Next Portsmouth speaker
Our interview with September COMPASSION speaker, Judy Ringer - Author, Aikidoist, and Owner of Power & Presence Training in Portsmouth NH.
PKX: So what is Aikido for those that don’t know. And tell us about your journey with it.
Judy: I like to start things.
I have that start up, creative energy.
A lot of it.
So for me to have continued in this work for 24 years, it’s saying something.
I have to re-invent every little while, otherwise it gets repetitive.
First of all Aikido is a martial art. If you go to a studio like Portsmouth Aikido center, you’ll see people attacking. Throwing people around - and having a great time doing it. Most of the time people are smiling, because the difference is that instead of locking and punching back, your goal is to enter the line of attack and re-direct the energy. The goal is to disarm without harming. Major difference.
The first thing you learn in Aikido is how to fall down really graceful and bounce back up again. You fall down and get up about 150 times a session.
You learn how to roll with the punches.
How I got into it. I used to sell real estate for 13 years in the 70’s & 80’s. And I had conflict, like with any business. I had to learn how to do it by myself. I took a course out in Colorado showing how to use this Aikido metaphor - using Aikido OFF the mat. Blending and re-directing. I got excited about it and it took on a life on it’s own. I stopped selling real estate in 1992, took some time off, and gradually took Aikido myself up so I could understand how this works from the ground up.
I started teaching the principles of Aikido as a path toward conflict resolution:
- how to get out of the way of the attack
- how to blend with it
- how to join the energy
- how to re-direct it in ways that we can use verbally
I’m using Aikido technique when someone says “That is a stupid idea” and I say “Wait, what do you mean? Why don’t you like it?” As opposed to just saying “No it’s not!” So that is a simple example of Blending, Acknowledging, Re-directing.
I use it when I’m listening to someone too.
Instead of judging them, I’m using Aikido when I become curious instead, because that is Inviting Energy.
Now, I’ve painted an interesting picture, but can I show you?
PKX: Yeah, sure!
Judy: So you notice how I’m pushing you, right?
Judy: So that is the nature of conflict, right?
PKX: I see - yes.
Judy: But if you get out of the way, blend, join, and re-direct you can resolve conflict.
It’s a way to deal with everyday conflict and it’s human nature.
PKX: What do you say when someone asks you what is your profession?
Judy: I do still teach Aikido “on the mat,” the actual martial art, dress up in all the gear and all of that. But mostly what I tell people what I do is that I teach conflict and communications skills using principles of the martial art Aikido. My company is called Power & Presence Training.
In a nutshell, I help people regain power under pressure.
If you noticed, I didn’t ask you to do anything when we did the attack - I just changed myself. The main principle of Aikido is that you can’t make anybody else change.
But when we change ourselves everything changes.
So that’s the beauty of it.
Sometimes I say I’m a corporate communication skills trainer. I’m also an author. And in terms of the seacoast and how other people know me - I’m a singer. I give concerts every year.
I sang the national anthem at Fenway this year on July 31. It was incredible.
PKX: So our slogan is Everyone is Creative. Everyone is welcome. What inspires you as a creative person?
Judy: Connection. Whether I’m singing, practicing Aikido, teaching the principles - it’s about connecting with people. That’s why I liked the idea of doing something at CreativeMornings.
We have to learn how to be more creative with conflict.
We keep doing the same thing over and over again. So what inspires me is just to keep putting it out there: “hey, here is a different way.”
And it’s fun! Conflict doesn’t have to be so hard and heavy.
We can actually enjoy being compassionate and creative with something that seems so hard.
Our patterns are so ingrained around difficulty, around difficult people, that we keep enacting the same things.
PKX: How does the topic of compassion speak to you?
It feels obvious to all of us that compassion is sorely, sorely needed in our world. Anne Lamott says that “we are all in the emergency room together, some of us need more help than others.”
So it’s up to the ones of us who can see that, to do the helping.
If you call what I do helping or teaching or connecting - it’s all the same thing - it’s about compassion.
How to stop our initial reactions to judge, to fight back, to hit, to harm, and go “wait a minute? is this really me?”
One of key skills I teach in my workshops is a concrete idea of what “centering” means - to be able to center ourselves. Take a breath and decide if what I’m going to do next is going to be helpful, or not. I call that compassion.
We have to learn to be compassionate with ourselves in conflict.
Sometimes we just have to believe we did our best. And maybe next time we’ll do it different.
PKX: If you could open up a door to any place past, present, or future - where would you go?
Judy: The first person that jumps to my mind is Abraham Lincoln. I’d like to meet him! He was really smart person, and he knew how to use diversity so well. And talk about compassion - he really knew how to use it. I’d like to watch that happen.
PKX: If we could invite anyone to speak - real, imaginary, live, or deceased.
Judy: I would to go Abraham Lincoln again! Please fill me with your wisdom! What were the hard moments, how did you get through them? I would go for the Dalai Lama too.
We would go for the Dalai Lama too Judy!
Photography by Raya Al-Hashmi of Raya on Assignment. Interview by Kurt Danielson, Founding Organizer & Head of Design of CreativeMornings PKX - Portsmouth NH. Interview held at Profile Coffee Bar, Portsmouth NH.
Graham Alvords #CMGenius photos & video are live! Our first “kids invited” event. We had a living history interactive wall covering Graham’s life from 1916 to 2016 that everyone enjoyed, Great time had by all! All photos by Raya Al-Hashmi of Raya on Assignment. Live video, intro & editing of the talk by Miles Woodworth of Seacoast Flash. Film shorts of Graham Alvord by filmmaker Jim White of Spruce Creek TV. GENIUS presented by Wordpress.com.
We are having a special Kids Invited CreativeMornings PKX on 8/18. We will bringing the past 100 years of history in Portsmouth & Kittery alive with a very special film presentation, interactive timeline artwork, and live and in person 100 year old Graham Alvord! Email us at email@example.com now and tell us how many kids and what ages and we’ll confirm your seats.
Registration for kids tickets is open now, but ENDS Monday. We have a few seats left for kids - grab one now. This presentation is free, but tickets are required. Our usual registration for creative adult attendees opens as usual on Monday am. It’s going to sell out fast!! See you 8/18! You can find more info about this event on The Music Hall LOFT events page too.
Mary Johanna Brown
Our interview with July EQUALITY speaker, Mary Joanna Brown, Gender Equality Leader, and Founder of Brown & Company Design in Portsmouth NH.
PKX: How did you come to founding/owning a design agency?
Mary Jo: I got a degree in Etching - like Rembrandt!
UNH has a very traditional Fine Arts program and I helped to start a communications magazine while I was still in school, then went to work for Main Street Magazine.
I got my first job through that magazine and moved my way up to become an assistant art director before I had even graduated.
I learned that I love design more than fine art.
However, I wouldn’t admit to my professors that I had a main stream job! Because if you were a “fine” artist, you would be selling out if you had a job in design.
You were considered a sell out.
But fine art students who are interested in design get sent to us here at Brown now.
So I had my degree, and I was already working for a magazine. The first gentleman I ever worked for taught me everything NOT to do. It was fascinating.
But he went out of business and I travelled all around the West Coast I found my first big/great client through this job - so it kind of worked out.
PKX: What inspires you as a creative person.
Mary Jo: Living a full life.
Having diverse life experiences.
Attending WWF matches for instance. Haha. I have more in my brain to pull from. Travel has been significant for me lately. And having my daughter Haley - children are so creative.
I always believed in creating an inspiring work environment, but my vintage toy collection just happened.
I’m drawn to red, to fun, to eclectic, to this explosion of fun and creativity.
I want to create a space where I want to go every day. We spend a lot of time there - better make it fun. There are layers of learning and fun in the work environment - books, hidden cash, high level Easter Egg hunts.
PKX: Anything new and exciting in your industry?
Mary Jo: When you have been around for 25 years you see a lot of change…when we first started we used to do more print work, and now we are doing a majority of web & digital work. We have to be committed to evolving technologies.
What I have noticed is that they have come up with a bunch of catch phrases for what are very simple marketing concepts. Which I find funny.
I think we have to have enough young people too. We have designers that stay for 15-20 years, but we also have to be committed to a diverse skill sets and people.
PKX: How does this topic of Equality speak to you?
I have dedicated the last 12 years of my life to becoming a champion for gender equality in the state of NH.
That’s the short version.
The long version is that over that time I helped merge 5 completely divergent organizations into one organization - the NH Women’s Foundation.
I’m very attracted to things people say I can’t do.
I was told this merging can’t be done - so that was very attractive to me. The two titles I carry most, other than mom, are Artist & Entrepreneur - two other things I was told don’t go together. Merging a government agency into this new organization required an actual bill.
But with this merger, I was able to apply my communication knowledge and shepherding resources to this goal of championing women’s and girl’s issues.
I wanted to re-think the idea of a woman’s movement.
All at the same time I was thinking of being a single mother by choice and was also asked to be a speaker as a woman owned business - which I naively had never thought was “different.“ But I started researching and found out that NH was way behind the national average on woman’s issues.
The stats were alarming to me: NH was behind in wage gap, in CEO representation, in women on public boards. There was this conflict - and I was interested in conflict.
I did not call myself a life long feminist, and so conservatives and republicans people were willing to talk to me.
The very fact that we figured out how to merge a government agency with this organization, I’m very proud of this work.
PKX: If you could open up a door into another time, what would you do?
Mary Jo: I would just like to be gardening with my grandfather.
PKX: If we could invite anyone to speak?
Mary Jo: I gotta let go of my “go to” answer, but Gloria Steinham. She has so much to say.
But I also know that answer as a “feminist” is riddled with judgement.
Everyone thinks I’m a huge Hillary nut too. Which is totally fucking unfair. You would not believe what people assign to me with this work.
You would not believe what people have told ME, about ME, because of this work.
Unlike anything I’ve ever been involved with.
And it’s worse than “oh, you are an artist, you probably won’t be good at business.”
Incredible. I may address this my talk more.
PKX: Any advice for people just starting out in your field?
Mary Jo: Don’t work for a jerk. Ha.
No, but really.
There is nothing better than practicing your craft.
It takes time to get better, and better at it. Doing volumes of work, and lots of diverse work is important right out of the gate.
I’m a big believer in crafting a plan that allows for a lot of experience.
I believe in the internship model and the mentorship model. Offer to do internships at 20 different places. Go to places that have something to offer. Pick places you admire. Surround yourself with great mentors.
Our interview with June SURVIVAL speaker, Kristy Martino - Advocacy Leader, and Founder of Haigh-Martino.
PKX: How did you get started in the ad agency world?
Kristy: I was a textile designer for awhile and then moved into advertising. I thought:
Oh, advertising must be “my thing.” I love words, I love images. The right combination of those things can be very powerful.
My husband and I moved to North Carolina and worked in an agency together, but the moved back here to the seacoast during the recession. We started HAM/Haigh & Martino out the idea of “we can’t find a job, we need money, let’s start a business.” So the theme of SURVIVAL feels really pertinent to me - it has meaning for me.
A couple of years ago I began feeling really unfilled - and that experience of living paycheck to paycheck during the recession and experiencing poverty as a kid - I needed to do something more important than just a logo for a restaurant. Logos are important, but I needed something more.
So I got into advocacy. I worked on a campaign and it just blossomed from there. I have a foot in HAM and a foot in the advocacy world now. I don’t want anyone to feel powerless - I really felt that way.
But I can see another career pivot coming soon though…I need something new and a new challenge constantly.
Having your own business: people can still fire you. And you can also fire people.
Which is incredibly powerful. Those are the biggest lessons we have learned. Saying no is sometimes better than saying yes. Everyone is just: “Say yes, say yes to everything!” But all of the sudden you are hemorrhaging money and you hate yourself. So just say no. I am the queen of saying no.
PKX: What inspires you? How do you start thinking about a project that lands on your desk?
Kristy: I am a big problem solver. I look for problems, then I look for stories. “What is the story?” It boils it down to what you want to say, then how to say it in a way that moves people to do something.
I love to ask questions and be adversarial - to ask questions people don’t want to ask. Esp in the creative world that people are over responding to.
My response is to push back on that. Be different so you can see something that is new.
Everything has been done. It all comes down to stories.
Being a doctor comes down to stories. Been a politician comes down to stories. It’s all about storytelling.
My story is : NO. Haha.
It’s funny, my husband Dylan told me to “be you - but tone it a down a bit” for this talk. But there is plenty to be mad about in the world - and that is alright. I’m not a pessimist though - I am just a questioner.
I don’t just shake my fist at the screen though. I do something about it.
That is my new rule - if you are gonna post something on Facebook - fine, but then write your senator and follow up.
PKX: What inspires you production wise?
Kristy: I’m a huge art nerd. Art in general - I’m a huge consumer of all media. I created an entire look one year based on Julie Christie’s “Don’t Look Now” movie. And now I’m doing a textile project for Walmart sheets - and they are based on that mood board of Julie Christie 1974 movie. Haha - I can pitch pretty well, but that was a bit of a stretch for Walmart.
But, I love that specificity. A single line from a movie or a shot can propel me into a project. If it’s good, it’s good.
PKX: Is there anything in your industry that you are seeing as new or exciting?
Kristy: I have always been deeply interested in social justice and racism in America.
Our industry is all white people, all the time. Specifically the ad industry. What I’m seeing is an effort to really name that out loud, and then try to make an effort to diversify.
There are programs to teach formerly incarcerated people to learn to code. We are trying to change that in our company too. That is the most exciting thing to me.
Even that Pepsi Ad - it’s an opp to say “how tone deaf can you be?” Which is a conversation starter.
PKX: If you could open a door and go anywhere - where would you go
Kristy: This is a bummer of an answer - but I would go back to moments in my own life and do them differently. But I would also absolutely go back to the German Expressionism era where Hitler and the Nazi’s tried to erase all these artists. That art ended up being some of my favorite art in the world. That would be incredible.
And then…I want to go anywhere, anytime. Cleveland. Rwanda.
PKX: How does the topic of SURVIVAL speak to you?
Kristy: I almost get embarrassed when I have a story for everything. So much has happened in my life. I’ve had a lot of adversity and bad situations. I cringe sometimes. I’m in survival mode right now - every single day is just managing mental health issues, past trauma, financial security. But when I step outside myself - when I stop and slow down - life is pretty incredible.
I hear stories of people just trying to get through to the next day, and suddenly the rhetoric and barriers between people breaks down.
I have to stop and just say: “No, I’m alright - I’ll get through this.” This is a very intense theme, and I’m an intense person!
PKX: What advice would you give someone just entering your industry?
Kristy: Know your design education. But not in the way people assume. I didn’t go to school for design. I don’t have a bachelors. My husband doesn’t have a college degree.
The normative paths to getting a job in an agency: don’t revolve your life around that.
Get to know someone in the industry, and then go back in time and learn the history.
If you are not a curious person - don’t get into the creative business.
If you want to show up and punch a clock, and you are not registering what is beautiful and not beautiful in the world - then just don’t do it. So many people are so bored, but there is so much to see and discuss.
PKX: If we could invite anyone to PKX, who would it be?
Kristy: Any person of color. Any person of color. Any person of color.
Heard after we hit “stop” moments with Kristy…
I might even have enough points to fly to Cleveland right now.
Our interview with May SERENDIPITY speaker, Bob Lord - Founder of Parma Recordings.
PKX: What is your path to your current career?
Bob: I loved music since I was a little kid. The Beatles, Jerry Lee Lewis. Then I heard the Who. And I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
I’ve never had a real job. I still don’t have a real job.
I followed my ear. I never had any formal training.
I got a band together with a college friend - that was Dreadnaught, and it went from there. That was 1996.
We began touring around New England, and then going further and further out. A whole cross country run from Idaho and back to here and back again. And trying to get back to class in time and make my classes at UNH.
I started Parma 9 years ago - it’s been a quick 9 years!
PKX: How did you make the jump from The Who to Classical?
Bob: As kids, we all hear classical because of Warner Bros, and jazz because of Mr Rogers. Right? But none of that really appealed to me until I could cross reference it with the rock I was really into - bands like Rush, Yes, King Crimson, Stravinsky started to make a lot more sense for me.
All of these complicated arrangements and a lot of detail in the music, has always been the stuff I liked. Classical was very natural for me to fall into.
PKX: What do you play now?
Bob: Well, we’re weird. Dreadnaught never really went away. We are like one of those horrible t-shirts that comes back in and out of fashion every few years, and you are never quite sure why.
It’s pretty logical progression when you look back at it. At the time it made no sense.
PKX: What advice do you have for people getting into the industry today?
Bob: Be open to creative criticism. Prepare yourself for a bad review - it’s the best thing that can happen to you early in your career.
I think that’s the most important things kids need to learn: You don’t need to be a rock star to have a meaningful career in this industry.
Be prepared to do an awful lot of things, until you can do the one thing.
Be yourself, be honest, do what you say you are going to do - always.
PKX: How does Serendipity play a role in your career as you look over the past 20 years?Bob: Serendipity spoke to me because of how unexpected my life has been. I don’t think anybody would have looked at me at 13 when I was playing the bass and said this is where Bob is going to end up.
Also - there are always things happening that you are not even aware of.
So what from the outside looks like serendipity, is really just the product of a lot of people helping you out.
There is no such thing as the self made man.
It’s a cliche - but luck is the residue of design. You simply need to put yourself in a position to get lucky. I can think of a circumstance that happened to me about a year ago - what looked like a regular 15 minute meeting, was actually the culmination of 10 years of work.
You go through dreaming what you want to do with your life….to do this and this and this…you might be so single minded as to not realize all the opportunities that are right there in front of you.
You can have a great game plan, but all that goes right out the window the minute you set foot on the playing field.
It’s like improvising musically - if you know it all, it’s in your gut, your heart, your brain, it’s easy.
PKX: Anything new and exciting happening in your industry?
Bob: All this chicken little bullshit “I’m not making royalties” “where is my money?” “How am I going to be paid?”…I think that’s a good opportunity for this completely green field of open opportunities.
Turmoil is a terrific thing.
There was a bubble for a long time, where you could be a 4th rate bass player in a 3rd rate band and still make a shitload of money.
That time is gone. It’s never going to come back. And I like that. It makes me think in a more ingenious sensibility.
On a personal and Parma Recordings front - I have some exciting projects coming up. I like working in Cuba and we are going back there soon. Look for some big announcements coming soon.
PKX: How do you get the word out about Parma and the work you do?
Bob: At the end of the day, it’s the quality of the expression that’s going to win the day.
Your technique with instagram doesn’t matter - it’s how good is the material itself.
In my day to day world in the classical music industry, so many people are unaware of all the different methods one can use to get music out. It’s a very insular community - where there is this perception that it’s about the artwork itself, and it’s “dirty” to think about how to get your art out there. That’s where I come in - I don’t mind doing the dirty work. I like it.
PKX: If would have any speaker at PKX - who would it be?
Bob: I’d love to see what Bach would have made of all of this. But I would be very curious to know what he thinks about the sustainability of a career. Or anything he would say…about anything. But he’s unavailable.
PKX: if you could open a door and go anywhere, where would you go?
Bob: I’d like to go anywhere in the known or unknown universe and see what advanced intelligence is like. I’d like to see that. And then see if they have drive-through.
Heard after we hit “stop” moments with Bob…
It’s amazing what happens when you stop giving a shit. It’s liberating.
Our interview with April BEYOND speaker essayist, Carley Barton.
PKX: When did you take the leap from ad agency work to being a writer for a living?
Carley: I am a “cliche creative” and writer. I’m very into English & history. I always knew writing was going to be part of my life. But how to make it profitable? How to survive being a creative writer?
Right out of college being a writer didn’t feel tangible. I was so afraid - afraid that I would wake up and hate writing. I’ve been a writer my whole life. It was my desire to protect this thing I hold so dear, and a I was afraid if I did it for a living it would take away the magic. I have a knack for speaking very openly and honestly with people about difficult topics. So I started working that into my blog and it just took off. I got a non-writing ad agency job offer and I made the move from California to NYC overnight and it was total culture shock. But that’s kind of how I’ve done everything since then. It’s going to make you uncomfortable, and it’s all going to be a big mess. But the only way to figure it out, is to do it. I moved back to NH for another ad agency job I realized I wasn’t happy. I got an opportunity do a freelance job back in California - it was just writing an entire magazine cover to cover. I realized “oh! this is why it feels like to love what you are do” - AND be compensated for it.
PKX: What inspires your work?Carley: Human parts of life. My goal is to interact on a deeply human level.
Those everyday human truths and sparks are my greatest inspiration.PKX: Talk to us about your Creative Process.
Carley: I’m not a morning person…or a night person. But I find my brain wakes up from 9pm to 2am. Part of the blessing and the curse of being inspired by personal human connection is that I can’t just take a walk and be inspired. That organic conversation I have with a person: someone will have said something and I record it instantly.
I approach life like it’s one big brainstorm. Everything is fair game.
PKX: Anything you are excited about that is new in your industry?
Carley: Social media is becoming a lot more about open and honest and vulnerable. Even if you look at the Super Bowl ads on social media: brands aren’t afraid to address things that are sensitive or taboo or off topic. To take these realities that maybe aren’t “instagram” worthy and make them something. That’s what excites me about my industry right now. More and more real humanity incorporated into everything from cereal to car commercials. We want less “smoke and mirrors” now. We don’t want it all feel like a motion picture.
We want the grit and the rawness. That’s what life is.PKX: If you could open a door an go anywhere…where would you go?
Carley: Wow. I really wish I could back to my mom being my age and be friends with her. Just journey back, time travel style. I’m obsessed with my mom. I’m constantly asking her for pictures of herself when she was my age, and pictures of her friends. I wish I could go back to that time. There was so much happening and so many of the causes I believe in - and to see who my mom became now and who am I going to become some day.
PKX: How does the BEYOND topic speak to you?
Carley: It was an easy choice. I’ve really found myself pushing beyond, even what I thought I was humanly capable of.
The only way I’ve been able to push beyond, has been to embrace the scariest parts of being human.
The fear, the judgement, and the unknown…and really just leaning into those uncomfortable places. And refusing to let the hard parts of life make me hard. Because life is hard. It’s messy, it’s complicated. We often times, knowing that things can be hard - we stop ourselves. We get to a certain place where we are approaching our comfort zone, and we dig our heals in and we resist.
BEYOND really spoke to me because I’m obsessed with this idea of going beyond what we thing we are capable of. The human spirit is so resilient. We don’t give ourselves enough credit for how strong we really are. The things that are difficult that you go through are the things that make you different, the things that turn you into what you are. The only way to get to it being better or easier is just to go through it.
PKX: If we could invite anyone to speak at PKX, who would you want to see? Carley: I’m enamored with Brene Brown. She’s so beautiful as a person, and her approach to writing and sharing inspires me. I try in my own writing to blend real life experiences and anecdotes and with universal truths of life. Brene Brown does this a lot. She’ll tell a story about a fight she got into with her husband, and she’ll use that as a way to talk about how, if we talk openly and honestly with the people we love, it will help us.
PKX: What advice would you give a person just beginning in your industry?
Carley: That it’s gonna to be ok. Shit might hit the fan, but then it will be ok again. It will always be ok.
Don’t be afraid to be different. We’re all mad here.We’re all our own blend of weird and that’s what going to make you successful. People always ask me about my blog, because my blog is “real, REAL.” They ask, “Are you afraid that people are going to judge you?” And I say, “They are going to judge me anyway. I hope they do.” Everyone is judging you. You can just accept that and own it. The right people–your people–are going to be attracted to that, and the people that aren’t, are not your people. And that’s ok. There is a quote I love by Dita Von Teese - “you can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.” But don’t let that stop you from being weird and different.
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.
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.
An electric first year for CreativeMornings PKX - Portsmouth NH! Thanks to all of our speakers and sponsors for making it happen.