East Lyme High School senior found his place in sports behind the camera
East Lyme — Colby Balzer, a kid who's always loved sports but says he hasn't always been "the greatest athlete," spent the past four years earning money, respect and the nickname "Halftime" by filming basketball players in action.
His entrepreneurial game started about three years ago in the school gym, when he first noticed a professional videographer filming East Lyme basketball standout Dev Ostrowski.
"I decided to buy a camera and start doing it myself," Balzer said.
With the purchase of an inexpensive Sony camcorder, his business Halftime Tapes was born. Over the next three years, he filmed more than 100 athletes in Connecticut and beyond so they could post the footage on social media and send it to college coaches.
He's upgraded his cameras a couple times since then, most recently to a Sony A7III recommended by other videographers he knows. It retails for several thousand dollars.
"I've done a lot of work and filmed a lot of videos to be able to save up and afford the camera," he said.
Balzer shares his work on the social media platform Instagram, under the name halftimetapes, where he's amassed more than 1,900 followers.
One of his most notable experiences occurred courtside at the Mohegan Sun arena after he requested and received press credentials for the 2019 Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference basketball finals.
"When I walked down the court surrounded by 5,000 people, it felt surreal," he said. "I was there, courtside, at the Connecticut state basketball championships, in the biggest venue I'd ever filmed before, because I had believed in myself and didn't give up."
He didn't give up the next year, either — not when the coronavirus pandemic abruptly halted the 2020 state tournament and sidelined players in all sports indefinitely. Instead of letting the cancellations stop him, he diversified his offerings by adding workout videos, training videos and commitment videos as athletes signed with colleges and universities.
The preempted playoff season also inspired him to get athletes competing again over the summer through the creation of his own Halftime League. The event drew East Lyme players as well as athletes he'd filmed previously all over the state, some of whom were heading to Division I schools in the fall. He also invited fellow videographers to film the five teams of five players each as they battled outdoors at Niantic's Bridebrook Park.
"The event was a huge success and I'm proud that I was able to put together something that brings people together in difficult times," he said.
Balzer will attend Seton Hall University in the fall, where he plans to major in visual and sound media with a minor in sports media. He hopes to film the school's sports teams and to land an internship for an NBA or NFL team.
Kareem Brown, owner of the Kareem Brown Skills Academy in Mystic, said Colby filmed at least 10 videos for players who have come through the academy and the basketball showcase Brown runs.
Brown, well known in the southeastern Connecticut basketball scene, is a 2006 graduate of New London High who played on two state championship teams and went on to graduate from Coppin State University, where he played Division I basketball.
Brown told The Day he can picture Balzer working for an NBA team in the future.
"He has a gift for what he does," Brown said. "A lot of the kids gravitate toward him. They love him at all the basketball events. As soon as he comes in the gym, all the kids know who he is."
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