Treading Water

Photo by Oliver Sjöström from Pexels

For the last couple of posts, I’ve talked about trying to carve out time to focus on some major goals. One of those goals — which seems particularly valuable while we continue to shelter in place — is to accomplish a deep clean, organization and purge of our apartment. 

I set upon tackling this goal by doing what I would do with any project — I created my to-do list of tasks and milestones that would get me to my ultimate goal. For this residential endeavor, it meant going room by room and breaking down the work into small, manageable chores.

Vacuum the rug. Dust the TV stand. Scrub the shower. Mop the kitchen floors.

From here, it’s as simple as going through the to-do list and checking off my tasks, right?

With any work project, that’s what I would do. But here’s the thing with a project like this: I check off an item, but before I can make it through the entire list, I’ll have to go back and do that task again.

This is an apartment that is lived in and used after all. Even more so now. I can’t just vacuum the rug once and be done with it forever. I vacuum the rug, do some other tasks, vacuum the rug again, do some other tasks again while also trying to find time to tackle some new to-dos.

It’s an interesting cycle. It’s not as simple as moving through a to-do list one by one — greeting a task, working on it and then bidding it adieu to meet a new task. Instead, I find myself undertaking item after item, only to then add them to a growing list of maintenance tasks; all while trying to still take on new to-dos with my shrinking availability.

And this seems like a perfect analogy for my whole life right now. I feel like I have a long list of things I want to explore and try, but a roster of commitments to maintain that leave me with less and less time to take on new projects.

Treading water gets you nowhere. And treading water too long leaves you little energy to swim forward and reach the shore.

So, that’s how I’m feeling at the moment. I don’t know if I have the answer on how to fix it. For now, I just have to try to keep the shore in my sights and my head above water.



Last week, feeling overwhelmingly busy yet underwhelming productive, I tasked myself with taking a step back; reflecting on my priorities; and carving out more time to work on some major goals.

Confirming my goals

As part of this re-prioritization exercise, I wanted to revisit my top goals to confirm these were still the areas I wanted to work on. After all, was there a reason I had not devoted much energy to any of them?

My original goals were:

  • Get my home clean and organized
  • Lose weight and get in shape
  • Generate income from acting
  • Generate income from podcasting

I ultimately decided to change that last goal to: Generate income from content creation. I will likely focus on YouTube, blogging and Instagram as my outlets for this new goal rather than podcasting.

SMART criteria

As I shift more of my focus to these big goals, I want to put them through the SMART test. According to Wikipedia, SMART is an acronym, “giving criteria to guide in the setting of objectives”. It stands for:

  • Specific: goals are well-defined & focused.
  • Measurable: you are able to provide evidence of progress.
  • Attainable: you can reasonably accomplish the goal.
  • Relevant: goals align with your values and long-term objectives.
  • Time-bound: goals have a realistic, yet ambitious, deadline.

Specific & Measure

These two criteria often go hand-in-hand. The process of narrowing your goal and outlining the specifics often involves putting numbers around what you want to achieve. 

These criteria were easiest to apply to my weight loss goal — I simply identified a target weight I want to achieve.

For my home goal, I specified that I want to be able to walk into every room where all the surfaces are clean (dusted, swept, vacuumed, etc.), every item has its own place, and each object is wanted or needed (though, it doesn’t necessarily need to spark joy!).

Now, my two career-based goals were a little harder to define. What exactly do I mean by “generate income”? 

Technically, I already have and regularly do make money from acting … albeit not that much. So what is different and/or new that I want to accomplish in this arena? Well, let’s say I want to make at least minimum wage from the gig (sadly, none of my theater gigs come anywhere close to this). I have gotten gigs here and there that meet that criteria, so I don’t think securing one gig is enough to feel like I’ve accomplished this goal. Instead, I’ve set a goal of doing at least 10 acting gigs where the stipend/rate/pay compared to the hours that go into it equal at least minimum wage. I figure by the time I achieve 10 gigs, I will have a lot of learnings that will allow me to set my next goal in this area.

As for generating income from content creation, I’ve never done that before. So, I feel like my goal can be a little smaller (though no less hard to achieve since I’m just a beginner in this area). I will consider this goal achieved when I have made any ad revenue or secured at least one sponsorship.


My weight loss and home organization goals are definitely attainable … because I’ve achieved them before.

The career-based goals are a little less certain. Both are areas where a lot is out of my control. No matter how well I do at an audition, at the end of the day, I just might not be what the director is looking for. I can launch a YouTube channel/blog/etc but there’s no guarantee that people will watch/read/etc.

I do think the acting and content creation goals are ultimately attainable, but it’s hard to know what time-frame to set.


As these are all personal goals, it’s pretty clear they are relevant. But in general, this is a good criterion to ensure that you are pursuing goals that really matter to you and not because you feel like others expect them of you or because your peers are working toward similar goals.


This is the area I’m still working on for all of my goals. I think before I can set a clear end date for each goal, I need to outline the milestones and tasks that will lead up to my ultimate goals. Once I do that I can more easily put timelines around everything and set target dates. I think my career-based goals will have longer time-frames than my other two goals.


Support the Black Community

I am pausing my blog series on starting a YouTube channel because there’s something more important to talk about right now.

The deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd have sparked outrage and protests across the country … and the world. 

The sad thing: we all know this isn’t new, and they aren’t the only ones. Why the hell is this still happening?


Inaction from our leaders. And for a lot of us, inaction from ourselves.

So, let’s act. I’ve compiled some of the resources that have been circulating social media. This work is not my own; I’ve merely put them together. This is by no means an exhaustive list. If you have come across more, please post in the comments.

Take immediate action

Demand Justice & Change




Consolidated Resources

Reading Lists

Be an Ally

Support Black Businesses

Make it a Long-term Mission

After the media coverage and protests have died down, it will be easy to fall back into inaction. But if history has taught us anything, this is a long-term fight, and we need to keep the momentum going.

We won’t necessarily always do or say the right thing. This is a time for learning, re-educating and listening with humility.

Content Creator, Uncategorized, Video Producer

Starting a YouTube Channel, Part 4: Working in the YouTube Platform

In this blog series on starting a YouTube channel, I’ve reviewed:

In this week’s post, I’ll go over the process of creating a YouTube account, setting up the channel and working within the YouTube Studio to upload videos and get them ready to publish.

Creating a YouTube account

Creating a YouTube account is relatively simple; you just need to enter some basic contacts information and a name for your channel.

However, choosing your channel’s name is where you need to do some early thinking about the branding for your channel. Ideally, you’ll want a name that gives viewers a sense of what your channel is about.

For me, I knew that the core videos (at least at first) would focus on Hawaiian grammar lessons. So, I initially considered straightforward names like:

  • Learn Hawaiian
  • Hawaiian Language

However, I wanted room to expand the scope of my channel to cover Hawaiian culture, history, art, music etc. as well as my own personal connections and stories. So, I didn’t want a name that limited my channel to just language-focused videos.

I also thought about how learning the Hawaiian language was really a personal quest for me to connect more with my culture. So, I brainstormed names like:

  • My Hawaiian Journey
  • Discovering Hawai’i

But I thought, these names could easily be mistaken for travel-related channels.

I ultimately settled on Ke Aloha no Hawai‘i, which means “love for Hawai‘i”. For me, this phrase really covered the scope of what my videos might feature and described my motivations behind learning the language. Also, for people who don’t understand enough of the language yet to know the translation, they would still easily recognize the words “Aloha” and “Hawai‘i”.

Setting up the channel

The biggest things you want to focus on when first setting up your YouTube channel is:

  • Channel icon (profile picture): shows up not only on your channel page but is also the icon that shows up next to any comments you make.
  • Channel art (page banner): the first thing visitors see when they visit your channel.
  • Channel description (About section): allows you to tell visitors and potential subscribers what to expect from your YouTube channel.

I kept the artwork simple with clear branding for my channel name. I looked up the size specifications and other recommendations that would allow the artwork to look good on both desktop and mobile.

Other parts of the channel set-up that are good to think about, especially once you have videos uploaded:

  • Featured content: Toward the top of your channel’s page, you can feature a video or playlist and differentiate the content for new visitors vs. returning subscribers. For new visitors, YouTube recommends a channel trailer; I have not yet made one, so I feature my first grammar lesson. For returning subscribers, I feature my latest video.
  • Sections: As people scroll down the home tab of your channel, they can see featured collections of videos. I created sections for my various playlists: Learn Hawaiian, Hawaiian Grammar, and Vlogs.
  • Playlists: It’s a good idea to organize your videos into playlists, especially once you have a lot of uploads. There is a whole tab section on your channel for playlists. This will help visitors to your page find the content that is most relevant to their interests.

Uploading and Publishing Videos

Videos are uploaded and published through the YouTube Studio. Be prepared to wait a while for videos to upload. My grammar lesson videos are about 10-12 minutes and anywhere from 1-2 GB, and their upload times in YouTube Studio can be about 30-45 minutes.

Title & Description

Videos need a title and description, and this is where you want to be strategic about SEO. Use keywords that your intended audience would likely use in their search. Make the beginning of your description clear and to the point. You can also include relevant links.

For the descriptions of my grammar videos, I start with a brief summary of the lesson. Under that, I include links to the earlier grammar lessons. After that, I include links to other Hawaiian language learning resources. And then I include links to the Ke Aloha no Hawai‘i social media pages.

Cards & End Screens

You can link to other videos or playlists from your channel, throughout your video (cards) and at the end (end screen).

If I reference a past lesson, I include a card that pops up during that part of the video and links to the past video I mentioned.

And for my end screen (clickable overlays that can appear at the end of your video for up to 20 seconds), I feature a subscribe button and my Hawaiian Grammar playlist.


I publish new Hawaiian grammar videos every Monday. I try to get everything uploaded and set up on Sunday. Then, I just schedule my videos to publish the next morning. That way, even my East Coast subscribers can find a new video first thing in the morning.

And that’s it! Next week, I’ll go over engaging with your community and promoting your channel.

Reflections, Uncategorized

Starting My Search

Well, after weeks of looking at jobs and ruminating on what I’d want to pursue, I finally broke the ice and applied to a couple of full-time jobs. I realized I had been paralyzed by the uncertainty of which path I’d most enjoy. But then I reminded myself that just because I apply for a job doesn’t mean I ultimately have to take it. 

So, I’ve decided to cast my net wide and apply to any job that interests me — whether it be in my previous field or something new. And it’s been fascinating to reflect on the roles I’ve gravitated towards.

Finding something new in my old field

When it comes to opportunities related to my previous marketing career, I’m not pursuing the exact same type roles I was in before; I’m still set on that work not being the right fit for me at this time. But I have found myself drawn to more communications-focused roles. In particular, I seem interested in:

  • Creative writing: In my last job at Facebook, I had to do a lot of writing; however, it was business and technical writing, which I found pretty boring. In searching for new opportunities, I have been interested in roles that revolve around more creative writing  — whether that be writing social media copy for a fun brand with an interesting voice or creating scripts and storylines for mobile games.
  • Creative operations: I enjoy finding order in things. I enjoy creating plans and seeing them through. I actually have a lot of project management experience through my previous jobs, and it was always so satisfying checking off that to-do list and seeing everything fall into place. Even now, a lot of my work as a podcast producer involves organizing the team and managing logistics. So, I have found myself drawn toward roles that revolve around managing creative operations; in fact, one of the roles I applied to this past week centered around managing the logistics of the company social media channels.
  • In-person communication: When I worked at the advertising agency, my favorite parts of my job were presenting at conferences and having in-person meetings with clients. I have been interested in communications roles that center around these types of face-to-face communications — preparing presentations for events and prepping speakers. While in-person events are obviously not happening at the moment, a lot of these are at least translating to virtual events.

Pursuing new fields

I also plan to explore opportunities in new industries; I mean, that’s been the focus on my whole sabbatical. But it’s been revelatory to see what types of roles and fields I am actually motivated enough to go through the effort of preparing applications for:

  • Podcasting: I have mentioned time and time again in this blog that podcasting has been a surprising new interest for me. It was not something I set out to pursue at the beginning of my sabbatical, but it’s been one of the most rewarding experiences during this exploration and one that has probably helped me grow the most. I find that I really appreciate the medium and see such potential in the artform. In fact, I find it such an interesting space that I’m willing to start from the ground up just to get my foot in the door. Indeed, one of the other roles I applied to this past week was an entry level position, doing work I’m over-qualified for, but in the podcasting space.
  • Livestreaming: I had already been interested in livestreaming as a medium but this ‘shelter-in-place’ situation has magnified just how powerful livestreaming can be to engage and connect people. We did a livestream event for the podcast, and I really enjoyed it. There is a role for a livestream producer — helping pitch, plan and moderate livestream events — that I plan on applying to.

Reflections and Next Steps

I see certain patterns and shared elements across the roles that I’m interested in, both in my previous field and new industries:

  • Creative content
  • Production and project management
  • Engaging audiences

Being able to surface these factors will help me in my job search, as I can search for opportunities (regardless of industry) that center around these duties.

The process will be slow — it’s been a while since I’ve applied for jobs, and my resumes need a lot of updating. But I’m trying not to pressure myself; it’s ok if I just apply to one or two jobs a week. I want to take my time, being thoughtful and deliberate. Slow and steady wins the race.


What’s Your Story?

My friend Vera recently gifted me “Becoming: A Guided Journal for Discovering Your Voice”, which is a companion piece to Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming. The journal includes many prompts that really push you to do some self-reflection.

Well, I cracked open the journal and immediately found myself stuck at the first prompt:

What’s your story and how have you learned to embrace it?

My mind raced. What is my story? How — or when — would I start? How would it end? Is there even an ending yet? I feel like I’m still in the middle of my story and the ending is still very much a mystery to me. Hell, I don’t even know what to expect from the next chapter!

It’s an interesting question because it made me realize that we really get to write our own story. And I’m not talking about the future and making choices that affect our journey. I’m talking about looking back at the whole of our life and weaving together the bits that we choose in order to create the tale of us.

Our story is not a complete documentation of our life. Our story is a curated history. We choose what to tell and what not to tell.

Do I only tell the good parts? Well, if you’ve read my blog, you know I wouldn’t do that. But what do I focus on? Is there a main theme? How long is this story?

I’m still not sure how I’ll answer this prompt. I’m sure there will be many drafts. But my goal is to reflect on it this week and try to get something down on paper.

So stayed tuned. Maybe I’ll have a tale for you next week.


A Blog Post … About Blogging

“Wait, is it Friday already? I need to write a blog post!”

This is not an uncommon thought for me, especially lately. My schedule’s gotten pretty busy, and each week seems to fly by. Before I know it, Friday sneaks up on me, and like a deer in the headlights, I stare wide-eyed at my computer screen, thinking: “What the hell am I going to write about?!”

So, we’re going to get pretty meta this week, folks. Today, I’m blogging about … well, blogging.

Thoughts on Blogging

The timing is actually perfect for this reflection. I just renewed my domain name for this blog, which means that it’s been almost a year since I’ve started it! 

And I do consider creating and maintaining this blog one of my biggest accomplishments during this sabbatical. Sure, my primary purpose for the blog was to keep my family and friends updated on my journey, as well as hold me accountable to actually follow through on my career exploration plans. 

But, as I wrote about in one of my previous posts, blogging in and of itself has also been one of those many creative pursuits that I always meant to start for years but never did. So, even though I have weeks where I have major writer’s block, and despite the fact that I eventually had to scale back on the frequency of my posts, I’m still really proud that I’ve stuck with this.

And most importantly, I’m not burned out on the project. I think the key has been allowing the blog to be whatever I wanted it to be and not what I thought my audience (hey, that’s you!) expected it to be. That means I’ve been able to talk about taking coding classes one week and organizing my apartment the next.

So, What Do I Write About?!

Ok, I will admit that my approach to writing this blog would never fly if I was, say, a content manager at a big company. A professional blogger would likely have a long list of content ideas and a content calendar scheduled weeks or months in advance.

But I haven’t seen that blogging paycheck come through yet, so I’m just going to do this my own way! (she shouted defiantly into the void of her living room, shaking her fist to the heavens as her cats looked on with disinterest)

Ok, so here’s my typical, completely unprofessional (but remember, unpaid) process for getting together each week’s blog post:

1. Start with planned posts

Every now and then, I actually do have a planned topic for the week! In these cases, I’ve been thinking about the topic throughout the week and may have even started drafting the post days before. For example, I’m coming up on the one-year mark of my sabbatical, and (SPOILER ALERT) I plan on having a whole series of posts with an update on my career exploration and my plans for the future. I’ll probably start sketching out my ideas and even drafting some of the copy a week or two in advance.

2. Look at major developments

Have I tried something or am I about to embark on something completely new related to my career exploration? Did I wrap up a big project in relation to my sabbatical? Did I have a major revelation about one of the careers on my list? This obviously makes for good fodder for my blog posts. However, lately, because my exploration has been a bit more drawn out and slow, I haven’t had as many of these types of content ideas.

3. Review past blogs

I almost always look back at what I’ve written about in previous weeks. Sometimes, this reveals some hole or opportunity for topics. Other times, I’ll have an idea for a blog post, only to realize that I’ve already written something similar. But usually that allows me to morph the original idea and have some fresh take on the topic.

4. Reflect on my feelings

Yeah, we’re getting pretty hippie-dippie with this one. But some of my favorite blog posts (not to mention the easiest to write and ones that I feel are most true to my voice) have been the ones where I am talking about my emotions at the time. I think back about my very first blog post where I explained the drain that was taxing me or my blog post on loneliness where I expressed the utter isolation I was suffering through at the time. Sure, I was being raw and vulnerable, which can be scary. But it was also a very cathartic and therapeutic exercise.

5. Look for outside inspiration

When all else fails, I’ll scour the internet for ideas. Inspiring TED Talks on finding what you’re passionate about. Tips on changing careers. Exercises on finding the right path for you. Examples of people who have taken a similar sabbatical. It’s sometimes nice to bring in an outside perspective.

6. Be OK with a short post

Like I said earlier, the key to maintaining this blog and not burning out on it has been refusing to box it in or put too many parameters around it. That means some weeks, when I really don’t have the mental or emotional energy to draft something long and thoughtful, I’ll at least write something short, just to get something out. So whether it be a week of major personal drama when the best I could do was share a poem that had helped me get through it or the week I returned from my babymoon, exhausted, and just shared a TED Talk video, I was satisfied that I at least got something published.

And just like that, a blog post is born!


Back to Work

Earlier this month, I wrote about pursuing part-time work and applying to a couple of positions. I found that I was a little bored not working, despite taking interior design classes, working on the podcast and this blog, and preparing for the baby. But in taking on a part-time job, I was determined that the work would still contribute to the career exploration that has guided this sabbatical.

Well, I am happy to announce that this week, I started as a Design Assistant for Susie Novak Interiors.

Nursery design by Susie Novak Interiors, www.susienovakinteriors.com

From her website:

Trained as an artist, Susie believes herself to be one at heart. She worked in the art world in both New York City and San Francisco before transitioning into interior design. After receiving her Certificate from the interior design and architecture program at UC Berkeley and executing a major home construction project she began Susie Novak Interiors.

In this position, I’ll have the opportunity to learn and get hands-on experience with the entire design process, as well as gain a better understanding of what it takes to run your own interior design business.

The full scope of work is still to be defined, which means this is a great opportunity to mold the role myself. I was very up-front during my interview that I do hope for this job to serve as a learning opportunity.

Likely duties will includes:

  • Sourcing and gathering options for furniture, fixtures, accessories, etc.
  • Trips to the SF Design Center to check out or return samples
  • Drafting floor plans and elevations 
  • Preparing visuals for client presentations
  • Figuring out the best way to organize client files and photos
  • Weighing in on proposed design solutions

Not only will this allow me become even more familiar with the interior design world, but it will also give me better insights into the day-to-day of an interior designer (particularly, an independent designer) and help me decide if this is the path for me.

Look out for more updates on this job!


Friday Inspiration: Ryan Lee Short

When I was considering quitting my job to explore and pursue a more fulfilling career path, I already had a lot of inspiration from others who had embarked on similar quests.

And one of those people is my very own husband, Ryan Lee Short.

Photo credit: Our Love is Loud http://www.ourloveisloud.com/

Ryan currently works as a scenic carpenter and set builder for Bay Area Children’s Theatre, but he started out in a very different field. I sat down and talked to him about his journey:

Laura: Let’s start from the beginning. Thinking about when you were growing up, did you have a sense of what you “wanted to be when you grew up” or what you wanted to do for work?

Ryan: After wanting to be a firefighter or the second baseman for the Oakland A’s as a kid, I kind of lost the focus in that regard. I never really had a … you know, this is what I’m going to be when I grow up. And then as I did grow up, it was never a desire based on something passionate — it was always just like I’m going to go to a fancy school and be an engineer to make some money. I never really had an end goal.

L: And I know you had an unconventional college journey. Take me through that.

R: I spent three years at Cornell University, trying to be an engineer. The major I tried to start was called engineering physics, which was more of a theoretical thing. The pitch for that major was — you are going to be generally specialized in all of the fields. Honestly, I didn’t have a clear idea of what I was going to do with that, I just knew I was going to make a lot of money doing it.

L: But outside of your studies, you had this major extracurricular which was working with the Concert Commission.

R: Yes, I started as a stage crew hand and the top of that stage crew was crew heads, and then eventually I ended up the Production Director, which was day of show operations — the head of the show. That was managing a crew of 200.

L: And these were major artists.

R: Yeah, I hugged BB King during that job. We did the Indigo Girls and Dave Matthews and Black Eyed Peas. 

L: And you really liked doing that work.

R: I really did. It was my first foray into working in live entertainment, which I still do to this day. But I liked it a little too much. It kind of took away from the focus of my studies. So, after three years at Cornell, I was politely asked to leave.

So, I came back to the Bay Area and was basically attempting to do some GPA repair and get myself to transfer to — at the time is was SF State — to finish out a Bachelors in Business Administration or something generic that I could work at a bank or something, just doing boring office work.

And ultimately, you transferred to and graduated from Chico State. What was your degree?

R: I have a Bachelor of Arts in Music Industry and Technology. My option was in recording arts. So I am technically a degreed studio engineer.

And when you chose that major, did you have any inkling of careers you might want to do with it?

R: I chose it because I had already been doing a bunch of sound stuff, but it had been kind of unfocused and all over the place.

I knew I could get through that degree in a small amount of time — or at least a small amount of effort — and if I had not burned the bridges that I burned, I could have taken advantage of some of the placement opportunities that they had. That might have gotten me down a different path.

L: looking back, are there certain reasons why you didn’t take advantage of those connections and opportunities?

R: I burned out. I was so tired of being in school.

L: So, you were just trying to finish a degree because it’s what everyone expects people to do.

R: Yep.

L: What did you do after you graduated?

R: I went back home and after a little while of not really trying to find a job, I went back to the daycare where I had started working at 16. It is a before- and after-school program at an elementary school. My mom runs it and has run it for close to 30 years now. It was familiar. It was something I think I was genuinely good at. But it was just easy and familiar to fall back into that.

It was good enough. I was happy enough just getting by without putting any effort in or challenging myself in any way or really striving for more because I just didn’t feel like it was worth it.

L: But while you were working at the daycare, you started doing side gigs.

R: Yes. So a podcast I listened to, the host had said he had written a play and they were producing it in Alameda and they need tech people. And I was like, I know how to do sound. I don’t know shit about theater, but I know how to run mics and I know how to run a soundboard. And so I reached out to this director and got involved — this was October of 2007, so this was pretty soon after I graduated. And I was signed on to be the assistant sound designer to kind of learn the ropes.

But the main sound designer quickly dropped out, and Bob, the director, asked me, “Do you feel comfortable taking this on yourself?” And I said to him, “Do you feel comfortable with me taking this on myself because I can make this happen, but you know I don’t know how to do it.” So I became the sound designer. 

I had a lot of fun. They were theater people. It felt like I had been welcomed into a family. So, I did a few more shows with them. And through outside directors and technical directors, I ended up getting work elsewhere, and learning how to properly [sound] design a show — and really just learning how theater production works more in general. And eventually, I ended up as a resident artist at a few places. 

L: And so at the height of that, when you still had a full-time job at the daycare while doing these side gigs in sound design and/or engineering, how many shows did you do a year?

R: I never properly counted, but I would say at the peak, I was doing at least 10 shows a year. Sometimes that was just designing, and sometimes that would be running musicals … or, for instance, running free Shakespear in the park for 13 weeks.

I would never have more than a month in between jobs.

Ryan in his off-off-broadway debut, where one of the shows he designed sound for transferred to New York.

L: So, you recognized that this arena was something you were passionate about.

R: Yes, so, when I started working at Sketchfest, for instance — a comedy festival — it was exciting again in a way that I hadn’t felt about my work since doing those concerts back in Cornell. Having a ton of responsibility and a lot of balls in the air but then being able to do it and coming out the other end having done a good job.

L: And then you quit your full time job at the daycare back in 2016.

R: Yea, I had worked there off and on for 20 years, but it had been about 9 years full-time at that place.

L: And talk a little bit about what it was like switching industries. What was that journey like?

R: It was tough. I was really bad about pursuing new opportunities because I think I had gotten used to taking whatever was thrown at me. So, it felt like I was busy, but it turns out I wasn’t always taking the smart things — you know, considering my own time to be worth a certain amount of money. 

I was doing tech at a drag bar, which was really fun but it didn’t pay enough to pay the bills. I tried to pile on sound design gigs, but those stipends didn’t really cut it. And then, eventually — I would say this was early 2017 — I started working for Bay Area Children’s Theatre (BACT) as an overhire, just moving sets around.

I showed a pretty quick aptitude for that, which got me more work with them. They needed some production design for a new performance space. And then they sent me to the shop to put together little things for sets. I had no real experience in carpentry or using tools.

But eventually I learned and became a full time scenic carpenter and set building with them, almost two years ago.

Ryan’s sets bring children’s stories to life!

L: But set-building and carpentry was already on your radar as a skill you wanted to learn.

R: That’s true. I had already assisted building a set for a theater that I had done a lot of sound design for. 

L: And even before you quit your job at the daycare, you had this role of Technical Director as something you might want to pursue. For people who aren’t familiar, what is that position.

R: Every building, it’s different. But in general, the Technical Director oversees the technical aspects of a production. A lot of the times, they are overseeing building sets primarily, but it’s also going to bleed into electrics and sound. The behind the scenes stuff.

L: And you noticed that these job descriptions for Technical Director wanted certain background and skills.

R: Yes. So, the sound background was there. I had done a little bit of lighting stuff along the way. But I had never done scenic carpentry. So it was like, if I ever want to do this job, I need to get experience with that, which is what drew me to pursue that work at BACT.

L: And do you have a clear sense of what your goal is moving forward with your career?

R: I would like to be a Technical Director or a Theater Manager or some combination of the two. You know, having a larger scale theater that is mine to administrate and lead from a technical side. I would love to do that in an educational setting, if possible, to spread the love — I really enjoy teaching and working with students.

L: And just to wrap up — obviously you wouldn’t be where you are without everything you went through, but are there major things you would have done differently along your journey?

R: I would say don’t be afraid of the kinds of things that people may think of as, say, too artistic. You want to work in the arts? Just fucking work in the arts. Don’t try to pigeon-hole yourself into what’s going to make yourself the most money. Just pursue something that you actually want to do.


Making a Video, Part 3: Planning & Shooting (Again)

Last month, I challenged myself to plan, direct and shoot my very own video. I took on the herculean task of documenting a pretty complicated DIY project for the handmade Christmas gifts we crafted for our family.

wooden candle holder
Behind this candleholder was a lot of cutting, sanding, staining and painting.

The footage is pretty much all shot; however, editing is on hold while I wait for my computer to be upgraded with additional storage.

In the meantime, I had a lot of good learnings from the shooting days and some ideas of how I could streamline and simplify the process for my next video. So, never one to waste an opportunity, I shot another video!

This video centered around the other main topic I’m really interested in creating content around – food! I’ve had this idea for a food series that features a lot of my favorite, but perhaps lesser-known, food destinations.

You always need to start with a plan

The first step was nailing down the concept. I had to think of the audience I’m trying to reach and what would be appealing to them, as well as what might make me stand out from other food-related videos. And of course, I had to think of the logistics of shooting the actual video, and how I could make the process pretty simple and feasibe with a small crew (essentially just me and Ryan).

When I first thought about producing videos about my favorite Bay Area food spots, I had these grandiose plans to create listicle-type videos. Think something like, “My top 10 favorite desserts in the Bay Area.” But after shooting the DIY video, I realized that sometimes less is more, so I shifted my attention to just featuring one food place per video.

For the audience, I mainly wanted to focus on tourists and other visitors to the area that might be looking for off-the-beaten-path destinations, while still appealing to locals who may not have explored the area very extensively. So, if I’m recommending places a little further afield than most tourists would go, I knew I needed to make sure to include clear information about how to get there and other activities or destinations in the area.

I had my concept:

  • Begin with a quick introduction to the neighborhood and how to get there
  • Feature the food destination and my recommended dishes
  • End with a quick blurb about other things to do in the area

With the concept in place, I was able to write my script and plan my shot list. I wanted the videos to include both scripted content and on-the-spot commentary; and the script would be a mix of on-camera speaking and voiceover.

Shot list
Initial shot list, going into the shoot. I actually ended up simplifying some of these once we got on location.

A simpler shoot

Thinking back on my learnings from shooting the DIY project, one of the first ways I was able to simplify this second video shoot is by planning fewer shots. We were also able to optimize the day toward shooting the video, unlike the DIY project video, where we planned our time around completing the actual DIY project (and there were ten pieces we had to make!).

We knew the restaurant didn’t open until 11 am, so we got to the area early to shoot the introduction, as well as all the B-roll footage.

Man holding camera
Ryan acting as my camera man and sound guy.

Here is where I simplified even more on the spot. I had planned this long shot of me speaking to the camera for the whole introduction part of the script. However, between the street noise (which was a lot louder than I expected) and complications around grabbing that kind of shot (essentially, Ryan would need to walk backwards for quite a stretch), I realized that most of the introduction would work better as a voiceover with cuts of the B-roll footage of the neighborhood. It was good to have this type of flexibility and willingness to adjust once we were on location.

When we got to the food place, we kept the shots pretty simple. We captured footage of the menu and food. And then we went with a single set-up as I ate the food and gave unscripted commentary.

Woman being filmed
The best part of the shoot – eating!

We hadn’t coordinated with the restaurant to film, so we chose a table outside, where we wouldn’t be in the way.

The final bit of the video was the quick summary of other things to do in the area; for this video, we are featuring a nearby board game cafe. I knew that this part of the video would just be voiceover, with simple shots of the cafe: signage, shelves of board games, us playing a game.

Thoughts and additional learnings

This style of video was a lot quicker and simpler to shoot. We were able to capture all the footage in a few hours.

As with the DIY video, for this food video, we recorded the video and audio on separate devices. This time around, we were a lot better about writing notes, identifying which video file is associated with which audio file. And we made sure to include a large clap or sound at the start of each take, which will make it easier to synch the video and audio during post-production.

As I go into the editing process, I have a feeling that I will opt for having most of the scripted content be voiceover (which I’ll need to record at home), given the level of street noise we encountered. Then, I’ll reserve most of the on-camera speaking to the unscripted commentary.

I also think there is more opportunity for me to bring out my genuine personality in these videos, which will probably just take more practice in front of the camera, as well as leaving more space for unscripted commentary.

Overall, this shoot was a lot more streamlined and fun. I can’t wait to get the final product together. I should be able to start editing next week, so look out for an update on that soon!