This skill of being able to put together a timeline of images in a way that makes sense and is generally positively received by people was a skill I didn’t know I had until I opened iMovie up in 2005. I had no idea that I could do that. Like I said, it was a drug. Some people like sports; I made movies. It wasn’t until late 2008, early 2009 that I began realizing that I could actually do this pretty well and that people would pay me to do this for them - well, the ones without Flips and iMovie anyway. The gigs were very staggered with other work and I was working with very cheap equipment. This was not a terribly marketable setup I had going; however, even so, some people were still happy to pay me to do some work for them. I taught three separate classes in which I made movies with groups of kids for Steppingstone Theater; Alan Berks gave me a press pass for MinnesotaPlaylist.com to shoot and cover the Fringe Festival; and later, he (as acting marketing director or some equivalent position) hired me to shoot and edit a video promo spot for a show at Mixed Blood Theater. This video would garner over 1,400 views on YouTube and would be a part of a marketing campaign that ended up selling out the show so well that they extended the run.
For the work I did for Alan for Playlist he gave me free adspace to promote myself. This adspace exposed me to the community as Ben McGinley - video guy. I thought it was kind of funny because I really didn’t take myself very seriously as a ‘video guy’ and certainly didn’t consider myself “go to” in many ways. Despite this, I actually got a call from Courtney Glenny who was assistant directing a show with Dominique Serrand and Steve Epp. Dominique and Steve were co-artistic directors and founders of Theatre de la Jeune Lune - a Tony-Award winning company that produced work for 30 years in Minneapolis. They were the “go to” company for offbeat, physical and flat out stunning performance work. The company (super sadly) went bankrupt and closed down in 2008. But the founders were still thrashing around and making new work. And they wanted me to work for them.
While my relationship with Dominique and Steve plateaued at that first and only show I did with them I still hold it as one of the most pivotal moments in my career’s infancy. I learned so much so quickly working with them and became a better editor, technician and artist; and additionally, it was the first time that I felt as if I could be “Go To” at something. And I was able to say I worked with Dominique Serrand and Steve Epp; as name-droppy as it was, it did contribute, I think, a little bit to the growing legitimacy of Ben McGinley: video guy. And Alan Berks - and his wife, Leah Cooper, who is the director for the MN Theater Alliance, and co-founder of MinnesotaPlaylist.com - both contributed HUGELY to helping me put my name out there.
Over beers once I asked Alan what it was that made him (and Leah and Matthew Foster) start MinnesotaPlaylist.com. He said that the theater community needs a place that can be a sounding board for them - a place that would allow theater artists to feel validated, that what they did was important and that other people gave a shit. Well, MN Playlist worked; it validated Ben McGinley: video guy. They did so with adspace, sharing their audience with me, talking me up with word of mouth - and by getting beers with me and being homeys.
It turns out that political campaigns aren’t the only things that are grass roots.