Thursday, October 18, 2012

Work, Love and Bruce Campbell

My personal favorite piece in my creative portfolio is called "Reboot Your Life," a spec ad promoting that I created for one of my graduate classes at Emerson College. Beyond the fact it's the only piece where I demonstrate more than rudimentary design talent, it conveys the "Journey" deep metaphor in a narrative format that is pop culturally relevant and makes full use of color theory to clearly chart the protagonist's emotional arc.

However, just because you really like your own work doesn't mean you should let it sit there, inert. While I presented the main character's journey as a fairly direct trip through a sea of irritation until he reached his source of happiness, I just recently recognized it as an Orphean journey. A journey for happiness is essentially a journey for love. You spend the majority of your life with (ideally) one person and one career, and you go through a figurative Hades for both, sometimes without total success. Dating and job searches are even essentially equivalent processes now as well. There is no basic difference between criteria like "must love dogs and musicals" and "3-5 years experience required" (a phrase I'm come to hate with an intensity reserved for pedestrians who wander into traffic when the light turns green).

Careers are no different than relationships in that the first love isn't necessarily the final one. The first love though, is unique in that it comes in the time in your life when it feels like it will be the only one. It's impossibly hot and intense and you forsake almost everything else to make it work. However, when it ends it's also the one that hurts the most, and in my experience it also plays a major role in shaping your permanent worldview.

My first love seduced me with a devil-may-care swagger, a great sense of humor, and a spectacular chin. While in high school, I was having a great time trying out television production, going out for school clubs and internships but not really ready to make any real commitment. There were other stable options like psychologist and lawyer that were compatible with my educational profile, and my parents were dying to set me up with them.

The catalyst for taking the plunge into television came from reading Bruce Campbell's autobiography If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B-Movie Actor. While I was only somewhat familiar with Bruce from Army of Darkness, Hercules and Xena, I bought the book due to positive word-of-mouth and a constant interest in genre television.

Bruce's story, without any hyperbole whatsoever, changed the course of my life. His story about growing up with a close-knit group of friends who loved filmmaking, and had the confidence and entrepreneurial spirit to both create and market their own movies, spoke to the life that constantly filled my dreams. When Bruce and his pals (who included legendary director Sam Raimi) hustled for funding and ultimately got the chance to film the cult horror classic Evil Dead in rural Tennessee, it read like the ultimate adventure. Though the crew had to endure numerous injuries, production setbacks and difficult living conditions, the various hardships only made independent filmmaking seem like a rite of passage to adulthood and eventual greatness. Their ultimate success in securing a distributor for a film that eventually became one of the most celebrated independent films of all time, made any dream seem fully attainable.

If Chins Could Kill was full of cautionary tales - the story of working in a Budweiser factory between jobs and the "Anatomy of a Paycheck" chapter were plenty scary - but I was fully infatuated by then. I bought that book for everyone I thought would be similarly inspired by it, and throughout college I amassed a DVD collection including Jack of All Trades, The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. and Bubba Ho-Tep for continued inspiration. My final senior project at BU was actually a proposal for an adaptation of his novel Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way complete with a budget projection, casting shortlist and merchandise in the form of Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way condoms. (I got an A, in case you were wondering).

The problem that often happens with first loves though, is because they burn bright it's easy to blind yourselves to the serious problems in them. It's not always one specific party's fault - the problems on my end were detailed in PA'ed - but at the same time it's hard to ignore the relationship issues when they put you in personal danger (like the time I got mugged during a production run) or expose you to situations where you feel like the worst of yourself instead of the best. Eventually, after years of essentially working a combination of all the worst summer jobs I've ever had, I hit a breaking point and called it off.

I still think about that first love a lot, which is obvious from this post and from the earlier post. My regret is I never got my big Evil Dead adventure - the closest I came was working as a grip on an Instant Film Festival production which resulted in the director (a TV director of some note, actually) never returning the portable hard drive he borrowed from me. However, I did learn a lot of lessons during that Orphean journey. I learned about how to collaborate with a diverse range of personalities and effectively prioritize projects for multiple departments. I also learned the proper way to present myself professionally, and only seek work where I felt I could use my brain and reach my full potential. When true love finally comes along for my career, I'm sure I'll know it in my heart immediately, because my first love showed me what I needed to be happy.

I've never met Bruce Campbell (although I did attend a preview screening of My Name is Bruce that he hosted which was awesome). If I ever get to meet him at a Comic Con or book signing, I'd like to personally shake his hand and thank him for his work influencing my personal journey, helping me learn a lot of valuable lessons for (hopefully) future professional success, and most importantly, how to love the Bruce Campbell Way.