Last January, I started posting my "dramedy" web series The Nextnik, about reinvention at age 50-something. It went over well and even landed me an invitation to start this blog at HuffPost50.
That was my first venture into dramatic film work, after having spent 29 years as an editor and technical director at ABC News in Washington, D.C. Over time, technology brought many changes to how ABC operates. Production equipment became lighter and simpler. As we all know, what follows is some sort of reduction in workforce. That was the situation that I faced in 2010. I chose to leave.
After leaving ABC, I started producing mini documentaries about other people reinventing their lives. At some point in early 2011, it occurred to me that I was still doing the same thing that I had always done at ABC -- documenting the lives of others. For me, professional reinvention would be to venture into fictional film production; starting the web series The Nextnik.
In my twenties, a professional fantasy was to be a film director. Back in the 1970's, however, film-making required lots of equipment, crew and money to make a professional looking product. If you made a low budget film, it often looked like a low budget film.
That was before all the lighter cameras and affordable editing equipment that appeared in the late 1980's. Such innovations opened up filmmaking to a new generation of filmmakers. Think of Edward Burns' low budget award wining The Brothers McMullen, released in the mid 1990's at a cost of $23,000. It jumpedstarted his career as a film director. The factors that led larger companies to let people go, were also the same factors that allowed new filmmakers to break out on their own.
The Nextnik's story is one that sounds familiar to many these days: Larry worked for the same company for twenty-nine years. One day, without warning, he is downsized. Fired. Knowing he'll never get another job in the same field with the same salary again, Larry goes on a hunt for his next career. In the process of discovering his new professional passion, he finds new paths to happiness in his private life.
I wrote, directed, produced and edited this web series. At times, I also made lunch for the cast and crew. I compensated for any experience gaps by hiring the right people; especially my director of photography Quin Paek. Great DP. Just keep him filled with coffee. The actors are first-rate. It's actually amazing what quality acting talent there is here in DC. I assumed such talent existed only in New York and Los Angeles, but DC has a large community of fine dramatic actors.
After I completed the last of the six part series by late February 2012, I thought I'd re-edit it into a short film. In the process, I realized that there was no true character development, no back stories, nothing that makes the characters endearing. It was thirty minutes of a fast moving web series with not much understanding of the characters.
I contacted the cast and crew and asked them if they would like to be part of a new version of the film -- one with revised and additional scenes and more depth to the characters. Everyone said yes. I went back to work, and The Nextnik feature film was born.
After seven months of work, The Nextnik had its first public screening at The Alexandria Film Festival in Alexandria, Virginia. Great crowd. Full House. They laughed at all the right places. Although I'm not really a public speaker, I had a ball answering questions after the show. I chalk that up to the fact that I really love this project, and have a passion for my new career. Hopefully, this will be the first of many festivals.
I feel a certain energy level that I haven't felt professionally for years. Don't get me wrong -- ABC is a great place -- great people, great experiences. It's just that I was done. It was time to try something new to get that passion back into my work. Filmmaking was the answer.
WATCH: The Nextnik Trailer