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Parents Pave The Way

10 Nov

I still get giddy every time my name gets mentioned in the paper, I secretly record the news when I get interviewed, and my two favorite articles about the digitally nomadic period of my life from different newspapers hang proudly in my office.  It’s still humbling to see your name in print, your face on-screen, and your work appreciated publicly.  I grew up with big shoes to fill and always imagined my name in lights.  While my dad was a successful entrepreneur and CEO of major US corporations, my mother was a successful writer/director for the stage and if you grew up in Chicago or Wichita in the 70′s and 80′s…you probably experienced her work.  From these two opposing worlds comes me: A creative entertainer with a flair for the dramatic driven by the love of business prosperity.  In 1999 I was working as a children’s television director and comedy variety show producer.  By 2004 I was working primarily as an assistant director in film on a number of horror films and helped produce a short that was adapted to an Oscar nominated feature.  By 2008 I was the go-to guy in New York and San Francisco for producing online viral videos in association with international TV branding.  In 2009 I pulled anchor and became a digital nomad, still using video as a medium, but focusing on social media as the viral aspect of the branding work I was executing.  Then, in 2010, I moved to Wichita, KS to become the Director of Marketing for  the franchise division of an international retail brand and joined the family business as the managing partner of our local restaurant.  My name has gone from being in lights to being in print…but I still make films on the side.  I am the mixing bowl of ingredients that are my parents’ talents and example.  I love the arts and I love business…odd that we feel inclined to separate them.  However, one of the things I wanted to do with my move to Wichita was become more active in my community.  This is why I serve on three boards, consult for my creative production company, and am a co-founder of a non-profit arts organization.  That drive to volunteer comes from my parents.

Today…I simply want to brag about my mom, Toni.  As I selfishly cut out newspaper articles about myself, shake hands at events, speak with community leaders about the future of Wichita, and forge my own name in a town…it is important to remember that my parents paved the way first.  I do what I can sometimes to escape their name because I want to know I am achieving my own success on my own name.  I am usually trying to escape my dad’s name, because we work in the same office and I don’t want people thinking I have a job because our last name matches…I want people to know I earned this job by being the right man for it and by putting in more time and effort than anyone else.  Its hard.  It’s a careful balance of separating yourself from some personal aspects of work while embracing others.  The same goes for the time I volunteer to my community.  This Sunday the Wichita Eagle published a great blurb about my mom titled “Good Deeds: Love of the art drives Wichita volunteer.”  I have big shoes to fill, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to contribute to Wichita and other communities as much as my amazing mother has.

I love you Mom.  You inspire me, please keep inspiring us all with your dedication to this city and its arts community…and yes, you can correct my spelling and grammar on this post in the comment section publicly.

Good Deeds: Love of the arts drives Wichita volunteer | Wichita Eagle

When Toni Gates retired, she didn’t want to stop having fun.

“I had a full-blown career and spent over 20 years with my own theater troupe, and we performed for the forgotten audience of 2- to 8-year-olds,” Gates said. “I loved every second of it.

“I love the arts. I loved providing a participatory experience for imagination and education.”

Gates, 69, is the events coordinator for the Murdock Society, which is affiliated with the Wichita Art Museum. She provides opportunities for patrons of the museum to attend events and social activities relating to art.

“Our membership is renewed on an annual basis and in order for them to feel like it is worthwhile to renew a membership, we try to provide interesting happenings,” Gates said. “My job is to create those special events.”

One of the last events was a tour of private collections of art called “Small Spaces and Big Art.”

“We visited three different homes,” Gates said. “None of the owners had big houses, but they did have passion for art. We got to see how people utilized art in special ways.

“It was inspirational for our patrons to get creative and not feel like you have to have a ton of floor footage to hang art.”

So why do this?

“This is a great community and welcoming,” Gates said. “I wanted to do something for the community.”

Volunteer Toni Gates helps coordinate events for the Murdock Society at the Wichita Art Museum. (Nov. 7, 2014)Fernando Salazar/The Wichita Eagle

Volunteer Toni Gates helps coordinate events for the Murdock Society at the Wichita Art Museum. (Nov. 7, 2014)Fernando Salazar/The Wichita Eagle

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Voting Is Not A Spectator Sport

4 Nov

Vote-Counts1Many years ago when my wife was my girlfriend back in New York City, a young Republican from Kansas (about my age now) mocked Kate for wearing a t-shirt that read, “Democracy is not a spectator sport!”  This young Republican went off on Kate telling her that she was too young to understand the complexities of modern politics and chastised her for being a Democrat.  Kate rightfully put this woman in her place and explained that the shirt meant whatever your party affiliation, it is our duty as citizens to educate ourselves and make the effort to go out and vote.  Meaning, know what you’re talking about and if you feel strongly about it then you should vote for it, volunteer for it, donate to it, or do whatever you can to be involved with it.  Sitting on the sideline is unacceptable.

Yesterday I spoke to many people I am close to in Kansas and was SHOCKED to find out that many of them had not registered, had no clue who to vote for, or had no plans to vote today.  Kate and I just voted.  So today, November 4th – 2014, on the day of the Midterm Elections I will quote my wife’s shirt from 2003 and remind all of you that DEMOCRACY IS NOT A SPECTATOR SPORT.  You’ve got till 7 PM to vote.  Let’s go.

…and by the way, do the right thing and vote “YES” on the 1¢ sales tax increase.  Need more information?  Click HERE or go to today.

Voting in Kansas

3 Nov

2000px-Kansas_in_United_States.svgOn Saturday we had 7 different knocks on the door from political volunteers polling, informing, and urging me to vote.  Eventually, my wife placed a sheet of paper on the door instructing people not to knock or ring the bell…she detailed the people we were planning to vote for so parties could get their polls in order.  The knocking stopped, though we were visited by a Boy Scout selling popcorn.  We declined.  I have more Halloween popcorn than I know what to do with right now.  While the Scout walked back to his mother, I waved…then read the note on the door announcing our family’s political values and realized November 4th would be the first time my wife and I would not have matching voting ballots.  We differed ever so slightly.  I removed the note from the door.

For most of my life I never understood how my mother and father got along when their political views seemed to differ so much.  Now I get it.  I was young and saw everything left or right, then a whole bunch of life happened and my views moved closer to the center.  I now am closer to the center than I’ve ever been and suddenly politics takes on a whole new meaning.

Vote-Counts1Today I filled out a sample ballot in preparation for tomorrow’s November 4th midterm election in Kansas.  I conducted some final research on Judges I didn’t have enough information on that are on the ballot to be retained in office for the court of appeals.  There are some big-ticket items on the ballot that are no-brainers for me, some running for office who I am going to vote out of party for, and some people I feel are best for the job though I disagree with certain stances they have taken.  Basically, this is the most important vote I have experienced as a resident of Wichita, KS and I’m not going into it without fully researching the items outside my scope of knowledge or awareness.  This is a very important election with immediate ramifications that will affect me, my children, my family, my friends, my businesses, my state, and my country…all of which I love.  I feel this is the most important election I have been a part of ever, even more so than past Presidential elections I felt so strongly about as a young adult in New York.  I feel like Kansas is teetering back and forth on a sharp political blade and our future within and beyond our borders is at stake.

kansas flag mapKate and I are 100% on the same wave length politically but our ballots will be 7% different tomorrow.  In a vote with less than 30 items, that’s not very much but its the first time for us.  Of these votes, our 3% difference is a major difference and already is an apple of discord with some of my friends.  There are a few items I’m just flat-out not politically educated on enough because they have been overshadowed by the race for Senator and Governor, so I am choosing to abstain.  I am doing my best to make the most informed decisions that I feel will benefit my city, state, and country best.  This narrowness between our votes is democracy at its finest and will be reflected large-scale in tomorrow’s election, where Kate and I are aligned on the big-ticket items.

We’re taught never to talk about one’s age, politics, religious beliefs or personal matters in large social settings.  Clearly I have violated most of those rules with this site where I have managed to anger both sides of parenting debates, I discuss my personal matters ad nauseam, my age is clear (hi…I’m 35), and here we go with politics.  The 7% difference between Kate and my ballot is no big deal.  The 2-4 points separating the race for Senator and Governor are because that is the blade upon which we’ll cut the path for the future of Kansas.  I am in support of Independent, Greg Orman for Senate and Democrat, Paul Davis for Governor.

OrmanRobertsGreg Orman is an entrepreneur like me, like my dad, and like most people I know.  He has been unaffiliated with any political party since 2010.  He worked for the consulting firm “McKinsey & Company” and founded “Environmental Light Concepts” in 1992, which designs and installs energy-efficient lighting systems for commercial and industrial companies.  He’s a progressive businessman living in Kansas.  If Orman is elected he’ll be the first non-republican Senator from the state of Kansas since George McGill in 1939.  1939!  That’s when World War II started!  Orman has been quoted saying he will “seek to caucus with the party that was in the majority as that would be in the best interest for the state of Kansas.”  Meaning, the balance of the U.S. Senate could end up in this guy’s hands…and here’s the kicker, he’s left/center…and winning.  He’s not far left.  He’s not far right.  He’s left center.  He’s been a Republican and a Democrat.  Now, he’s an Independent willing to reach across the aisle from whichever side he ends up on.

Orman gets my vote.

BrownbackDavisGovernor Brownback has practically bankrupted this state through excessive tax cuts, proven himself a liar, tried to eliminate the Kansas Arts Commission by executive order, made massive cuts to education, messed up health care, and is so far right that almost every Republican I know thinks he’s an idiot…because he’s an idiot.  A lampshade could run this state better.  Luckily, Paul Davis is much better than a lampshade and has what I feel may be his strongest asset vying for the Lieutenant Governor seat, Jill Docking.  Kansas has flipped back and forth between Democrats and Republicans for Governor…but the last time it had a Democratic Governor and non-Republican Senator?  You guessed it…1939.  Davis a lawyer from Lawrence, KS and is the son of a school teacher who has been the head of the House of Democrats in the Kansas House of Representatives since 2008.  Before then, Davis worked as Assistant Director of Government Affairs for former Insurance Commissioner Kathleen Sebelius, worked as the Legislative and Ethics Counsel to the Kansas Bar Association, and served as President of the Health Care Access Clinic Board of Directors and Vice President of the Arc of Douglas County Board of Directors.  Yes…much better than a lampshade.

Davis gets my vote.

YesWichita-BlueThe last big-ticket item I’ll bring up pisses me off.  It’s the one-percent Sales Tax increase for Wichita.  This has no bearing on anyone reading this outside of Wichita but if you get the opportunity to vote on this city matter, you should vote “YES.”  I’ve never seen such negative ad campaigns like those opposing the increase and am shocked to see the “NO’s” are polling 20+ points ahead of the “YES’s.”  This makes me sad as a Wichitan because apparently everyone forgot 2013 when we almost ran out of water and Cheney Reservoir dipped below emergency levels.  How did everyone forget?  Easy, an act of nature…or God…whichever you want to call it.  A freak storm rolled in and it rained…no, poured…for over a week!  In the end the reservoir was full, the Arkansas River was high, and the ditch was nearly overflowing.  Waiting, praying, and hoping are not solutions.  A vote for “NO” is a vote for lethargy.  While this vote is about a new water source (which Wichita desperately needs) along with infrastructure, a struggling downtown, and failing public transit system…it will get voted “NO” because the “The Coalition for a Better Wichita” spent $436,565 through a so-called grassroots campaign backed by corporations versus the $58,200 “Yes Wichita” was able to raise through an actual grassroots campaign that I was proud to donate to.  A vote for “YES” is a vote for your own city.  A vote for “NO” is a vote for corporations.  You stand to spend an additional $100-$300 per year based on your income over a 5 year period…at which time the tax goes away unless voted to continue.  One penny.  You know that “Give a Penny – Take a Penny” tray at the grocery store?  That’s how much we’re voting over, and if you vote “YES” your water bills won’t soar, the less fortunate might be able to go to work on a bus, and we might be able to create job opportunities in a state ravaged by Brownback’s tax cuts.  Vote “NO” to have higher water bills for everyone, no long-term water plan for your children, pot-holes, and no public transit system.

That gets my vote…vote “YES.”

Those are the three big-ticket items tomorrow (in my opinion), though there are some great races such as the U.S. Representative 4th District, Secretary of State, and State Treasurer.  You also get to vote on legalizing raffles.  Churches have been breaking Kansas gambling laws for years!  Now you can legalize it with this stupid vote on the same ballot as the most important Senatorial race of your life, wherever you stand on the matter.  No matter what happens tomorrow in Kansas, just do your state a favor and be an informed voter.  This isn’t the race track and we’re picking California Chrome because purple is your favorite color.  This is the future of Kansas.  Republican, Democrat, Independent, whatever…just vote with knowledge and research.  Watching TV ad campaigns doesn’t count as research…remember The Coalition for a Better Wichita has spent almost 10 times as much as Yes Wichita…that alone should tell you something.  If you are not sure at the booth who someone is…don’t fill in the oval.  Your other votes still count.  Don’t blindly vote for a party…some of the “other side’s” people are better suited for the job.  With the exception of the Sales Tax increase (apparently), every vote is going to count tomorrow…so make them count.  Tomorrow is going to be an interesting day and I’m excited to be a part of it…as an individual, a father, a businessman, a co-founder of an arts organization, a board member of a health clinic, a board member of a city organization, a Wichitan, a Kansan, an American, and most importantly as a human being.


My Film Selected To Tallgrass Film Festival 2014

30 Sep

I am happy to announce my short film, “From Wichita With Love,” has been selected to screen at the 2014 Tallgrass Film Festival.  The screening will be the film’s world premiere and I invite anyone in the Wichita area to come to the Noon screening on October 19th to see what all the hubbub was back in June when we competed in the “Down To The Wire 24 Hour Film Race.”  My fearless team and I tackled a daunting task, competing in a 24 hour film race using film (not video) as our medium.  The film received “Honorable Mention” in the race’s showcase and will screen before a live audience for the first time in 2 1/2 weeks among 5 other films that competed.

From Wichita With Love Poster

20140621_172339After the festival I will speak more about the film, the process, the race, the festival, and the insanity of shooting on film in a 24 hour film race.  Til then, I have to thank Wade Davis and Kate Van Steenhuyse for producing this with me and pushing me to create something different.  A very special thanks to Chris DeVries who starred in the film alongside Wade Davis, two of my most favorite people who brought me to my knees with laughter and delivered amazing performances in what is my favorite film I’ve made to date.  Thank you to Cindy Hand for helping more than she realizes and going outside her comfort zone to create something artistic.  Thank you to Jim Siebert for calling me out on this idea and giving me the encouragement to try.  Thank you to Jonathan Dennill for staying up til the wee hours of the morning with Wade and I as we completed the post production and gave fantastic advice and outside perspective.  Thank you to David Thompson for his patience, his car, and his willingness to take on a non-speaking role last-minute.  Very special thanks to Conan Fugit for volunteering his time in weeks of planning and very late night to conduct a last-minute telecine to digital for submission.  Thanks to Nick Brown and the entire staff at Moler’s Camera for working with me in planning and tech to make sure this was all physically possible.  Thank you to Melissa Gerlach and her dog Mocha, Tamara Winfrey and Myra DeGrandmont for watching my children, and everyone who made the film happen.  Thank you to Tallgrass Film Festival, Creative Rush, my fellow DTTW Film Racers, the Tallgrass selection committee, and anyone who chuckled when they saw this film.  Last, and dearly important, thank you to Luna…our cat.  She hates doing anything but she put up with all of us filming her and keeping her up way past her bedtime.  She’s a sweet old cat and despite the fact that she pee’d in my file cabinet in 2004 I must remember that at 17 years of cat-age, I’m lucky for every day my wife Kate and I get to spend with her and she will be forever immortalized in this dorky 3 1/2 minute film with her spot-on performance as “Steve.”

20140621_210737In all honesty, this film stirred my tanks and reminded me what I like to make as a filmmaker and artist.  It reminded me why I do what I do.  It reminded me that just because video is easier it doesn’t mean its the best option.  It also introduced me to new friends and turned good friends into best friends.  What more can you ask for in life than to make something fun with people you love?  So come join us on Sunday October 19th for the world premiere of “From Wichita With Love.”  Hopefully, it will make you laugh.  We had a lot of fun making it.  Tickets $10.

"From Wichita With Love" being rinsed after being developed by hand.

“From Wichita With Love” being rinsed after being developed by hand.

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1956 Sunset Coral Thunderbird

24 Sep

20140918_143811For the past few days I have had the good fortune of driving a convertible 1956 Ford Thunderbird complete with whitewall tires, continental kit, rear wheel well skirts, over-sized steering wheel, and those iconic tail fins.  If that weren’t enough to draw your attention…throw in the fact that it is the rare color of Sunset Coral Pink.  Amazing…one of those insanely rare colors to come out of the 50′s on cars like the two-toned Fairlane, Galaxie, and Mercury.  Having the entire T-Bird wrapped in the color…its a show-stopper to say the least.  So much so that it has been almost dangerous to drive around Wichita thanks to all the gawkers.  In the past few days I have…

  • Had a car list completely into my lane while staring at me
  • Had a truck almost rear-end the car in front watching me in the rear-view
  • Had a truck jump the curb while staring so hard they forgot to turn
  • Had a van stop mid intersection blocking traffic to stare
  • Had a mom let go of her stroller which bonked into a wall (took picture)
  • Had a car intentionally box me in to slow me down to get a better look
  • Had a creepy car follow me for 10 minutes trying to find out where we lived
  • Had a guy flip me off and yell at me for not taking him for a ride

Aside from these experiences I have had a car directly on my front or rear bumper swerving to take a picture everywhere I go.  So…I have been the guy speeding past and switching lanes to get away and try and have some space.  I know…boo hoo poor me, I have to drive an awesome antique car.  Trust me, its fun getting waved to by everyone and talking to people wherever I park.  That’s the fun stuff.  However, having people almost run me off the road or smash into each other while gawking or taking a picture?  Not cool.  The jumping the curb one was my favorite because the guy was so full-on jaw-dropped as he turned left at the intersection of Douglas and Washington that when he jumped the curb I saw his jaw bob up and down.  Full slack-jaw.  Luckily no one was walking on the curb or they would have gotten a Dodge Ram surprise.  The car behind him wasn’t a fan and gave him the horn and finger.  That’s the other thing I’ve seen/heard alot the past few days.  Horns and fingers by people getting cut off by the gawkers.  I get honks and waves…the gawkers…not so much.

20140923_092535My boys are in love with it so I of course installed a car seat for slow cruising.  Dodge (1) loves all the old fashioned knobs and buttons while Max (3) just thinks its cool that it has no roof and is pink.  I like both.  Max has begged me to go fast but I refuse to with as much insanity as I’ve experienced on the roads of Wichita the past week.  So we just cruise the side streets together pointing out cool things to see and waving to all the joggers and bikers who are moving at a similar pace.  Max is beside himself with sadness that the “Pink T-Bird” is getting shipped back home to New York and has announced that his favorite color is now pink…and gold…and also red…but mostly gold…and oh yeah, pink.  Dodge just likes spending time with his Dada and I’ll take it any way I can get it.  “T-Bird” is his newest word.

20140923_092525The best driving has been at night when the air is cool, the sun is down, and there are less cars on the road.  Cruising.  Driving just to drive.  I’ll go under a street light and suddenly people see its Sunset Coral Pink and it gets their attention.  I drop the accelerator and clear some space…reminding them that I’m not selling Mary Kay products and it is in fact a sports car.  It takes me back to when my wife Kate and I were first dating and we’d cruise Route 9N along Lake George, NY and park somewhere to stare at the stars.  It is impossible to drive this car without your right arm around the passenger seat side of the bench or your left resting on the door.  Its a car made for snuggling and I am going to miss my sunset cruises with the boys…driving around College Hill Park, the Eastborough Duck Pond, and of course the Douglas drag.  I’ve never heard Max talk so much and it has been awesome bonding time.  Dodge is learning new words every day and he sits with me in the car and asks so many questions…its awesome.  I can’t wait to take them for rides this summer when we’re back in New York, I also can’t wait to ride with Kate and no boys.

Like I said, boo hoo poor me.  I’m jaded, I grew up around antique cars.  They were always in the family or being worked on.  One of the cars I learned to drive on was my grandfather’s 1949 Willy’s Army Jeep.  I’ll never forget my dad drawing a chalk line on the pavement at the town beach parking lot and making me put the car in first and drive up the hill without rolling backwards over the line.  Everyone should learn to drive stick.  One time my wife and I drove to town in the convertible 1951 Willy’s Jeepster…3 on the column and fire engine red.  Awesome car.  We parked out front and went inside.  When we came out a college kid was sitting inside goofing off while his buddies took pictures of him.  When I confronted him he got pissed off that I was on his case about it.  Apparently, he felt that since it was a convertible it was okay to get inside.  It would only be breaking and entering if it had a roof.  Seriously?


So, if you see a cool old car driving down the street give a honk and a wave (just a wave is fine) and move on.  Don’t go smashing into things with your jaw on the floor and your eyes out the sockets.  If you want a closer look keep in mind there may be small children inside and the driver may be trying to enjoy a little cruise so appreciate the car from a safe distance.  If you have questions you want to ask the driver, wait til you are both stopped at an intersection instead of trying to flag us down while we are driving.  Otherwise, buy a ticket to a car show and ask as many questions as you like there.  Want a ride?  No.  Who says, “Sure! Jump on in stranger!”  Want to take a picture with it?  Okay, but please don’t lean on it, touch it, or get inside it.  Last, please don’t follow us around creepily as we drive around with our children…we have phones and wrote down your license plate.

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