(Or, Who I Am)
Long story short:
30+ years working in live TV production with a good few years of theater thrown in; most crew positions, at least ¾ doing video/camera utility (building/setting up cameras, monitors, running cables with the various feeds, running behind camera operators during shows); on sit-coms, talk shows, award shows, concerts, game shows, cooking shows, competition shows, a little bit of sports; also some set construction, audio, AV tech, off-line editor and post production assistance, hanging and focusing lights, tape operator, master control TD, video truck engineer, prop builder, prop master, set dresser, painter, wallpaperer, tiler (ceramic and peel and stick), special effects (including pyro)
Wrote 4 spec sit-com scripts – a couple did pretty well in contests
Found out about writing for themed entertainment/experience; have written themed experience spec projects (some have done well in contests)
On the writing team for the THEA Awards in 2008
Continuing to write themed experience specs, booklets for attractions…
Long story – long:
I was born at a very young age. Between regular trips to Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm and the stage at our elementary school, with its par can lighting, as the class recited (from memory) “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”, I was hooked early on with shows and storytelling. Also, I usually woke up early to watch the test pattern on (black and white) TV, waiting for the broadcast day to begin – to silence, music or tone.
I had my first real taste of big show business with the opportunity to learn about special effects from my dad. For a church musical, we turned the baptistry into a Babylonian fiery furnace, with dry ice and CO2 from fire extinguishers. It was very convincing with the combination of the lighting. And, it was lots of fun!
Growing up a bit more (in age only), high school provided more hands on experience, with everyone doing everything in theater. Mostly building with cardboard and some plywood, the smell of the theater ingrained itself forever. I still can tell, just walking onto a stage, if it is mostly for theatrical use or for motion picture and television. Some say it is the smell of grease paint, but I think it is more the actual paint for the sets. Our high school usually did about 1 play and 1 musical a year. In my senior year, we did You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown. Some parts had multiple players, rotating through the few nights that it ran. One of my friends was well on his way to becoming a professional magician and got the shared part of Linus. Naturally, the blanket was made to “dance” and fly through a hula hoop. A few of us were in on the secret. How was it done? Very well, thank you. Lots more fun!
After a few months in college, I decided to continue on in theater. Again, everyone did everything. It was more fun that way and opportunities to learn much more. I especially enjoyed doing props, lighting, working in the shop… After a few years, I decided to move on from theater and into learning about television. I found out about a huge opportunity that was on campus, separate from the Radio/TV/Film department, where I could work in an actual, working television facility. They provided services for the campus – recording classroom lectures, basketball games, etc.; did dubs and transfers for professors, from any format to any other that they needed; some “talking head” talk show interviews; had editing services with state of the art equipment for the time; and showed some of the programs on local city cable (and we won a Cable Ace Award for a game show about the city of Long Beach). At first I had an internship for credit. This became a paying job for my last year or so of college. Lots of great hands on learning. After 5 ½ (ish) years of college, I went out into the “real world”… Hollywood.
I’ve worked in many different crew positions during 30+ years in television. Most of the work has been live or live to tape, and with a live audience. At least ¾ of those years have been doing video/camera utility (building/setting up cameras, monitors, running cables with the various feeds, running behind camera operators during shows); on sit-coms, talk shows, award shows, concerts, game shows, cooking shows, competition shows, a little bit of sports; also some set construction, audio, AV tech, off-line editor and post production assistance, hanging and focusing lights, tape operator, master control TD, video truck engineer, prop builder, prop master, set dresser, painter, wallpaperer, tiler (ceramic and peel and stick), special effects (including pyro). As a freelancer, I sometimes had to take other jobs for a while. Time in residential construction added to the skills that were later used while working in a scene shop.
A few of the shows that I have worked on have won Emmy Awards. When the show wins, everyone on the staff and crew gets an Emmy certificate for their contribution and participation. Some shows have earned our specific department an Emmy certificate – a little more personal to be honored for our work. I also worked on the lecture hall style, video portion of “An Inconvenient Truth” which won an Oscar. I plan to start working on a book about my experiences – Hollywood Stories (That I Can Tell).
A while back, while watching sit-coms, it was fun to try to guess what the punch line was going to be. I decided to try writing comedy specs. I ended up doing four of them. A couple of them did pretty well in contests on websites that, unfortunately, no longer exist. I had help from some of the writers on sit-coms that I was working on at the time. I also had help from others that were working in Master Control at Fox. We did a lot of collaboration and helped each other out on our different projects. I have had a few writing partners over the years, but can’t talk about those projects. They included a feature, a drama pilot, and animation shorts. It has been fun to work as a team.
When my boys were young, they used all of their different kinds of toys to build theme parks. We have always been a theme park family and it was fun to watch their imaginations go all out when building. I decided to start learning more about the themed entertainment industry myself. I found a great class on-line that was called Theme Park Engineering, and is now ImagineeringClass.com. It covers the whole process of coming up with an attraction. Part of the class was coming up with our own attraction and brief version of a complete theme park. I learned about writing for this specific industry and changed my focus to writing for this industry instead of television. Like many highly creative companies and fields, the collaboration is huge – everyone’s opinion matters and no idea is a bad one, because it can lead to something else. (Not to put it down, but television is geared more toward everyone doing their own job and not having an openness to ideas from crew…).
I worked on a few concepts myself, then found out about a contest where each person had about a week to complete whatever the task was. This provided a wide range of projects that could be used as samples, including a parade, themed hotel, a restaurant, a dark ride, etc. It was fun and a welcome challenge to have a short turnaround time, too. I ended up doing pretty well in it.
I had the awesome privilege of being on the writing team for the THEA Awards in 2008. It was a collaborative effort, getting notes from the others on the team. I loved doing the research on the different projects and even got to put a bit of humor into some of it, while honoring that year’s recipients. I still very much enjoy doing research into new ways of telling a story and learning about new subjects and other cultures.
I continue to work on getting more spec samples to show what I can do. Some of these include: booklets that can be used as support material for attractions, stage shows, and group experience shows. I like the idea of working with a team of creative collaborators on projects around the world. Every attraction, whether a ride, store, restaurant, hotel, museum exhibit… begins with a story – sometimes to tell a specific story, or to tell the backstory of the person that lives in or runs that particular store… That story is used in the design process, to give all on the team a guideline to go by. I can use my general knowledge of most crew positions as an advantage, by understanding what goes into and is needed for a production. I try to figure out ways to use my technical background to enhance the storytelling, taking what I know and learning about new technology that might be useful, not just because, but as another tool. I also continue to learn from existing themed attractions, television, films, books and articles, to improve my skills in storytelling, brevity, levity, and timing, to create the best experience.
Other personal interests include paddling outrigger canoes and dragon boats. Races have been in different beaches on the Southern California coast and Catalina to Newport for outrigger, Long Beach, San Diego, Lake Las Vegas and even a trip to Hungary for international competition for dragon boats. I like to think of it as a gym on the water. I have also had the opportunity of traveling to Europe a few times for other trips and have seen 49 of our 50 states. It has been great to see other places, people and cultures.
Thanks for your time and consideration.