Thanks to Dad

Happy Father’s Day everybody, don’t forget to call dear old Dad today! I know I said I’d post my dad’s version of this story today, but it would appear that in my last hard drive upgrade a few things got displaced. It’s ok, it’s not lost, I’m trying not to freak out. Deep breaths.

But I was thinking about what to write for this post, and I think there’s something way more important to talk about (as much as I love that story). Father’s Day is all about giving thanks for everything your dad has given you, for the lessons he imparted, the playhouses he built,  and for always being your rollercoaster partner (Dad: to this day, whenever someone coerces me into getting on a rollercoaster I think in my head “WOOOOOOOO DOGGIES!!!!”).

So I’ve been thinking about all the things I owe to my dad, which is a lot, but one really important thing comes to mind. All of my ideas about creativity, about producing artistic work, making a living in a creative field, I learned from him. Of all the icons and stars who have encouraged me to pursue acting, of all the great wordsmiths and authors that have shown me the wonderful worlds you can create with words, no one has ever inspired me like my dad. Maybe an editor of TV commercials doesn’t sound much like an artist to you, but I’ve watched him tell a story in 30 seconds just from bits and pieces of scrap, and I’ve listened to him talk about his work, and I can only hope to be that passionate, that intelligent about my craft, that subtle with my hand. With that in mind, I’d like to share a few excerpts from the interviews I do have. Here, my dad talks about the earliest outlets for  his creative expression:

I made things, you know, mainly airplanes and I made them out of the cardboard tubes from paper towels. And graduated from that to making plastic models of things from kits. And then as I got into, when I was a teenager, cars. I got to the point where I wasn’t following the directions, wasn’t making the car that it was a kit for. But I was designing my own cars and using bits and pieces that I would saw apart and put back together in different ways and create custom cars. I had all these tools like a little tiny exacto knife that I would use to cut out the doors. And then I read in magazines how you could make hinges so I could have the doors that would open and close, you know, put all the little spark plug wires on the engines and stuff like that. And… I got to the point, when I was like fifteen, where I was winning contests for building models. I think it’s kind of funny, you know, I think that was the germination of me being attracted to editing. And that’s still what I do the best is not follow the directions, and make something different than what it’s supposed to be.

He went on to be a film student at Penn State, at a time when film schools were a relative novelty. As a student he continued to show a penchant for thinking outside of convention:

So I decide to be a film major and they go through the whole speech you know, “There’s 150 of you in this room. Six of you are going to have careers in film.” I just figured, “Well, you know, wonder who the other five are going to be?” My first film course that I took… I’m very proud of this fact, the professor suggested that I find a different major. But I kept at it. One of the projects… in this radio course: tell a story with just sounds. And lots of people decided they were going to do, you know, “I get up, I brush my teeth, get dressed and go to class.” Right? Or, “I go out on a date,” “I fix my car,” or something like that. I did “The History of the World from the Beginning to the End.”

Ummm…. how badly do you want to listen to that??? After his college graduation, like many recent grads with artistic tendencies, my father went through a brief period of aimlessness:

The summer of ’72… my parents are getting a little bit aggravated because, you know, nothing’s going anywhere. And my Dad is like, wanting to introduce me to his insurance agent because maybe insurance would be a good field for me to go into. And my mom convinces me to take the Civil Service Exam. And so I do, and… I guess I must have done really well on it because the Defense Department offered me a job starting at like 20,000 dollars a year. Which was an enormous amount of money in 1972. As a defense systems analyst, but they couldn’t tell me what that was. And… I turned it down. I was going to be a filmmaker. This tiny little production company that was just a receptionist and three guys offered me a job for ninety dollars a week, or 4,800 dollars a year. Which I took. And my father didn’t talk to me for like two months. I mean I’m living there in the house and he just would not acknowledge my presence for like two months.

That last part is especially meaningful to me right now, for obvious reasons. My dad has been a pretty incredible role model for his kids. I’ve never known anyone more dedicated or excited about his work, and over the years I’ve watched him make some really brave and scary decisions in his career. I try every day to emulate that kind of attitude in my own life. Sometimes it feels a little insane to be out here in California without a real plan, trying to pursue this mad dream that everyone thinks is doomed to fail. But my dad is always there to remind me that even if I’m not always sure how things are going to work out in my life, he is without a doubt that I’m heading in the right direction. He once said to me, “I know it’s not easy to go through life knowing exactly what you want when everyone around you doubts that you can pull it off. The key is to always believe in yourself.”

Thanks Daddy, happy Father’s Day.

PS: The video up top is a promotional video for the AVID editing system in which my dad has a cameo. It’s really funny to me, possibly my siblings, and no one else. But you can jump to the 4ish minute mark if you want to see my super 80s dad.

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