Man's career snuck up on him: As business grows, High Point native also aims to give back

May 28—HIGH POINT — Justin Thompson bought a video camera while he was a college student, intending to shoot a few videos for fun on weekends.

"I thought it would just be a hobby," he said.

He saw a medical career in his future.

His future had different plans.

Nine years later, Thompson, 32, now manages two successful video-production businesses, has a branch office in Atlanta and has launched a related nonprofit organization that soon will begin production on a documentary about addiction and its effects on families. His video work has taken him to places from Los Angeles to Orlando.

"It's been kind of amazing to see how the business has grown," he said.

A High Point native, Thompson grew up on Taylor Avenue in the Southside area southwest of downtown with an older brother and a younger sister. Like many children, he was not aware of how his mother struggled working full time while raising three children. For instance, he remembers his toys came from the Salvation Army, but "I thought that was normal" and all kids got their toys there.

"Now I have a family of my own and I see what it takes," he said.

But Thompson excelled in school. He graduated from the Greensboro College Middle College and enrolled at Winston-Salem State University to pursue a biology degree.

Toward the end of his freshman year, in April 2008, Thompson's brother, Paul, died.

Thompson completed his final exams that year but withdrew from school for the next couple of years.

It was after he went back, still intending to eventually become a physician's assistant, that he bought that camera.

Then one day someone asked to hire him to make a video of a wedding. Thompson agreed but had no idea what he was in for.

"I only charged 50 bucks for it, and I was on-site for four hours," he said, laughing.

He said his wife, Victoria, jokes that he came home with one arm locked in place from holding up the camera all day.

When he looks at a copy of that video now, he sees obvious rookie errors, such as shots where people's heads are out of the frame, "but they loved it."

And so in 2013, while on track to graduate from WSSU the next spring, Thompson founded One Love Production.

Thompson had been working at the Ralph Lauren call center since 2008 and advanced to become a manager, but the wedding video business kept growing and eating more of his time. In September 2016, at age 27, Thompson decided to shift full time into his own business.

People also had been asking Thompson to make videos for their businesses, schools or other organizations. As that line of work expanded, he wanted to create a business brand separate from One Love, so in 2017 he started Captivate Media. In January 2018, he hired his first employee; he now has five.

He also has made it a point to try to give back to the community, including donating time to make videos for a number of local nonprofits.

In 2019, he started his own nonprofit, Films from the Heart, to teach filmmaking and to make documentaries about "stories that go untold." The COVID-19 pandemic interrupted that work, but he is getting ready to begin work soon on the first documentary project.

While discussing his work and his plans, the phrase "give back" came up repeatedly. It's partly repaying High Point for the help he has received in his life, and partly serving as a role model, including visiting schools to talk about his experiences and how to be successful in life.

"People imagine they can only be what they can see," he said. "I want what I do to benefit not only me but to benefit the community."