Finding a Balance

Last night was nice. We’ve developed a bit of tradition during Tony’s visits to St Louis of watching whatever the newest DC animated movie is of the moment. We watched Batman Ninja, enjoyed some Thai food, and unplugged for a while. It was refreshing.

I’m writing this at the end of a production block. We do these week-long shooting marathons a half dozen times a year. Tony has been here in St Louis for nearly a week now and we’ve been recording more podcasts and shooting new episodes of Cocktail Moment, while trying to catch up on movies, video games, and just life in general. Sometimes it feels like all we talk about is the channel. I don’t mean that negatively. It’s something we both care about and both want to see grow and be successful. But we’ve got to break it up sometimes with distractions. We went to a ball game on Saturday and had a great time, but it wasn’t long before we were talking about the channel and then shooting some video for the channel.

Nowadays our production team has doubled and we are producing original content at least once a week. It’s very fulfilling to have so much great work to show for our efforts, but it’s also very overwhelming at times. I have to remember to take the time to maintain the friendships that led to this wonderful team.

Looking back on the last two years of TSD, things have certainly changed a lot. In the beginning it was just Tony and myself producing a handful of episodes here and there. We got to hang out and do something we love a few times a year and the stress of it was pretty minimal. Jake and I were pretty casual friends at the beginning of all of this, but through no small part of our work together on TSD we’ve grown incredibly close and I count him among my closest friends and confidants. Joey is a somewhat recent addition to my life, but we’ve become steadfast friends so quickly through creative collaboration “in the trenches.”

Tony and I have been friends for going on twenty years now. He’s talked about it in a previous week, so I won’t go into a lot of detail on that. Suffice it to say, our bond of friendship is strong and producing creative projects together just strengthens it. TSD has been, overall, wonderful of us. It gives us ‘an excuse’ to spend time together doing things we love. It’s easy, however, to fall into the trap of making every interaction we have ‘about work.’

The greatest joy of working on this channel is getting to work alongside some of my favorite people-Tony, Jake, and Joey are hard-working creatives and we all do an incredible job of making each other better. In the chaos of production, I’m so grateful to be surrounded by friends. It would be so easy to get burnt out on each other after gruelling shoots and long weeks of production but we still find ourselves wanting to grab a drink or have a soak in the hot tub after it’s all done. The affection for each other is genuine, the bond we’re sharing is strong. Production weeks, like the one we’re finishing now, can be so overwhelming and anxiety-inducing for me, but I’m so glad to have these guys with me to get through it all. Work is something that’s tying us all together right now. Friendship is what’s making it worth doing.

Scene: Pizza Parlor, New York, 4 AM

By: Joey

I am proud. More specifically I am prideful about who I am. Sometimes that can come off as being defensive and/or preachy which isn’t my intention. I am a bisexual man, and this is a little about some of my experiences.

Being bisexual can be confusing a lot of the time, especially in the beginning stages of understanding your sexuality. I try to take my experiences and use them to educate others on this subject because if it’s confusing to me then I’m sure others who don’t, won’t, or haven’t experienced it would also have a difficult time understanding it.

When I interact with new people I’ve met, I have a tendency to inform them that I’m Bi- like when I told you that I’m bisexual just a couple seconds ago. Sometimes, in certain situations, that is met with criticism. One such occasion happened recently when the TSD team took a trip to New York City. We were sitting at a pizza place and struck up a conversation with another late night pizza patron- a common scene at four in the morning in New York. “Somehow” the subject of my sexuality came up and when this happened, the man, who happened to be gay, told me that I needed to give myself two years in a big city and get my life figured out.

I’m used to hearing things like this from people who may not understand; after a while it has become easier to handle. Interactions like that one still make me wonder though- why would someone feel the need to make a comment like that?

Time after time, I’ve had society tell me, “This is the way to be straight,” and I’ve had a whole other community tell me “This is the way to be gay,” while all the while I’ve just wanted to be me. Through it all I’ve had to teach myself how to be bi and stay true to myself- a lesson more universal than any community might claim. Basically, I’ve been told I had to choose between vanilla or chocolate ice creams when all I’ve really wanted was strawberry.

Bisexuality isn’t a cop-out. Many times, people in the process of coming out mis-identify themselves as such because they view it as an easier avenue, leaving others with hope for change. For people who identify fully as bisexual, this isn’t the case. It’s not a stopping off point along the journey, it’s an honest identity of knowing what we like and being truthful about it. We’re not greedy, indecisive, confused attention seekers- all terms used to degrade my sexuality. I may have had those moments of confusion, but finally for the first time in my life, without two years in a big city to help sort it out, I’ve never seen more clearly in who I am and I’m happy with that.

If you feel like there’s something that you don’t agree with then I encourage you to not tear someone down for believing differently. Instead just try to understand why they feel that way and see the perspective from a different point of view. Whether that subject be sexuality, television, music or politics….

On second thought, stay away from politics. That can be messy.

Quality Friends

The qualities of a good friendship are sometimes hard to pin down. Sure, we can agree on some basics: loyalty, listening, and whatnot. However, one of the things that I think makes a good friendship a great friendship is the ability to find new ways to have fun. In that vein, Matt and I are working on a new podcast! In it, we break down and rebuild movies that we think could have been better. I know it seems like all I talk about is channel stuff but it’s really always on my mind at some level. What I love about this podcast is how much fun it is and more specifically how much fun I’m having with Matt. That’s not to say the rest of the channel isn’t awesome or that Matt and I can’t have a good time together. This podcast has struck a chord with me that I think I’ve been missing for some time .

Matt and I have known each other longer than we haven’t. For over half of my life I’ve been best friends with Matt. Being that close to someone for so long they are bound to influence you- especially seeing that person daily for half your high school career, your entire time at college, working multiple jobs together, and, oh yeah, living together for at least 3 years.

Matt is my best friend. Starting this podcast has made me really dig into what things make a friendship last and what makes a friendship “the best”. The qualities of a best friend include someone you trust implicitly, someone who is there for you without question, someone who puts up with your lesser qualities because they see the greater whole of you, and lastly, if not most importantly, a best friend is someone you have FUN with! There are just some things only you and your bestie can do together that make them the some of the best times you’ll ever have.

One thing Matt and I have always found ourselves bonding over is movies. We both have always loved movies for as long as we’ve been friends but as of late I’ve been kind of waning on the movie scene. I find myself less and less excited to see new movies or even watch old ones. TV is great, I love reading but seeing a new movie has left me feeling kind of “meh” as of late. That is until we came up with this new podcast.

One of the things Matt and I have the most fun doing is talking about movies. Not just, “Hey I saw this movie,” but what we liked, didn’t like, what we think should have happened or we wanted to happen. It’s a blast for us even if everyone else in the car on the way home from the theater may be thinking of hitting the ejector seat. Since I moved away from St. Louis almost seven years ago, it hasn’t been as convenient for us to just shoot the breeze when it comes to movies; we spend most of our time catching up and then working on the channel (which ironically gives us an excuse to talk more).

So I’m excited that we’ve now made an excuse for us to continue doing one of the things that has always been the most fun to do with my best friend. Instead of giving you the usual ‘call to action’ of leaving comments below, I encourage you to reach out to one of your best friends instead. Maybe someone you’re just not talking to as much. You don’t have to start a podcast with them but definitely make the extra effort to schedule something that back in the day was something you use to do together. I suspect you’ll be glad you did.

And if you’re looking for something to do together with your bestie you can listen to our new podcast “Matt & Tony: Movie Fixers.” Our first episode launches May 7. See what I did there? Always about the channel 😛

Always Learning

By: Matt

I like learning things. I always have. Children are naturally curious about the world around them and they want to know how things work and why things are the way they are. I remember when I was ten I read Jurassic Park for the first time. It was a little mature for me, but I loved it; not just for the dinosaurs, but for the lesson in genetics that Crichton sneaks in under the guise of exposition. I went into my 7th grade science class with a head start in understanding genetics and was likely more of a show off about it than I should have been. I like learning and I like sharing the things I’ve learned even more.

We started TSD over two years ago without a clear goal. Tony and I wanted to get back into MAKING something and video is just something we’ve always known how to do. Initially we thought we’d do more of a talk show, called Good Talk. I was going to interview regular people and shine a light on what makes them special. Everyone has a story to tell or a skill to share and I like finding that in people. I still love that idea: being a talk show host for the “every man.” Perhaps one day we will get the chance revisit it. However, Good Talk wasn’t to be, and in an effort to fill the channel with content, we created a few other shows: Cocktail Moment, Jake Bakes, and Let’s Try Something New. If you’re reading this you likely are already familiar with the first two. Good Talk sort of shape shifted into Let’s Try Something New- a show in which myself and one or more other people would do something they’ve never done before. In one episode we rode roller coasters, in another we did a food tour. I truly loved that show but we started focusing on our others that were quickly growing in popularity. That show’s legacy can be seen in Cheat Day- an inadvertent successor to LTSN. Josh tries new things all the time and we get to watch him sweat it out, react to the new challenges, and laugh at all the times when he is learning some crazy new fitness trend.

Early first draft of “Good Talk”

Learning is still a big part of my life. I’m personally learning what works and what doesn’t on our channel- I’m learning how to be better at what we’re doing. Even more so, I’m talking about sharing my love of learning with all of you. I sincerely hope that when you watch Cocktail Moment, or any of our other great shows, you’re learning something new: something about a baking technique or a new, fun liqueur to incorporate into your cocktails. or maybe even your next, new workout experience.

“Learning” sometimes gets a bad rap, treated as a boring activity relegated to stuffy classrooms and lecture halls. The truth is everyone likes to learn, especially when it’s something they care about and it’s presented in an exciting way. That’s what we’ve been trying to do at TSD. We have new projects coming soon and our hope is that you enjoy them as much or more than everything we’ve made to date. We are expanding into more variety, including these editorials. We have new podcasts coming as well as new episodes of the video series you love. Have fun with it. You’ll likely learn something and hopefully have some fun on the way.

Finally, a shout out to one of our most avid followers and supporters, JR Fray, who really gets what I’m saying with this Facebook comment:

“[TSD] is almost a couples help page… you can learn to bake things together, learn to stay in shape together, learn cosplay together, [and] even learn some neat cocktail recipes to relax together. Check em out…”

I’m still that nerdy kid soaking in the knowledge from everywhere I can. I just finished reading Artemis by Andy Weir, a modern day Crichton, and I’m dying to talk someone’s ear off about his incorporation of the physics of welding in the vacuum of space into a narrative thriller. Reading it gave me the same thrill I felt reading Jurassic Park all those years ago. Its a thrill I feel every time we get to do something awesome on TSD that I can’t wait to share with our viewers. And I hope you feel it too.

Enter Joey [stage left]

By: Joey Franks III

Life is full of challenges. Some of the challenges are good, some are not-so-good- it’s all about perspective. About a year ago I stumbled upon an opportunity to shift my perspective, and lend some of my free time, helping out three of my newest friends in their endeavors creating content for their YouTube channel.I never thought I’d be such a huge contributor to the channel, but here I am, a year later, writing a piece on my experiences and contributions for thirtysomethingdigital.IMG_2792

Let’s rewind to a year before-I had just moved to St. Louis from California and in doing so I had to pack up my love of theatre to dedicate myself to work. When I was finally able to unpack my life and work slowed down, I was able to try to get into the community theatre scene in my new home. After quite a few auditions it seemed that all attempts fell flat and I felt defeated- enter TSD. I started off just offering to volunteer my time helping the guys, for a variety of reasons, none the least was because I desperately needed to do something that gave me a creative outlet. Another reason, and possibly the most fulfilling one, was that I felt welcomed with open arms into this family of friend, even when they didn’t have any real reason to bring me in.

See, for me, I was in a time of transition in my life: I had just ended the only relationship I’d ever known, had just come out of the closet, and was living in a new city where I knew no one. Take any one of those reasons and it would make the most stable of people a confused ball of hurt and loneliness. I honestly felt saved by a group of people that just months earlier had been complete strangers to me, the least I could do was run a camera or strike sets or operate sound for them. Never in a million years did I expect to get out of this experience what I have- three incredible friends and a sense of purpose.

When we get together to shoot our episodes, it’s honestly some of the most exhausting and tiring work I’ve ever done. The days are long and hot, there’s a constant cloud of flour from Jake Bakes and even more spilled ice on Cocktail Moment; however, every time these shoot days come around I’m always pumped and excited to get to work. It’s said that if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. While that may be true for some, I believe that if you’re working with the people you love, then that’s when you truly never work a day in your life. I’ve grown so much with the help and guidance from these three and I’ve gotten to witness first hand how much they’ve grown professionally. From the first time I picked up a camera to now, a year later, the change is incredible. These three are dedicated, intelligent, and focused on making TSD the best it can possibly be. And in the midst of all the hard work that the past year has brought, I found what I was truly missing: passion. The passion that they have is what I was missing out on when I found myself out of theatre and it was unbelievably refreshing to get that feeling back.

Part of getting that passion back brought me to an idea to start a podcast. I’ve been working on launching a podcast that centers around Coming Out Stories for the last six months or so. In my personal journey, I was fortunate enough to be able to hear stories from people of all backgrounds, about their process of coming out while also getting a chance to share mine. It then dawned on me that these types of stories aren’t given many platforms to be told, but are so interesting and valuable that there should be more ways to highlight them. I feel strongly that by sharing the coming out stories of all sexual orientations we can highlight that all stories are different, some easier some harder, but all unique and important. Hopefully some day it will help someone having trouble finding their truth, as well as showing others, who may not have to come out, what it’s like; to give insight to a subject they might not understand.

I started my journey with TSD as a sound and camera operator, moved in front of the camera as a guest in Cocktail Moment, and now I’m officially a production assistant who’s working on launching his own podcast with the help of Matt and Tony. TSD has given me a purpose again- something I haven’t felt I’ve had for a while. It’s also given me three of the best friends I could have ever asked for. I feel incredibly privileged to get to work with Matt, Tony, and Jake and I hope you’re all as happy to see all the content we provide for you. It comes from the best group of people I’ve been able to work with: friends.

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TSD @ SXSW

By: Tony

Last week Matt and I went to SXSW (South by SouthWest). For those who don’t know this is a massive conference consisting of people from the music, film/ tv, and innovation industries (don’t ask me to explain the last one it’s sorta like inventions and investments). The goal for Matt and I was to attend panels and listen to speakers who are professionals in the film/ video field. Topics of some of the panels we attended include “how to successfully fund a film”, “different editing workflows for different mediums”, “TV vs Digital in comedy”, and “how to successfully start and continue a podcast.”

The information we gleamed from these panels was somewhat helpful. The problem Matt and I kept seeing was that every panel was more focused on how these topics relate to the major Film and TV industry. There was a lot of great information on how to make your way into the industry and lock down a position but wasn’t what I was really looking for. I wish I’d have gone to this conference long ago before going to a University to study “communications” for 4 years. A full load at this conference along with some basic technical training and I’d have been set.

Truthfully I never wanted to start as a low level intern and climb the ladder. I’ve always wanted to do my own thing. That’s why I’m so in love with what we do now at TSD. Thanks to the internet and social media we can create our own content and put it out there for everyone to see! Even though YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, etc have been around for awhile this concept is still relatively new to a lot of people.

Out of all the hours of video I consume (and trust me it’s a lot) I’d say 30% of it comes from independent creators or small studios who exclusively launch online. Whether through their own site, YouTube, Facebook, or some other platform the only place you can find their work is via the internet. The crazy thing is they have as much if not more of a fanbase than Hollywood movies and “Main Stream Television.”

One reason for their being so many fans is the level of fan engagement. Online you don’t just passively watch a show alone. You can respond directly to the creators and they can respond back. Their struggle to create becomes something you share in and in doing so you become more of a part of what you enjoying watching. As an example let me engage you by asking what other channels or content do you enjoy that can only be found online?

I honestly want to find more great content out there and it’s a vast ocean. I’ll list some of my own long standing favorites below as well because I believe in sharing this idea. The idea that there’s so much more out there than what the Main Stream Industry has to provide and we need to make more people aware of that. No hate on the main stream I love my Netflix and Amazon Prime.

I’ll put my list of favs below. I’m keeping it strictly unique content. I watch a lot of critic based shows but that’s not really what I’m talking about here. Thanks for reading:

* All of these you can find on YouTube

 

The Guild (Created by Geek and Sundry. One of the first of it’s kind and perfect for anyone who’s ever been sucked into an MMO)

Space Janitors (One of the best Scifi parody shows I’ve seen in a long time.)

RWBY (Created by Rooster Teeth and my favorite current running Western Anime)

TableTop (It’s watching people play board games but NOT boring trust me. In fact I’ve gone out and bought almost every game they’ve showcased)

Miracle of Sound & Peter Hollens (Separate music composers who create some amazing stuff with awesome videos.)

P.S. SXSW is a great conference I hope it didn’t sound like I coming down on it. Matt and I were not upset by the level of discussion. Also they had so many movie screenings. I got to see Ready Player One early and Steven Speilburg was there to introduce it!!!!! Needless to say it was a great time.

Why We Bake

Summers in rural Illinois are hot and miserably humid amidst the cornfields. Both of my parents worked long hours and during our summer vacation, my mom would drive us out to her mother’s house, fifteen minutes away, to spend the day. Most mornings my grandmother, or “grammy” as I call her, could typically be found sewing a quilt, fiddling in the kitchen, or readying her sprawling gardens for a day’s work which my brother and I would unenthusiastically help with. I’ll never forget summers at her house. We would work all throughout the morning and early afternoon, hauling wheelbarrows full of mulch, bent over weeding the gardens, or even mixing cement to build a custom stone footpath through the yard. The grass would begin the day soaked with dew. As the morning heat riled up, the droplets slowly turned to sweat on our brows, mixing with dirt to draw streaks of mud on our faces. Finally, when the cicadas’ drones grew loud and the sun drew to its midday fever pitch, we would retire inside for a snack, some Diet Rite pop and cold iced tea. I always looked forward to this moment: a job well done and a reward well earned.

We would climb up on tall chairs at the end of the kitchen, peering out through the windows to survey our verdant kingdom as it started to gasp in the mid-July heat. Behind us, the closing of the refrigerator door would herald our just reward: Grammy would have baked something delicious the previous night. There would be fresh banana bread with peanut butter frosting, blueberry muffins, fresh apple sauce, lemon bars or some other treasure from summer’s ripe produce. She was always baking and cooking things for my Grandpa’s lunches and we were more than happy to take the remaining goodies for our snacks.

This is where my love for baking and being in the kitchen comes from. In my grandma’s kitchen, I first learned how to make a roux, how to bake banana bread, and, most importantly, how happy food can make people. My aunts, uncles, and cousins may not have always got along but somehow- at every gathering in that kitchen- we managed to set aside our differences, and enjoy the company and food. I have a sneaking suspicion that much of that was to do with the food… especially grammy’s famous rainbow jello dessert.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about why I bake and in turn, why anyone does. We have to eat, of course, but why do we take loving care in crafting magnificent and decadent food? What is it that draws us to spend hours laboring in the kitchen? In my case, and I think for most people, its a form of time traveling through memories. Every time I cook, I’m filling my pans with my story, my memories, my love. Even when I’m in a rush to just get something done or on the plate, it still has a hint of my life in it: a twist of joy, an extra dash of my dad’s sweet tooth, or a pinch of my mother’s love. It’s why when I like you, I’ll cook for you and if I really like you, I’ll want you to cook for me: I want you to share in me and I to share in you. When my grandma taught me to mince the celery and onions- two ingredients I loathed as a child- for the chicken salad, it was her way of sharing her world and encouraging me to see that the things I may think I don’t like, are very much lovable. And when my dad taught me how to make cornbread, it was him revealing a piece of his life to me and that cornbread always tastes best in a screaming hot cast iron skillet, smothered in honey and butter.

So why do we cook? Because we love telling stories. We love to hear stories; we love being a part of stories. To me, a family recipe book is like an old hymnal in a church, tattered and worn. Its a book full of our histories, our cultures, our shared experiences. Every time we bake something from it, we’re singing the same song our loved ones sang. I bake because I love rereading the stories of my family, my childhood, and my world. Joy, sorrow, laughter and heartbreak have never tasted so sweet as when they are poured into a cake, lovingly folded into flour, and swirled with frosting- sweeter still when shared with a friend and a glass of cold iced tea. I hope this week you’re able to write yourself a story, or at least read one over again. I’m sure it will taste just as sweet as the first time you read it.