The Prequel

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December 21, 2013 by realbkw

In starting this blog I’ve noticed I have a habit that probably annoys the hell out of people who read my blog(s). I recognized a long time ago that I started off a lot of sentences with the word “so.” So I tried to be conscious of it and not do it so (as) much, but sometimes it just fit, like the beginning of this sentence. But (another word I use a lot) I can see that maybe in fixing the overuse of “so” I have just replaced it with “okay.” Maybe I was using okay too much already but didn’t realize it because I was so focused on getting rid of “so.” Okay, did you see what I did there? Two “so’s” in one sentence about not using the word so much. Damn, did it again, WITH an “okay” thrown in! Along with quote marks. I use those a lot, too. Quote marks, parentheses, ellipses…; my oft overused tricks of the trade. So get used to it. Okay? !!! LOL

Now to continue my story by way of, kind of, introducing myself.

The old me, the me-I-want-to-be, used to be a lithographer, a film stripper, image assembler, pre-press journeyman stripper. I was the person who took a graphic artist’s work and transformed it into film so it could be plated and printed. It was a pretty cool job that I really enjoyed and was good at. I worked my way up from lowly apprentice with a couple of community college intro to printing classes to a respected journeyman stripper. Not an easy task. The work was fun, interesting, and often very challenging. And the pay was awesome. Union rates in a non-union shop, great benefits. I had reached middle class with a good future without having spent four years in college! At my last job before quitting the business, my boss was a sexist asshole but he worked days and I worked nights, so what little interaction we had, while annoying, was bearable. I really liked the kind of work I got to do and the night boss was pretty cool. But, all the while I was working in print shops, moving from one to another because that was the best way to advance in non-union shops, moving from Cleveland to Boston and back to Cleveland, all that time I had these dreams. One was to build up enough vacation time to ride a motorcycle cross country, over back roads, the old routes, and end up in California. Los Angeles. Hollywood. Like thousands of dreamers who had come before, and thousands who would follow. And I had another dream. I wanted to be in the film business. But I was kinda happy with the life I had and not really serious about any change. I worked nights and spent two days a week watching my two little nephews (and being able to give ’em back, like having the fun of being a parent without the responsibility!) I had the freedom and the money to do pretty much whatever I wanted, which mostly involved traveling to hang out with family members back east, playing with the kids, riding my mountain bike. I had a pretty good life, but then technology began to show its ugly side. I had worked in print shops that did a pretty good job of keeping up with advances in the industry, but few of them affected me directly. What I did was a skilled craft. Once I got the film I needed everything else was done by hand. My tools were simple: Xacto knives, razor blades, scissors, lots of red tape (literally, red filtering tape), very fine artist’s brushes. And experience. Then along came companies like Adobe and Apple. Desktop computers and graphics programs allowed the designers to produce completed sets of film that were ready for print. Work that took skilled craftsmen like me hours to do could be done with a few mouse clicks. They called it “desktop publishing.” The quality wasn’t as good as we craftsmen produced. Not then, at the beginning. But more and more companies were willing to accept the tradeoff in quality for huge savings in pre-press costs. The writing was on the wall. I was about to be replaced. Actually, not just replaced but eliminated. Practically made extinct. There are still a few places where skilled lithographers toil away. A few specialized, boutique printers who work mostly in  fine art, reproducing artists’ work the old fashioned way. It will, hopefully, never be a lost art, but will be pursued in the way that other art forms have been over the years, by people who appreciate and have the ability to create real art. That is not to offend graphic artists, for some are artists in the true sense of the word. But for all intents and purposes, most are designers; that’s not a bad thing, it’s just different. And there’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of developing technology (she said, with regret and more than a little resentment.) but the winds of change were coming and twenty years ago I started planning to take flight and head to California, to pursue my biggest dream.

This dream was gonna take some hard work. Before leaving Cleveland I tried doing as much research as I could about everything that went into getting a film made. I found a news store that sold out-of-town newspapers and a wide variety of magazines, so I bought copies of the Hollywood Reporter, Variety, the LA Times. And I knew production was for me. I’m a craftsman, a jack of all trades. If I was a guy I’d be called a Renaissance man. I can make just about anything. My problem was, and still is, a lack of originality. As Norman Rockwell once said, paraphrasing here, I am not an artist, I am an illustrator. In other words he painted scenes he created. He didn’t paint freely, he didn’t just place strokes haphazardly, “artistically” or interpretively. He recreated exactly what he saw. Realism. An illustrator, a craftsman. That’s how I thought of myself. A craftsman, a fabricator. Someone who is given an idea and makes it happen. That’s who I wanted to be. To become that person, I needed to know how things worked, and that included everything from finding a project to developing it, building it out, shopping it around, getting financing, fleshing out the script, getting the principals, the crew, the minutiae. Finding locations, equipment, support staff. But I was going in blind. In a business where who you knew meant how far you could go. I knew nobody working in the industry to whom I could turn for advice, or a reference, or a job. I did, however, know a couple of people who lived in LA. My adorable and loving cousin Matt and his awesome wife, Gwen. Matt was involved in a project called The Inner City Games, founded by Daniel Hernandez at the Hollenbeck Youth Center in East L.A. Hooking up with Matt and through him The Inner City Games turned out to be a more awesome introduction to LA than I could have dreamed. It literally was a life changing experience. It is, I think, a story worth telling, and it has its place in the bigger picture, the basis for this blog. How it came to be that I find myself in this situation and how I have had the ability to deal with the things I’ve experienced have been influenced by the metamorphosis I went through starting with my move to LA. But this is a good stopping place, a place for my new sign-off. That’s It For Today! TIFT!

   – Boy, that’s a little abrupt! I’ll have to work on this whole stopping point thing. Delicacy is not my strong suit. I’m more the bold and brash type, for the most part. But that sign-off was kinda harsh, like hanging up on somebody without really finishing the conversation. Yup, gotta work on that. Bear with me. Please.


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