Hey, sometimes you have to take what you can get.
At some point in our lives, we've all had jobs that are fall somewhere in-between washing dishes and reënacting Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times. Though all work is honorable, no one ever said all work is fun.
Working a telethon? Boring and tedious, yes. Fun? Given the right (or really wrong) person on the other end of the line, perhaps. Peeling labels and carefully placing them on thousands of bottles of shampoo because someone forgot to print the instructions in Italian? Never fun. Add in a soundtrack controlled by a robotic DJ convinced that unreleased Eagles B-sides really need to be heard at least 10 times a day to catch the undercurrent, you know man?, and you have yourself an amazing recipe for Really Not Fun.
At the end of the day, though, somebody has to be "INSPECTOR #20", right?
My favorite time of the year is moving. Really. It makes me feel like a Boy Scout: I leave places better than I found them...
...as long as the people moving–in after me are big fans of late, high brutalism and eight–foot–tall Play-Doh statues of Admiral Nelson.
That was a joke—unless your name is Mike Riley. And then I'm sorry.
In all seriousness, If you've got an idea, I'd love to fabricate it for you. Acrylic concept table? Let's bust out the pencil and paper. Molded-plywood orator's plinth? Okay, sure. A bust of yourself made out of only blue M&M's for your mantle? Well, we can talk about it. I like to build for you, but I love to build with you.
Well, kinda. A friend asked me if I needed a job. Because I was in-between clients, I said, "YES." He asked if I had ever played Baccarat. Because I'm a normal person, I said, "NO." Despite this small flaw in my resume, his company took me on as an ' ***** Baccarat Tester' [note: due to a pretty hefty NDA, I'll leave my redacted employment position at that]. A couple weeks later, I'd run through a few hundred hands and thought, hey i'm getting pretty good! and naturally decided to enter myself into a tournament.
Disappointingly, I left hat-in-hand in under 15 minutes. In a tournament with just one other person. Who was on the phone the whole time. And checking his email. And also playing Tetris on an iPad.
The next person to take me to the cleaners' was another employee's 8 year-old daughter.
Moral of the story: leave chance to the professionals and just stick to what you know.
If not for the fact that everyone in New York City is so blasé about everything, I'd say that I have a pretty choice car—when she works. It's a relationship that has acquainted me well with Small Town America: you name the town, I've broken down there.
So when a friend gave me an assignment for his magazine to drive somewhere and pick something up, I jumped at the chance. When he informed me that the job consisted of spending a couple weeks driving cross-country, picking up some illicit goods in the Golden State and bringing 'em back to Brooklyn, I thought to myself: what's a month-or-two extra on the road between friends? Though Authorities may have been fooled by my front-end trunk, the ruse was a bit spoiled by the, um, 'opening-the-engine-compartment-and-screaming-WHY-GOD-WHY' dance that I performed every 250 miles. Whoops.
Got a lot of piled-up sick-leave and need a ride? Hop in.
Design is reaction and innovation.
Every time we open our eyes, we inhale pictures, words, fonts, shapes, forms, textures—everything. Every product, page-flip and screenshot can be broken down to its atomic parts and reassembled into a completely new product with a different feel, a different legibility and different functionality.
With a publication—in print or on the web—the synthesis of pure text and pure image can be dialed in with exactitude; the flow can be made tighter, looser, cleaner, busier, prettier, uglier, friendlier and more obtuse with with but a click of a mouse or the subtle jiggle of the squeegee. Banner/flyer/pamphlet, inkjet/stamped/screenprinted? I love it. Mix-and-match? Even better.
If you've got a direction, let's talk concept and talk turkey.
Some people have it all, am I right? Some amazing friends of mine have—more or less—an entire hamlet to themselves (serves them right: they never split their infinitives). Every year they have a huge outdoor art and music festival. It's amazing. Dozens of bands, babbling brooks, 19th century industrial edifices and agricultural temples, hundreds of pieces of art, swimming holes, sunshine, handsome people, the works. What better way to spend a weekend in the most bucolic nook of the world than wrangling talent, fixing cables and hauling gear? Nothing says fun like having legions of talented musicians go Jimmy Hoffa on you at the last minute. But then again, "what's the point of being in a band if you can't be late?"
If you need wrangling, I can wrangle with the best of them–and still do the live sound.
Beat that, John Wayne.
My very first job in New York was hands-down the best I've ever had—and the most challenging. After doing a good deal of cinematic sound design in college, I landed a job as an audio mixer and tech at a small outfit in TriBeCa. After spending 4 years manning the boom, punching-in foleys and engineering the Doppler Effect, I thought that leveling and compressing a few channels for independent movies would be no sweat. Had I known that it would be more Hindi and less Indy, I might have been a bit more circumspect. Yes, it was mix'n'master, but no one told me that the projects would be in every conceivable language but English—and if it was in English, where in the hell do they speak like that? How the hell do you give an actor bandwidth preference when the shot is through a mail-slit and you can't distinguish between the dialogue and the walla track—or is that another actor speaking in tongues? The answer, plain and simple is that you get real good real quick or you get out even faster.
Or you guess a lot.
Fun fact: people who speak German scream really, really loudly.
Some gigs are a real two-fer. In-between my job of sitting in a back room and labeling bottles until the End-of-Days relieved me, I unloaded boxes off of pallets, packed them onto a cart, took the cart upstairs and unloaded the boxes onto shelves. At the end of the day, I helped the Shipping Manager (all-time top-five co-worker, BTW) un-box the previously-shelved boxes' contents and re-box them into boxes to be shipped out. Boxes, boxes, boxes! Although I began to suffer from the side-effect of sizing-up and mentally boxing everything I saw outside of work (and coveting the U-Line catalog's pallet-mover and tape-gun offerings), this job was amazing. Sure, I went to some fancy-pants Ivy League school and knew a whole lot about 'super-diagetic interjections in the canon of Haneke' (boo!), but when did I ever get to use the Practical Spatialization part of my brain (yay!)?
Imagine a never-ending series of permutations drawn from 45 distinct shapes, each with its own volume, special packaging concerns, accessories and item counts. Now take these item(s) and figure out the best way to fit them into ten different three-dimensional hexahedrons. And do it on the clock. Seriously fun. Throw in a Bauhaus soundtrack and you have yourself a winner of a job. Just don't ask me to help you move, ok?
Cinema is a synthetic art, an amalgam of every other medium bound and bundled by the incessant march of the clock. Big-budget movies are created by (as I'm guessing you've noticed at some point) a whole lot of people working really hard on completely different things with (hopefully) a singular mood and feel. It's the opera of our day. Actors! Gaffers! Set designers! Scouts! Craft services! Titlers! It's a mercenary crew with one mission: get this baby out the door.
So why in the hell would anyone try to make a whole movie with 40 year-old technology? Because that's the right way to do it. Shooting sync sound on 16mm film with West German steel behemoths, developing in a bathtub with 70 year-old Russian Bakelite tanks, editing on a Steenbeck, titling and VFX on an optical printer...
...that's just the right way to do it. No room for mistakes, no one to blame when something goes wrong, nothing and no one holding you back from getting where you want to go. Just don't expect to have any free time. Got some questions about film or need a hand? Shoot me an email. Those reels aren't going to spin themselves.
An easy way to spot a freshly-minted art or literature BA falling on hard times is to check his or her closet: if you see a single pair of black shoes, a single pair of slacks and a row of ill-fitting black shirts, you've caught your mark. A decent smile, a thick stack of ten-dollar words and a distinct scent of coffee and cigarettes? Nail on the head. A bit smug about the hour d'oeurves and a bit aloof even when taking your dishes? Congratulations, you've just won a toaster oven.
Don't get me wrong, the pay is commensurate with the task and any gig whatsoever when you're in a bind is nothing to sneeze at—nor are the elbow-rubbing opportunities, free food or camaraderie. And hey, everyone needs a humbling experience from time to time, even if it means being taken to task for putting the grapefruit spoon too far from the salad fork.
Just don't tell my folks that two Ferrari's worth of education merely qualifies me to park them, okay?
Alright, I'll totally cop to it: I'm a total music fiend. I've got a band, a solo project and way too many weird albums hanging on the shelf to be anywhere near normal. I can already see it now: Daddy, who is John Wiesse and why do you have 12 LP's that sound like a broken television?
Though I love the process of making music and listening to other peoples jams, I consider these practices mainly private obsessions—unless of course you live above or below me, in which case I apologize for emitting what sounds like an overloaded washing machine being flayed by a 15th-century Norse explorer.
What really gives me pleasure, however, is taking someone else's distinct sound and vision and honing it into a product that everyone can appreciate—or better yet, get down to. Studio engineering, amp-tweaking, knob-fiddling, tube-compressing, Mix'n'Mastering, going gold, the whole shebang. I dig it. Need someone to hold your hand through the ProTools labyrinth? Not sure why you don't sound like Daft Punk covering Boredoms opuses? Drop me a line.
I've always hated the maxim 'Those who cannot do, teach'. It's total BS. Though that may be true for Little League and, at least in my experience, touch-typing (and just who appointed you Queen of the Keys, Mavis Beacon?), I have nothing but respect for the work of my current and former educators. Teachers work their butts off, taking complex systems and breaking them down into discrete, cumulative chunks for their pupils to grab onto and empower themselves with. A good teacher reveals the beauty and meaning of abstract concepts and how they interact with, explain or cut a new facet on the world-at-large.
I've tried to do merely justice to this ideal in every teaching environment I've been a part of, be it as teacher or student. I relish every oportunity to share what I've got kicking around upstairs with anyone who is willing to learn. ProTools, Final Cut, HTML, bike maintenance, woodworking, animation, flatbed or digital editing, photographic developing, plumbing, carburetor rebuilding, refinishing, live-audio engineering, dicing a tomato, whatever. In a classroom or in a home, I love to teach people what they want, when they want it—and at the right pace and with the right tools to make it stick.
Maybe you can teach me a thing or two, too. Like how magnets work. j/k.
In college I was on-and-off the staff of the weekly rag. It taught me two things: one, don't turn in copy an hour before prepress if you expect your editors not to hate your guts, and two, don't live with your best friends if they are also your editors. Again, apologies fellas.
Since then, however, I've come to love the process of putting the whole damn thing together: articles, layout, images, pull-quotes, colophons, late-night pizza and all. The nice thing about Doing It Yourself is that there one to tell you, no, you can't have a ten-page pull-out in the middle of the issue printed on acetate and that looks like a brontosaurus when folded out. The not so nice thing is when you mess up and everyone finds out that you didn't proof properly. For example: striped and stripped have very different implications when used in an article about one's mother.
Sorry 'bout that one, mom.
At this point (if you've started at the top), you're probably saying to yourself, how many menial jobs can this guy have had? The correct answer is: sheesh! Get off my back! It's a rough job market out there, okay?
This is a bit embarrassing and probably a bit of over-sharing (thnx, internet generation), but I totally responded to at least a dozen Craigslist postings for nude housekeepers. I thought, what the hell? At the very least I could write an article about it—and worst-case scenario, I get paid to do a bit of what I usually do, just in the buff.
...Or get eaten by a Naturalist cannibal couple who live on the Upper West Side. Whatever.
Unfortunately, I didn't get a callback for any of the openings (even with my Luke Perry headshot!). Instead, I just obsessively cleaned the bathroom of the friend who let me sleep on his couch. Though probably good practice for my potential career, showing up to legitimate interviews smelling like bleach and PineSol probably wasn't the best way to introduce myself to the Working World. Live and learn, I suppose.
My name is Michael Hernandez-Stern and I live in Brooklyn. I was born in Los Angeles and I'm an Aries.
I made this little website to give you a bit of an idea of what I'm all about: I program, I build, I write, I design, I make movies and I make art. Unfortunately, I don't get to do all of these things all the time, so I've had to do some other things too.
If you've got questions, are looking for a resumé/reel/catalog or just want to rap about, say, our current position on the technological curve as we approach the Uncanny Valley, feel free to zip me an email.
This site is always under construction (wish I had a .gif for that) so check back every once in a while.