Michael Venn

Our interview with March TABOO speaker  Michael Venn. Director of The Heroin Effect.

PKX: How did the idea of The Heroin Effect film begin?

Michael: With this film, it was an idea I had very quickly, and I knew that I couldn’t NOT do it.  

Once I made the decision, suddenly every headline I was seeing, whether the Portsmouth Herald or the NY Times, was about the heroin epidemic. Growing up in Miami, I was used to that headline - but not in Portsmouth NH.  

After I made the decision to do the film, I was walking back home from the coffee shop where I had seen all the headlines, and I ran into an old friend who told me his entire story of his heroin addiction. He totaled his car and went through sober living facility and was now 11 months clean etc. 

My jaw just hit the floor.

I say that because this guy, he was the kind of all american kid that you would want to set your daughter up with or who you wanted your son to grow up to be like. He has a masters degree, he’s an athlete. And on top of it, he looks like he could have just stepped of the cover of GQ. 

So for me, it just literally twisted the stereotype of what people think is a heroin addict on it’s head. 

After that 5 minute interaction, I walked home and immediately wrote down two pages of what was to become the entire film.

I started to tell everyone I knew about it, and suddenly this momentum started happening. And that set me on the path toward this film.

PKX: What else did you learn in making this film?

Michael: The story of heroin addiction is not the story you “think” you know.

The story I heard over and over again is pretty normal. It goes like: “I blew my knee out, and my doctor gave me a 30 day prescription for Oxycodone and I got addicted. My doctor wouldn’t give me more, and I couldn’t afford it on the street, so I switched to heroin.”  

Everything we think we know about drug addiction is totally wrong.

It’s not all about homeless lone addict on the street. It happens to your next door neighbor. It’s not the person you think it is. I want to begin to erase that stigma or “taboo.” 

No one sets out to be an opiate addict. The path is not as obvious as you see in the media. 

I wanted to stay away from the typical “needle-porn” type footage. That is not the story.

I wanted to tell it from a different angle and begin to change that perception so that people would start talking about it and not pretend that it’s something happening outside. It’s your neighbor. And there is help.

PKX: Where do you get creative inspiration from?

Michael: There are wonderful moments when you are shooting, when you realize “this is going to be great.” And it’s never the moments you think it will be. Documentary film usually happens by accident. Those happy accidents or screw ups. You have to be in the moment, always.

If real estate is location, location, location. Film is story, story, story.

PKX: Does your creative process meander around, or do you have a pretty clear idea?

Michael: I knew I wanted to change perception and do it differently. Everybody has a “vision” of what they think heroin addicts look like. I knew I wanted to change that.  

The creative process just consumes you. 

You wake up in the middle of the night thinking about it. It gets to a point where you just HAVE to do it.

PKX: Tell us about your technical process of filmmaking.

Michael: I didn’t go to film school. I don’t know the “right way” to make a documentary. I just made a story that I would want to watch.

You have 5 minutes with a film - it either grabs you right away, or it doesn’t.

We got some great advice from Werner Herzog’s editor: just jump right into the story. Don’t need to lay it out in a montage - just dive in. The story will pull everybody in.

PKX: Talk to us about our global CreativeMornings topic of TABOO.


What is more taboo than heroin addiction? 

It’s pretty taboo. People don’t talk about it.

But, the version everyone has in their head of this taboo is not the one I have seen or wanted to tell. The homeless addict you see on the street is at the very tail end of a story that started probably fairly harmlessly, who knows how many years before. They could have been helped if it WASN’T so taboo.  

Think about other taboo topics - gender, sex, etc that nobody ever wanted to talk about a few years ago. But the new story seems to heading toward “Let’s figure out what unites us  - not what divides us.”  

This film is not about spoons or needles. It’s about people and recovery.

Michael’s film The Heroin Effect will be screened at The Music Hall Thursday March 30. You can get a ticket HERE.

Photography by Raya Al-Hashmi of Raya On Assignment. Interview by Geneve Hoffman, Host of CreativeMornings PKX. Thanks to Profile Coffee Bar for the awesome coffee and location.

P E T E R   J U D E   R I C C I A R D I

Our interview with February Moments Speaker, Peter Jude Ricciardi of Your Creative Solutionist for CreativeMornings PKX - Portsmouth NH.

So your company actually has the word “creative in it.” How do you define creativity and apply it in your career? 

I’ve been doing creative since I popped out. I invented “The Guy In The Black Hat” when I was a child. 

He was the guy who got me in trouble - it was always his fault no matter what I did. I told my parents to talk to the guy in the black hat who lives behind the garage. No idea where that came from but that was when my creativity started. 

To me it’s about working without limitations. Never editing - that’s the hardest thing to do to not edit yourself. Just let things loose - let them fall where they may. Just say “I have no idea how to do this" - and then just back engineer it. 

Ignore rules too. I have no idea what your rules are, so I don’t even know when I’m breaking them. 

I try to do what others will not in my business.  It’s always a blank slate because every project deserves a fresh look.

Where do you find your best creative inspiration? What inspires you?

Music - no contest. When I have no idea what to do - I start scrolling through music and sound effects. Something usually grabs met hat is from a different crazy angle.I was one of those “band guys” in high school - it was like being in a gang. So much fun - it was creative expression that I just wasn’t getting from “baseball.“ I’m actually more of a performer than a musician though.

Making the jump from music and bands to radio was a natural another expression of my love of performance.

I can hear when someone loves to perform. I can also hear the tension in the chest when someone is afraid to talk or perform in public. I just have them start talking about something they love - instantly the anxiety disappears.

Another thing that inspire me - when someone let’s me do whatever the hell I want, as long as I don’t ruin their brand, that is the best client.

Anything interesting out there in your industry/world that you see as new and exciting?

The model of high end retainer agency - just shattering that and slicing it off. You can build your own team with creative people from anywhere who don’t want to work in agencies - solo people. The “we” has shifted. It’s exciting. 

Another exciting thing I am starting to notice is that a lot of businesses have realized that the laundry list of “features” is obsolete. It’s about the customer finding themselves enveloped in your story that matters. Pretty exciting.

I saw on your facebook page that you are “always open.” That kind of scares me as an agency head, tell me more about that.

There really is no “life and work” boundary for me. It’s all up for grabs in my creative world. I could be doing some thing cool with my kids, and suddenly I’m instagramming our Melissa & Doug projects and a potential client sees it and hires me. When I say I’m always open, I mean it. I truly love what I do and that’s the only way I can operate.

There are kind of two sides to me too - there is the bright shiny penny side of me, and there’s that oxidized, dirty, smudge-y side. That kind of describes me and my personality.

How does our global theme of “Moments” play a part in your creative life?

Just recognizing when your in the middle of a moment, or knowing one has just taken place. Backlog that moment and bring it up when you want to be in that zen place OR Run like hell OR say yes.

Life happens in a series of moments.

As it relates to branding or advertising for your business - you are looking to show your message in those tiny moments. That is when people make the decision to open up to you as a brand, or to close off. That is what you get - only a few moments. Hit me with something wonderful, draw me in wit a single photo or a few words, it happens in a moment.

You only get that one shot. The first few seconds of a promo, that’s all you get.

What’s the best creative advice or tip you wish you’d known when you first started your career?

Stop asking for permission. 

If you want permission - a creative role is not the place you want to be. It’s definitely a place you can apologize later for. 

Reminds me of my ad I did. A “Chilk” commercial - combo of Chicken and Milk for a bank ad. Yeah - the bank executives pulled that immediately. But I didn’t ask permission - just did it.

I’ve told account executives - I don’t care if your client is happy. I’m not doing this to make your client happy. What I care about is “will this work” “will it be effective” “is this an accurate representation of your client’s product or brand.” You don’t hire me to agree with you. It doesn’t mean that I’m difficult to work with - I’m extremely agreeable to work with - it’s just I will tell you if it’s not in your best interest. 

If they like you, if they trust you - they will allow you to do what you do. 

When you have confidence - own it. When you are going to step in poop, just track it all around the house. You can tweet that. 

Look at it this way - how cool is the skate park kid who is wearing bumper guards, a helmet and knee pads vs the kid who is whipping up the sides of buildings with no helmet on? Who would you rather take a picture with? The cool kid of course. 

If we could invite anyone, who would you like to hear speak at CreativeMornings?

I’m going to use one of my favorite stalling tactics while I think about this…I’ll hum for a bit.

You know who I am going to say? Alan Rickman. Love the sound of his voice, love what he did on screen. I’m probably going to regret that answer, but he did so many cool things. He just popped in - so it must be right. 

At least I didn’t say my mom or Jesus. 

Alan Rickman or maybe David Bowie. But as is - dead. Corpses - propped up. Just act natural around them.

Heard “After we hit STOP” moments with Peter…

PS - Can I streak the room during my intro? Like a grainy Big Foot video? I’ll turn a little bit for the video? 

Also - I have a rider for my dressing room: 

A shark tooth earring.
A Dan Fogelberg cassette with a Dolby Audio logo on the front.
3 Tube socks.
5 goldfish - 4 alive, one dead.
Gym shorts circa 1970. 

We’ll get right on that Peter. 

Photography by Raya Al-Hashmi of Raya on Assignment. Interview by Geneve Hoffman, Host of CreativeMornings PKX - Portsmouth NH. Interview held at Profile Coffee Bar, Portsmouth NH.

An electric first year for CreativeMornings PKX - Portsmouth NH! Thanks to all of our speakers and sponsors for making it happen.

Mara Flynn on SOUND

SOUND - Theater, Music and Vibrations that Move Us

With theater games and live music, we’ll celebrate the power of sound

Mara Flynn is co-director at Acting Out Productions in Newburyport, MA where she teaches improv based theater classes for students ages 6-18.  In the summers she runs performance workshops where students create, write and perform an original play in one week.  She also teaches workshops at the Tannery Arts Camp and Theater in the Open.

As a singer-songwriter, Mara released two albums as “Milksop Holly” (1999 and 2000 on Shimmy Disc).  A decade later, Burst and Bloom Records released her debut solo album, “Small as a Heartbeat” (2011) and her follow-up, “Wide Open” (2013).  Her newest record, “Good Hands” was just released in November 2016.

As a teacher, student and practitioner of theater and music, she has come to learn that these arts are powerful lenses through which we can joyfully deepen our sense of community, self-awareness and empathy.

Mara Flynn Website

Come hear Mara Flynn Dec 9. Bring $5 to support PKX and receive a handmade custom letterpress card with your favorite PKX quote of the year!

Kristina Logan on Transparency

From Hippy Van to the Smithsonian Museum of Art

As a kid, Kristina always said, “I want to make things with my hands for a living”.  She did not imagine that these things would eventually be made of glass.  Kristina talks about her work and the path that lead her to a life of creating objects with a transparent material—glass.**

KRISTINA LOGAN has been making glass beads for over 20 years and is recognized internationally for her precisely patterned glass beads. She served as president of the International Society of Glass Beadmakers from 1996–1998. Kristina travels extensively throughout the United States and Europe teaching workshops and lecturing on contemporary glass beads and jewelry.

Kristina has taught beadmaking at such well know schools as The Studio at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York, Urban Glass in Brooklyn, New York, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Maine, Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina, Musée-Atelier du Verre à Sars-Poteries in France, and Abate Zanetti in Venice (Murano), Italy.

The artist writes that beads "are part of my lifelong fascination with art and ornamentation. Glass beads form an historical thread, connecting people and cultures throughout our history”. Kristina’s work and desire to educate has been an inspiration for many glass beadmakers throughout the world.

Kristina’s work has been collected by The Smithsonian Museum of American Art: Renwick Gallery, Washington DC, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston MA, The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning NY, and the Musée du Verre de Sars-Poteries, Sars-Poteries, France.

[Kristina Logan](http://www.kristinalogan.com/)

[Kristina Logan on Facebook](https://www.facebook.com/Kristina-Logan-Glass-48939676198/)

Food of the Gods: Discovering Magic Through Concocting the Extraordinary"

“When you sense something magic, you must give chase! If you are an artist, a creator, this is your charge.”*

Enna will share her philosophy about creativity, and she will share her bean-to-bar handcrafted chocolate too.

Enna is a photographer and craft chocolate-maker. She resides in Exeter, NH and makes a living as a photographer. Recently her career took a right turn when she fell deeply in love with bean-to-bar chocolate making.

Enna grew up in an extraordinarily remote town in eastern Oregon, studied anthropology and photography, and has worked as an archaeologist, English teacher, barista, international student advisor, and wedding photographer, among other things.

You can reach her on:

Instagram at @ennachocolate


The Commodity of Being Weird

What do YOU consider WEIRD? 

Knate Higgins knows a little about Weird. He has embraced it and turned into a powerful local brand.

Knate is the creative director and general manager of Deadwick’s Ethereal Emporium, and the Volunteer Special Series Curator for Seacoast Repertory Theatre. Higgins is also the body behind Bunny Wonderland, the Seacoast’s most celebrated drag queen. 

In a small community that is ever growing by landscape and gentrification, Knate has made his artistic mantra to “Keep Portsmouth Weird.”

Visit him at Deadwicks Ethereal Emporium or Pickwicks Mercantile.


What’s Love Got To Do With It? Keeping It Real and Connected To The Work We Do.

New England floral and event designer, event planner, treasure hunter, creative adventurer, food lover, gardener and sometimes surfer was our speaker in July on the global topic of LOVE. Owner & Creative Director of Beautiful Days & Maine Prop House.