This is a post I couldn’t imagine I’d be writing when I first came up with the name Project Snowfall. It was sometime mid-2014 and at that point end-of-the-year-2015 seemed like forever away. Also, I wouldn’t have started this blog for almost another full year. The sheer number of things I’d have to learn, refine, and eventually, become proficient in hadn’t really dawned on me at that point. I knew I wanted to do something I’d never even come close to doing before. Like most of the things that I’ve accomplished that started off in the same category …
I jumped in with both feet… plugged my nose …and ended up way over my head, barely treading water (Luckily I had help).
For those of you that know me, this will come as no surprise, but for the rest of you … I have a tendency to get into stuff. Hobbies are never just interests, but rather more like a set of sequential obsessions. I’m never in half-way. It’s either a soul-encompassing-full-tilt-dedication-to-every-detail, or it’s a passing interest I’m never too invested in.
After a little more than a year and a half of effort, the results of my most recent of obsessions was about to be put on display for a group of roughly 200 people.
The plan was simple.
Every year my company puts on a Holiday Party for the 120-ish staff and their guests at a really nice hotel. Every year the MC’s at the party stand up, tell a few jokes or stories, and generally move the party along with your more typical corporate event type fare. This year, Brian and I were going to change that. Rather than kick off the night with some awkward (yet naturally charming) banter between the two of us, we were going to create a short film documenting our preparation for the big night and finally our arrival at the hotel (think Billy Crystal’s entrance videos at the Oscars).
Here’s my memory of how that all went down just a week or so ago….
I’d been pacing back and forth in a too-small hotel room for the past two hours when my co-master-of-ceremonies-and-general-partner-in-crime (Brian McKay) and I looked at each other and knew it was go-time.
We received simultaneous text messages from our company’s head of marketing as well as my wife saying the audience was almost ready for us. The gears were turning and there was no stopping the machine at this point.
There’s no describing the feeling I had as I walked down the hallways of the Hotel Fort Garry, up the stairs to the 7th floor, and then waited in the overly-decorated hallway outside the grand ballroom.
It was a moment I’d planned for over a year and a half ago.
It’s that feeling you get when you realize you’ve put so much of yourself into a piece of work and it is about to be well and truly judged. It becomes less about your work at that point and more about all the pieces of yourself you’ve invested that are actually being evaluated. Sure, we’d run all of our ideas past our families, but were they actually any good? Would this mixed group of colleagues, friends, and strangers have an appreciation for everything that went into making this whole thing possible?
I read an article once that drew a comparison between a software developer’s code and their own intelligence / insight into the workings of their mind. The author was trying to reason out why developers are so hesitant in sharing their code / admitting to flaws / what-have-you. At the time I actually quite enjoyed the article, but now that I have some understanding of the more traditionally artistic side of this equation, opening your code to review / criticism feels trivial by comparison.
If you’ll allow me to wax poetic for just a moment, sharing your art is more like sharing a small part of who you are and not only your mind. It feels deeply personal – or at least it did to me anyway.
It’s a commonly quoted statistic that the number one fear most people have is public speaking (it’s not by the way – apparently that one is closer to #13, who knew?). Yet there I was, about to stand in front of 200 people, on stage, telling a few jokes Brian and I had worked out a couple of days earlier, and I wasn’t even remotely worried about it. The 15 minutes preceding our arrival on stage, however, now that was scary.
Looking through a small section of beveled glass in a pair of french doors, I only had a partially distorted view of the room inside. Two of the executives from our company were on stage welcoming everyone to the holiday party. They spoke for a few minutes, toasted the employees in the room for their hard work throughout the year, and then explained to the crowd there would be a short movie presented before the rest of the night got underway. Not even the two of them knew what Brian and I had in store (they had asked not to review it prior to the party so they could enjoy it at the same time as everyone else #awesome #trust).
The lights in the grand ballroom went down further, the projector I had carefully set up a few hours earlier glowed brightly with the all-too-familiar frame of Windows Media Player taking up most of the screen. The screen blackened … and then sparked back to life with images of myself nervously flipping through a phony set of notes I was pretending to need for the rest of that evening’s festivities.
Below is what Brian and I had worked so hard on over the past 18 months. It was the culmination of days and days of planning, weeks of filming, and literally hundreds of hours of editing (major props to BMac’s proficiency with FCPX).
<< the video was muted by youtube due to copyright infringement – because of the audio tracks we used. I’m looking for an alternate way to share the video without causing a similar issue – stay tuned>>
Let me add here that if I never have to hear the first minute of Uptown Funk ever again it would be too soon (#ISaidHundredsOfHoursOfEdits)
We could hear dull thumping through the doors as the music started up and … the room felt …
Standing in the hallway Brian and I couldn’t hear a thing going on inside the room. For all the feigned nervousness we had scripted into the short film, we were now dealing with the impending reality of having an answer to the question:
What if nobody likes it?
The next 4 minutes are a complete blank in my mind. Rather than pacing around the hotel room, we basically stood on one foot or the other waiting for some kind of positive acknowledgement of our efforts. Finally, the following image came on the screen and we could hear the audience erupt into loud and genuine applause. It was at that moment Brian and I finally released the breath we didn’t realize we were holding.
The mural above was graciously hand-drawn by a super talented co-worker of ours (Arik Petrov) and we are so fortunate to have had his support in the planning and execution of this wacky art piece. As it turns out, it was crucial to the success of the entire montage which culminated in this detailed mural being visible for only a few (extremely important) frames.
#SpoilerAlert (stop reading if you haven’t watched the video)
By the time Brian shows up in the dress we were both feeling pretty confident people were digging what we’d put together and at the very least we didn’t need to be embarrassed when we walked in.
The timing was perfect, the end of the film faded to black … Brian and I strutted confidently up to the doors of the ballroom … turned the handles … and found ourselves … locked out.
Lucky for us the goofy feel the rest of the movie had left the entire room laughing along with us only we didn’t realize how well this “gag” was going over until afterwards. Two of our colleagues tried opening the doors from the inside but they were locked from that direction as well (#firehazzard).
Thinking quickly we darted around to the back doors of the ballroom and were greeted with an amazing response. Roaring applause and a full-on standing ovation left me humbled and positively grinning from ear-to-ear. I was high on that moment for at least the next two days (OK, so maybe I’m still just a bit pumped about it :)).
Being recognized for something great is always a good thing. Being recognized for something you invested an emotional part of yourself towards completing is nothing short of incredible. The non-stop barrage of congratulatory messages, back-patting, and general kudos has been phenomenal, and at the risk of repeating myself, incredibly humbling.
With the big unveiling finally behind me, I’m glad I can consider this whole thing called ProjectSnowfall a huge success, move forward armed with the new skills and knowledge I acquired during the production, and start keeping my eyes open for my next big obsession.