It was somewhere in Columbia, Pennsylvania, near the Susquehanna River, when I remember watching “The Skeleton Dance,” and “Night On Bald Mountain.” I don’t know if I was sitting on the floor or living room sofa, but I remember dancing skeletons, flying demons, and swirling ghosts all around us.
Memory is a tricky mechanism. Still, I chuckle as I recall that soon after my mother left my dad she became woefully obsessed over his bi-weekend, 80s horror movie marathons with me and my stepsister. As if an animated, satanic alternative was somehow more Christian. Though, one could argue, watching Jason Voorhees smash a coed’s face through a bathroom mirror with such force it embossed the adjoining, aluminum trailer wall in Friday the 13th part… whatever… does leave an impression on a young mind.
I start here because it’s while enjoying the aforementioned Disney classics that, I think, I first thought, “I want to do that. I want to make TV. I want to make magic.”
This bit of nostalgia was unrepentantly inflicted today when, after more than 6 months of working at the school as their Digital Marketing Director, I decided to take a walk. Ask some questions. Get some answers.
I had a divine revelation that I don’t need to waste time Googling why students choose 2-year schools over a 4-year alternative. I just need to ask them. They are always there. Walking all around me. A brilliantly, frightening concept.
Nonetheless, I needed a break. To relax, as it were, in the bitter reality of the season.
After publishing our latest commercial spot, I felt a sense of almost terminal relief. Sympathy? No mercy for a creative freak like me in York, Pennsylvania. No sympathy for the devil; keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride…and if it occasionally gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, well… maybe chalk it off to forced conscious expansion: Tune in, freak out, get beaten.
Still… the urge to flee came suddenly.
My odyssey and break from character was an attempt to expand my thoughts on the digital marketing campaign intended to follow/support the commercial’s release. It was a very ominous assignment – with overtones of extreme personal danger. I didn’t know where I was going but I figured I’d know it when I got there.
With a bit of luck, I discovered the students were more than happy to aid me in my quest and relief washed over me in an awesome wave. Despite my ADHD tendencies, I got what I was looking for and more. Further, amidst the weaving of this marketing intelligent tapestry of talented and determined dreamers, I was allowed to detail a little about my own journey. I thought, perhaps, if I explained things, they’d rest easy.
I recalled a moment in high school. Staying after school, awaiting theater practice.
There was a certain bent appeal in the notion of running a savage burn on the school by choosing to wander the halls with an ill-gotten master key instead of traveling home only to return hours later. I enjoyed the solitude. Headphones at 100%, seconds blurred into hours as, in my mind, I screamed the lyrics to White Zombie’s “La Sexorcisto” on “repeat all.”
I would pace and nap in the chorus room in which hung a cork board. On it, announcements and information about careers in the arts. My memory abandons clarity. What I do remember is any time I noticed it, my mind recoiled in horror as I was brutally reminded that I hadn’t made plans for the close of this aggrandized chapter of my existence. I had no answer the question, “What happens now? What comes next?”
My friend Jeremy had already graduated and was sleepwalking through his dream studying acting at Long Island’s, Hofstra University. I thought I might follow but, aside from a lack of talent and passion, my options were limited to more domestic, academic institutions. Besides, I harbored no desire to exist in L.A. The city of narcissistic angels that mars the soul and dims the light of bright-eyed romantics.
During another pre-dusk at the board I was raped by a penetrating realization. I wasn’t going to be a movie editor. In an instant, I knew my ill-conceived ideation about becoming “Brian Shoff A.C.E.” was, at best, the acid delusion of an uninspired, overly optimistic bastard.
At the time, I didn’t even know what an A.C.E. was. But, I wanted the credentials. Mostly due to a self-proclaimed, singular, ego victory, when I wired two VCRs together to create a makeshift editing station. It was only used once to produce an ultra-violent video for Jeremy’s senior project, before high schools were forced to become minimum security prisons, and bootleg movies, until Macrovision.
Left violated and broken. Staring at that goddamn cork board, I realized I was doomed. Doomed to be a cog in an unremarkable machine. A slave to production and never creation.
But I was 17, with a lot of ink left to put on paper.
History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of “history” it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time—and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.