When one crosses paths with Colin Pawlowski, KLN ’17, the word “shy” probably doesn’t come to mind. As a creative video producer and editor for ChatterBlast Media, a Center City digital marketing firm, Pawlowski is a certified people person—working daily with clients, coworkers and on-camera subjects to tell compelling stories across Philadelphia.
A blast from the past
Rewind a decade and things looked very different. As a high school student, Pawlowski had yet to embrace their queerness. Other parts of their identity were repressed as well: Pawlowski buried an earlier love for theater and performance, and instead deemed healthcare a safer professional pursuit.
“Going to an all-boys school as a queer person, I kind of felt like I had a lot of defense mechanisms up. I did a little bit of theater in grade school, but there was a moment going into high school of ‘oh, I don’t know if I should be doing theater.’ I just wanted to keep my head down.”
That version of Pawlowski lasted through the first year of a physician’s assistant program at King’s College, a private Catholic university in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Then the veil wore thin. They did not enjoy the medical coursework. The highlight of the year was instead auditioning for King’s Idol, a reality TV-esque singing competition at the school.
“A little light bulb went off,” Pawlowski remembers.
Sensing the need to be in a big city for a major transformation, Pawlowski transferred to Temple their sophomore year. They ditched the medical world and majored in media studies and production. They also came out, a decision made easier by queer communities at Temple and in Philadelphia.
“I knew that to do what I wanted to do creatively and professionally, I needed to be in a city school, and Temple’s program was one of the top. A lot of people talked about it.”
As professors taught the technical skills of camerawork and editing, Pawlowski found avenues for creativity, co-hosting a talk show on WHIP student radio, interning for The Greater Philadelphia Film Office, and working on commercial film sets for the Pa. lottery and Adidas.
“It was a completely different world for me,” Pawlowski said. “I fell in love pretty much instantly.”
Colin at a Glance
From chatterbox to Chatter professional
Today, Pawlowski’s lovefest with Philadelphia continues.
After a first-job stint with TV shopping channel QVC, they landed in 2019 at ChatterBlast Media, whose long list of clients run the gamut from Comcast to Jefferson Health to the city of Philadelphia. A queer-owned business, the company and its employees share a culture of giving back and community-building.
For Pawlowski, that means working closely with the city of Philadelphia on its Rebuild Initiative, which uses funding from the city’s soda tax to reinvigorate parks, playgrounds and other public spaces, as well as the Good News Roundup, a media campaign that drew customers back to local businesses as COVID-19 lockdowns lifted.
The work constantly brings Pawlowski into contact with Philadelphians with inspiring stories from all walks of life. Then, it’s their job to bring those stories to the masses.
“The press events can be very chaotic, but there’s often a moment that puts everything on pause and makes you remember why we’re doing this,” Pawlowski said, recalling an elderly resident interviewed at the ribbon cutting of a long-neglected North Philadelphia playground. “We had all these questions ready, and she just starts singing and crying. It was music from the heart. All the questions I had planned, I just threw them out the window.”
Even with the perks of their day job, Pawlowski doesn’t contain creativity to the 9-to-5 hours.
Last year, Pawlowski assisted in creating the inaugural United We Heal Film Festival, a social justice-themed short format festival that ran at Underground Arts, a cultural venue in Callowhill. The team is also starting preparations for the next film festival this summer.
“If I could talk to myself back in high school, I’d say, ‘Don’t hide behind books,’” Pawlowski said. “Find your audience.”