Simon Cowell says, “What’s your dream, John? Who do you want to be?”
I say, “George Lucas, Andrew Lloyd Webber or Jim Henson.”
In the midst of my various “careers” I’ve imagined myself getting into since I was 5 — detective, elementary teacher, high school teacher, medical researcher, priest, college teacher, writer, artist, musician — there has been one thing that I’ve always really wanted.
And that is embodied in the Sydmonton Festival, Skywalker Ranch and Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.
Andrew Lloyd Webber, like Richard Wagner before him, is as much a financial genius as a creative genius. Early in his career, he founded his own production company–the Really Useful Group (named for his lifelong love for the _Thomas The Tank Engine_ books and his hopes of getting involved in the then-planned cartoon series). He bought a renaissance estate called Sydmonton and began renovating it. Starting in the late 1970s, he began hosting an annual arts festival there. At Sydmonton, he produces sample productions of the musicals he’s currently working on.
At Sydmonton in 1980, Andrew Lloyd Webber played the piano and sang to a previously unpublished T. S. Eliot poem, “Pollicle Dogs and Jellicle Cats”–the melody based upon the poem, and a few of its lines, would make it into Cats, but the song itself would be rewritten and never heard until the Now and Forever box set over 20 years later. At Sydmonton, Colm Wilkinson was the second “Phantom” opposite Sarah Brightman (following rocker Steve Harley in the single and music video of the title song), six months before Michael Crawford officially created the role in London. At Sydmonton in 1993, Patti Lupone wowed the select audience as Norma Desmond months before audiences saw her in the West End.
At the Sydmonton Festival, Andrew Lloyd Webber showcases his works-in-progress, his art collection and other promising artistic, musical and theatrical works that interest him.
Andrew Lloyd Webber once made a bet with his brother over the Soccer finals and wrote Variations as a result. He planned an opera in tribute to Puccini and played the melody he wrote for that opera for his father. His father said of that melody, “It sounds like a million dollars.”
William Lloyd Webber was wrong on that one. “Memory” has probably been a billion-dollar industry unto itself. They say there was a point in the mid-80s when it could statistically be heard playing at every minute on the radio at some point in the United States.
And what did Lloyd Webber due with his success from Cats? He said, “I’m rich enough to do whatever I want. I think I’ll write a Requiem Mass.”
Now he’s a reknowned food and architecture critic, theatrical producer, theater and real estate magnate and, film producer, television producer and reality host, and even the license holder to a number of classic musicals he didn’t write.
Then there’s George Lucas, whose talent as a visionary lies more in his understanding of business and technology than his talent as a director. A successful college film turned into a mildly successful and critically acclaimed theatrical film (the THX thing), then a successful and critically acclaimed film (American Graffiti), and then a multi-film contract that gave us the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. And, while making Star Wars, Lucas had two brilliant ideas:
1. No one in Hollywood could make the special effects he envisioned, so he started his own special effects firm. And no one can doubt the influence of Industrial Light and Magic, which makes the special effects for like every blockbuster out there. And then there’s that uppity little spin-off of ILM, later bought by Steve Jobs, called Pixar.
2. Lucas had his studio contract. And movie licensing existed. But it was, at the time, not that big a deal. Lucas, the visionary, negotiated with Fox to give him the rights to the sales of licensed products and the soundtrack. Fox, thinking “ha, that’s chicken feed” gave him those rights, around the same time as Xerox and IBM and HP and AT&T were laughing at Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.
Of course, we all know that a big part of Star Wars is its tremendous soundtrack and the vast toy merchandising. Star Wars redefined movie marketing, soundtracks, sequels, and even the entire toy industry. There would be no G I Joe, Transformers or Masters of the Universe, Ninja Turtles, Batman (toys), etc., without Star Wars.
Years later, Lucas bought a big ranch and named it Skywalker Ranch. I’ve always loved the description of it in articles: a dusty “dude ranch” on the outside, with old-fashoined western buildings and such. Then, on the inside, the most state-of-the-art technological facilities you could imagine, housing the LucasArts video game company, the Skywalker Sound recording studio, the THX surround sound headquarters, and the ILM offices, decorated with works of fine art all around.
One of my dreams is to one day own my own Catholic version of Skywalker Ranch: a place where technology, nature, creativity and faith meet.
One of my dreams is to someday host my own variation on the Sydmonton festival.
My dream is to be like Andrew Lloyd Webber, Jim Henson and George Lucas: free to just create what I want to create, and not necessarily to be pigeonholed to one particular genre or medium or style.
The trick has always been, of course, to generate the income to get that cycle going, to get that “big break.” The Internet has provided vast opportunities for self-publishing and self-marketing. As I’ve learned more and more about these, I’ve prayed for the opportunity to finally realize my dream.
Then, in January, I lost both my teaching jobs, but I was eligible for unemployment benefits. I had the money to pay the bills, no job to do, and no classes to take. So I threw myself into writing, and into trying to up the quality and readership of this blog, while I looked for the right moment. I submitted articles to various places, getting one successfully published.
Then I thought about self-published recordings. I discovered Amazon.com’s CreateSpace service. I did a bit of research on home recording and equipment. I bought myself a digital USB microphone. And I recorded a 72 minute audio book.
C. S. Lewis said he wrote the books he always wanted to read, and I recorded the audiobook I’ve always wanted to listen to–or at least since I used to drive a minimal 45 minute commute every day from Fredericksburg to Springfield, VA, and wished I could pray all those daily devotions I liked from diverse prayer books while I drove.
The more I’ve gotten into MP3s, and have downloaded various free MP3s online, and purchased various Rosary and Divine Mercy CDs, Fr. Corapi DVDs, etc., I’ve wished I could find a collection of short prayers that I could intermix with music: like when you’re driving a long trip, and you want to pray, but the rosary or the reflection CD is too relaxing and makes you fall asleep, but you don’t want to just listen to music either. Something I could intermix with a music playlist.
Well, I’ve made that CD. It’s called Hide Me in Your Wounds, and, very shortly, it will be availalbe for sale on Amazon.com and Create Space. You can purchase it as a direct download, or you can order the CD from my page. I will be placing an ad on the side bar of this blog very soon.
I’m waitng for Amazon to ship me my “proof copy”, and, as soon as I approve it, it will be live for sale on Amazon.com, Target.com and my personal store (note: I get a better royalty if you purchase it from my store, but I also recommend you just purchase the MP3 format).
Here is the direct link.
Please consider purchasing a copy. I will be sharing more details as the release date gets closer. I have both mild and wild expectations for this CD, but if even the mild expectations are met, it will provide me with sufficient income to focus more on creating my next work for self-publication. 🙂