My day job is being animator, editor, video producer and owner at Tilt Media.
I’ve been in the business since the early 1990s. I was living in Hawaii and had a roommate who was working at a video production company. He’d tell me about his projects and the esoteric equipment he got to use—this was at a time when equipment cost hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars—and I asked him to show me where he worked.
I went to the equipment room and saw the buttons, the lights and the technology and I said, “You’ve got to get me in this room.”
I’d always been an audiophile and was fascinated by the gears, the buttons, the electronics. I didn’t care what I did; I just wanted to be there.
Within a few weeks, I was working there at night, making VHS tapes for the local Sheraton to send out to travel agents around the world. While I waited for the dubs, I was reading manuals and learning that equipment. The graphics machine was Windows 1.5 with a black and white screen. It was all numerical with no visual interface.
I was teaching myself and learning and the company offered me the chance to be their senior graphics animator. I kept saying “No,” because I liked what I was doing. But finally, I thought, “Maybe there’s something there” and I said “Yes.” I’m really glad I did.
That company bought the 11th Avid machine that was ever made—this was a tipping point moment that put after-effects, editing, graphics and animation all on one piece of equipment. Now, you could use a desktop computer to do everything that used to require that huge room of equipment.
I eventually moved back to Wisconsin and my experiences to that point allowed me to be a hybrid: someone who could edit and animate. I could cut a long-form piece or a TV spot with graphics.
I’ve found Madison to be a great place to live and work. We have a bit of a recession-proof economy and maybe that’s helped create a safe, non-competitive environment within the video production space.
I’m currently on the board of Madison Media Professionals. It’s a wonderful group of colleagues, coming together to share ideas, tips and tricks.
One of the members of our group is the student liaison from Madison College and we’ve had some great opportunities to work with the students in that program and offer them support and critiques.
It’s been fascinating to see how the field is changing. Today, kids don’t want to make movies—they all want to be Youtubers. And many of them have access, through their schools—even the middle schools—to some of the same cameras and editing software that I do. A lot of them have fully fleshed-out Youtube channels and they’re actually pretty good. It’s quite inspiring.
Technology has blurred the lines between amateur and professional. It’s changing how production companies operate. I’m seeing a lot more freelance, efforts to eliminate overhead. And maybe that frees us up to focus on the creative.
I have two kids who are exploring the industry—one who’s working in TV news and one in the film program at UW-Milwaukee. It’s exciting to watch my kids come at the industry from different angles.
My most memorable caffeine was Holualoa coffee, which is a Kona coffee from Hawaii. If you look at the hillsides above Kona, there’s a stretch of land that’s all coffee plantations.
It’s the best place to grow coffee. The soil is lava rock, which is very porous. There is rain in the morning and it’s sunny in the afternoon. And that’s just what coffee wants.
When I stopped at one of the plantations and tried their coffee for the first time, I took a sip and said “You’re kidding me. This is real?” It was fan-tas-tic.
My current caffeine of choice is black coffee, straight up. If I add anything it’s a shot of espresso—making it a red eye—for a little more kick.
I loved Bourdain’s show, his writing and the delivery of his writing—I loved that he narrated it. He was very much a film maker and was aware of the story visually, as much as what he said about it. He drove his production crew to try new things to make the show more interesting and to capture the eclectic spots he went to in a visual way. He was poetic, but tough, bold and a little sloppy. It would have been great to have a cup of coffee with him.
Richard Branson is such a risk taker. But he’s always smiling—you never see him stressed. Maybe that’s the secret: to take the risk boldly, not look back and not listen to critics. To own that risk.
I recently invested in Virgin Galactic—their goal is to speed air travel by going over the curve of the earth. London to LA in 90 minutes. I’d love to be on that flight.
World problem that could be solved with the right amount of caffeine: Finding a Democratic candidate for president. My son and I have been watching the debates together and talking about them. It’s been an interesting experience.