This month the Wall Street Journal Magazine honored nine leaders and innovators in their industries. From better known stalwarts as Ralph Lauren and David Chang, the Wall Street Journal Magazine featured these individuals’ visionary work and accomplishments. Produced by MediaStorm, this summer I had the pleasure of interviewing Nonny de La Peña, the godmother of virtual reality; John Legend a force for social justice; and Phoebe Waller-Bridge a powerhouse writer-actor-producer.
British artist Lucy Sparrow, built and fully stocked a supermarket created entirely out of felt. Over the course of a year she painted and hand-sewed 31,000 felt pieces to fill shelves with cans of Spam, Wonder Bread and Sapphire gin; fill vegetable bins with bok choy and grapefruits; and fully stock a sushi and butcher counter. The exhibit was open for the month of August at the Standard hotel in downtown Los Angeles where everything was for sale. Over the course of the month the exhibit continually evolved as visitors quickly emptied the shelves. Stepping into Sparrow Mart is like stepping into Lucy Sparrow’s imagination. Playful, quirky, and visionary.
Full story on New York Magazine.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Amazon impacts communities across the country with a network of regional fulfillment centers. The economic benefits ripple out from direct employees, to the surrounding community, which is the case for Audrey Reyes, owner of Beverly Banquets of Ontario, California. Her business has thrived since Amazon has expanded its operations in the Inland Empire, providing catering services for many Amazon events. Not without its challenges, Audrey once delivered 18,000 pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving. I worked with Jessey Dearing to tell this wonderfully inspiring story.
Full Story on the Amazon Blog.
A lot happened in 2016. I got married in May and we elected a new president in November. I'm loving one and exhausted by the other. Last year I had the chance to work on quite a diverse set of projects, but a few stand out that I wanted to share.
Growing up my mom refused to buy me any sort of gaming system. Nintendo was a dream. Sega was out. And Game Gear wasn't going to happen. Of course I managed to play Contra and Duck Hunt at friends' homes, but as a result I never developed that tactile skill. To this day I'm terrible at video games, can barely work a Game Boy, and suck at games on my iPhone. Nevertheless, I had enough contact with Nintendo to be familiar with the Super Mario series and in December had the chance to meet the voice behind Mario, Luigi, Wario, etc. His name is Charles Martinet, and he's one whacky guy. His career in acting and voice acting spans decades, but what he's best known for is the development of Mario's personality. In any normal conversation it quickly becomes apparent that there's a very narrow separation between Charles Martinet and Mario. It's hilarious, refreshing and endearing all at the same time. Charles truly is Mario. Check out the video on Great Big Story.
Finally, Three years ago I met Velvet Crayon (aka Erik Paluszak) at the Coney Island Circus Sideshow setting up a guitar, ukulele and an array of pedals for his opening set. A talented musician, self-proclaimed natural born freak, and sideshow performer, Crayon was at a major crossroads in his career. Crayon moved to New York City with his manager, Maryn Marston, determined to grow his career and find a foothold in the industry. Since these first few months in NYC, three years ago, Crayon's career and life has blossomed. He has traveled internationally on to tour with the Squidling Brothers, released a new music album called Ampersand Imperfecta, and found a partner in life. His life has changed dramatically since Drew Jordan and I produced Make or Break for Verse, but it was quite an honor to be witness to such a pivotal moment in his life. Check out Velvet Crayon's story and don't miss the wonderful interactive content along the timeline. My favorite are the performers' portraits.
This is the second story that I have produced for Great Big Story, a CNN-affiliated brand and video content machine, that has stormed the internet with catchy, quirky, and fascinating short stories from around the world. In partnership with Canada Keep Exploring, we featured the Positive Ticketing program in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada. Started in 2001 by Ward Clapham in Richmond, BC, the program teaches Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers to issue positive tickets to youth seen engaging in good behavior. The tickets, redeemable with community business partners such as roller skating rinks and summer pool time, are awarded to youth seen, for example, crossing the street, helping their sibling on the playground or wearing helmets. Conceptualized by Clapham to foster relationships between the RCMP and the community, and provide role models for at-risk-youth, the positive tickets program has expanded across the globe, now deployed by police departments in over 50 countries worldwide. This is truly an uplifting story.
Produced by Spēk Pictures for Verse, Bugging Out 101 is the fourth episode in the Second Look series. Verse is quickly becoming a storytelling and technology platform that is redefining traditional linear storytelling. Verse’s innovative approach to storytelling places more power in the hand of the viewer to choose their own path through a rich-content storytelling experience. Bugging Out 101 is the story of Anna Bounds's determination to prepare herself for uncertain events in New York City. After personally witnessing terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and power grid failures, Anna is driven to learn techniques used by urban preppers to provide certainty in an uncertain world.
Over the past two months, I had the pleasure to work on the first original storytelling series by Starbucks. Upstanders–a 10-part multi-platform film, written and podcast series–highlights the work of ordinary citizens doing outstanding work in our communities across the country. In collaboration with Jessey Dearing, we produced three of the short films featured on their website and mobile app.
In Homes for Everyone, we worked closely with Lloyd Pendleton to highlight the work he's accomplished over the past decade to eradicate the long-term homeless situation in Utah through a housing-first approach. Breaking the Prison Pipeline is Susan Burton's powerful story of struggle and triumph that led her to create A New Way of Life–an organization that supports formerly incarcerated women to reintegrate back into society and avoid returning to prison in Los Angeles, California. Finally, relevant in today's climate of policing in America, The Empathetic Police Academy looks at Susan Rahr's unique approach to police academy training in Washington State by empowering officers to be guardians and protectors of their communities. Upstanders goes further, expanding its coverage on topics of food waste, autism, wounded warriors, poverty, and hostility to Muslims.
This series marks an important milestone where a coffee company is investing in good journalism, NOT branded content. In the words of Howard Schultz, chairman and CEO of Starbucks, "We've asked ourselves what is the role and responsibility of a public company and, as citizens, how we can catalyze hope in a time when we need more optimism, empathy, compassion and leadership...The upstanders featured in this series are inspiring individuals whose actions are emblematic of the American spirit and what is missing from so much of today's national dialogue. We have always been storytellers at heart, and more of these stories need to be heard. We are using our scale to share them as broadly as possible."
Watch the entire series online or on the Starbucks mobile app.
Links to additional reads:
The Daily Show with Trevor Nolan: Exclusive - Howard Schultz Extended Interview