I’m 47 years old. I have three teenagers. I host an early morning radio show. I have no money. Sure, I can pay my bills and find ways to pay for my kids’ extracurriculars. I started a business in 2018 and threw myself in a little more debt, because I’ve always dreamed of owning my own business. Although I am super busy and financially bipolar, I decided that now was the time to make a feature comedy about two guys half my age doing things I’d now be too tired to do. My story is not unique, because I have a friend named Steve Miller and he was in a similar boat. He boarded the boat a few years before me, having turned the big five-oh in December, 2019.
Not everyone experiences a mid-life crisis. Typically, guys our age are looking to buy those expensive toys to help them recapture their youth. I’ve seen dudes my age tooling around in a new sports car or dropping a brand new speed boat into Irondequoit Bay. Hunting trips, golf trips, buddy trips to Daytona, Bristol or even the Super Bowl, if they have the scratch. Steve and I? Nah. Let’s make a feature film – yeah! No problem! This road started in 2016 and we’re almost at the finish line.
Is it Too Late for Us?
The movie industry is changing, I’m not sure if you’ve noticed. Movie theatre ticket sales are threatened by the streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video and Disney Plus. The major studios are getting into the game too; better late than never! The old distribution model is also on its way out for us indie filmmakers. That is an entirely different post and more info about the industry trends can be found at IndieFilmHustle
You have a script, you get a famous person attached, you find an investor, you make your movie, you sell your movie to a distributor, you have a big premiere at a theatre and walk the red carpet. EASY PEASY! Nice try, but that only works in the movies. I’ve been listening to podcasts about people (presumably like me) who went from being a nobody with nothing to a Hollywood Player. But when you get down into the real details of their stories, you find out there was a rich aunt or they have a relative in the business or SOMETHING that gives them a leg up. Sure, there are rags to riches stories, but the protagonists in those stories are usually young. They live in their car and eat ramen for a year before their first gig, etc. I’ve heard plenty of those stories. Not a whole lot of those stories involve anyone over the age of 40.
Making a movie is hard. If anyone tells you that making a movie is easy, they are either delusional or they suffered a major head trauma. People who make movies for a living do just that: make movies for a living. They don’t have day jobs and there is a reason for that. Making a movie is a full time project. At first you can do things in your spare time, absolutely. You can write the script on nights and weekends and things like that, but once you need to start making it, everything changes. There is a reason that the credits at the end of your favorite movie is a mile long, ten miles if it is an action film or animation.
Making a movie takes money. Filmmaking is one of, if not the most expensive of art forms. When someone tells you they need ONLY $250,000 to make their movie, trust me, that’s a bargain. As you well know, not everyone has a couple hundred grand kicking around to INVEST in a film…and that’s on the very low end. The ones that do have that kind of scratch kicking around don’t typically invest in two unknown middle-aged dudes with a script and a dream. It just doesn’t happen. So, in a lot of ways, Steve and I had already missed our opportunity to make a film.
Thank you, Technology?
Cameras are small, cheap(ish) and digital. It’s no longer huge film cameras with expensive film stock (sorry Kodak). That means that old guys like us have access to the quality stuff. That also means that EVERYONE has access to that gear! So there is a lot of noise now. Tons of people are vying for their 15 million views. Kids want to be YouTube Stars and Instagram Influencers. Who doesn’t? I’d love for someone to pay me $10K just to post about how much I love their hemorrhoid cream (I’m taking meetings). So all of this means it is that much harder to stand out from the crowd. But maybe instead of trying to stand out from the world’s crowd, what if we just tried to stand out from our local crowd?
Home Town Heros?
We are not interested in “getting out of here” and making it in Hollyweird. I know, to some people that’s just crazy talk. But what if you could make a smaller, more localized movie and just stand out from the local crowd? This is what we want to do. But wait, there’s more! We’d not only love to create a local filmmaking business model that affords us the opportunity to crank out quality visual content, but we’d love to train more people to learn how. That too is a blog post for another day. We just want to tell visual stories as a day job. We don’t have to be big movie moguls, we just want to make our movies and help people follow their dreams, NBD.
Quitting Alcohol Is Why I’m Here!
It took me a while and a lot of transformation (and therapy) to get to where I am today and none of that would have been possible if I were still self medicating with alcohol. My stress was something I thought I should manage with vodka and beer. Learning about myself and learning better coping skills was what did the trick. I also used “This Naked Mind” by Annie Grace. It is a nice delve into the psychology of alcohol from a societal view that really enabled me to understand that I was just a victim of clever marketing and low self esteem. I thank my friends and family who came along with me to see me succeed and I am also thankful that I was able to disassociate myself with some very toxic people. Some people will hold you back and it is important for everyone to learn who those people are and to have the courage to walk away from them.
So Who Cares?
I care. Steve Cares. Our family and close friends care. It doesn’t matter if some blogger in LA cares. It doesn’t matter if a YouTube star or Influencer cares. We may be “over the hill” or something. But the point is, we didn’t listen to the people who thought we were crazy. We didn’t listen to the ones who told us we were doing it wrong. We aren’t working with the guys and girls who thought we were just a couple idiots trying to make some stupid movie. There are some people who may have refused to work with us because we didn’t have 1/2 the money in escrow or because we weren’t using an Arri camera. Those people won’t be with us when our dreams are a reality, but they will wish they were.
Eureka! This is an exclamation of joy or satisfaction when someone realizes something. This happened to me while I was meditating this morning. I started meditating yesterday and I don’t know what I am doing. Right now, I take deep breaths and when I exhale, I imagine all of the stress and negativity that may be in me is expelled, as though it were smoke. It dissipates in the room and I take another breath. Each one is cleansing and as I fill my lungs, I imagine that life-giving air is absorbing any and all bad things, like a fluid sponge. I also started stretching yesterday – which I also did this morning. I am so horribly out of shape and stiff that I felt enough was enough. I started stretching and meditating in an attempt to change my habits. It is hard to quiet my mind, it’s just a torrent of thoughts with voices and memories, reflections of things I’ve said from all throughout my life. Imagine walking into a crowded room where everyone is talking – that’s my mind! Scary, isn’t it?
This morning I sat with my meditation music (a playlist on Spotify) playing off my phone, the living room heater on and the cats running around the house like maniacs – they had just inhaled their breakfast. I try to get myself into an attitude of gratitude. I try to think of all the things I am thankful for: my family, my home, my….holy crap! That’s when it hit me and all the voices in the crowded room that is my mind cried out, “Eureka!”
As I was listing the things I am grateful for, something incredible dawned on me: ALL OF MY DREAMS HAVE COME TRUE.
I have a family: check
I have a house: check
I live in a place that has 4 real seasons: check
I do a morning radio show: check
I have voice tracked radio shows in other markets: check
I have my own studio: check
I have my own business: check
I am making movies: check
I was seriously blown away because I have had so many dreams of all of these things, but never at the same time. I remember when I wanted so badly to do radio, it was all I could think of. I remember seeing hosts with shows in many other states and how cool it would be.
While living in Florida and working my first professional job, I was trapped. It was always hot and I was in a prison of a job. I would watch movies and in those movies people lived lives they enjoyed. They were quite happy dressing warm in the winter and loved what they did for a living. They would come home to their family and enjoy life. I was so depressed from my position in life and all I wanted to do was create for a living. I wanted to make other people laugh and to think and to reflect on their own lives and appreciate what they had. I was so depressed that I slowly fell into a spiral of drugs and alcohol. I never sold my TV to get high or any of the other stereotypes, but I still felt empty inside unless I had a buzz. I lived that life for 16 years.
During the time I was struggling, there were patches of happiness. Those came in the form of my wife, Kelly and my kids. But there was still the darkness – the emptiness, the sadness and I could not fix it. I chose to drown it instead.
Today is a fantastic day because I am no longer caught in the grips of that sadness and it is so easy to maintain an attitude of gratitude. I have movie projects in the works and although each day has challenges, I can face them with joy in my heart. I really hope this happens to you, because I am ecstatic.
What would I do if I had $100,000.00 in my bank account right now? I would make this movie. What am I going to do even if we don’t surpass $18,000.00? I’m still going to make this movie, because failure is when you give up…when you stop trying – and I’m not stopping.
We’ve been running a crowdfunding campaign for almost 60 days and have only gotten to $3,485 – as of this writing. That’s 3% of the goal! It is hard to not be frustrated and discouraged. In the past, this would send me on a downward spiral of negativity and self destruction. I’d probably start hitting the bottle a lot and getting angry while I watch posts from other local filmmakers as they make their dreams come true while mine withered and died. Thankfully, I am not in that place anymore. Since my sobriety, I have been able to walk away from that cycle and spin things to the positive side!
Our budget being around $100,000.00 allows us to hire and pay a small but capable crew to work on this film. The lower the money, the less we can do – obviously. Our smaller budget means we can’t afford an Art Department – that’s makeup, wardrobe and set design/decoration. So, anything that makes it into our film is what we all personally have. Like, furniture, pictures on the walls, fixtures – basically everything you see in a scene.
I was really hoping that we would raise all the money we needed to shoot this film the way we intended. It looks like that is not going to happen, which means Steve and I will have to wear a lot of hats on set. More me than Steve, though. As the Director, he needs to concentrate on the actors’ performances. I’ll concentrate on everything else.
So this is it. 4 Days left in our IndieGoGo campaign and then we’re moving forward with what we have. It’s going to be great! We’re staying positive and we’re going to document the ride for all to see. We know that this community can be a filmmaking community – so we’re going after it. See you on the other side. NEVER GIVE UP, NEVER.
Life is a marathon for sure. The Facebook Page Big Fit Deal ” is dedicated to helping everybody – and every body – find their fit. While we respect the right of every person to decide what to do with their body, this page will not engage in or promote pro-diet or intentional weight loss discussions.” I love this approach because we see “fat shaming” all the time in our society and often it is not obvious…or it is? Look at any diet or fitness page or advertisement and you will see perfectly sculpted bodies drinking their scientifically designed shakes and doing exercises with ease. They are happy and enjoying life as the beautiful perfect people that they are. HOGWASH. Hey, if you want to be “in shape” with a six pack and chiseled everything, more power to you! Some people don’t have the genetic makeup for that, period. I don’t have it! I tried and I got close but it just didn’t work for me. Personally, I gained all my weight back from drinking alcohol. It was a terrible period of self doubt and a deep feeling of insignificance that lead me to my binge. It lasted for several years and although there were times when I was able to put down the booze and pick up a protein shake, the monkey jumped back on me. I’ve finally beat it and that’s thanks to the support of my family and friends as well as the work of Annie Grace – you can see my interview with her on the podcast/webcast.
Let me get back to Big Fit Deal. They posted a link to a story about a woman who finished last in the Boston Marathon. She’s 46 and almost didn’t make it. It is a story about going after a goal with a laser focus and not giving up. There’s a lot more to her story and I’m not the one to relay the info here – but I wanted to use this posting as an example of why we need to pay attention to our society and what we idolize. My Facebook feed is lousy with ads hocking slimming shirts and other things to make people look like society thinks they should look. I am not going to tell someone that they are wrong if they want to lose weight or if they have a certain physical goal they wish to accomplish. I do want to tell people that they should go after whatever it is they want and not give up – regardless of what the onlookers say.
Is it a big deal that this woman finished the Boston Marathon? Absolutely! Everyone else went home – they were cleaning up the finish line. Her son was waiting there and she finally crossed the line. She did it! She cried tears of painful joy. This story touched me deeply because we all have our own personal Boston Marathon. Yours could be losing weight or quitting drinking or smoking. It could be auditioning for a play or trying to get that big client. Whatever your goal – make it your Boston Marathon – make sure you get to the finish line – and don’t listen to what people are saying about you.
I’ve been very vocal about my former job at Carnival Cruise Lines. I have not come so far as naming my direct supervisors, but I have definitely openly called them out about how they treated me and others in their personal pursuit for corporate domination. At one point, I was sitting on a ship in the Atlantic Ocean, about 1 or 2 days out from Nassau, Bahamas and I was in tears because I was forced to create a “crew video” from tons of footage given to me by crew members and stuff I shot. This was technically not my responsibility. Our department was onboard this brand new ship to shoot and incorporate video into the production show as well as produce some corporate training videos. That’s it. My boss had this grand plan to make our little video department a big corporate department with big budgets. He played to my mid-twenty year old dreams of having a six-figure per year job at such a young age. (At this time I was in considerable debt for my age, so I was really interested in the career track he dangled before me). He promised that if we dug in and did this kind of stuff – showed “them” what “we” could do, we would be sitting pretty, making lots of money and delegating this lowly work to others. I’ll admit, I was onboard! But I soon came to realize that I was the main guy who was to do the majority of the work to get there.
I actually left school for the job, with only 5 classes short of my degree. I was a supposed to go into radio, but I had a good knack for shooting and editing video. Plus, I was a radio guy and therefore, free Voice-Over talent! (For many years, my voice was on over 20 ships’ TV systems). I often wondered about the qualifications of my boss. He seemed so much older than me and really talked the talk. I soon realized he couldn’t do anything I could do and he was mainly self-taught. I found his resume one day when I was searching for some paperwork. It was wedged in the back of the file cabinet so I was intrigued. I will sum his resume and qualifications up with this: he spelled College “Collage”. ‘Nuff Said.
Generally, he was a nice guy when we were having beers and smoking way too many cigarettes. We’d have some fun here and there – just enough to keep me in line with the dream. But, then it would kick back in – the stress and the impossible deadlines. I would be working late, until 10 or 11pm. I would oversleep the next day because he expected me to be back at work by 9am. I was tired, burning out and he would just keep hounding me.
If I was late he’d make me work the weekend. If I needed a day off for a doctor’s appointment or if I was sick – I was expected to make up the time on the weekend. I was so green and naive, I had no idea that he was breaking corporate rules. Add to this, the fact that he would often call me a “fat bastard” and make fun of the fact that I was often single. He would poke fun at me because I could never “pull” when I was out on ships. (Basically, that means chatting up girls and sleeping with them while I was onboard). I loved women very much, but I always wanted a girlfriend who was wife material, not a one-nighter. I could have gone to HR to complain – but the VP on HR was one of the people who he was always trying to impress – so we could take our little video department to a higher level.
Keep in mind that this takes place over the course of 4 1/2 years. The company was cranking out a new ship per year and each time, our department had something to do with it. Many times, it was not really something that was in our job descriptions, but we were all seeking that Holy Grail of the big budget corporate video department, so we agreed that we needed to “show them what we could do”. In that time span, I think he chewed up and spit out 5-6 other staff members. I have a very cool management style. I would never make my staff do something I wouldn’t do myself and if they had a skill that I didn’t have, I would never exploit it or worse, pretend I could do it better while “choosing not to”. My supervisor forced me to emulate his management style – which was autocratic and unforgiving. I failed terribly. Meanwhile, he was grooming someone else who would take up that style.
I finally quit. I was done, I was over it all. I had to move on. I was really depressed and started self-medicating with various substances to escape from the constant stress. The 4 1/2 years really changed me. While onboard the ships, it was customary to go to the crew bar where drinks were very cheap. Everyone would buy a round and I was told it was rude to decline. One of the things he stressed to me was the importance of having the crew on your side. You see, we were from the head office in Miami, so we were considered management to the crew. If we had them on our side, we could get things done onboard outside of the typical chain of command-ish.
I left the company and moved to Rochester. I brought all of that emotional baggage to my poor soon-to-be-wife. The escaping from problems with self-medicating, emotionally over sensitivity, general depression and so many self-esteem issues I cannot even begin to enumerate them. Now, I am sure not all of that came from the job, but I am positive any of it I had was exasperated because of it.
You know how some women cannot leave an abusive relationship? It was like that for me too. I had difficulties finding work in Rochester and an opportunity opened at Carnival and the old boss called me back. It was actually a sweet deal so I took it. I figured that this time would be better and it was a marked improvement. But, there was a huge difference this time. So much had changed in the department – and the one guy he was grooming along with me, took over my position in the management chain and he was a clone of the boss. We got into it a few times because I taught him a lot and he would take that condescending tone with me and I would not have any of it. We got called into the boss’s office a few times because of that friction. The guy was once my friend and I could not wrap my head around the idea that he would treat me the way he was. This was a different position and so I was travelling quite a bit and working on my own. I had a 10 month contract with the option to renew..but I didn’t. This time it was because my wife and I were going to have a baby and she wanted to come back to Rochester.
I went back one more time for a stretch of 3 years and that was the last straw. I felt oppressed in that environment. Even with the boss leaving me mostly alone to do my own thing. I had a family with young kids now and I wasn’t going to let him stop me from doing what I needed to do. The depression and the self medicating was still an issue – so I finally got fed up and decided we were moving back to Rochester for good. That was 2007 and I am so grateful that I made that choice. It has not been an easy road, but I have the love of my wife and kids and some great friends. I am getting therapy now because to this day I still have nightmares that I work in the video department of Carnival Cruise Lines. That department is no more. Initially, the boss was fired (forced to resign) for misappropriating funds. He didn’t steal, but he robbed one account to pay someone else more money so the job would get done faster and make him look better. Ironically, all of the senior management has since gone and he is back there in an adjacent department.
There is so much more to write about but I think you have the general idea. I let him control my life – I take ownership of that. I signed up for acting classes one time and he convinced me to quit, I lost my $700 I paid for the class.
If you have a son or daughter and see them going down the corporate path…pay close attention to them and their mental well-being. No job is worth the years of emotional pain I’ve endured and caused my family. Yes, the skills I learned there are a big factor in my life now, but I mostly try to practice sound management. When I direct a film, I am approachable and honest. I actually have trouble delegating jobs because I sometimes feel the task may be “beneath” the person I am asking to complete it. I can work on that.
I never really realized how much therapy could help me get over this and I look forward to not having dreams about working there.
Today it has been 30 days since I ingested the poison. Now, keep reading – I am not going to bash your beloved single malt or craft whatever. This is my understanding of what alcohol is at a chemical level. It is a highly addictive poison which is not good for any human. Historically, it was used to kill germs (antiseptic) and as a pain reliever – but they eventually found (arguably) better chemicals for that. Read This Naked Mind by Annie Grace for the skinny on alcohol.
After 30 days I have logged how many times I really wanted a drink: 0. Absolutely a huge goose egg. I am amazed that I didn’t want a drink because I’ve had some not-so-stellar days here and there. It is the first time in recent years that I have not sought some kind of substance to ease my stress. Nearly everyone does it – but some people use healthy things like jogging or weight lifting to beat stress. Others like a glass or two of wine or a martini. Some like a few beers to unwind. I have now become privy to the fallacy therein.
Here’s what I have experienced:
I have the ability to fix my own problems, rather than ignoring them or masking them with self-medication.
My sleep has improved by leaps and bounds.
I have the clarity of mind to remember things I was forgetting often.
My brain is a wonderfully complex organ that has all of the power I require for everything life can throw at me.
People are beautiful and I need to be more open to learning from each and every person I come in contact with on a daily basis.
One thing at a time. In the past I have always attempted to fix everything all at once and then wondered why I fell flat on my face. It’s perfectly fine to focus on one thing and not move on until it is fixed.
I have every right to be angry at things, but I have no right to affect others negatively because of that anger.
I am so much more productive than I used to be, simply because I am not tired and feeling low.
I am looking forward to how life will be tomorrow and 30 days from now and so on.
I am not going to be an evangelist for temperance. To each his or her own. But I can offer advice…and that advice is to quit drinking for 30 days and do an honest personal inventory.
Thanks for reading. I appreciate you.
Last weekend I was listening to a man talk about his one year of sobriety. He has celebrated other short anniversaries before, but never one year. I've heard this story before, many times from many people. I have lived parts of this story too. I remember being proud of myself for going a few months without drinking. But, my brain tricked me into poisoning myself again. (Alcohol is a poison, by the way). Don't worry, I am not going on any crusades to save you from the evils of alcohol! I'm perfectly happy dealing with my own crap. This man talked about the joy he felt as a child...back before he ever took a drink or drug. He could have fun at events and even non-events. He recalled a time when being sober was what you were because you didn't know any better. He laughed and played and used his imagination. He didn't brood over some darkness that was clouding his sunlight. I really liked this analogy. I recently listened to an audiobook that changed my entire outlook on drinking alcohol. This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol: Find Freedom, Rediscover Happiness & Change Your Life by Annie Grace. Wow! I mean, I really connected with her work on this subject. She gets into brain chemistry and psychology. As a society, we've been sold a bill of goods by the Alcohol industry, fellow humans, our parents, everyone who drinks. Again, I'm not on an anti-drinking crusade, but this was such an interesting listen! She compares being a moderate drinker of alcohol to moderately drinking motor oil! Sounds crazy, but both are poisonous to us. Once I understood what happened to my brain chemistry after drinking for many years - even if I started as a social drinker - I knew that there was no way I was going to continue. Annie Grace also talks about being a kid or a young adult and how you were able to enjoy certain things without turning to a drink. I decided that I wanted that again, like nothing I've ever wanted before. I want to let my inner kid out to play again. I have a list of things I want to improve in my life: being mindful, eating better, getting exercise, having greater empathy, thinking things through before I run my mouth - you know, stuff we probably all need to work on. But I really want to laugh and enjoy this life while I still can, without anything controlling me. I'm really excited about it. Want to come out and play? -Fitz Subscribe to Positive Blatherings with Fitz on your favorite podcast platform.
“Fitz, will you stop with that crap?! I’ll be annoyed if I want to be!” – you
Let me explain…there is no time…let me sum up. Recently, I made friends with a person and we had mutual business needs. It made perfect sense to barter our services because it was win win. That person ended up finding a gig and in the back of my mind I like to believe I was part of that. I was sad that person is no longer involved in my business but at the same time, I met a few others via that person who have been very great contacts! So, sometimes a person moves into your life to move you in a new direction. I think most of the time the direction is positive, but sometimes it can be negative. With that in mind, I’ve only ever experienced positive changes – I will list some examples:
Toxic people moved themselves out of my life. It was not easy at the time, but it was for the best.
Mistakes were made in business with people who were not a good match and I was too trusting. But, once I was aware of the situation (and listened to my mastermind group) I was able to move on with a better understanding of the situation and learned a great deal about how to avoid similar situations in the future.
Past work experiences that set me back years both professionally and personally (emotionally, mentally) all made me who I am today and make me better at what I do. I know how to listen to people, I know how to lead people, I know how to apply ethics to every decision.
These examples are not specific to me, I am sure. YOU probably have experience with one or all of these examples. Granted, they are broad and can apply to many situations in life, but this is why I have to be amazed and not annoyed.
I could choose to be annoyed that I was taken advantage of or that because of the evils of one person, I am undergoing therapy. But, instead, I am amazed at how life works. I am amazed that life has presented me with lessons to learn from and not events to dismay me.
I have almost an entirely new set of people in my life than I did one year ago and they are much better for me. The positive people, the ones who only lift me up and move me forward are here and will always be here. The new ones are a result of my change of perspective and desire to be on the forward path. I was on a path that did loops -forward for a while, then back around, always repeating. If you find yourself there, stop and sit down and look around and really assess where you are going. I was going nowhere. Now, I am going forward and not looking back. I owe it all to my people.
Excuse me while I blather a bit about regrets. Imagine regrets are a distant land about the size of Northern Uganda – maybe Southern, I’m not sure about the exact geographic scale, but let’s say it’s bigger than your backyard. This land called Regrets has a king, his name is Fitz. He rules with an iron conscience and doesn’t let any of his subjects out. He keeps them there and it makes his country too much to manage, so he often falls apart. OK, I’ll admit that metaphoric scenario was a bit convoluted, but I think you get the picture. My point to all of this is, don’t be King Fitz (I kind of like the sound of that King part).
“Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention”
Old Blue Eyes had it right. Too few to mention is a great goal. I always wondered if I really thought about my regrets, how many of them I could write down.
Dropping out of Camp Challenge, Fort Knox Kentucky.
Dropping out of New Mexico Military Institute.
Experimenting with hallucinogens.
Not taking college more seriously.
Putting my music “career” before learning.
Letting my first boss run my life.
Not recognizing my lack of self control.
Allowing my self confidence to make my decisions.
Allowing self doubt to make my decisions.
Allowing my regrets to run my life.
I think these are my top 10. There are a bunch of little ones – mostly based around drunken statements or actions. I’ve remedied that by giving up the sauce – and that has not been an easy road…but I am not doing it alone.
Take it from me, kids: regrets have the power to give you concrete boots and make you swim with the fishes. (They can really bog you down). You need to work through those regrets via therapy or some kind of meditation….something. I am doing it by writing – by BLATHERING! I think I’ll write out my demons for all the world to read. Writing helps me feel better and maybe one day I can get through my day with no regrets.