Sunday, November 29, 2009

Life In Transition: The Setup

Lets try this again….

This will be the third attempt at starting this, I hope this will be the last attempt to get the ball rolling.

I think this also counts as my fourth blog to start, lets hope this will be the last blog, but who knows.

The first attempt at this failed to a grey screening computer, I was angry. My blog writings tend to run long-winded and eventually falling to gibberish ranting so maybe it was my fault, I apologize ahead of time.

So here is my latest blog, “Our Lives in Transition” because that is where I am right now. Stuck at a life crossroad. Between miserable every-day suburban life, or something challenging, frightening and (possibly) rewarding.

I should say upfront that I don’t mean to offend or trash those who have chosen the way of the suburban lifestyle. It is just not for me, that said, take what you will with a grain of salt upon reading this or any future postings.

This blog is to capture the next 90 days of two people who are making a major transition in their lifestyles. This is will be a duel blog between myself, Alex Justinger, and my girlfriend, Siobhan Sullivan. I’m sure you’ll be able to tell her’s over mine by the better grammar, spelling, and overall less crudeness of the writings.

So, to begin?

As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a filmmaker. Film has always and will always be my passion, my life hood. Growing up I don’t think people really understood my passion, in fact, I still don’t people really grasp it. I think they just look at me as some guy who watches a lot of movies, it is more then that. It is what I want to devote my life to, it burns inside of me. Some people chose Christianity, I chose film.

In college my enthusiasm grew more as I began the process of seriously making films, submitting them to festivals and winning and award or two. At that time, I was on top of the word, unstoppable. I was going to graduate, skip town and move to sunny Los Angeles, peruse it, give it six years of bottom-end work and break into the industry – you bet your ass I was going to be the next Sam Raimi.

As years pass, I start having friends move out to LA, at the time I called it the “LA Epidemic”. I was going to join them, I had nothing here to hold me back.

College senior year rolls along, things start taking an interesting turn, life starts to happen. I get an internship, which leads me to get a big boy job in advertising. I kissed my $8 an hour UPS Store job goodbye and sold my soul. I should have seen it coming, but I was too blindsided by the fact that I was getting a kick-ass starting salary right out of college. Thinking, “Well, I’ll just hang out here for a little while, start saving up some money and then I’ll move.” Which, in retrospect, is not a bad idea. Hell, I still had a feature film that I had to make, now I had a reason to stay, and change the world of Birmingham advertising around too. Did I mention I have a love for local advertising? It came with the love for daytime court shows, no joke, you give me an off day, you’ll find me at home watching Judge Judy, Alex, Joe Brown, and Toler. 

I start. I eagerly see what next day will bring. I work. I go to boardroom meetings. I grow tired. I get creatively rejected right and left. I don’t get credit for what I do. I stop caring. I shut down. I get bored. I become a miserable worker, but its okay, because I have money, that was clearly going to make me feel better, and how could I leave at this point? I mean, LA looked pretty scary, I still had that feature that I was going to make one day, and well, I could use another car since that 1992 Camry outside the building looked so crappy compared to all the other Lexus’s outside. I always wanted a large DVD collection, and I started a small collection of Criterion DVDs, I could certainly afford to buy one or two of those a month, not to mention I’m was so busy back then that I couldn’t possibly stay in and eat, I had to eat out at places like Outback EVERY! OTHER! NIGHT!

Life became blur, I became depressed. I suddenly stopped reading, my attention span was like a bored housewife holding a remote, changing channels at the mere hint of disinterest. I grew lazy, I didn’t care anymore.

After a year, things changed in the office, the agency gets an in-house production office with an outside company. At the same time, the agency was looking to clean-sweep some people. After expressing much interest in working in the post side of things, I managed to dodge the bullet of getting laid off and going to work for this post house.

Things had to get better at this point! I was now working the dream job, I was in post production! No more of this producer shit where I would sit around and watch editors play with the cool toys while I lose focus and play games on my cell phone, quite frankly, I was a horrible producer. I was pretty un-organized, and anytime I had anything to offer the editor would shoot it down because that would be more work, and I wouldn’t fight to make him work even though that’s what we pay them to do. The only real enjoyment I got out of it was working with (some) voice talent. Directing voice talent was the closest thing in my day job to doing what I’ve always wanted to do, DIRECT FILMS!

Now that you’ve invested enough into this read I should explain something here. My passionate desire in life is to direct film. Not to shoot them, not to edit them, not to produce them, not to hold a boom mic, not carry around cable for them, not to act in them, but to direct them. Trust me, I know the days of the one-man band are taking over and directors are known to edit and shoot their own stuff these days, and I can, but I think it’s a great service to a project to offer talents of all sorts to a film. I would much rather have a more talented cinematographer shoot my film, and hand it to a skilled editor with my instructions.

So I was given a small suite at my new job at a production company, I was a sound guy. Yeah, not what I wanted, but I couldn’t complain. The new boss had taken me in, and for that, I was, and still am, grateful. The atmosphere was so laid back too. We didn’t have to show up extra early for pointless meetings, we didn’t have to pretend like we were doing something all eight hours of the day in order to keep the job, it was seemingly perfect. Never mind I didn’t know shit about sound other then to remember to turn the air conditioner off when recording sound at a friend’s house and to never let it peak. Besides, I had a nifty instruction manual that did nothing for me, but I sure as hell was going to read it.

Thoughts of moving grew more distant. I came to realize the only way you could make money in production with a steady paycheck in Birmingham was to edit lame-o car commercials. I wasn’t satisfied, but being less miserable was certainly better then being completely miserable. Slow days passed, as I learned more about the exciting guests Teri Gross chatted with on Fresh Air podcasts then the shit I should have been taking advantage of the entire time I sat in that office.  That was, until the boss laid the hammer down. He was nice about it, but the subtext was clear, “either get better, or get out”.

Twenty-five dollars a month later I was on surfing tutorials and growing more eager about the job. I was going to get back on my feet, make my shit blast through television sets and car speakers like nothing else…and that lasted for another few months. In the grand scheme of things, my work got better over time, it got A LOT better. Some things I recently went back to listen to and thought, “they let this play?” Its all part of growing creatively and learning, I know, but I kick myself, which I find myself doing frequently, for not taking advantage of situations. For not bothering to really try and tackle something like After Effects full-on when its there on my computer. I kept saying how I’d like to try and edit a spot or two, but I never really did. The boss even bought a full-on camera package for the company and encouraged me to go out and shoot on slow days, I rarely took advantage of it. I was bored and constantly uninspired as the days went on.

I started telling myself that working in an office is the most miserable thing you can do with your life, for me, at least. I’d rather work on a film shoot in the baking sun for twelve hours, then subject myself to eight hours of sitting in an office with dull cream-colored walls. I still feel this way. I compare myself to our energetic dog. Either give him mental stimulation during the day or else he just grows depressed when you ignore him.

I also missed creative companionship, something that I hadn’t felt since college. At work it was a matter of sitting in a meeting being given a task then go off on your own to do your part and return at the deadline. Some days in the post industry, you just show up, do your thing, and literally go home at five without talking to anyone. I felt alone, grew paranoid, and made myself feel deserted. I wanted someone to take me under their wing, show me the ropes, and inspire me, but we don’t live in those times anymore it seems. Its now a matter of “here’s the instruction book, learn it”. Those who can create great work with that will survive. Those who can’t will find themselves growing frustrated at the last hour when their work isn’t finished, like me.

Though, I can’t say I didn’t try altogether, but for the most part I continued to feel uninspired. As a friend once told me, “You won’t learn a thing until your boss gives you a project and a deadline”. I have learned that from the experience of waiting until the last minute to do side-work only to curse myself the night before its due and having to pull all-nighters to get it done half-assed and showing up work the following morning with black eyes and nodding off at the keyboard mid-day.

I’m probably sabotaging any future jobs from people who will Google my name and stumble across this. Though, I write this coming from a point that I truly want to change my life. In the age of distracting trash tv, Facebooking, Twittering I’ve found myself submersed in distractions of all shapes, and taking quick routes to everything. Even reading news articles where I would only bother to read a headline or, at most, read the first paragraph. How the hell did I get so lazy? Why also, was it that every time it came down to actually doing work I suddenly go so damn tired? My body has taken on the mind of my twelve-year-old self avoiding homework at all costs. I just wish I could get back that twelve-year-old self who was writing short stories during math class.

Hell, even more-so, I wish I could find that twenty-something self that would sit at Starbucks until close binging on coffee and writing in-between people watching and reading.

I’ve tried to regain it back. I’ve tried setting goals, I’ve tried scheduling, I’ve tried caffeine binges, even have tried buying Aderol from friends but I end up in the same situation, and as usual, I find myself getting off track staring at the clock and wondering where the last two hours went.

Back to work! In October of this year I was called into a small meeting with the post-side of the company. Something was amuck. As it turns out a political head-butting between my company and agency we in-house for has decided to go their separate ways. This meant the post house was going to return to being a visual post house, and I my services were no longer be needed. At the time, I was a little pissed. Yeah, I wasn’t the best employee, but that wasn’t to say I didn’t put my time in. I spent many-o-nights in that office working my ass off to do good work. Showing up at 5AM some mornings to get ahead and I suddenly just felt kicked to the curb.

At the same time, I felt free. There was this sudden light-weight feeling on my wrists, these shackles were gone. I was a little worried, but this may be the best thing to have happened to me. Might I add, this news came the Friday before my vacation to LA. This was clearly a sign.

Now, let me back up a little. Two, years prior to this, on a January, bringing in the year 2008 I sat down at Brios restaurant with Siobhan, back in the day when we had the hook up there, railing off about my miserable day there (one of many). I remember looking down at the candles on the tables, and the people surrounding me and saying, “Lets move to LA”. I was suddenly awakened by what I just said, I actually meant it this time. It wasn’t something I was just saying, like it was a pipe dream, it was for real. It was also a realization that I was never going to do my feature film here, that I was just going to talk and talk and talk, but never do it.

From that day on we were both determined to move out of this state. I began saving, and we had tentative dates, but those dates would eventually pass. Stuff would “come up” and money would be taken out of savings. Over time it just became a “some day we will” event. It was during this time was also saw Revolutionary Road, which scared the hell out of me.  I also credit the film Up, more recently, for scaring the hell out of me.

So to keep this from being another twenty-five hundred word count I will bring you to where things are now. As of now, my end date at my job is January 15th, 2010. I have ex-amount in savings and need ex-amount in more cash flow to make a comfortable move and transition with bills to pay.

The purpose of this blog is for others who were / are / are going to be in my situation. I hope I can inspire those feeling stuck to break free and realize you don’t HAVE to work that job, and yes, things are very scary out there, but don’t let it terrify you like it did me. I do plan on getting very excited about the move, I plan on being lonely, regretful, angry, broke, but overall I know I will be grateful for my choice. I have watched others move away, and I’ve learned the stages of doing so.

I want to give an honest report of how life in major transition works with things like money troubles, saying goodbye, conservative family members who believe everything is in Alabama, etc.

I also haven’t really mentioned Siobhan, who will be traveling with me, I’ll save that for another post, which is what it’ll take. As mentioned, she will be posting her side as well.

For now, I am still in a desperate need of changing my lifestyle. I am determined to take in as much learning as possible in the remaining time I am with the company. This now reminds me of the typical me, all this time to study and get ahead, and it isn’t until the deadline that I’m now cramming.

But in the words of Lester Burnahm, “Its never to late, to get it all back”


  1. I relate to much of what you've said in this blog and think what you're doing is wonderful. It's already an inspiration to me and I look forward to following the details of the move and settling into your new lives. I'm going to miss you guys a ton, but couldn't support your decision more.

    And I look forward to visiting you in your swanky beverly hills mansion. :)

  2. I am 100% serious when I say that you are always, ALWAYS welcome to come out and visit and you will always have a free place to crash as long as we're there.