A Native Texan, I worked as a production assistant on my first low budget film in 1991 which began a love affair with film that never ended. I worked as an extra on Big Budget films and took work on any film crew that would have me. This meant working in many different departments on many different low budget films. Films ranging in budget from as little as $3,000 to as high as $500,000. Art Department, Props, Camera Department, Sound, Production Office, Wardrobe, Casting, Transportation, Craft Services, and once I had to corral Chuck Norris’ dog.
My experience in Web Publishing is as old as the web itself. In 1994 I took my offline zine Bored In Dallas: Mouse Potato Ramblings renamed it Mouse Potato Magazine and moved it online. With sponsorship from Zima, Activision, Virtual Flowers, and Turner Home Entertainment, MP published humor columns, horoscopes, movie reviews, and celebrity interviews from people like Alicia Silverstone, Scott Bakula, and Ex-CIA chief James Adams. It showcased fun photography (including a reporter interviewing cows about mad cow disease), whacky art, and was home to what would be called a podcast today… three years before MP3 was invented.
While officially making only show transcripts available, giant low-quality wav files were secretly traded via FTP sites, foreshadowing the coming Napster/bitorrent trend a decade later. The “podcast”, called On Demand: Internet Underground Radio featured Jeremy and Gary who did their best to insult your intelligence, your taste, and your mother.
That same year, I formed my first production company “Creative Young Minds”. Our first screenplay, entitled I Dream of Wendy’s, never got made because at age 23 I was diagnosed with acute open angle glaucoma. To complicate matters, my open angle glaucoma has the closed-angle characteristic of “pressure spikes” (a rapid increase in inter-ocular pressure which causes immediate and permanent damage to the optic nerve). This made finding a medicine that worked more difficult; not that any of them worked for more than a few weeks. When they did work, they kept me in a semi-catatonic state. A fog enveloped me. I’d stare at the television or an open book, not really seeing it, unaware that time was passing. When they started to wear off, it was time to take more. Nothing was helping, and I had no health insurance. Then the surgeries started. They were almost annual and they were all out of pocket. Every few weeks they’d re-measure my pressure, change my prescription, and start the cycle over.
Over the next few years my life slowly shrank. The internet provider I worked for found things for me to do for a while, but after a few years my medicine made holding a normal day job difficult. Moreover, it made a career in film impossible. By 1999, Mouse Potato had lost all it’s advertisers and even short term IT jobs were requiring advanced degrees – which I do not have. My life reduced to the size of the apartment my wife paid for with her meager salary, and I began to push people out of it.
In 2001, after every experimental drug and surgery had failed, I stopped taking prescription medication. I stopped treating the glaucoma and started managing the pain. After an ugly month of detoxing, I began to wake up from the fog that enveloped me nearly a decade earlier.
I woke up to find a much older man staring back at me in the mirror and spent the next year getting reacquainted with the love of my life who stayed by my side when everyone else left.
In 2002 I returned to filmmaking full time, crewing on the films Birdie & Bogey and Echoes of Innocence. After moving to Seattle in 2004, I worked on the Tribeca Short Film Festival’s Stealing Joy, the campy cult favorite Creatures from the Pink Lagoon, and the deliciously creepy, (un)intentionally hilarious thriller Darkness of Three. In 2005 I co-produced an eight minute glass-blowing documentary entitled Ryan in the Hot Shop which played at the One Reel Film Festival and on KCTS television. I attempted to write a screenplay in 2007 and went gray in the process.
My last gig was last summer, when I took a position on the crew of a feature film based on the hit short film Dear Lemon Lima. The big screen version has a great cast, including Academy Award Nominee Melissa Leo and ABC Family’s 10 Thing I Hate About You star Meaghan Jette Martin. (Look for it in theatres later this year.)
In addition to on-set skills, I can run a production office, explain the ins and outs of New Media/Web 2.0 digital distribution, and organize a theatrical premiere.
A break in the action
As my blindness progresses, my career as an indie film producer is put on hold – maybe permanently.
I’m thinking about Sound Design and/or Foley, but I’m also considering retiring and buying a restaurant.
Either way, as I spend August, September, and October ’09 healing I need to learn the skills for my new career while I also re-learn everything from tying my shoes to cooking myself a meal and new skills like walking with a white cane and reading with my fingers.
Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.
– John Lennon
Life Sucks. Get a helmet
– Denis Leary