My God... I'm going to be 30. You’re 37 now. Get over it, you baby.
I've been going back through a list of my lifelong goals. All of the things that I wanted to accomplish by the age of 25... right as I was graduating college, I created a High Fidelity Rob Gordon-esque list of things I hoped to check off by 2006 (two years, for those playing the home game). Interesting that I was revisiting a list of things at that point and now I’m going back and revisiting the list of revisiting the list and - oh look, I’ve gone cross-eyed.
Just a few:
1. Write and direct a feature film... (I have since discovered, after my failed short film attempts, that I don't care to direct - but regardless, the goal remains). I still maintain that I don’t have a desire to direct a feature. Write, yes.
2. Publish at least one book, don't care if anyone reads it or not as long as it's out there... Hey, you did it! You’ve got six books published with two on the way by the year 2020.
5. Have an office on a studio lot with a first-look or exclusive deal... (I know, I know... this was written back in 2004, when they were still giving out such things more openly) If I thought a studio deal was difficult back in 2009, it’s nearly impossible now. Dream on, kid.
7. Create and develop one kids animated show, or property that kids buy toys for and play out at recess... Still working on this one.
8. Have produced or executive produced a feature film for one of my friends... Can check this one off, I’ve co-produced at least three films. With more on the way.
9. Be working for myself under my own label... (which has been started but hasn't come to light fully). I tried the whole self-publishing thing. I think I’m still paying off the debt.
Okay, so I was overly ambitious. I've got a lot of shit to catch up on, and I'm several years late. On all of them. Maybe I can count number 2 if we count the comics, but a comic book wasn't the intention at the time. You’re good, you’re also married and have a daughter now. FYI.
When you graduate college, the first question immediately out of everyone's mouth is, "What are you going to do?" Get out of debt, should have been your first answer.
The funny thing was, right when I graduated, I was working for Trevor and everything seemed to be in perfect harmony. I didn't have to tell people what I was going to do, I could tell them what I was already doing: making movies. Or at least, was on my way to making movies. Writing, working with writers, packaging up projects, sitting down and brainstorming new concepts -- okay, I was answering a lot of phones and making a lot of copies too, but the path was clear... creative producer, here I come. You still have to answer a lot of phones. And make copies. But there are these things called PDFs which have eliminated a lot of that.
Trevor taught me more than I can possibly continue to thank him for, and being witness to his experience on two studio films was enough to scare the crap out of me but to want more... Trevor told me to go out into the world and learn, and under that guise - almost five years ago to the day today, I took a turn at the fork in the road. And Trevor is now the chair of a film school. Makes sense, right?
In an effort to get more production experience, to learn more about the nuts and bolts of how everything works from the best, I thought I had found the next-greatest graduate school in making behind the scenes documentaries for DVDs. Who better to learn from than to hear first-hand the stories and methods of some of the greatest in the business?
Sitting over Wendy's shoulder as Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris recounted their stories of bringing Little Miss Sunshine to life...
Going to Patrick Swayze's ranch in the middle of this metropolis and seeing that you can make any place truly feel like home...
Hearing the stories of Harold Ramis, Alan Metter, David Snyder and Joan Dangerfield on one of my favorite movies of all-time...
Learning about animation from Lee Mendelson, Lou Scheimer, Tom Ruegger, Paul Rugg and John McCann...
Watched two personable and admirable first-time filmmakers take a stab at an intergalactic battle, even if the fans didn't appreciate all that they did...
Being on-set the last day that Eddie Izzard and Co. wrapped their final day of shooting on a gem of a show that never had a chance to thrive and seeing their disappointed but optimistic reactions...
Learning why Marcus Nispel really loves smoke...
Sitting front and center with Mark Hamill and discussing the multiple incarnations of Batman...
Going up to Lucasfilm and getting the rare opportunity to see the inner workings of their animation department and talk with the folks in charge...
That was fun to go back and re-read. I’d actually forgotten about quite a few of those from ten-plus years ago. Thanks 2009 me. Needless to say, you make a few more memories after that. In working behind the scenes on movies and a whole lot more. Just wait until you get to work on a project where you’re interviewing Dennis Muren, John Dykstra, Douglas Trumbull, Ron Howard, among others.
There are far too many amazing experiences for me to recount over the five years. I know I'm leaving a good dozen or so out. I started my second career with booking crews and making call sheets. But was eventually lucky enough to produce my own pieces, and was fortunate enough to be trusted to create dozens of bonus materials, all the while absorbing as much as I could. I've met literally hundreds of great people. I've been fortunate to have incredible and understanding clients that fed my passion to do more and humored me when I would hit them up for overages so that I could license a Hardy Boys cover image for a joke that only the true fans (and the filmmakers) would laugh at. I have been priviledged to work with even greater people that have come and gone at my office, bosses that were kind enough to continue feeding me creatively and sending me out for inspiration. I'm extremely grateful to consider many of the people I've met over my five year "graduate program" my closest friends now.
But with technologies, economies, and butterflies flapping their wings in Beijing: things start to change. The small production office that was my personal and invaluable graduate school has metamorphosed into something more akin to parody in Office Space. We're putting cover letters on TPS reports (didn't you get the memo?), entering data into spreadsheets, and every day when I eat lunch in the newly created cafeteria, I'm reminded to ask myself if what I'm doing is good for the company. Just wait until you do work for big companies and studios, half your life is paperwork, deliveries, contracts, and wrap books. Chill out.
The changes make sense. The little company that could, which we kept chugging through both the good times and the bad had become so big that it needed to evolve. Much like Madonna has recreated her image to appeal to a new audience every generation or so, you have to adapt to survive. News flash, it’s 2019 now and our President is a plant. Just kidding, but you’re still adapting and in fact are in the process of figuring out yet another next step in your professional life.
For a time, the change was managable. It was challenging. And challenging has always been fun for me. A couple crazy long weeks here, a few late nights there, but there was still time to get Only in Dreams optioned. (Spoiler alert: Only in Dreams development stalls. Twice.) Time to get the comic book up on the website. Time to help a friend develop her comedy screenplay while working on a new one of my own. The change has even given me the great opportunity to work with several of the DVD producers that would have been the deans if my employer would have truly been a grad school.
But slowly, a couple crazy long weeks turned into every week. A couple long nights turned into every project, even the smallest requiring 72 hour shifts. To make it through projects, I started pulling a George Costanza and sleeping at work. I was lucky if I was able to take my shoes off when I got home before I crawled into bed, let alone continue with all of the projects on the side.
If the past five years were my graduate school, I was living like I was taking finals.
In that same mindset, I started thinking that one of the largest projects that was coming to an end in the near future could be considered my master's thesis, hearalding the conclusion of a great run before I turned the page and used everything I learned for the next step. To start tackling the things that I had passed by on my list of things to do by the time that I was 25, hopefully before I hit 30. The timing seemed to be perfect, I could finish the project that has been a year plus in the making - having seen it through from inception to completion... I could shake everyone's hand and... as a graduate... get asked:
"What are you going to do?"
And the answer was going to be what any graduate usually responds with...
"You know, I don't know..."
I just told you. You need to respond with, “Get out of debt.” Also, I’ve got news for you. That project you thought was your “master’s thesis?” Not anywhere close. But you’ll get there, Skippy. Give it a couple more years. The blog went on from here, talking about leaving Trailer Park (where I was working at the time) and figuring out what was next. I’ll omit that for both your sake and mine. But, the state-of-mind that I was in back at that point in time is interesting. I’m in a fairly similar situation now. I took a leap last year, hoping to get back into development. Hoping to figure out a next step. It’ll be interesting to revisit this one in 2029 to see where things shake out. You know, revisiting the revisiting of the revisiting.
Join me then, won’t you?