Journey of the Unconventional

It was Thursday, September 15th at 11:00 am – just under a year since I had joined Sub Rosa and the hour of my annual evaluation. We’d been given a series of questions to answer. One being, “where do you see yourself in 3 years?” I knew if I were honest with myself and the ones reading the answers, I would have to take that dreaded, but oh so exhilarating leap into something new, and move on.

On paper, it had been my dream job, but what I’d come to realize (and apparently what my friends have always known) working for someone else wasn’t cutting it. I wanted a community of collaboration, what I got was complete autonomy. Don’t get me wrong the experience was great, but a lot of times knowing what you don’t want is just as important as finding what you do. And so starts a new journey…

I remember being in the office at somewhere close to 2am and realizing there was still a lot of oil to burn. At one point, my boss sent me a message and said, “Mihae, it’s only marketing.” At that moment I found comfort, it had eased the pressure and lifted the burden of performance. It didn’t change the fact that I still spent the night at the office but somehow it felt better. He would repeat the statement during a recap of the project, but the second time around it felt deflating. It made me question the worth of the work. Keep in mind, I’m not anti-advertising nor hate the corporation, I just wanted the work I did to be meaningful beyond someone’s bottom line. And when you work for the end result of profit over losses, you realize a certain degree of futility. You can walk away from it because at the end of our days, it’s really not worth that much.

I’d written a job posting once and it concluded with a line from Confucius, “Find a job that you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” In the days since writing it, I had oscillated between believing it to questioning it to downright denying it, in fact I may still just be on a pendulum swing in one direction, moments away from heading just as powerfully back. But for now, I can say I believe it.

During Steve Job’s commencement speech at Standford (2005) he said, “for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” The speech ends with a statement, or maybe even a call to action, “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”

It has stayed with me and I found myself rereading it just moments before my evaluation. I’d written the quote on a sheet of paper and read it word for word to my boss. He gave a hesitant but warm smile and asked, “what are your plans?” The beauty of that moment was that I didn’t have any.

I’d gone into my evaluation with a quote and I’d come out, perhaps for the first time, knowing that my whole life was ahead of me, that the biggest hurdle was getting over the self-doubt and the nagging “shoulds” that seem to come from everywhere except yourself and I’d jumped over to the other side to find I was feeling delightfully foolish with an appetite to match.


June 8th, 2011. It seems fitting that the discussion began after an Ignite event in the throes of Internet Week. Myself and friends well steeped in the internets found ourselves discussing social media, the need to unplug, as well as its ever encroaching influence…who follows you, what’s your “influence” and how far does that influence reach online  and off…follow the dots and it leads to a little known blog that’s been making its share of headlines amongst sites like the Guardian, CNN, the Washington Post, Fox to name a few, enter the blog “a Gay Gal in Damascus.” And while the background story itself is as sensational as the title given a Syrian location what was most enthralling for those around our little round table was how deep and varied its effects ran – questions of the human heart, those of trust, authenticity, motivations intertwined with those concerns about journalism, social media, lesbian struggles, and women’s rights; each layer adding more color and depth to the others. It had drama, suspense, mystery- a seemingly innocuous love story gone horribly wrong.

It’s the kind of thing movies are made of…

Other related stories:


Delectable Exposures

What could possibly bring together the butchering skills of celebrity chef April Bloomfield and still-life photographer Toby McFarlan Pond…a 300 lb. pig of course.

How am I driving?

Some work in progress…

Stupid is as stupid does

Walk in any subway station in NYC and you’ll see Diesel’s current campaign BE STUPID. And maybe it’s exactly what their creative agency of choice Anomaly banked on, but it had me rooting for stupid too. Maybe it was the multiplatform campaign, which no doubt cost a pretty penny (not to mention an all expense paid  trip across Mongolia by train or if you prefer shark swimming in South Africa) but the campaign struck a chord with me. Mainly, because I’ve recently taken a contract corporate gig, I now know what it means to die a little each day. Yes, I had some doubts from the beginning, but I also had high hopes, believing I could play a pivotal role in a redesign, rethinking how an e-commerce site functioned anew, but what I’ve discovered is something else entirely, something which spoke to the first lines of Diesel’s campaign copy “Like balloons we are all filled with hopes and dreams but over time a single sentence creeps into our live…Don’t be stupid. It’s the crusher of possibility.” And maybe e-commerce isn’t necessarily the place for experimentation and online innovation but it should be.


Tacombi Time

It’s hard to say when it all began or where to pick up the thread of how I came to work with a taco truck from Playa del Carmen and Mexican chef, Aaron Sanchez. I suppose I’d have to go back to those awkward adolescent years.

At 15, I’d gotten my first job, waitressing in a small town seafood restaurant, the beginning of what would become a mainstay profession throughout my education. The job enabled me to save enough money to go on a five month exchange to Madrid, Spain where I happened to pick up a bit of Spanish (though mostly forgotten it came in handy when applying at a Mexican restaurant). In college it paid the bills, and was often a second job through my first career missteps.

After a short stint as a hair transplant technician, I found myself returning to art school at Parsons, and thus went back to the old familiar routine of waitressing and school. At the time, Drew Nieporent was just about to open his latest restaurant with an up and coming new face, Aaron Sanchez.

I’d spend the next 2 years at Centrico while earning my second degree at Parsons. It was in that time that I’d make some really lasting friendships and what would ultimately lead me to a small town in Mexico, sampling the bite size deliciousness of Tacombi.

With a lease finally signed, I’m looking forward to getting to work!

Gettin my hands dirty…

A Producer’s Life: Journey of ‘The Yellow Bittern’

To the average movie-goer the term producer sort of gets lost somewhere between “mover and shaker” and a “show me the money” persona. Few outside the industry have a real grasp for how integral the role is in the making of any film or project for that matter. The finesse, the patience and above all the creative pragmatism carefully mixed with a driven determinism.

Take Anna Rodgers, one of the producers for The Yellow Bittern, a documentary film about the life and times of Liam Clancy. Liam was the youngest member of the group The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem, Ireland’s first pop stars. An appearance by the group on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1961 and their fame was officially cemented, within a year they would sell out Carnegie Hall.

Rodgers spent the last five years working with Clancy on numerous productions from The Legend of Liam Clancy to Liam Clancy and Friends, Live at The Bitter End and the final documentary feature The Yellow Bittern.

From the logistics of shoot coordination, research and footage acquisition to making sure Liam got through New York City’s Gay Pride Parade to his concert across town relatively on time and in one piece – the producer made it happen.

I’m reminded of an article written by Ted Royer, Executive Creative Director for Droga5 NY, entitled “I want to marry a producer.


Left Brain, Right Brain – An Experiment in “Innovation” & the Resume

I’d thought a lot about how to present myself. After all, I’m a designer and my profession is rooted in the fact that good design and thoughtful execution matters. I wanted to reach out to the kinds of people that I wanted to work for and learn from. I also wanted to make an impression. While for the last year I’ve been lucky to have some loyal clients and some really terrific film projects, you cannot escape the fact that we are in a recession, the likes of which have not been seen since the 1920’s. And for every open position who knows how many overly qualified candidates were applying. The Wall Street Journal had even featured a piece about dumbing down the resume.


Please Enjoy…

Surprisingly, I’d known about Ji Lee’s work long before I ever knew about anything about him. In fact, you probably do too. If not walking the streets of Manhattan then perhaps perusing blogs online. His work has that quality that catches attention without screaming at you. I literally went through every page of his website, I don’t think I’ve ever done that. To be quite honest, that fact alone is inspirational. His work is playful but sophisticated, smart but accessible-he excites curiosity, not to mention the man seems to have the right balance between life and work…anyway, in his own words, “please enjoy.”