Jobs, Careers, And Passions

Leaving Upstate NY
Leaving Upstate NY

Much of So Long Freedom has tracked my journey into fatherhood and the inevitable transformation into responsibility.  However, becoming a parent was not the only part of the 180 degree turnaround my wife and I embarked on exactly three years ago…one of those changes was giving up the world of production for the world of marketing.  Three years and two days ago my wife Kate and I rolled into town with a car full of stuff, a bed strapped to the roof of our car, and an overweight cat named Luna…the only life-form we were responsible for outside of our own well being.  We snagged a quick shower, unloaded the bed from the roof, and drove straight to Koch Arena for the Gregg Marshall Auction; an event to raise money for the Wichita State University Basketball team.  It was our first act as Wichitans…to go to an auction and bid on items to help our team.  Back then it was my team.  Kate just supported me in my passions.

In Atlanta for the Final Four

Flash forward three years and is “our team.”  Mine, Kate’s, and my two boys Max and Dodge.  This year it was slightly different as I sat at one of the head tables with my family and friends as a supporter.  The family restaurant I have worked to become managing partner of, Heroes, had just pulled off our largest catering gig to date and I was on cloud nine.  In New York and L.A. I had been a high profile commercial director/producer…a job with tons of sex appeal and ever changing currents.  However, sensing the economic problems in America I realized in 2007 I needed a plan to be more self sufficient than freelance producing commercials   I launched my own production company, began taking on viral marketing consulting jobs, took on a few large clients, and by 2009 our time was being 95% consumed by one phenomenal client.  In 2010…three years ago Saturday…I moved to Wichita, KS and traded in my title of “Creative Director and Producer” for “Director of Marketing.”  It was a big change.

Ice Breakers Sours launch in Cancun
Ice Breakers Sours launch in Cancun, Mexico

There is a saying I have always told my students, kids I mentor, or people asking about how to break in to the production business: “There is a difference between a job and a career, the distance between those is dependent on your having a passion.”  It’s the modern version of what my dad used to preach to me, “Any port in a storm.”  It means exactly what it sounds like.  There are not a lot of great jobs out there but the world is full of the need for people willing to lift the heavy object, flip the burger, and crawl through the crud.  You speak to any successful business person and they will tell you what they had to overcome to get where they are.  Working in film was my passion.  For a magical period of time it was my job, my career, and my passion.  Then life happened and things changed.  Now I have a few jobs, a career, and multiple passions.  Last week my passions collided in a dance.

Sleepy after hours of post production.
Sleepy after hours of post production last week

I love my job and that is because of the people I get to work with and the work environment we are lucky enough to have.  Being the managing partner of Heroes, however, is a passion…a labor of love.  Last week I got to direct/produce a commercial for Heroes and it was wonderful.  My past and future, together for 16 hours through the lens of a camera.  I’m always happiest when I get to work with moving images, that the images would be of the place my family has been renovating recently and working on for over 20 years made it extra special.  I had less than two weeks to get something from concept to broadcast which presented an interesting challenge but also gave me the freedom to just get stuff done.  The driving force was that we had just finalized a partnership with a local distributor called Yoder Meats which would be providing us with antibiotic-free, hormone-free, no water added, 100% organic Kansas beef for our famous burgers and pork.  Its exciting.  We’ve been making Sweet Pepper Bacon Burgers for 21 years and they are a signature item so it is with caution that you change something like that.  We worked to develop a secret proprietary blend, a project championed by my father’s amazing palette, and once we had it…we knew we were about to do something great.  The timing was perfect too.  Springtime, the Gregg Marshall Auction (we catered to over 1,000 people), Yoder is becoming nationally recognized, and cost of meat is on the rise nationally – meaning other places are buying low-grade meat.  Not us.  We’re going local and providing a better product at the same cost.  We needed a commercial ASAP and everyone agreed I needed to do it.

The Heroes patio
The Heroes patio

This past year has been an interesting battle with anxiety and I was slightly nervous about how I would handle the pressure of going back into production mode.  It is much faster paced than my day job at the ole desk.  It is like riding a bike, it all came back to me as if I had just stepped off set with Scorsese the day before.  It is no magnum opus…but it was a heck of an undertaking to go from script to broadcast in less than two weeks while achieving the level of quality we wanted to convey.  The quality of production directly relates to the quality of the food in the viewer’s eye so I refused to have a run-of-the-mill regional commercial.  I put Kate to work on the CreativeRHINO end, hired Intake Studios for production, and tackled the rest myself.  It felt great to be back in the saddle…but as the project ended last week when the thirty second video uploaded to the broadcast site I was happy to be done with it and get back to work.  Sometimes your job is your career and often your job is what affords you the opportunity to pursue your career.  When they intersect it is amazing but often they dance back and forth as they weave around our lives which become more complicated as we grow older.  Max, my two-year-old, wants to be an astronaut when he grows up.  One of the kids I mentor wanted to be a filmmaker when he was 17…now he wants to provide organic food to the community at the age of 21.  I wanted to always see my name in lights and tackle the biggest productions…now I just want to provide quality tools to my stores, turn a profit from Heroes, and get home to see my family in time for supper.  Mostly, I want to go home satisfied at the end of the day and feel like I contributed to something.  Sleep…I want sleep.  I have a two-month-old…I want sleep.  In all seriousness, the point is that it doesn’t matter because I have passions in life and I act on them.  I still jump behind a camera, I work in my wood shop, and I mentor youth in the creative arts.  Jobs and careers?  Who knows what I have and it doesn’t matter because I feel fulfilled.

So…what’s your passion?  Have you acted on it recently?  Is it a sport like golf, a hobby like building things, is it your job, your career, something odd?  I hope you have a passion (or passions) because without passion we’re just slugging along.  Here is one of my passions, and if you find yourself in Wichita, KS I hope you’ll swing by and try one of our Sweet Pepper Bacon Burgers with the secret proprietary blend from Yoder Meats!

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