The climb up any particular career mountain is steep. It takes a lot of energy, commitment, sacrifice, failure and focus to make that climb.
Since my early 20’s I have been pursuing a life representing film composers. Even within that I have taken a few side trips including running a soundtrack record label, Varese-Sarabande, and dabbling in fun creative side projects such as writing a few scripts for Disney, Warner Bros. and MGM. I have also put together a few unproduced musicals.
DABBLING WITH DIRECTING
I was bitten by the directing bug in first grade when I would make up skits and direct my friends (actually, boss them around) for classroom performances. Once my parents got me a Super8 camera, I started making fun little crappy short films with INCREDIBLE soundtracks pulled from my record collection.
Years later, for my son NIcky’s 16th birthday I wrote and directed with my friend Adam Shell a feature documentary FINDING KRAFTLAND about discovering a deep relationship with my son among a lot of wacky adventures and crazy collectables.
As a fluke, I submitted this home movie into over 250 film festivals around the world and got accepted into about 80. For a year I traveled around the world with Nicky attending festivals as a “filmmaker”.
I started feeling more confident in creatively increasing my role with my clients when I started producing projects with my business partner, Laura Engel. First we created an insanely overstuffed, Grammy-nominated musical box set celebrating the 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF DANNY ELFMAN AND TIM BURTON. It was a huge success and we started thinking of a way to bring it to life on the concert stage.
BOOKING A CONCERT BEFORE THERE’S A SHOW
We teamed up with the top classical booking agency, Columbia Artists to produce the World Premiere of DANNY ELFMAN’S MUSIC FROM THE FILMS OF TIM BURTON at London’s Royal Albert Hall.
The show didn’t exist.
Using opening night as our countdown clock we worked frantically with Elfman and Burton to pull off a mad scramble to create this show from scratch featuring new suites, video montages, projections of Burton’s artwork, featured artists, and Elfman singing live on stage for the first time in 18 years.
After pulling this off, Elfman suggested doing the whole NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS as a concert sung live-to-film using the original cast of Elfman, Catherine O’Hara and Ken Page. To my knowledge, no one had ever done that sort of high wire act before. We tested it in Toyko then took it to the Hollywood Bowl with Laura and me producing.
The huge success of that with the Bowl and Disney led to the inevitable question: What next? I instantly suggested THE LITTLE MERMAID, but this time using new star performers creating their own interpretations of the songs, still live-to-picture. We assembled an incredible cast including Sara Bareilles and Rebel Willson.
WHO’S THAT MAN PRETENDING TO BE THE DIRECTOR?
THE LITTLE MERMAID was was more theatrically ambitious than our other shows. This one involved costumes, choreography, dancers, production numbers and stars not from the original needing guidance.
This show this desperately needed a director.
Without really asking anyone, I just started assuming the role. Week after week I directed hoping no one would really notice that I was never actually hired to do it.
What was the worst that could happen? Getting fired from a job I was never hired or paid to do in the first place? A risk worth taking.
Things went well and the show was a massive critical and financial success. I could not stop looking at my DIRECTOR credit in the program. It felt so good working so hard on something I loved while wearing a whole new creative hat.
I was now facing the very real possibility that directing wasn’t just some fluke and being a professional director could be an ongoing part of my life.
I thought a lot about how to make this new facet of my career integrated with that as an agent. I recognized that the role of being a media composer was expanding, too. So many of my clients were hyphenates themselves extending their creative wings into so many new fields, roles and directions.
Going deeper into my own creativity was becoming an asset in bringing more to my management of careers of others who are creative and expanding.
Having an incredible partner like Laura Engel kicking ass as well as our newer agents Sarah Kovacs and Jeff Jernigan building new careers has also allowed me to juggle even more.
So, I decided to come out of the director’s closet and fully embrace this new chapter of my life full force.
THE LITTLE MERMAID was followed by me directing more shows at the Hollywood Bowl: LA LA LAND and WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. I directed a bizarre version of THE EVIL DEAD IN CONCERT adding musical numbers throughout the film. And I have been directing Alan Menken’s one-man show, A WHOLE NEW WORLD OF ALAN MENKEN. Laura Engel and I also produced these shows with the folks at Columbia Artists.
KEEP GOING UNTIL THEY PULL THE PLUG
I firmly believe energy feeds more energy. The more I step into managing composers and creating and directing shows, the more one feeds onto the other. The more I create and put out into the world, the more amazing surprises and opportunities come rushing back.
LIFE BEGINS AT 57
I just turned 57. I have a 4-year old daughter. And a whole new path of creativity has opened up for me.
Winding down and retirement is not an option.
There are too many fun new things to explore.
YOU CAN TEACH AN OLD DOG NEW TRICKS
The latest show I am directing is BEAUTY AND THE BEAST IN CONCERT AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL with a great cast including ZOOEY DESCHANEL, KELSEY GRAMMER, TAYE DIGGS, and JANE KRAKOWSKI.
We have digitally mapped the facade of the Hollywood Bowl and are working with amazing artists to create “living scenery” to make the entire event more immersive.
Our shows get more and more elaborate. Energy feeds more energy. Every show brings in more people with more visions and more contributions.
It is my mission to make the shows I direct become more Disneyland-like, incorporating technology, music, theater and art into a live experience for families to experience together. There is a steep learning curve for all of it. And I love that.
TALE AS OLD AS TIME
I recognize the urge to slow down as we grow older. There are times where I wonder what life would be like winding down. For me, those times last about a day. Personally, there are just too many new horizons I crave to experience.
My whole life I have heard, “It’s never too late to learn.” And I believe it. Every day is a gift. And it every day can be filled with whatever we elect to put in it.