In the beginning: There were dinosaurs.
My earliest creative anything took the form of coloring dinosaur ‘fill-in’ drawings when I was five or six years old. I liked purple for some reason back then – I’m still looking for the Pterodactyl that my mom drew for me and I colored way outside the lines. Later, in the sixth grade I started writing. It wasn’t Hemingway or Flannery O’Connor but it was a humble beginning as I look back. My first chapbook, Way Up In Alaska was a joint effort, somewhat, with my first editor – a childhood friend named Jon. But like a great many things, I turned away from writing, frustrated and buried myself in books. I emerged later, in high school by recreating the covers of popular rock bands of the era – groups like DIO, Judas Priest, and early Ozzy Osbourne (before reality t.v. hit suburbia and made dysfunction, unintelligible Ozzy a household name, not to mention Kiss front-man, Gene Simmons). I made a lot of illustrations during this time that eventually drew me to dark poetry – you know, the sort of mid-80’s teen angst scribbles. I remember news fragments from this time, stories near and far about Beirut, the Cold War, and Ronald Reagan – mostly sound bytes but I can still trace an early interest in world affairs in my writing today.
I started community college in part to leave the family farm. We lived South of the city where there were no sidewalks or street lights, where the roads were scarred by the shiny metal blades of plows and spring-tooth harrows. I wanted to escape the country like most people want to get married or divorced – a chance to start over or leave everything behind, change your name and get lost in a crowd. I met my wife during this time. It was 1992 or 93, I drove a burgundy Chevy Nova II, primered an ever-changing gray, white and flat black, visited cemeteries at night, and enjoyed quick trips to Morro bay and Pismo Beach. In college, I pursued an Associate Degree in liberal studies with classes in poetry, creative writing, and pen and ink drawing. I buried my brother, Troy, moved into a cramped apartment and eventually graduated, Magna Cum Laude.
Moving from one college to another happened in a blur, though in all honesty there was thirteen months between them. I remember working during that time, odd jobs in customer service, forklift operator for SmithKline-Beechum and Sony and Hershey Chocolate, junk-yard-man and chop saw operator, delivery driver, paint tinter and machine gunner. I think I only dreamed about that last one, but you get the image of a young man searching for something.
On the fourteenth month after community college, I started a Bachelor of Arts degree in English at the local State college. I should have moved away, far away, but I kept close to my family for holidays and road trips South, rarely North. Married, a yard man for a family pipe and metal business that kept me dirty from head to toe, I worked during the day and went to school at night. I got off work at five-thirty, rushed home via country roads, grabbed a cold cut sandwich at home and sped off to class that started at quarter after six. Now that’s flying. I wanted to write, mostly but there wasn’t an official program – this from a school where the likes of Gary Soto and Pulitzer Prize winner Philip Levine once studied, wrote, protested and taught writing. Sigh. So I filled my schedule with classes in creative writing, film theory and English literature. After some needed travel, admittedly only really getting across the United States and forays into Canada, I settled into a day-job while developing poetry and short form prose I called vignettes – where prose poetry meets the short story. I enjoyed modest success in small press magazines and publications but fostered a growing interest in film study. While maintaining a job in Information Technology for the local community college, where incidentally I picked up my AA degree, I messed around with making super 8mm films and video tapping with very early cameras. In 2004 I created my first ensemble-film, Irreconcilable and after that I knew I had to do something that combined my earliest interests in art with motion pictures.
In 2005 I entered the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. I eventually chose the directing track though I also took screenwriting, story development, editing and all the thankless jobs ‘behind the scenes’ of movie making. I collaborated with students and others across the Bay Area, jobs as production assistant, grip and gaffer, assistant director, writer, editor, producer, etc. I wrote and directed 8 and 16mm films, standard definition and high definition video including 24fps NTSC video that remains today one of my favorite formats. I worked with people from around the world and maintain friendships that stretch from California to New York, London to Thailand and many ports in-between. You can find some of my video projects on-line here, my Vimeo channel and on the website I created for my graduate thesis film, Once Beautiful Past. I forgot to mention the independent, small press venture I started with my wife in 2000 that we called Dissave Press. About or around 2005, we changed the name to Dissave Pictures to include not only our written works but also our videos, films, photographs, and Melissa’s fine art. In 2007 I graduated and have been writing, working sporadically as a videographer, photographer, and consultant.
Above the Line is my first official blog.
The Closer: I’m a lot like you when it comes to movies. I know what I like and what I don’t but I sure am surprised and excited when a movie knocks my socks off or takes me on a ride I wasn’t expecting. There are three films that continue to affect me today that I can trace back to the mid 70’s or thereabouts – a trifecta if you will – Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Wars and Saturday Night Fever. Of course I didn’t know they would go on to become what they are today, but I knew there was something about the movie experience that spoke to me. I hope they speak to you too..