2013 New Year’s Blog – “If you know what’s good for you, then do it.”
AH! Finally got over to the right side of the brain with my nails short enough to type, to begin to articulate what has been percolating in me, and what I intend to do about it.
Having climbed my own personal mountain in 2012, I start 2013 again looking up from the bottom of yet another mountain. One which I don’t have a particular appetite for scaling, but one which is necessary if I am to bring to fruition a project that is an expression of all my years attempting to define myself through the arts.
Just about a year ago I was getting ready to record the project of a lifetime. Self-produced. In a year, I went from having a vague and naïve vision of what would be involved all the way into the deep trenches of finance, technology, manufacture and working relationships. I learned many lessons, as always, the hard way.
And thus I have become an (unwilling) independent producer.
Having realized years ago that waiting for somebody to ‘produce me’ would be fruitless, I had the fortune to work with Candace (Candy) Forest as a co-producer since 2005. She has mentored me in collaboration as I have learned on the job.
It has been a shock learning how much one really has to do and how much CAN be done in an industry that is way more open then it was when I was a kid. For those who persevere. I say that as a reminder to myself.
So, here’s what happened:
On the advice of respected voices in the entertainment business, I had decided to make a live recording. This means going back to the original style of recording where everybody is in the same room playing together, as opposed to in isolation booths. It is less clean and more exciting. You have a few tries to get it right and a little editing that can be done afterwards. But the pressure is on to get it right live.
Having decided that, I naïvely said to Candy, ‘Well, let’s make a video too.’ Ha-ha.
We sought the advice of my partner Hamilton’s old buddy, Lawrence Jordan, who directed Tony Bennett and a million more. To our delight and shock, he offered to direct the project pro bono. The bar went up and so did the budget, as we planned a 5-camera broadcast quality shoot.
Meantime, on a personal level, I was experiencing the effects of as-yet-unidentified food intolerances, including for gluten, and was beginning to undergo a transformation due to radical changes in diet. Just to survive and feel ok. I mention this because it was, and continues to be, part of an overall transformation that is underway.
An important part of this transformation is my Nichiren Buddhist chanting, which is where I turn when I feel daunted, as I often do. This Buddhism says that we can all become Buddhas in this lifetime and that we will grow spiritually as we react with bravery, compassion and wisdom to the challenges of our lives.
The long and short of it is that my motto for this year has GOT to be: “If you know what’s good for you, then do it.” I cannot ALLOW myself to drop the ball now, and I must admit, I feel daunted.
A year ago, January 2012, and we were still scouting locations, having already learned too much the hard way and understanding that we needed somebody REALLY TECHNICAL on board to reality check what we needed. My partner reluctantly takes on the role and becomes the lynchpin in communications between the providers of equipment/personnel and the director. His contribution is integral and this is the first time we have worked together like this in our 14-year relationship. It’s complicated, as they say. And ultimately very rewarding.
I’m working like a nutcase, worried about my health and finances, stressed, and the shoot is scheduled for February 18-19, 2012, at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, where many idols, including Bill Evans, recorded. Everyone thinks that the shooting schedule is too ambitious and no one REALLY knows if we will be able to PULL OFF what I have envisioned: to record enough material in 2 days to make a CD and a concert DVD. My co-producer is sick and cannot get well because she is working too hard and I feel very guilty about this but cannot get through the recording without her ears. The schedule will not permit me to hear back the takes, so I have to trust that if she says it is a ‘buy take’ then we move on to the next song. That is TRUST.
So, after an immense technical setup, we’re finally in Fantasy and I’ve never done this kind of video recording before and am juggling right and left brain tasks, performing the song, remembering the words in 7 different languages, working with the director, music director, crew, crying with joy and wonder that we are actually doing this. We do it. Fairly serenely. I’m triumphant and transformed. I continue paying bills for the rest of the year.
Yoshi’s calls. I’m transformed again. We play there, scrambling to get an audience in 2 ½ weeks.
We mix and manufacture the CD, create the photos and designs to visually speak what is musically inside. This would not have happened without the artistry of both photographer Kingmond Young and graphic designer Paige Smith.
We do CD Release performances in NY and in the Bay Area. I’m hustling audience attendance relentlessly.
They go well and I am relieved. I’m exhausted and can’t wait for a rest.
Which I do not get.
Summer 2012 arrives and I am at the beginning of another mountain, but I again naïvely do not see how high it is. I am under the impression that, because our video director called a “live switch” between the cameras as we recorded, the editing will be fast and cheap, and I’ll be able to produce the DVD in time to go to Europe in the early fall and get back for the DVD release in November. HA-HA-HA! WAS I WRONG!
I came to appreciate all that goes into creating not only the actual edited video, but also the navigation, the way it looks, the technical requirements, the manufacture and the packaging.
Having become an Accidental Film Producer I also learned how to produce a homegrown premiere in a movie house.
In Blu ray, with a limo-searchlight-photo shoot, the whole band and many attendees.
Now in January 2013, I find myself once again at the bottom of a mountain, as I said at the beginning of this.
HOW WILL I GET THE MESSAGE OF WORLD UNITY that I see and feel, the message I tried to convey in the DVD, out to the people I want to have hear it??
I gave myself a Tarot Reading on New Year’s Day, just before my partner and I walked out onto a beach upstate to hear a spontaneous bagpipe concert. The guy walked out onto the beach, unpacked the pipes from a suitcase, and proceeded to play nonstop for 20 minutes, ending with Auld Lang Syne, as we watched the relentless waves and the kids playing on the beach. It was a blessing of death and rebirth, closing a holiday season and a year that were not lacking for examples of that theme.
The Tarot told me, among many things, that I need to invoke the ‘Athena’ part of my nature now. Athena, the Greek Goddess of Wisdom, would be great at all the legal, financial, and organizational tasks I have before me right now. The ones it is so hard to face, but the ones whose lack will betray everything I have worked for so far.
SO WISH ME LUCK as I go forward to the plan to get non-profit fiscal sponsorship for The Bridges Project, book residencies and performances for the band, learn about DVD distribution, and sort out last year’s taxes.
I’m telling you that only the Buddhist chanting will get me through it; that, and actually DOING IT.
“If you know what’s good for you, then do it.”
What I’ve got to GET is that this applies as much to all that ‘Athena work’ as it applies to keeping gluten out of my body.