Tag Archives: Assorted Animals

Motivational Soundtrack Part II

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After posting my motivational soundtrack yesterday, I decided to go to some of my hobby coaches and find out what songs motivate them. AND I took it one step further and asked each of them why they chose their songs. What you’ll read is sure to amaze you–and inspire you. Here are some of the answers I got:


Christopher Grady
(Guitar Lesson):
“I Turn My Camera On” – Spoon
“It’s nearly impossible to have that song come on and not move from a walk to a strut. It has all the swagger of Staying Alive but none of the cheesiness. Plus it makes every sidewalk feel like a catwalk.”

April Brucker (Ventriloquism):
1.” Causing a Commotion” – Madonna.
“This is because it reminds me the world is mine and the stars and sky is only the limit I make it.”

2. Glamorous Life-Fergie.
“It makes me know my dreams and the Hollywood life are within my reach.”

3. Stay-Madonna.
“It gets me going and it is a song I covered.”

4. Take Me Home-Lisa Lisa.
“Reminds me that I am worth only the best and to respect myself in business and in life.”

Jon Hanson (Downhill Mountain Biking):
“18 Candles” – The Sessions
“The song is from a mountain biking video called seasons with one of my favorite riders Matt Hunter. The video is like 5 years old, but any time I watch Matt’s part, I get stoked to ride.”

Nicholas D’Sent (Pilot LessoN):
1. “My Life” – Gwizz

2.  “I Believe I can Fly” – R. Kelly
“Because he said if I can see it then I can be it.”

Flynn Michael (Jedi Light Sabre Training & Stilt Walking):
“Heh, favorite inspirational song as a kid was High Hopes (Rubber Tree Plant) song, but as an adult, I’d say Rage Against the Machine – Killing in the Name Of.

Laura Fisher (Singing Lesson):
“Creator” – Santogold
This song has all of the wild, dark, inspiring energy I need to get me going any strange day I wake up and need some abstract coffee. The lyrics also give it that equally important layer of self-empowering wordwisdom that I need to toss me up on top of the world. a gleam of chorus:

“Me, I’m a Creator
Thrill is to make it up
The rules I break got me a place
Up on the radar
Me, I’m a Taker
Know what the stakes are
Can’t roll it back, it’s understood
Got to play our cards.”

Brandon Jacobs (Drumming Lesson):
“Rearview Mirror” – Assorted Animals
“I know that it is a little self indulgent to choose a song by my own band, but it is a song that does truly inspire me. Not only is it a testament to what I have accomplished with my band in New York City, being that it’s on our first self produced album recorded in NYC, the song itself has a great message.

“Isn’t funny how things always seem to seem/Oh the grass is much more green/as it disappears/through my rearview mirror.”

It’s a message of always looking forward, and even if you look back and it might seem better, it doesn’t matter because we always have to move forward towards something better.

That and it’s a kick ass song that’s catchy as hell. That doesn’t hurt either.”



Jason Schneider
 (Welding):
“Nightcall” – Kavinsky (featuring Love Foxxx)

(Excerpt from an amazing email Jason sent me when I asked him to name his motivational song and why–make sure to check out the doc he’s working on and more at JsWorks.Org)

“I first heard this song while watching the movie “Drive” with Ryan Gosling. I had just started my documentary, and in the beginning, it was going to be much more of an uplifting film. I hadn’t even thought about tackling any heavy issues / conflicts within myself, and wanted to show mostly the uplifting or “overcoming” aspects of my story / disability.

It sounds corny, but something clicked inside me when I heard this song sitting in that movie theater. The idea of the lonely driver, who’s essentially a good man, but has some dark demons he’s trying to hide from / escape, really resonated with me – because that’s how I felt about myself for most of my life (post accident).

I’ve always had a passion for music, and really identified with / attached personal meaning to various songs over the years, but the dissonant tone of the beat, coupled with the lyrics, just stirred something up inside me. It made me realize in that instance that I had to go places I hadn’t wanted to ever go before… push myself to explore all the negative feelings / thoughts I’ve ever had about who / what I was – and my “disability”- on camera.

There are things I have accomplished in my life that I should be really proud of – and some could look at it as the whole “overcoming” thing – but at the same time, I constantly feel like I haven’t accomplished enough, or pushed myself hard enough. I feel like these internal demons (thoughts / feelings) really weigh me down. But I realize now that many of those feelings come from the very thing I’ve been running away from (or chose not to face / explore until now). I don’t know if my internal conflicts have helped to drive me (no pun intended) all these years, or if they’re standing in my way of something bigger.

Throughout the process of my film I’ve played the song over and over as a source of inspiration. Every time I listen to it, it still gives me the same feeling / motivation to dive deep into uncharted territory within myself.

48 Hour Film Project: NYC

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I am staring at the clock. It’s 3:23 AM. Traffic is moving in a very specific rhythm outside. I watch as lights cast shadows through my friend’s living room, and I restlessly try to catch some shut eye. I close my eyes, but like a kid waiting for her birthday, I can’t fall asleep. I’m too anxious. I’m too excited for what’s ahead. We are only eight hours into the 48 Hour Film Project (NYC), a competition that asks groups of filmmakers to create a 4-7 minute short film in under 48 hours. Filmmaking. THIS is the HOBBY and CAREER I moved to New York City for. And while I’ve done much of my own filmmaking and video work–I’ve never ever taken part in a film competition. This is what we call: Awesome. As I open my eyes again and stare at the ceiling, I can feel my excitement only growing with each echo of each car that passes under the bridge outside. We’ve finished our our script, we’ve plotted our shot list, and in three hours we are going to wake up to shoot a movie. And all I am thinking in my head is “Hell. Freaking. Yah.”

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It can be very lonely in New York City–especially when you first move here.

 I moved to New York City in January of 2010, and I can remember, very vividly, two months into my move, walking out of my internship, calling my best friend on the phone, and crying to her for an hour about how lonely I was–how I didn’t know if I could make it here–how I wanted desperately to be able to make friends who were creative, who were ready to collaborate, who were passionate, who were looking to make things happen–BIG things–earth shaking things-friends who were ready to take on the world as if it were Mount Everest and fight hard earned battles to make it to the top.

What I’ve learned from that loneliness is a lesson in persistence, and in patience, and in passion.

I realized that I couldn’t make these friends that I was seemingly struggling to find if I didn’t put myself out there, if I didn’t take an initiative to start and to create myself. This city is comprised of 8 million people–I can’t break down the stats for you on where they are all from–or how they all got here, but I can safely say that many of these people are searching for a light in a tunnel that leads to success–a light in a tunnel that may perhaps lead to a Broadway Stage, or a credit on a feature film; a light in a tunnel that may lead to a sold out concert at SummerStage or a part in Shakespeare in the Park; a light in a tunnel that leads to a metaphorical pot of gold symbolizing that all dreams did indeed come true.

I knew that within those eight million people, amidst all of the skyscrapers, all of the Broadway shows, and all of the chaos of the city that these people were out there. I just had to be very clear that I too was one of these dreamers.

And then it happened.

I made a good friend through my internship, who could see my passion and my drive as I shared my latest projects and or films with her. She could also see my willingness to put myself out there and to openly express my interest in “making it” in order, not to be famous, but rather to make an impact on another person’s life.  And so she introduced me to many of her friends in the Big Apple.

She, herself, was a young makeup artist who was working on TV shows and movies. And her friends? Young cooks, young  chefs, young musicians, young actors, young filmmakers, young producers, young directors, young writers, younger performers, young singers. Most of them worked shifts at Ruby Tuesdays to pay the bills. But what stood out more than anything to me, was that like me–they were all dreamers. And they still are.

Since that first year of living in New York City, I have maintained many of the friendships I have made with these friends. And I am proud of that. I have seen each of them do amazing work. I’ve seen dreams transition to realities–and I’ve seen passion and persistence and patience, all the things I needed in order to make these friends, play out in extremely rewarding ways.

Our conversations extend from general “How are yous?” to endless banter, debates and smiles over all things creative.

“You liked that movie? But it didn’t have this, this or this….” and “But his acting in this was far superior to his acting in…” “I just think he should have never made that film.”

I always wondered when I’d get the chance to sit down and work with some of the people I connected with when I first moved here.

That answer was this weekend, for the 48 Hour Film Project, in which a team of 14 of us, organized by my good friend Kim, took on the aforementioned challenge to create a 4-7 minute film in just 48 hours.

On that team were  6 individuals from that initial group of friends that I forged friendships with founded on a common love of film, television, and theatre. On that team were also 7 individuals that I had never had the pleasure to meet before–but who I can’t imagine not surrounding myself with again.

Each team must enter with a team name, and when the festival kicks off each team must select at random a genre. After the genre is chosen, EVERY team must then make sure that they include three specific details within their film: a specific character, a prop, and a line (Genres differ but specific details remain consistent for all teams). All of this is noted here.

Our Team: Ruby Squared Productions
Our Genre: Dark Comedy
Character: Cat or Cam Dean–an ad executive
Prop: Trophy
Line: When do you expect her?

In less than 48 hours, we scripted, we crafted, we envisioned, we executed, we edited, we composed, we exported, and we delivered a 6:30 minute dark comic film; a 6:30 minute film that gave us all a little reminder why we came to New York, why that patience and persistence in pursuing our passions mattered and what we are truly capable of when we take on a challenge and attack it together, and lastly a little reminder what happens when the talking stops and the making of films starts: Magic.

In his book, Here is New York, E.B White writes: “There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born there, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size, its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter — the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something…Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness, natives give it solidity and continuity, but the settlers give it passion.”

Here’s to the settlers that I had the brilliant opportunity to work with this past weekend:
Alex Zingaro, Brandon Jacobs, Brandon Opel, Brandon Pro, Chris Grady, Kimberly DiPersia, MaryLynn Suchan, Matt Van Vorst, Megan Magee, Nate Smith, Robert DeSanti, Sean Gallagher, and Shannon Kendall.

And here’s to being patient, persistent, and passionate.

Here are some stills of the production process:

IMG_1779Photo Credit Megan Magee

IMG_1796Photo Credit Megan Magee

IMG_1792Photo Credit Megan Magee

sound Photo Credit MaryLynn Suchan

PreproPhoto Credit MaryLynn Suchan


RoofPhoto Credit MaryLynn Suchan

AND basically how we all felt after:

mattPhoto Credit Shannon Kendall

School of Rock & Roll & Friends

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I can’t echo myself enough when I say that the most intimidating moments of my year have not been when I was face to face with creatures of the sea in the shark tank—or in the moment before I was going to jump out of a plane. No, instead the most intimidating moments of this year have been when I have sat down—or stood—with a friend and taken a chance to learn their craft. It’s as if I don’t want them to think I suck—or that I am insulting their craft with how bad I am. But even they were beginners once too—and that’s the part I have to remind myself.

I recently had the chance to sit down with two of my good friends in New York City, on two separate occasions, and learn both of their skills—both of their full-time hobbies—and both of their passions.

I first sat down with Grady who taught me how to pluck four chords on a guitar, and I then sat down with Brandon who taught me how manage a loveable beat on the drums.

I was fortunate enough to meet Grady and Brandon who perform in a band together called Assorted Animals, when I first moved to the city. After getting invited to a party that they were both at, I slowly became more and more integrated into their group of friends, started going to their shows, and enjoying post-show chats and outings.

71511_715299107834_7460720_n                                                GRADY and ME 2010 Going Away Party

67259_715298883284_6598091_n                                                ME and BRANDON 2010 Going Away Party

After just a few months of living in Manhattan, I was happy to have found such good friends—talented friends.  Due to hectic schedules and the rush of New York City, we don’t get to hang out as much as I’d like, so this was the perfect opportunity to see and spend time with both of them.

As I sat down with Grady, I reminisced on just how lucky I was to have met him—to have this opportunity to learn from him. Patiently and perfectly, he described how to sit comfortably, how to hold the guitar, and how to relax my hands to make for better playing. I remember just once prior to this lesson picking up a guitar, in 7th grade music class, and being incapable of wrapping my head—and hands around the musical beauty.  But now, after less than just two hours, I had gotten the basic four chords down and Grady was playing along with me.  Appropriately, we were playing a slowed down version of “Time of Your Life” by Green Day.

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This past week, when I sat down with Brandon, my patience with the drum set, grew thin. Like trying to figure out a rubrics cube, I could feel myself growing frustrated: I couldn’t get my left hand to work with my right or my right hand to work with my right foot. I felt as though I was a shambles. I’d turn to Brandon and apologize for my inability—and he’d smile and say, ”It’s okay. Let’s just try again.” And so we did—again, and again, and again. “1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,” I whispered to myself. “Right hand/right foot, right hand, left foot” and I continued this repetition until I was playing 2 measures—3 measures—4 measures, and at some point I lost count—at some point I lost myself in the music.  And even though we weren’t playing the Green Day hit, as I had with Grady, I still felt as though I was having the time of my life.

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Early in the drumming lesson, Brandon told me that this was his first time ever teaching drumming lesson. My response was simple, “Great! That means you are hobby hoarding as well. YAY!” After our lesson, I told Brandon he should continue giving lessons—that I really enjoyed his time and felt that I had learned a lot. I also told him that this year has given me a way to spend time with people that I don’t often get to spend time with due to harsh schedules and that I was grateful we could work something out. Brandon was grateful too.

On the earlier occasion when Grady and I left the studio, I smiled and thanked him immensely. He seemed just as pleased with this lesson as I did. And while walking toward the train, Grady turned to me and said, “I think I want to start teaching more lessons.” And soon after, I received a text message from him saying, “That was great fun and quite inspirational for me as well.”

My intimidation of working with friends was now gone. I could tell that this was just as much an experience for them –as it was for me.

And with Grady’s message I knew, the hobby hoarding—had done as I always hope it will—worked both ways.

228770_1609774177584_1835743_n                                  BRANDON & GRADY July 4, 2011: Courtesy Grady’s Facebook

Brandon and Grady perform in a band called Assorted Animals. Their keyboard/piano/vocalist Laura Fisher can be seen in one of my earlier posts giving me a singing lesson.

Check them out at www.assortedanimals.com

Finding my Voice: A Singing Lesson

It’s nearly been a year since I walked myself down to Occupy Wall Street the morning after the park was raided and the media was blacked out in downtown New York City. I was horrified at the unimaginable thought that people were beat and kicked out of their home at the late hours of the night–without a voice being able to tell what was going on.

After visiting the site, I proclaimed that “no one could take your voice” in a blog post. Several days later, my good friend Laura joined me as we marched with the union across the Brooklyn Bridge to voice our beliefs. So it’s no wonder that the same person who helped me to find my voice during Occupy Wall Street–is the same person who helped me to find my voice during a singing lesson on a Tuesday night.

As a kid, I always wanted to be in the talent show–as a singer. I remember walking up to the mic in 3rd grade, and raspilly singing, “I Believe I can Fly,” pretty terribly. Somehow, I didn’t let it scar me for life–and in 4th grade I convinced a group of four girls to let me sing Celion Dion’s “My Heart Will go On” in auditions for the show. We didn’t get in. But I still sang on. I found comfort in blasting music and vocals in my car when I finally had a license–and singing at the top of my lungs.

And then I discovered karaoke in college—which of course allowed me to choose fun songs–rather than serious songs, and just have a good time. Hello ‘N Sync–Helllllo Spice Girls.

But deep down inside, I’d always wanted to be in plays–in musicals in high school, but I never had the courage to try out–because I knew my voice was no match for the last year’s lead. So I never tried out, and for good reason–I had already convinced myself that I was tone deaf–and when we’ve already preconceived beliefs–they tend to come true.

I never found my voice.

That is until, I headed over to Laura’s apartment and she took the time to teach me correct breathing–explain why I might be nasally–showed me how to find a note–did several vocal exercises–and then took me through the chorus of the popular Michael Jackson song, “Billie Jean.” By the end, I was exhausted–I could feel my vocal chords screaming for a break. But inside my heart was beating quickly. It was a good exhaustion–the kind where you feel like you’ve pushed past a barrier–and exceeded your own expectations–the kind where you’re thankful you had a friend along for the journey.

I had found my voice–at least for that night. Thanks Laura.

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Special Thanks

Laura Fisher

www.assortedanimals.com

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