Thursday, September 29, 2016

Embrace, Promote, and Defend What You Love. Support Your Friends' Works and Others. It Can Pay Dividends – Jerry Chandler


Support what you love. Promote what you love. Those seem like pretty basic concepts. They also seem like easy things to do. But if you spend any time at all on social media you’ll see that a lot of people use their time “socializing” by doing things other than this. As a matter of fact, a lot of people- and I am guilty of this myself from time to time when it comes to the realm of politics –seem to spend as much time or more essentially promoting the examples of what they don’t like than they do promoting things they like. That really is something a lot of people should work on changing.

While I’m not suggesting that anyone should ignore issues in society they see as great wrongs needing to be addressed, I think social media and life in general might be better served by more people spending as much time or more promoting the things that bring them joy. Why? Well, for one thing it’s more rewarding in general. It also has the benefit of introducing people to things they weren’t aware of that they may end up enjoying as much as you do. Plus, if you get someone interested in a new writer, artist, musician, TV show, movie, etc. and they get someone else interested who then gets someone else interested who then gets someone… Well, you get the idea. You may be helping the creators you enjoy survive and thrive, and that in turn means they may be able to create more of whatever it is you like.

It does pay dividends of a kind. Also, this kind of thing can sometimes lead to some pretty interesting doors opening up for you in your life. For the most part I can only speak on my own experiences here, but I know others who can tell more or less the same stories about their experiences.

Now, most of what I’m going to talk about pertains largely to indie creators and the DIY creative types and their projects. Yeah, you can occasionally end up knowing a major name who works for a major company by doing things like this, but it’s largely going to be the indie guys and DIY types who depend on fan support to help them where major companies have giant budgets and they don’t. Sure, you can support and promote Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (as most of us likely will) but your efforts are going to be a little lost in the mix. Support the indie creators. Support your friends and their creative endeavors. It’ll likely be noticed and appreciated.

Let’s start small and with an example of people you would already know in some way. Sometimes the dividends of such actions- outside of the very obvious ones that come from supporting your friends –aren’t immediately obvious as rewards to some people. Some things just take time to become something that you (or they) see as a reward.

My friends Bill Mulligan and Christine Parker were promoting their (I believe it was their first) feature length indie horror film. Bill dropped word in a few places that they and others involved with the film would be appearing on a local NC show that could be heard on the web in order to talk about the production and promote their film. At the time I honestly didn’t know Bill that well- we were largely still just internet acquaintances –and I had never had any contact with Christine. But I liked Bill and I liked the short film they’d done, so I told various people I knew who leaned towards horror to check out the broadcast when it aired. Little did we know how that was going to turn out.

The broadcast was actually more like a podcast in the early days of independent web radio and was one of those deals where you could only hear it when it was broadcast live. To say that the host might not have had the best grasp of how to do an interview show was an understatement, and, between that and the bad internet feed, it was a bizarre show to listen to. The feed would disconnect and by the time you got it back you wouldn’t be sure you were listening to the right show because what you were hearing had nothing to do with the topic at hand. Basically, the host had a habit of going off onto tangents- sometimes cutting the guests off mid-sentence to do so -based on something a guest might say. Most often the topic of the tangent seemed to be more about someone else who came on the guy’s show some other time to talk about something else. I’m not sure they were even able to keep a full half of their segment on the guy’s show focused on their film group or their new film even though that was supposed to be the point of their appearance on his show. It made for very disjointed listening, and my friends who bothered tuning in on my recommendation made some… interesting… observations about what I liked and didn’t like when they next saw me. I also got one of the more jokingly sarcastic responses (Something about how Letterman needed to be watching out for this guy IMS.) from Bill I ever got back then when I asked him in an email if the show was as odd to do as it was to listen to.

Here’s where the reward part comes in. Later on, having met most of the guys and gals connected to that indie film group and even having been in some of their stuff as an extra, I’d become much better friends with some of them. That interview became something some of us have once or twice in the past joked about and had a laugh at the expense of. It was something we obviously had different perspectives on as it was happening, but it still became something we could share a laugh over. As a matter of fact, I may be overdue in making Bill groan at the memory of the thing again. Hopefully he’s reading this and once again wincing over it even now.

Yeah, as things you might see as rewards go it’s pretty minor, but it was something important to them at the time they were doing it and they appreciated the support. Plus, don’t you think it’s a better thing to accumulate memories to share a laugh over with friends than it is to spend time on social media sharing or promoting one more negative issue?

Some of what can be seen as rewards can be measured as substantially larger. I love horror. I love indie film. I try to support indie horror in general and my friends and their endeavors when and where I can. Because of that, I’ve ended up running around on indie film shoots, being a background extra in some indie films, making a lot of great, creative friends, and building a nice set of memories for myself and my family. My son and my daughter both were walking around on the same shoots as early as two years of age. They have a lot of memories their friends don’t have, and they’re the type of memories that spark and push their own creativity.

A lot of people talk about wanting to do these types of things but don’t. Thing is, it’s actually easy to do.

I liked the Needless Things podcast. When Phantom put out a call on his podcast to try and increase the site’s content a bit, I threw my hat in there for a try. There’d be no pay, but it would be a lot of fun. I just had to give my word to keep my end of the commitment up and then keep my word. All I had to do was commit time to writing opinion pieces or reviews once a week (which I was doing anyhow) and help promote the works of others on the site. So far, so good as I’m now one of Phantom’s Irregulars and writing to a larger reader base than my personal blog was seeing. But, thinking of my blog, there are two examples where my personal blog got a few more looks than it normally did because of my doing the things I’m talking about here.

A lot of people listen to podcasts these days. A lot of people don’t really tell others about the ones they listen to though. They treat it in a way as something that’s a purely passive thing. The podcast downloads, they listen to it, they clear it from their device when done with it, and then they give it little or no thought beyond that. I don’t do that. I’ve always figured that if I liked something, someone else may like it as well. Based on that idea, I like to tell people about stuff I come across and I enjoy figuring some others who might not have heard of it will check it out and end up enjoying it enough to become a regular fan. I’ll even admit that it’s not an altogether altruistic thing on my part. Like I said above, I want things I find and enjoy to continue and flourish.  The best way to help something I like keep going is to try to help grow its audience. As such, I try to spread the word when and where I can.

Among other podcasts that are out there, I like the Earth Station One network of podcasts. I started listening to the various shows back around 2013. That didn’t make me a fan from the very beginning, but I was probably in there close to the just finished ground floor. I shared podcast links on social media. I told people at conventions about the shows. At one point I even wrote a piece on my personal blog plugging various podcasts and spreading the word that the types of things a lot of geeks I knew were saying they wanted to hear were already being produced on a regular basis by the ESO crew and others. I had no idea who would see it or how far it would go, but I figured saying something good about the various shows was better than not saying anything at all about them.

Much to my surprise, I was listening to the Earth Station One podcast a few weeks later and heard a “Friend of the Show” shout-out from them for the blog piece I wrote. A little later on I’d meet a few of the various contributors to the network at Dragon Con. Much to my surprise, some of them actually remembered that I was out there spreading the word on them whenever and wherever I could. Since then I’ve become friendly with a number of the various hosts and contributors to the network, and actually become friends with some. I’ve also become a semi-regular on the ESO network show devoted to wrestling.   

The dividend or reward in that has just been the pure fun of it all. I’ve gotten to meet and spend time with some really great, creative people. Even better, ever so often I get to spend an hour or two talking about wrestling- from the current era to the bygone glory days of the territories –with a great crew who know their stuff and love the history and the ins and outs of the business of pro wrestling as much as I do if not more than I do. In other words, the reward here for me is that these people add a lot of great, fun moments and memories to my life now. Additionally, because of this happening, because of these connections, I’ve gotten to meet other really great, creative people who now add something fun and enjoyable to my life.

Something similar would also happen with a different podcast crew. My indie film buddies were doing a new film and one of the background extras they cast was the head of the Horror News Radio family of podcasts. Bill and Doc hit it off well. One evening Bill mentioned that he’d be a guest on a show of theirs. I shared the news where I could; posting links when the podcast went live and plugging it to friends who loved horror. Two things came from that.

First, I ended up discovering an awesome set of horror related podcasts I knew nothing about before then but absolutely love now. Second, Bill became more of a regular fixture on the Decades of Horror podcasts which gave me two reasons to support and promote the shows on a regular basis. Out of all that, I’ve gotten to know the HNR guys a lot better, and I was even lucky enough to be a guest on a Decades of Horror episode talking about an old Spanish horror franchise that has long been near and dear to my horror heart.

Now, did all of this happen just because I promoted their podcasting networks? No, it didn’t. It likely helped a lot that we were able to have good conversations when meeting one another at cons and events, and that the Pro Wrestling Roundtable guys and I hit it off well the first time I was invited on. It also probably helped a lot with the podcasts I got to be a guest on that I showed I knew my stuff and that I could (almost) speak coherently. But would any of these things have happened if I had been “passive” in the way I described how some are before when it came to my liking of their work? No, probably not.

Can I cite something where I know speaking up added something great to my life? Yeah, I can. It actually falls under the “Defend” bit in the header.

In the early months of 2013 a group of people started a movement to boycott Dragon Con. Now, before I go any further I should say two things about this. First, I’m not a huge fan of most boycotts. Some have merit, most don’t. Far too many these days seem to be created to be purely punitive rather than to effect positive change. As a result, I’m not a big boycott person in general. Second, there were people who spoke out in this situation that I had no issue with. There were some people, both regular fans and pros alike, who simply stated that they didn’t know enough about the situation when the buzz around the boycott hit, and as a result they weren’t sure they could go to Dragon Con that year. They said they needed to learn more, to sift through the garbage being thrown about on the web and find the actual facts out for themselves in order to feel they could make a proper choice about going or not going. I have no issue with people taking a position I disagree with when it comes to something like a boycott when their stated rationale is not knowing the facts of the matter well enough to feel that they can at that time make an informed choice that will sit well with their conscience. After all, and not even just in the confines of a boycott situation, we’ve all at one time or another found ourselves having to look at some choice we’re making and reassess matters based on new facts.

No, what I had issue with was a core group of people connected to this boycott who were saying things that could be shown and easily established to be not wholly factually accurate. See, I like Dragon Con. If you asked my friends about my view of Dragon Con even back before this incident, they’d tell you I was a walking billboard for Dragon Con. My first Dragon Con was 2006’s Dragon*Con, and it instantly became my four-day home away from home. I loved the event, and I loved the people I would meet there year after year. Moreover, it’s a family affair as my wife and kids love Dragon Con as well. While I didn’t particularly care if there were people out there who didn’t like Dragon Con, I didn’t take kindly to seeing people use falsehoods to try and destroy something I loved. Plus, you can’t claim you’re doing the right thing if you’re knowingly or even unknowingly doing it in the wrong way, and I thought some of them were doing it in a really wrong way.

I spoke out against the aspects of the boycott that I felt were being disingenuous in their methods on my personal blog and in the various comment sections of websites that talked about the issue. I may have been at times a wee bit more sarcastic than I should have been, but I largely tried to stick to just showing where false comments were wrong, half-truths were being used to spin things, or where the logic of certain arguments fell apart. Early on I figured what I was writing would be seen by no more than a few dozen fellow fans here and there. A little later on in the proceedings I discovered that more than just a few dozen fellow fans here and there were seeing what I was writing, and I found that out by discovering that some professional writers and artists I grew up as a fan of really took a dislike to me over what I was writing.

Then events completely unrelated to the boycott happened that made the entire issue a moot point. A weird but rather interesting legal procedure took place in a courthouse in Georgia that allowed things that had been in place for a while to finally happen. Suddenly the claimed reason for the boycott was gone. The boycott mostly went away, and the convention went on without a hitch later in the year.  

About a week or two after the boycott movement mostly ceased I got a few messages through social media asking me if I was the Jerry Chandler who was the “JJChandler” of that blog. They were from people connected to Dragon Con- people from tracks, departments, and some behind the scenes areas. They asked that I track them down and say hi at that year’s convention. I did. It’s three years later and some of the people I met that Dragon Con are now good friends, and through them I’ve met a lot of other people who are now good friends.

If I hadn’t acted as I did, I would never have met these people. If I hadn’t met them, we don’t become friends and they don’t introduce me to still more people who become friends. I would also have missed out on a few fun opportunities. The upshot of it all being that the last few years of my life would be the lesser for their absence.

I could have said nothing about it that spring and summer. Given some things that happened it might even have been easier to say nothing. But sometimes it’s worth defending the things you love, and when you do so with no expectations of anything in return, no ulterior motives in mind, you can find yourself being pleasantly surprised by life in the long run.

Sometimes it’s not exactly you that sees dividends from these types of actions. I have a group of friends who I originally met on the internet through someone else’s website devoted to promoting a writer’s works. There are five of us that were regulars as far back as 2004. Since then we’ve met off the net, been in each other’s homes, helped each other out with creative projects, or just plain old hung out. These are people I value having in my life, and we met by having a shared interest that brought us all to the same website/blog promoting this writer’s work.

Likewise- with me in a small way playing the part of that website -I know one group of people who I’ve supported and promoted the work of fairly regularly for a few years now. I know another guy who I’ve supported and promoted the work of. They became aware of each other. They’ve now ended up doing things together in the last couple of months that have introduced all of them to new things. They’re having fun, they’re working on creative things together, and hopefully they find a solid, long-term friendship out of it all. Some might view that kind of thing as others getting more out of it then they are, but for me it just means my network of friends is getting a little tighter and a little stronger.

There are so many other things that have come out of doing this kind of thing… My kids and I have gotten to play on the set of horror host shows as a part of those shows. I’ve become friends with talented indie filmmakers and talented documentary filmmakers. I’ve gotten to meet and have dinner with writers I’ve followed the work of for ten, twenty, and thirty years. I’ve ended up adding a lot to the richness of my own life by actively supporting the things I enjoy and the people that create them.

Now, let’s clarify some things here.

(1) When I talk about supporting and promoting, I’m not talking about just sharing things on social media. I’ve certainly done that, but I’ve done more as well. I’ve created promotional bits that weren’t provided by others. I’ve also offered my time. I’ve handed out hundreds (probably thousands) of little flyers for various projects. I’ve worn the shirts and plugged the products at conventions and events. I’ve covered tables at conventions when people have been shorthanded, needed to step away to handle business, or when they just desperately needed a bathroom break. Hell, I’ve spent entire days in the tick infested NC swamps for film shoots. Seriously, have you seen the ticks in NC? They are legion, and they drink Deep Woods Off as their pre-meal cocktail.

(2) That’s the other component of it- especially when dealing with indie creators and the DIY creative types who may have been burned by offers of support before. Offer your time. Tell them you’re willing to help promote their stuff, and then actually be there and do it. You might be surprised by how well you’re remembered by some from one convention to the next, one meeting to another. Why? Because a lot of people talk the talk, but when the time comes they don’t walk the walk they promised. If you’re someone who promises to be there or to in some way help someone else out with their passion project and you prove to be pretty reliable time after time; most people will remember that, and you may even end up making some good friends.

(3) Maybe some of that sounds like work to you. It’s not. Let me take the most extreme example I can find- the one that looks the absolute worst on paper. You’re going to spend an entire weekend over the summer in the NC woods and marshes.  You’re going to sweat like a pig. You and the people you’re with will be picking ticks off of each other all weekend long. You’ll get four or five hours of sleep each night, and you’ll only get that when stretched out on someone’s floor. You’re going to be lugging gear around, holding heavy stuff up for twenty minutes at a time or more, and climbing up into trees to see if you can get a clear view of things. Oh, and be mindful of the snakes.

That was one of my weekends. That’s actually been more than one of my weekends, but there was a lot of it in one weekend in particular. It was an absolute blast. It was spent with creative people, it was time spent doing creative things, and I have great memories of it. See, a part of this is attitude. If you love a creative endeavor and love it enough to support it with your own time and effort, a lot of things that should seem like work and bother don’t seem as much like work and bother as you might think they will looking in at it from the outside. That’s doubly true when it’s being done with good friends.

(4) There are no guarantees of anything more than a thank you. You might not even get that. Indie creators and the people starting up their own DIY creative endeavor can be like any other group of people out there. You’ll find really good, really cool people, you’ll find some just okay ones, and you’ll find some total jerks. I’ve been lucky. By and large I’ve run into far more really cool people than jerks, and by and large there are likely more people out there who will appreciate it if you show a legitimate interest in helping them (with no strings attached or ulterior motives involved) to make their passion project a reality.

But, again, yeah, there are no guarantees that anything happens along the lines of what I’ve written about here. All you might ever get out of making a conscious effort to share and promote the stuff like this that you love is other people saying, “I like that too. Hey, have you heard about this?” Which, honestly, isn’t a bad return on you investment if it introduces you to new things you’ll end up really liking or loving.

Well, there’s actually one major guarantee here that I can predict will happen with zero fear of contradiction. Nothing will ever happen if you don’t make the first move. None of what I talked about above or anything like it will ever happen if you don’t start the ball rolling.

Seriously, what do you have to lose by trying to do this? You’ve written about something on your blog or on social media with regards to an issue in society you want to see fixed, you’ve shared multiple political articles that day, you’ve shared the things you think are examples of something ridiculous that someone is doing, and you’ve posted the latest celebrity gossip. What are you going to lose by maybe thinning out some of the bits from the latter three groups and replacing them with something a little more positive in support of things you enjoy?

The worst thing that can happen on your end is, again, you might only get introduced to new stuff you’ll end up enjoying. No matter what happens on your end, you’ll still be helping indie filmmakers, independent artists, and the DIY creators out there that you like by maybe getting a few more eyeballs on their work. But, who knows? Maybe you get really lucky. Maybe changing your social media and blogging habits a bit, being more deliberately focused with trying spread the word about and to help grow the passion projects and works of others that you yourself enjoy, and being there to lend a hand when you say you can will open up opportunities for you. Maybe it’s only ever the opportunity to add some really cool, talented, and creative friends to your life, but in the world we live in today that’s worth a hell of a lot more than many “dividends” or “rewards” you’ll find in many other endeavors.


Jerry Chandler is a lifelong geek, dabbling in just about every genre but finding science fiction and horror to be his primary comfort zones. He has also had a lifelong devotion to that form of entertainment known as professional wrestling. When not worrying that his coworkers are going to inflict bodily harm onto him over his sense of humor, he enjoys hitting the convention scene or making indie films with his friends. He also finds talking about himself in third person to be very strange. 

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