Thursday, May 24, 2012

Reflections: My First Year As A Journalist

By Bryan Cain-Jackson

Bryan Cain-Jackson

My first article:

All I could remember was – What the hell am I going to write?  I had no leads, it’s not my blog – I’ll be contributing to a major news entity, I can’t just eff around.

So, I was sitting on the couch with my laptop and a glass of wine – I watched President Obama make a historic announcement – we had finally gotten Osama Bin Laden.

It was the craze!!!  All over social media, that’s all we talked about for days.

It was a no brainer, this was going to be my first story that I would write for Technorati.

I wrote that the article “Bin Laden is Dead; US Rejoices” on the night of May 1, 2011 – it was published on May 2, 2011.  I was truly sailing into the unknown.  I had only written theater, short stories and had a less than nominally successful blog.  I had no idea what I was doing – so I just went whatever way felt natural to me at the time. 

It was weird; every day was like opening night.  How many people were going to read it?  Was I going to pop up on the news for shooting off at the mouth the way I’m so infamously known for?  Everyone has an opinion – what was going to be their opinion of me?  Would they even care?

All these questions run through your mind, you hope that something that you’re doing is relevant to someone other than just you – this is how I felt.  Because of that feeling, I put enormous pressure on myself to achieve success.  I worked hard.  I worked as though I were getting paid serious money.

The more and more I started writing in the world of journalism, the more I developed a style; a creative voice so-to-speak.  I was ready to start making taller requests for stories.

In my second month, the news was heavily covering the auction of Michael Jackson’s Thriller jacket.  Everyone who knows me knows that I am a huge Michael Jackson fan.  Naturally, I was encouraged by many of my friends and loved ones to write about it.  I was really hesitant and didn’t see much more to write about that I hadn’t already seen anywhere else.  I really didn’t want to go into another “stop making money off of this dead guy” routine – I seen too much of it, felt that way, read it, been there, done that and wanted desperately to move on.

One of my good friends said to me, “Why don’t you find out who the jacket’s beneficiaries are and interview them?”

That was something I hadn’t seen.  So, I went with it.

I set about an extensive search that I had planned to spend the day working on…

15 minutes later – after having a nice but brief chat with Darren Julien of Julien’s Auctions, I had the names of all of the benefactors of the jacket.  Two of them were close friends of Michael’s and were not granting interviews at the time, the others were his kids which was going to be an automatic no for me since my name isn't Oprah, and the last was Tippi Hedren – the famous actress who starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.  She runs a wildlife refuge called the Shambala Preserve.  When Michael left Neverland, he asked that his two prized Bengal Tigers named Thriller and Sabu be left in the best care in the world – Tippi’s preserve was just the place.

So, the next step was to call the Shambala Preserve and ask to speak with their publicist to get a couple of comments.   The office manager at the preserve was very helpful – she put me on a hold that seemed like it was lasting forever…  Finally she came back on the line and told me, “Mrs. Hedren will speak to you this afternoon, when is a good time for you?”

My jaw dropped – I had to make sure I was hearing this right.  “Mrs. Hedren?  Tippi?  Tippi Hedren?”

“Yes!”  She laughed.

So, needless to say, my knees were knocking and I was breathing very heavily when it came time to pick up the phone and dial the number to talk a film legend.

She was incredibly nice, gracious and passionate about her cause.  Tippi had given me so much material in the span of 35 minutes on the phone with her that once I got off – I realized I was writing not just one article about Michael’s jacket, I was writing another about Tippi Hedren and her wildlife preserve. What I thought was going to be a few days of rigorous tasks ended up being unbelievably easy.  I spoke to Tippi in the early afternoon and by 9 I had both articles written and ready to be published the next morning.

After the feeling that I had from talking to Tippi Hedren and writing that story, it was just an unbelievable high; it was an achievement and only at the beginning of my second month in journalism.  One thing was for certain – I wanted to keep feeling that high.  So, it was time to kick things into second gear and raise the bar.

The bar had been raised – I did everything from hard-hitting op-ed piece that would occasionally piss people off, to interviews with experts in their fields and of course – more stars.  There was and is no topic that I wasn’t afraid to attempt to focus on at least once.

Of course, since I write for Technorati – there is the obligatory typecasting by association, I do quite a bit (sometimes more than I’d like) of social media, tech, mobile apps and all sorts of other wicked cool brainchildren of truly brilliant people.  So, yeah – it’s not a bad thing at all to do those types of pieces, each and every interview I have been fortunate to do has been beneficial in a unique way, no two alike.

My efforts as a writer are not just to encourage more reading, that’s every writer’s goal – I hope.  My goals are to inform, educate and entertain at the same time I am being informed, educated and entertained.  Whether it’s a person, place or thing that everyone knows, or if it’s a person, place or thing that I firmly believe that everyone should know – I want my readers to get something out of it. 

July of 2011 was a truly exciting month – being asked to drive and write about a brand new Audi A7, having deep conversations and writing great stories about the actors Alice Krige and Rene Auberjonois were just three more highs.

I have made some amazing friends and acquaintances.

Bryan Cain-Jackson with Peter Yarrow
of Peter, Paul and Mary
Nana Visitor, Grace Lee Whitney, Rosie O’Donnell, Peter Yarrow, Demian Bechir, Ameer Vincent, Adrien Odate, Don Trip, Marlena Shaw, Avery Brooks, Ken Goldstein,  Danny Pudi, Reverend Eugene Callendar, Reverend Linda DeCoff, Shani Saxon-Parrish at BET Digital and so many more with so many more to come.

So, here’s to my first year at Technorati, all my friends on the editorial team – all my readers and all my supporters… 

Many thanks…

But, we’ve only just begun.  

Friday, May 18, 2012

An ALTERnative Experience In Theatricality

By Bryan Cain-Jackson

Never before has theater been a more moving, emotional and intimate experience than it is in the AlterTheater Ensemble’s production of References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot – an Obie Award winning production written by Oscar nominee Jose Rivera.

The ensemble cast consists of a charismatic and sexy group of actors – a cast that is so enticing in performances and overall presence – it makes watching the story of an offbeat set of characters battling through conflict appear more alluring and attractive.

The AlterTheater Ensemble offers the audience a chance to connect with the cast in a way that traditional theater does not.

The ensemble inhabits vacant storefronts, furniture stores, and various other different spaces outside of the traditional theater setting to perform their shows.

These spaces tend to make the audience feel part of the conflict in the story – we watch in hopes for a resolution to these characters that we become deeply and emotionally invested in.

This type of theater is often called Guerilla Theater – a frankly more inventive and “out-of-the-box” method of delivering performances to audiences.

The show is in its last weekend and will close on May, 20th.  See it in San Rafael, CA.  For more information on AlterTheater – visit their website AlterTheater Ensemble.

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