The previous chapter Don't Kill The Referee
I began to work many more shifts at the production studio because of its growing popularity and frequent bookings. My substantial experience and hard work also paid off. Instead of three to four days a week I began working five or six. I work with all types of film and photography lights, toil with tons of grip equipment, which is all the non-electrical and non-camera photo or film equipment such as stands, various clamps, etc. I handle a variety of tasks, some like the job that I had while attending college. December of 2003, six months after graduating high school, I was lucky enough to find work at an upscale fashion photography and film studio in New York City. Back then I was too naïve to take advantage of the library of knowledge in front of me. However, I enjoy working here a lot more because it is much more hands on, and I am experiencing everything from pre-production and production to the wrapping of a full set.
It was April baseball was back, and I hoped for the weather to quickly improve. This is the one sport that I have followed ever since my family took me to games in the 90’s. My friends and I had tickets to the first night game of the year, and I was excited but that had to wait.
While gathering the notes from Francesco, I reflected on everything that had transpired up to now. I thought about how he mentioned that he had read some of my stories that had been passed on to him by a friend or colleague. In the past people had approached me and commented on what they liked, didn’t like or understand about my writing. Looking back the screenwriting and film classes in college were very competitive. College felt like a popularity contest but I didn’t care. Everyone is going to have people and classmates who don’t like them, for whatever reason and I wondered if the ones who disliked the stories I pitched in class realized that they were helping me. I would pitch and read my ideas to everyone in class discussions for assignments, and students would be asked what worked or didn’t work. Maybe it was their candor that ultimately helped me become a stronger writer because it undoubtedly made me work harder. One of my film teachers who had previously written for MacGyver and other TV shows in the eighties once told me “The people who make it in the business are the ones working when everyone else isn’t.” Maybe I took him too literally or maybe not literally enough but I felt very connected to that specific advice.
Francesco’s manila envelope was still considerably full of stories, ideas, and historic events that I had yet to read and study. I started to read some more of his material. “Entrepreneurship and financial wisdom go hand in hand. Risk and reward are at the basis of human success. The Medici family took serious entrepreneurial and financial risks from the 13th to the 15th century. They were merchants and became bankers and rulers. With their financial wisdom, they empowered scientists and artists to change the world. This was the Renaissance! I have spent hundreds of years of my life in Florence, the capital of the Renaissance. It greatly influenced my perspective in life and business. However I have spent the last 23 years of my life in New York City. If you walk on 6th Avenue above 42nd Street in Manhattan, you will see an incredible sequence of skyscrapers. All this real-estate was built with the support and credit of massive financial institutions. Architects and real-estate developers rely on the wisdom and tools available through those financial institutions. Without sophisticated financial tools, none of those skyscrapers could have been built! Every entrepreneur, regardless of location, gender, age and income, needs financial understanding and wisdom, or they will be unable to stay in business. The same values apply for the Medici Family during the Renaissance or to a young entrepreneur in current time! In today's world, there are new factors that can facilitate personal and business developments:
A) Real-estate can be digital. Every person in the world, regardless of location, age, gender and income, can create their own “Digital Real-estate”, generate revenues, rent it, sell it, develop it, execute mergers and acquisitions and more.
B) Today's financial wisdom lays in the understanding of the Blockchain and open-source projects like Bitcoin, Litecoin and many other digital currencies.”
What am I supposed to do with the plethora of information that he has given to me during our meetings and in these stacks of notes? While saying our goodbyes after the Judo event a few weeks earlier, Francesco invited me to his Film studio where he also has parties and get-togethers each month. If I was going to meet Francesco at his office party I wanted to be prepared, organized and with a game plan. The last couple of months gave me plenty of material to work with and log, but I wanted to bring fresh ideas to the project. To create a story using his experiences and notes along with my reality meant a very creative story was needed to be written, and this was my plan. However, I needed an introduction and an inspirational gentleman that I had been lucky enough to meet recently came to mind. He was a wise man pushing ninety and originally from the Middle-East. I was able to sit down and talk with him in his elegant and extravagant office with two secretaries and a plush address on Park Avenue. Every time I left he made a point of walking me to the elevator. Sometimes it is the little things such as courtesy and respect that make the biggest impression. All of his stories and advice came to mind again. Not only what he had experienced up to now but also advice about the importance of being thoroughly honest and treating everyone right regardless of their class. This gentleman never boasted about his accomplishments but instead saved his words to convey the life lessons that he had gained. With all of this advice coming from both an affluent and moralistic person, it felt honorable and fitting to mention him. I figured that I could introduce him in the opening of the first chapter.
It was the second Thursday evening in April and I was finally going to Francesco’s office party at his studio. April’s weather had many cold nights, but it was getting warmer. Most days were in the 50’s some in the 40’s and on lucky days the 60’s. The studio where Francesco conducted his business was located in Chelsea on the top floor, which resembled a loft. I brought along a ton of notes and some ideas and questions for the assignment. Stepping off the elevator brought me directly into his space. His main offices were in the front of the building. Walking around into the rear portion, I could see that the rest of the place was used for entertaining purposes. I noticed the place even had its own bar with a 70-inch-flatsceen TV located behind it. A Ping-Pong table was placed near the windows in the back of the room. The interior appeared much like a museum and I think Francesco encouraged that look. The brick walls were white including the ceiling, outlets, and electric paneling. The barstool, various chairs, and doors were white and its simplicity inspired a relaxing environment. Francesco offered me a beer, as others were also drinking. Some sipped wine while others took from the meat and cheese plate. Standing behind the bar was a man named Tommy who wore glasses, short hair, and handed me the bottle of beer. He seemed well-mannered and well-dressed, but there was much more to him than bartending. After a quick conversation, I was able to deduce that he was thick-skinned. He wasn’t a tall man but at the same time I wouldn’t call him short and he practiced the art of wrestling. His line of work when he wasn’t pinning people down on the mat, included various projects, everything from advertising to video production. Even bad-to-the-bone citizens are able to dress nicely and talk eloquently.
I continued to walk around and found the studio to be cool but simple and sophisticated. I noticed they had some 650 ARRI lights attached to what looked to be kit stands, most likely for interviews considering the various colored seamless paper backdrop set up. The whole place seemed in character for the man, but certain pieces were missing such as the need for a film studio. I began to wonder if he had it for fun or business and what kind of business. One thing was for sure, crazy or not he was making good money. That is when others arrived. I heard a buzz sound and Francesco went to let someone in. His office was off to one side and totally open with glass walls, windows, and doors. He was in plain sight and could see what was occurring at all times. I knew this business and loft belonged to him. The glass walls revealed his desire to be seen, in charge and also be easily accessible. I started thinking about the Medici family and how Francesco spoke about moving here over twenty years ago and then I remembered something he wrote about Entrepreneurship. Unless I was very wrong he was a successful one. Looking around his office I saw a painting of him dressed in fancy clothes from the 15th century Italian Renaissance. He also had a portrait of Afghanistan. In terms of the Middle East I didn’t understand the connection at the time. In fact he had various paintings throughout the loft of judo, wrestling and other sports that echoed his passion and interest. One in particular stole my eyes because it was something new to me but not completely because he had briefly explained the sport called Calcio Storico. The photo resembled a giant arena with several men standing on the dirt. Many looked to be fighting each other and one looked to have a ball in his hands. Francesco invited me to sit down. “So what do you think,” he said. “About what? I responded.” “Being here, my film studio.” I looked around as I heard more people being buzzed in. This was exceptional and I was still curious about his line of work. How had he made his money? I had no idea, but this man was no idiot. He may have been extravagant, insane, full of energy and partially nuts, but he was also financially literate. I noticed some of the people coming in and concluded that this party was composed of all types of people. Before I could answer his question I did notice a girl who looked like a nice lady. I turned to Francesco and took out my black leather Samsonite pad folio and opened it. I responded, “I think I want to talk to that girl over there.” He began to laugh as did I. “No it’s a great studio I said. Is this where the magic happens?” He laughed and said, “whenever I am here, yes. So what do you think about everything so far he asked?” Confidently I said, “that is a good question and what I am thinking is big or at least bigger than just documenting everything.” His phone began to ring and he picked it up. I turned around and saw her again. She was beautiful, charming but out of place; nervous and warm at the same time. She just stood there watching everyone around her speak and nodded to other’s gestures. She looked to be middle-eastern and there was a sensitive side about her that kicked at me from a distance even though we had never met. All I heard was hey and then I turned around, Francesco was off his call. “Um depending on how far you want to go with this I truly believe between you and I we can make a compelling story that can be a novel I said.” “So this means you are interested then? He responded.” “Very I said.” “Great he excitedly stated.” We shook hands and then I told him my ideas about how I have been writing about people that I have been meeting around New York. That I also had more than a handful of info to use and we agreed to combine my story with his. He expressed his desire to elect me the main character. He also wished the story be told from my point of view. We were on the same page and I decided to work on a revised official first chapter. Previously I had been writing for myself. Sometimes for my own sanity. But I have now been officially hired to write for someone else.
After the meeting, we walked past the outer office where his main staff worked each day and into the back room again. The place was comfortable but lacked chairs for sitting. A many good people were now standing about talking. Francesco introduced me to a protégé from Afghanistan that worked for him. Her name was Elaha. She was young, extremely shy and originally from the Middle-East that I had already surmised from across the room. It was her particular shyness that made me smile on the inside. She was without ego but was very talented, especially in business according to her stated accomplishments. She also designed clothes for herself.
I liked her, but we didn’t hit it off. I wasn’t sure what was lacking, but she was more special than many of the women that I had met in the past. We may have had too little in common. She was special because her business was in philanthropy and she was dedicated to helping women in her country become digitally literate, which reminded me of Anya and her volunteer work. Maybe it was an issue because I was unsure of how to relate to someone with her background. Maybe I was a little intimidated by her beauty and brains. She had a nice pleasing smile. You could see it readily available on her face just itching to be handed out. She was that type of girl and I guess that I was just not her type.
Friends, co-workers and new found friends stopped by the party. However, no one from Francesco’s Italian Renaissance showed up on that particular night. I stayed for a while making new friends and connections and left feeling newly inspired. The project that Francesco and I are collaborating on will be intense, but I was inspired and planned to start working on it when I could along with a synopsis to give us a frame of reference.