who might think their own dreams are unattainable.
“As I grew up in McMinnville, I knew I wanted to work in television,” Stevens said. “There was a class at Warren County High School called Video Art. Wayne Hayes taught it. I don’t think they even teach it anymore. That opened my eyes, but it was like where in McMinnville do you look around for guidance and advice and motivation to go into this industry? My mom and dad were like, ‘Well, can you get a job at the cable company?’”
Stevens was quick to explain that wasn’t really his ambition. He then set out on a journey to achieve his goal. Though his hometown had no TV production facilities or training available, Stevens managed to make the best of the educational opportunities he did have, and he advises other students with what might be considered unusual career choices to do the same.
“You know, Motlow is right there,” Stevens said. “They can do what I did. Motlow had just opened and I went there for two years, then I went to MTSU. Even in a small town like McMinnville the opportunities are there.”
There was no instant gratification. Steven’s dream took considerable work and determination. For more than seven years he worked at the local Walmart while in high school and college. At the same time, he was doing anything he could to further his ambition to get into TV production.
While attending MTSU, Stevens got a job as an intern with Nashville’s NewsChannel 5 and after completing it was offered a temporary position with the station.
“But since the temp job didn’t pay very well, I continued to work at Walmart, live at home with my parents and commute back and forth to MTSU and NewsChannel 5,” Stevens recalled. “Eventually I was hired full-time by the station, but it wasn’t easy to get my start in the television industry. Many nights I slept on the couch in the NewsChannel 5 studio because I was scheduled to be back at work in just a few hours.”
This exhausting routine eventually led to a car accident coming home from a 10 p.m. newscast, and Stevens decided to make the move to Nashville.
In the end, all the hard work paid off. After the long apprenticeship, Stevens went out on his own in 1999. These days he teaches classes at MTSU and works with companies from across the country and around the world, including England, Poland, Germany, Spain and Australia. His animations have been used in a number of high-profile TV programs like the Rose Parade telecast.
In addition to the regional Emmy Award, he was recognized in 2008 by the College of Mass Communication at MTSU and was inducted into their “Wall of Fame.” He has worked on TV programs for ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox and A&E, and his work is available at iStockvideo, one of the largest distribution companies on the Internet.
“Even though I’m right here in Nashville with the Internet I can work with clients all over the world,” Stevens said.
Currently he is furthering his education by attending grad school at Savannah College of Art and Design.
No matter what the obstacles, Stevens says people can achieve their dreams, just as he did.
“I hope this will serve as a source of inspiration to young people in Warren County who need encouragement to follow their dreams,” Stevens said. “All they need to do is work hard and believe in themselves and they can go as far as they want in life.”
For some examples of Steven’s innovative work, also available at iStockvideo, visit his website at