First, I will announce that I have been offered, and accepted, a full time position with Root Sports NW as the Programming coordinator. Now I have a bunch of folks to thank and some time to reflect back on the last 3 years.
When I got the devastating news that I was no longer needed at my previous full time job in television, I could not help but feel panic. Everybody said I was a capable guy and that doors would open. Ok, that all sounds good when you have a firm footing. But when you don’t it can seem hollow. Everyone’s hearts were in the right place and the thoughts were genuine. But I really had no idea what I was going to do.
Three years later I can tell you just exactly how bumpy and interesting the road was. I can also say, with complete confidence and honesty, that if I had NOT been laid off, I would have become very complacent and stale. It was, indeed, a blessing in disguise. Here is a run down of just what I have done during my time “on the beach” as we say in the broadcasting business.
Freelance Work: After six months of unemployment and fruitless job searches, I got a call from a friend at Root Sports who suggested I get on the union list so I could work various positions for live sports broadcasts. At the same time I heard from another friend who co-owns Pyramid Staging and Events. He needed camera operators for summer casino concerts. (Both friends are fellow Cougs from the Murrow School at Washington State University). I agreed to both and gained valuable experience as a Parabolic Operator, Utility, and Stage Manager for Sounders games and Mariners, and even a WSU football game and a Bears/Seahawks pre-season game. There is nothing like being right next to the action of live sports. I learned how to be a “Pit Cam” operator for live rock shows and that was really exciting to find myself camera lens to guitar pics of some very well known acts. KC and the Sunshine band, The village People, Blood, Sweat and Tears, and Rick Springfield. Those summer nights were some of the most challenging work experiences of my life. They were also very rewarding as I learned something about myself and gained valuable experience.
Most recently I was asked to help inaugurate the new Studio Facilities for a season of Mariners baseball games at Root as a Robotic Camera operator. This too was something I didn’t think was even possible. TV Studio jobs are very rare any more and I thought the industry was done with me.
WINE: I felt like I needed new skills if I was going to find work outside of television. So, as I worked the various and scattered events as a freelancer, I went back to school (thanks to the Worker Retraining Program offered by the State). I had worked in a wine shop several years back as The Beer Guy and learned a bit about wine. I enjoyed that and thought I might make a go of deeper study and exposure to the industry with the hope of creating a video business focused on the wine industry of Washington State. What a GREAT experience. I enrolled at the NW Wine Academy at South Seattle College. The school has a well deserved reputation in the industry. I dove in and gave it my undivided attention. I learned how wine is grown, made, and sold. I discovered the wine regions of the world and the spectacular wines of Washington State. I was constantly on the lookout for business opportunities to bring my previous video experience to wine makers in the state. I eventually found part time work as a Wine Guide with Evergreen Escapes. This allowed me to practice my new skills as a Wine Professional and expose the industry to tourists from other states, countries and even local folks. While it was a big challenge and offered certain rewards, it ultimately was not financially feasible to keep that job. But I met a lot of cool people and got a foot in the door by meeting other local wine professionals including wine makers. I was even introduced to a tasting room manager at Brian Carter Cellars who needed Tasting Room help. I was already familiar with this wine maker. He is well known in the industry. I would never have thought I would work for him. This was big time. A year later I am still working for BCC part time. Moving wine from the winery to the tasting room, training new employees, helping customers taste wines and educate them about Washington wine and meet many other folks from the industry as well.
I had an opportunity to pitch an idea to help a small group of urban wine makers in Seattle market their wines on their own web sites. Seattle Urban Wineries includes 24+ winemakers in the city of Seattle. This includes the NW Wine Academy. So I was already familiar with these folks. They agreed to let me and my business partner create three five minute videos called Meet the Maker that they could use on their own sites. We would produce the videos for free so we could gain access to great footage and build a portfolio that we could use to market ourselves. Thus Message in a Bottle was born. (We have been working with three wine makers and have put out one of the videos so far. The other two are still in production)
Comic Books: Just before I was let go at KOMO TV, I had been actively pursuing my writing and producing career by creating a comic book series based on the War of the Worlds broadcast of 1938, when Orson Welles scared the hell out of America with a false news broadcast regarding and alien invasion from Mars. I didn’t allow the lay off to prevent this from happening. My comic book label, KikaMika Comics, successfully produced the two part series Concrete Martians and it has been selling pretty well at comic book conventions. The first book was published in April of 2014 and sold out of it’s first printing in just a couple days. This was a shocking development. So we had to produce a second print run. The second book came a year later. Both books were financed by fan funding via Indigogo campaigns. We are probably going to have to make a third print of the first book soon. With that success we decided to strike while the iron was hot and produce a new, ongoing series based on a Mars Colony set in the alternative past. Saltwater; The Signal, Part One is already being printed. Part Two is in production. I am extremely proud of our success and will continue to produce comics as long as people keep buying them.
Now that Root Sports has decided to hire me, I have decided that I will continue to pursue my personal/professional goals in ways that I had not attempted while previously working full time. No one should become complacent and satisfied. Things can change in a heartbeat. Always strive to grow. I will continue to work part time for Brian Carter, we will keep working on wine videos when possible, and the comic books will not write themselves, so I have to keep typing and dreaming. The lessons I learned are simple, never burn a bridge, keep your personal and professional networks alive and healthy, and NEVER QUIT.
My Wife, Jen, who’s patience was tested by never broke. My artist and comic book partner, Keith Grachow for keeping me focused when it got dark. (His wife Jenn as well) My business partner Paul Cranefield for allowing me the freedom to create and produce as I saw fit. Pat Brown, at Root Sports (as well as Wayne Moss) for starting me on the Freelance journey. And to Pat for recommending me for the new job at Root. Steven Dilts for challenging my video skills as well as my ability to stretch mentally and physically to my limits. Reggie Daigneault, Barbara Joseph, Brian Carter, Deanna Richards and Patty Edwards (for introducing me to Deanna) for providing me the platform to bring wine into my world. As well as Seattle Urban Wineries, Bart Fawbush (Bartholomew), Tom Stangeland (Cloudlift) and Brandee and Brian (Structure). My previous KOMO TV family for always supporting me in my endeavors without fail. Jim Valley for listening and suggesting when appropriate (and inappropriate). As well as Liza Case and Stu Hitchner for being supportive and lending an ear.
And my neglected family who have supported my absences because they knew I had to work crazy hours.