FROM SEPTEMBER 29, 2009
To those of you who regularly read of the sterling accomplishments of Moon Productions here in the Lunar Report, you must have gathered by now that I am reinventing myself. I do this on a regular basis. Every seven years or so. It’s no big deal to me so don’t fret about me. This is just my life.
I must tell you, however, that this reinvention is different. Usually when this happens, I have another place to go or another place to be, but usually not a place of my choosing. That place just appears somehow. This time is different because I feel a real sense of freedom. I am choosing that place. Right or wrong, I am choosing this one.
So here is the dilemma. Do I choose to go by the book and become as professional as I possibly can, intentionally saying all the right things at all the right times and doing the same? Or do I throw caution to the wind, follow my heart and insanity, see where it takes me and enjoy the ride?
Coming out of college, I remember trying my best to land a job at a television station in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina. It didn’t happen right away. It took over 3 years of application after application and many phone calls to finally land a job at the ABC affiliate in Durham. In the meantime, however, I had done some work I was proud of, and I compiled a demo reel. But my demo reel was different. The reel begins with a shot of me walking slowly towards the camera in a dark television studio. I am wearing my favorite and wrinkled Carolina sweat shirt, looking mostly at the floor as I walk and keeping my left hand in the left pocket of my tattered Levi’s. I look quite dejected. On the demo, as I walk, a song about “remembering” is playing. I forget the title. On the left hand side of the screen is rolling text that reads, “I am easily forgotten. When I was born, my parents forgot to take me home from the hospital.” The text continues with more absurd declarations of how “forgettable” I have always been. In between my work samples are titles of the samples and musical cuts – each cut from a song with “Moon” in the lyrics. At the very end, while text of my name, address and other information is seen, the Nielson song, “Don’t Forget Me” plays. I thought it was brilliant. A bit bizarre maybe, but brilliant nonetheless.
So I took the tape with me when I finally got an interview with the Production Manager at WRAL-TV in Raleigh. You do understand, from my description above, the importance of viewing the entire tape. If the viewer (potential employer) doesn’t see the ending and doesn’t hear “Don’t Forget Me,” I’m toast, right? So this guy at RAL punches “eject” half way through the tape. Not a good start, but that was okay by me because I really didn’t want to live in Raleigh.
I’m a lucky guy. I really am. In 1978, while doing time in Chattanooga – at a television station, not a prison! – I met two really good friends. Both of those friends were eventually hired by WTVD, the ABC affiliate in Durham. They were instrumental in lining up an interview for me with the News Director there for a news photographer job. Those guys were my way back home! I was a shoo-in! So, I took my demo tape to the TVD News Director, a crusty old wonderful white-haired man who was at one time an Assignment Editor for NBC News in New York. This man was the best. A really nice guy who cussed like a sailor, but knew his stuff. He was like Lou Grant with an attitude. So I interviewed with him and went out on a sort of audition shoot that I passed. All the time, my two buddies were cheering me on and talking me up with management. How could I lose? The News Director took my tape “upstairs” to the management offices to discuss my hiring. Two hours later, he came back to the newsroom, running his fingers in a nervous way through his long white hair, looking at the floor and shaking his head as he talked. “I just spent two f—ing hours trying to convince those sons-of-bitches that we actually NEED another f—ing flake working here!” Strike two.
But since that time, I conformed. I have mostly colored between the lines. Naturally, I have ventured outside the lines from time to time, and it’s paid off maybe 50% of the time. Still, I learned to recognize that to many, this is serious business. I understand this. One time, years ago, I was hired to shoot a silly role-playing skit as part of a larger presentation for a major pharmaceutical firm in the Triangle area of NC. I was instructed to wear a necktie and dress pants to the shoot. So here I was, dressed like I was attending the opera, lugging heavy equipment, sweating like a pig, getting grease and grime all over my dress pants and shirt, just to “appear” presentable to these guys. They were all wearing ties and sweating as well. This was a fun little skit we were shooting. Yet everyone involved, including me, was as uptight as a tick at dipping time.
So now I’m thinking, “I don’t want to be a tick.” If I don’t reinvent myself into what I was meant to be this time, it may never happen. Why not throw caution to the wind and see what happens, right? What the heck do I really have to lose? My only child is off on his own with his wonderful family, so I am the only one depending on me for survival. And if refusing to wear a necktie to do manual labor makes me destitute, why I can always move in with my son and his family. Another reinvention, to be sure. But I can do the crotchety old father-in-law thing! I can do that very well.
Opinions here are encouraged!