Musings on a Creative Life

I hate being late and now we are. I’m sick to my stomach. Why didn’t we leave sooner? It’s my fault. I want to vomit. I hate being late so much. Fuck all this traffic into Downtown.

Finally we arrive and park and head for the hotel and there is Megan waiting with the tickets and we’re not even the last people to arrive so it was no big deal after all and she tells us some of the crew are at the bar. And we do need a drink. Casey and John are at the bar with their wives and this is awesome because they’re probably my favorite people on the show, in front and behind the camera, respectively.

In the space of 10 minutes Casey buys me 2 double Whiskeys and then we learn the doors are closing in a few minutes so we haul ass to the red carpet maze. Dani crack’s her leg on a concrete bench or something. I think it must hurt but we cant stop now. Our little crew, Fahey, Carper and their dates and Dani and I storm the red carpet, taking photos and laughing all the way. I’m feeling that Whiskey.

Inside we pass the long bar on the way to our seat. “Dude, theres a hobbit!” One of the guys from Lord of the rings. I want a picture but theres no time. I cant see but I’m pretty sure Dani rolls her eyes. All in good humor. We head down the isle to our seats. Chris Ho to our left, Carper to our right. Good company. Someone leans back and tells me, “Dude, Joseph Gordon Levitt was right in front of you coming down the isle.” Awesome. I hope I never feel too cool to geek out over seeing people who’s work I admire.

When I was 19 I worked in a shoe store, a national chain. Despite no prior experience in retail I was hired as a “manager trainee.” Maybe I’m good in an interview, who can say. There was a high school kid that worked weekends and evenings and we were talking one day about his options after graduation and I suggested that with his part time experience he would be a shoe in (pardon the pun) for a manger candidate. He looked at me like I was fucking insane. Maybe I lacked vision at the time. Maybe my deep rooted desires and fantasies seemed unattainable. Impossible. I wonder now what the hell I was thinking. I really do.

Casey told me not to worry, he had a flask, but by the time he sits down, a few seats away, his flask is empty. This is most definitely a good thing. Josh actually sits down for about 10 minutes. We high five and thats about the extent of my dealing with Josh on any given time I have to deal with him. Then he disappears and I never see him again. I wonder what the fuck that guy ever does cause I’ve never seen him do a damn thing except high five and party. I respect talent and hard work and… well never mind.

Speaking of talent and hard work, Matthew Weiner and Vince Gilligan come out and start things off. I geek out cause they make the kind of TV I really like. The kind I binge watch. The kind I’m inspired and intimidated by. Presenters come and go for the next couple hours. Awards given. Awards lost. Our editing crew wins, the sound guys don’t. Then comes the Cinematography part.

Sometimes it’s a cliff and sometimes it’s a brick wall. I haven’t tried any deep analysis to figure out why it changes. But the cliff and the wall are the same thing. Death. Destruction. The end. If you choose a creative life you might feel like your heading straight for it. The cliff or the wall I mean. And you probably are. Most certainly are. And your speeding up all the time. Impossibly fast. Time is always running out. Odds are if you choose a creative life your gonna come inches from the wall. Or the cliff. Or your gonna crash and burn. Probably WILL crash and burn. Eventually. 

Casey had threatened to come with us onstage if we won and now we do and he does. I don’t mind at all. Anyone else, maybe. And then we’re backstage and being ushered to a photo area. This feels pretty good. Better than I imagined. But Matt and Steve are bickering about Twitter or something as we walk. Matt’s trying to take the high road but its all pretty pathetic. I guess if I wasn’t having so much fun it would be harder to disregard. Then theres a giant Emmy statue. Group photos and solo photos and individual thanks to the camera. Yeah, this is pretty fun. I thank my wife cause she’s responsible for the lions share of any success I attain. They usher us through a maze of halls and downstairs to a press panel.

But by the time we arrive half of out little party are missing. Including Fahey with the statue. Fucking Fahey. I love him but… Dude? Everyone trickles down but Fahey’s still missing. Watching the monitor of the ceremony I see Bourdain has won something. “Is he coming down here?” I ask. This is affirmed. I want to meet Bourdain. Bad. Finally Fahey shows up with the statue. We line up for the press. It’s a shitshow of high order. I’m almost embarrassed but who cares. We head upstairs and pass the statue around and pose for pictures. I glance over and see Bourdain slip down the stairs to the press panel. Shit, I missed him.

You might achieve a measure of success. Of financial security. Of recognition. Maybe even a large measure. But inside you know the wall is always there. The cliff is always there, rushing at you as you rush at it. Failure is a second away. If you want to live a truly creative life there is no safety net and no seatbelt at any stage and death and failure and poverty hang over your head at every turn.

At some point we learn that the show itself wins. More high fives. And then here comes the top line producers with their statues. I like all these guys, some of them even a lot. And I’m happy for them. But deep inside It doesn’t seem fair that we don’t get our own statues. We must be kept in place in our slightly lower station. And it’s very clear. And I’m a Libra and always bothered by an unbalanced or unfair outcome. So there it is. Recognize it for what it is and move on.

We all move over to the Ballroom for dinner. It’s dark and very classy. Dancers and lazer lights. Like a high end wedding. Hundreds of tables. For some reason I end up with the statue and it feels cool walking around with it. People offering congratulations. It feels real good. I ask several of the wait staff where Bourdain is sitting but no one knows. I think Dani is starting to question my sanity. Decker comes over. “I guess we don’t have to work anymore”, he says. We chuckle at that and then for some reason he kisses my head. Small favor that the camera couldn’t focus. I like Decker.

We eat and I drink a lot and dance a little and then we move to a neighboring hotel where the production company is having a small private party. I’m hammered but trying to maintain. Finally Dani suggests we head home and surprisingly I agree. Enough fun. But I’m starved so we buy bacon wrapped hotdogs from a cart vendor in the parking lot and hit the highway. I pass out instantly. Thank the gods for my wife.

It’s a road that doesn’t end. It’s a hunger not satisfied. For long. You might achieve a measure of recognition or success or even fleeting satisfaction but you’ll wake up the very next day starving. Yeah, I don’t know where this road ends. I don’t think it does. I’ve taken turns I never could have imagined. And I can imagine quite a lot. I don’t know whats ahead. Except for that cliff. Except that brick wall.

emmys 2014

New BenStaley.com

So I sorta quietly updated the site. I feel in transition. The last few months have been very interesting. Travel. Introspection. Creative accolades. Professional frustration. Growth. Change is in the air.

If you choose a creative life the road is long. And with many turns.

My name is Ben. I’m a filmmaker and a Photographer.

Heres the new site.

BenStaley.com

 

 

 

Mountain Man

Earlier this year I was chatting with my pal Jimmy and he encouraged me to enter some photography contests. The thought had never entered my mind. I didn’t have any idea where these contests would be or how to go about it. Look online Jimmy said. So I went home and spent about 20 minutes, found a couple and fired off some submissions. And forgot all about it. Until a few months later when I got an email saying I was a winner. Actually I had forgotten so much that the email confused me at first and I thought it was a scam. I guess deep down I am a forgetful pessimist. Need to work on that.

Anyways, I had won the July photo challenge from Popular Photography Magazine. It was a double exposure challenge. I fired off a return email answering all their questions about the technicalities behind the image, etc..

And then forgot about it again. I know.. I have issues here. I forgot until Jimmy sent me a text picture of the article. Pretty damn cool.

I like the title. A lot. It makes me happy. More happy than winning. I’m pretty well suited for a life at sea. It’s in my blood and I’ve spent a fair amount of time there since commercial fishing in my early 20s. But in the deep parts that really matter I belong in the mountains and high places. So this feels good. Thanks Jimmy.

Popular Photgraphy, Staley

20140711-100531-36331658.jpg

This is all especially cool since tomorrow I’ll be headed right into the heart of one of the most incredible mountain ranges on the planet…

Grryo Interview

I received a surprise email a while back from a very interesting photographer, Brandon Kidwell, requesting an interview with me for Grryo.com’s Storyteller Series. I was flattered to say the least. The conversation took place over the course of a month, via email and you can see it HERE.

Wishbones & Gunfire // Best Doc

Wishbones & Gunfire - we voice sing

I’m very proud to announce that ‘Wishbones & Gunfire’ has been named “Best Documentary” at the 2014 Socal Creative & Innovative Film Festival. This was a personal passion project and its just a huge honor. I’m proud of the professional work I do on shows like Deadliest Catch but its the personal work that fuels my fire. Thanks We Voice Sing for letting me in on your process and thank you so much for including us SoCalCIFF!

Bering Sea Portraits // Captain Wild Bill

Captain Wild Bill

Bering Sea Portraits // Sabrina and Johnathan

Sabrina Witt and Johnathan Hillstrand in Dutch Harbor

Bering Sea Portraits // Captain Casey McManus

Casey McManus

Bering Sea Portraits // Josh

Josh Harris

Bering Sea Portraits // Jake

Jake Jolibois

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