The Quest: Why I Don’t Watch TV At Your House If Your TV Is Too Small

Chapter 2

I am a TV addict. I have a tape somewhere of my second birthday. My parents came in to my bedroom toting a video camera. I think it was one of those over the shoulder numbers that used beta. So they wake me up in my crib with my fluffy red fro. I open my eyes, still filled with sleep, and they say “Happy Birthday.” I stare at them blankly. Cut to the living room. Camera is directed at the hallway. I come wandering out with my mom and head towards the front door. Then I turn and stop at the console television and say “TV! TV! TV!” motioning for them to turn it on. I sit down entirely too close and watch Maya The Bee.

Even at the ripe age of two, it was obvious that I was a fan of television. That fandom has grown over the years. The majority of the shows I have found myself enjoying—well, still do—are dramas. I think it’s mostly because dramas are rich with both episodic plot and serial (season-long) plot. The characters are deeper than what you find in comedies. I am big on character. When I connect to a character, I’m hooked on the show.

Example: ER. Lucy was my favorite character. I remembered her from one of my mom’s favorite shows Life Goes On. During season six, they decided her character wasn’t working and killed her off. I never watched another episode of the show again. You don’t kill off my characters.

Counter example: The OC. I am a big fan of The OC (both the series and the California county). It was quite popular in film school. So popular in fact, I thought it was one of those trendy shows on HBO. As it turned out, it was on Fox so my new roommate and I caught up on the first half of the season at the beginning of the spring semester. I liked Ryan, Seth and Summer very much. Marissa was never my favorite character. At the end of season three, they killed off her character. That didn’t stop be from watching the show.

I think my Grams has it right. Even as a child, I remember her calling the soap operas she enjoyed her “stories.” That’s what they are. They are stories, just like anything else. As a result, I rarely start watching a TV show after it’s been on the air a while. I want to start at the beginning. That’s a lot easier to do now, even midseason. The iTunes store and half seasons on DVD have made catching up pretty easy to do. I learned in film school how hard you have to work to get something on the screen. Every moment is intentional. You don’t start watching a movie halfway through, the same applies to a season of television.

The thing I like most about TV is how long you have to build character and plot. Movies are just a snapshot of a story. I love movies, but they are different than TV. Bigger budgets often make them prettier, but a super amazing story is more and more rare these days. Now there are some elements that movies have going for them, don’t get me wrong. The music is usually better. The effects are always better and the acting is usually better. The story often suffers as a formulaic Hollywood plot. But if you get the right mix together, I’m wowed. Avatar is a great example. It’s a great cinematic feat. As a whole, I totally find movies entertaining, but they are easily forgotten.

TV resonates more with me. I’m fully aware that’s not true for many people, maybe even most people. As my friend Jon put it once in high school, I’m “one weird duck”—which was fitting since my favorite hockey team has always been the Ducks (more on that in chapter four). As strange as it sounds, I have a pretty personal relationship with my television. It’s why I don’t have a roommate right now. When I come home, I want to watch my TV shows. I don’t want to share my TV with anyone. I have two DVRs for the nights when I have three shows that air simultaneously. Before the advent of the TiVo, I used these for every day of the week. I don’t want to miss a minute in the lives of the fictional people that appear in my living room at my command on a big, enormous 42-inch screen. Did anyone catch the Little Shop reference there? I didn’t think so.

Anywho, I’ll close with this. As Shawn once put it on Boy Meets World, “television is the true mirror of our lives.” At least, it feels that way to me sometimes.

What ways to do you find yourself connecting to story in your day-to-day life?

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The Quest: How I Got Here

Chapter 1

I’ll see if I can make this relatively short. I was born in the West Texas minor city of Abilene. It’s not too big, but not too small. My parents had their hands full with their two kids. Most of that was on my part. Hey, it’s not my fault I have ADHD. I couldn’t sit still. I asked a million questions and wouldn’t shut up. Many would say not much has changed. Thankfully, my Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Pemberton, realized that I just needed to be challenged academically and had me tested for the gifted/talented program despite my affinity for eating the homemade peppermint play dough at “centers time.”

At the ripe age of five, I was labeled gifted. That meant I got the G/T certified teachers—code for “trained to deal with Matthew.” While the other kids did busy work, I got to do special projects like hand making puppets out of brown paper bags and performing my own show for the class based on the book Miss Nelson Is Missing. A great literary work, you should check it out, seriously.

Prior to third grade, a larger number of kids are tested for G/T because at this point G/T kids are entered into the ALPS program. Each of Abilene’s 25 elementary schools were assigned one day a week on which the G/T kids traveled to a special site for most of the day where they participate in creative enrichment and what not. I really do think that without the ALPS program I wouldn’t be nearly as creative as I am today.

The summer after fourth grade, I went to my first camp with the Northwest Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church. It was the most important event of my life. This is where my connection to story really began. It was a pretty typical format for a Christian summer camp. Small group times, afternoon activities, worship—VBS on steroids. I think it was Wednesday afternoon when they did movie time. The movie was the 1979 animated version of The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe. Sadly the 2005 version was still 10 years away. For those of you that don’t know what it’s about, check out Wikipedia. The allegory of Aslan’s sacrifice led me to salvation that day. Though I had been raised in the Church, I didn’t really get Jesus’ sacrifice. C.S. Lewis’ tale—no matter how poorly brought to the TV that day—was all I needed to put two and two together. Thus began the significance of story in my life.

Despite the lack of quality in the aforementioned animated film, I was a child of the 90s Disney classics. The Little Mermaid (technically ’89), Beauty and The Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, Hercules, Mulan… I really liked animation. I couldn’t draw, but I knew somehow I would figure out how to be an animator. Once we got our first home PC with Windows 95 and Office 95. I took it upon myself to reanimate Beauty and The Beast with PowerPoint. It was pretty impressive if I do say so myself. I concluded that computers were my solution to not being able to draw well.

Fast forward to high school. As I progressed through various computer classes, I realized that computer animation was based more on code. That didn’t sound too creative. Thus my lifelong dream of being an animator seemed less and less appealing.

My junior year of high school brought the exciting world of Pre-AP World History. I was lucky enough to get Mrs. Wilson. She had the reputation of making history entertaining, and that she did. She came up with all sorts of crazy projects and pop culture tie-ins to help us actually remember what we learned. These creative endeavors into history ended up taking up more of the semester than she had intended. So as the end of my junior year approached, we were only finishing up 1890. We had three weeks of school and the entire 20th century left to cover. Her solution: divide and conquer. We split up into eight groups (the 90s were deemed recent enough to not be covered). Each group was assigned a decade from the 10s to the 80s. Mrs. Wilson felt the best way to show what we learned was to create a video.

I did my research and convinced my parents to buy a Pinnacle video editing card and software. In my directorial debut, we made a silent film about the 1920s. We got a 100 on the project, of course. I also helped out my good buddy Jon on their project on the 70s entitled “Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll”. Cliché maybe, so let’s just say there was some sniffing of powdered sugar involved. It was quite amusing. I got an extra 5 points for that. Anyhow, I realized that film could be a great replacement for animation.

My senior year, I was appointed as a Student Council officer. Among the various projects I was a part of, I was tasked to assist the Senior Class officers with freshman orientation. Our idea evolved into a live stage parody of Dawson’s Creek with me as director. It had a musical number from Moulin Rouge and video opening credits very close to the real thing. Though I never took theatre in high school, this project allowed me the opportunity to collaborate with our theatre director, Mr. Freeman. Once the project was over, he asked about my college plans. I admitted that I wasn’t really sure where I wanted to go, but I had decided on film production. USC and NYU topped the list, but I hadn’t decided on any Texas schools. He suggested I check into the film program at UT. As many of you know, that’s where I ended up.

I loved film school, but as graduation approached, I knew I didn’t want to do the typical Hollywood thing. I was highly involved with the Wesley (United Methodist Campus Ministry) at UT. Through the Wesley I ended up making connections that landed me an internship at a local church. That led to meeting my good friend Matt at a mission camp which led to him thinking of me when a Media Ministry Director job opened up at his church. I took that job and moved to the suburbs of San Antonio once I graduated.

After a year at that church part-time and six months part-time at Apple, the opportunity for my current job opened up. I’ve been here three years now. The storytelling aspect of my vocation has diminished a bit over the years. I realize things change, but I can’t help but wonder. Where’s the story in my life? So now I turn to contemplating what it looks like to grow my inner storyteller outside of my vocation. I know God has some great things planned for my future. I’m still ADHD and sure don’t like waiting, but I think that’s what I’m supposed to be doing right now. I’m happy with my life, but part of me is always a bit restless—waiting for the next chapter in the story.

The quest is ongoing. I continue to search out the ways in which I find myself connecting to story. What’s your story?

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The Quest: A Sort of Prologue

I am a storyteller. I haven’t always described myself as such. I mean I went to film school and all. That should have made it pretty obvious that I liked telling stories. I’ve recently been thinking a lot about what I want to do with my life and what I’m supposed to do with my life. Am I doing it now? If I’m not doing it now, what does it look like? Is it vocational or recreational? Why does it matter?

It’s all about story. I may be on to something here. Story. It’s a part of our everyday lives. It’s something that brings us together. We’re entertained by story. We see it on TV, in movies, in pictures, in blogs, in the news, in a book, over conversations at Starbucks… It’s all around us. We like to share our stories. We want to know other people’s stories. I think it’s not only inherent to being human but it’s uniquely human. It’s about more than events (plot). It encompasses locations (settings) and other people (characters). Things we heard about academically from the time we crossed the threshold into Kindergarten (or Preschool for those of you that went).

I think we’re all on a quest for story. We want to know who we are, what we’re supposed to do with our lives, who we’re going to marry, what our kids will become, what will make us happy, where we are supposed to live, when is the time right for whatever… I know I have a few of those questions. Okay, more than a few. The Quest drives many of us in varying ways.

I’m a dreamer. I wonder about the answers to those questions on my personal quest to find out my own story. Maybe that’s part of what makes me a good storyteller. Being a dreamer that is. Remember, we’re all on a quest. So, about the dreamer thing, I don’t really know. Nonetheless, I’m thinking about life’s what ifs more often than I can keep track of. Why? It’s all about the quest. Okay, it’s really all about the story. But the quest is about finding the story, so it’s about the quest too.

Do you see the quest for story in your life and are you actively pursuing it?

Creative Commons License photo credit: Dunechaser

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