My co-producer Brian David Judkins told me to slow down the other day, and I bristled. The third season of our podcast Encounter Party! had recently wrapped and I was sprinting on to the next steps.
“Ned, stop.” Brian said sternly. “We need to have a call with the full cast to celebrate.”
Reader, I tell you right now, this did not sit well with me. My mind went into turmoil. Celebrate what? I found myself thinking. Our first campaign is over and I haven’t started promo for the next thing. I haven't reached out to my 5 people today to network. I’m not deep into my editing workflow or my character development or any of the long litany of things I do on the regular to take this show to the next level. How could I celebrate when there’s so much to do? Celebrating would mean being happy with where I am when I have such big goals and dreams. Since I haven’t achieved those dreams, there’s nothing to celebrate.
Yes. Yes there is.
"We're giving Fiction Podcasts the Film Festival treatment."
- Neem Basha, President, New Jersey Web Fest
In the Spring of 2019, I approached Neem Basha to grab a cup of coffee. At a Starbucks on Wall Street, I told him about an under-served community of web content creators. Neem is the founder of the New Jersey Web Fest, one of the top-rated Film Festivals in the world for web series. What I explained is that during my time making both Fiction Podcasts and Web Series I had found the Venn Diagram of creators in both mediums to be a circle. Both communities are vibrant, inventive, beautifully creative, diverse, and unbelievably supportive of each other. However, Web Series have Film Festivals, Fiction Podcasts have no comparative experience. Neem's festival has a reputation for being one of the most creator-focused and uplifting festivals on the Web Fest circuit. I told him that these creators making incredible pieces of Audio Fiction deserved to feel as special as the filmmakers do at the NJWF. He looked at me from across the table and without missing a beat he said "I'm in. How do we make this happen?"
Five years basically to the minute.
What do five years even mean? What does it look like? A half-decade without my Dad, 1/6th of the half decades I've been on this earth. I'll be younger than he was when he passed when I'll have spent more years without him than with him.
Almost everything I've accomplished, achieved, sought, done, has been as a result of decisions made and actions taken after his passing. Would he recognize the path I'm on given that almost all of it started after he was gone? Would it make sense to him? Would he understand it?
I spent a good portion of my childhood with a dedicated, but absentee father. A good man who lived too far away to be ever-present with a teenager who didn't particularly understand the necessity of communication.
We really reconnected when I was in college and he was just a quick drive away. After college, he remained one of my closest friends.
“There's not much to say, so I'll keep it brief. In the last 24 hours things have changed wildly. Myself, and my brother are here with my father, and in consultation with him and his phenomenal medical team, the treatments are no longer working or viable. We are moving forward making him comfortable and talking with him as much as we can as our remaining time is short, and utterly precious. He's an incredible man, and he (and my family) thank you all so much for your love, support, thoughts, and prayers. He rallied for so long, and fought so hard, and now it's time to rest. At this point, all I ask is your continued love and support, and respect for his privacy through this hard time. I will update as I can if there is any updated information. We love you all, thank you so much, really, I can't thank you enough.”
One year ago today I wrote those fateful words on the Caringbridge account for my father. February 3rd, the anniversary of his death, will always be a hard day for me, but I think January 29th is potentially harder. January 29th was the day I watched my father lose hope, and I began to discover a new language.
On January 28th, 2016, I sat down with Dad to ask him a very tough question. I told him that tomorrow we were going to have a talk with his team of doctors, because he was in no mental state to make his own medical decisions between the cancer, the pneumonia, and the amount of drugs they were pumping into his system. I told him that a big part of which was to answer the question “do we want to keep fighting this thing?”
He didn't understand.
Unless I was on an acting gig, I've spent pretty much every Thanksgiving with my father, W Michael Donovan. Some years we were in Allentown, other years we were in New York City, and one year he came up to Ithaca to take care of me after my wisdom teeth surgery.
For me, this holiday is intrinsically tied to Dad. Last year I cooked my first turkey in the company of Dad and good friends, and we laughed the night away, shared a beer or five, and watched football.
My decision for this year has been to refuse to allow myself to mope. I absolutely will not wallow in the sadness that won't go away, I will overcome it by bringing myself joy, and giving myself opportunities to grieve with a smile.
This year I just finished cooking eggs and bacon for everyone, I pulled the turkey out of the brine I helped prep for Sarah's friendsgiving, I have my wonderful mother Debba staying with me, and I'll be having thanksgiving dinner with my brother Will and new friends.
I had a rough spot about a week ago where I thought "what the hell am I gonna be thankful for this thanksgiving? This year has sucked in every measurable metric."
Well this year I'm thankful for all of you, my friends, who quite literally are the reason I've made it through this year. I'm thankful to live in a diverse city surrounded by as much culture as anyone could ever want. I'm thankful for a wonderful, supportive family. I'm thankful for the career I've chosen as my own, and the people who've guided me along the way.
But this year, most of all, I'm thankful for hospitals and all the wonderful humans who work in them, be they doctors, nurses, food court cashiers, janitors, orderlies, security guards, whatever. I've spent a lot of time this year in hospitals, whether watching my father pass away with love and care and dignity from the staff at the Jeanes Hospital in Philly after they gave him all of their effort to pull him through his pneumonia/leukemia, to watching my mother spend time in three, world-class hospitals to have them successfully remove the tumor from her gut, and put her on the path to full health, to the team who cut the polyp off of my vocal cords and helped save my career.
This world has heroes, and many of them are unsung and work grueling hours at pivotal institutions around this nation and the world, many today, instead of spending thanksgiving with their families.
In 2016 they have done so much for me and my family, and today I am so very, very thankful
Grief is a hard thing for me to talk about. This year has taught me more about grief than I thought I ever would learn at 26/27; and given me a pretty constant, oppressive sense of sorrow to boot. They come and they go at the strangest times, in the strangest ways.
Today, I realized in looking at my calendar, is one of the most important days of my father's life. Today's the day he ran for mayor, running a campaign that absolutely gave the incumbent - who by trickery was listed as both the Republican and the Democratic candidate on the ballot - a run for his money. He had under 10% of the total money to work with of his opponent, and received 40% of the vote, absolutely annihilating his projections. He was told he'd never make it into double digits, and he blew that concept out of the water.
He was told he'd be gone in less than 72 hours. He lived almost 6 more days.
He taught me a lot about fighting even when the odds are against you.
As I sat next to his hospital bed in Philly, we had a lot of time to talk, and I had a lot of time to talk at him when he couldn't join in anymore. We talked about lots of things, from his past, to his hopes and dreams for me, to New England sports, to politics, to family. In his final days he was so thankful of the people who had come into and out of his life. He spent most of his time asking after certain people, or making sure that I would reach out to certain people he wouldn't be able to. People. It always came back to people. So when I talked at him, I told him stories about people. Some that he knew, some that he'd never have the fortune of knowing. I told him about people from my past, and my present. I told him about my fears, my dreams, my accomplishments, my failures. I told him I loved him.
If I learned anything from the experience of watching my father drift away into a sleep from which he'd never return, and then living alone in his house for months, taking care of his business, and then dealing with the emotional, mental, and life fallout from all of that, I learned that loneliness is sudden, oppressive, and often arrives without warning. And without people, people you trust, people you care about, there's almost nothing that can beat it back. And there will be times where those people won't be there, can't be there, and you have to face that loneliness yourself. So what do you do?
Me? I create.
I'm so excited to let you all know that The Hunted: Encore is now available on YouTube!
On Halloween we released our Rock Musical, Action Comedy web series to the internet and its been a blast having people watch it. The New York Times described it as: "fangs, fistfights and “Bite me” jokes, all set to guitar-driven musical numbers that will sound just like heaven to fans of 1980s straight-to-VHS action films." (New York Times)
The soundtrack for the show is available for purchase on Bandcamp.com. If you enjoy our show, please considering buying the album, as the proceeds go to paying our incredible composers, and funding a second season of our show. The album is minimum of $10, but you can pledge as much as you like to help us get another season funded! You can find the album at chargingmoosemedia.bandcamp.com
To learn more about our show, visit our Website at www.chargingmoosemedia.com/thehuntedencore.
To watch the whole show on YouTube, head on over to our channel and watch at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLhSqA7vE5pHFTd1paS2hmaKaBKJqSIilz
Thanks for checking out our show, and if you like it, please tell all your friends and help us get the word out!
Over the course of this year I swore to myself that I wouldn't let the year beat me. That I would take control of my own destiny and make sure that I was always making strides forward in my life. The more my life felt like it was getting stopped, and stalled, the more I would find a lateral move to continue forging on ahead.
With that in mind, I teamed up with one of my closest friends in the world, Marcus Thorne Bagala, who I met in 2007 when we were in All Shook Up together at the Hackmatack Playhouse. After that we started collaborating on just about everything. Marcus is a brilliant composer whose work has been heard on NPR's This American Life, NFL Films, and more.
After the album we released earlier this year, Give My Regards to Broadway: Classic Showtunes Reimagined, and how well it turned out, we decided to form a production company.
And so, I introduce to you all, Charging Moose Media!
I'm so excited to share with you my newest project, The Hunted: Encore! We are an Action Comedy, Vampire Slayer Mockumentary, Musical Web Series, following Megan, a vampire slayer extraordinaire as she and her camerman Garrett go looking for the head honcho vampire in New York City. Instead she finds Ned and Adam, inept vampire slayers blissfully unaware of their ineptitude.
Making this show was one of the most rewarding professional experiences of my life, and I can't wait to show you the rest of it. But for now, check out our trailer for Season 1, and the Prologue episode below! The rest of season 1 comes out later this fall.
If you are a Facebook member, please head over to our Facebook page at The Hunted: Encore and Like our page to stay up to date on everything happening with the show. Also head to our YouTube page and Subscribe to get all of our future content, of which there will be a ton!
*Warning, I will definitely use strong, vulgar language in this post. So, you know, read at your own peril, I guess. Or don't. I'm not in charge of your life.*
I've written this blog post probably 50 times this year. I always stop and delete it because it always comes out wrong. I know now that's because I wasn't ready to write it.
The title to this post is misleading, because it represents one side of a turmoil that is constantly in my head. How do I acknowledge what is without question, the hardest year of my entire life, without succumbing to the incorrect thought that this year is all about me?
I have for so long wanted to write a post telling 2016 to go fuck itself. To remind it, and myself, that I am stronger than whatever it chooses to throw in my path. That I will always overcome, I will always persevere, and I will never stop striving to achieve.
I hate that blog post. That blog post rings false. It is only giving my ego the room to react, without allowing the rest of me to feel. The reason I keep deleting this blog post, is that this year isn't about me at all.
This year didn't steal my father from me, it stole my father from himself. After 14 months, my father lost a battle to a combination of Leukemia and Pneumonia that he fought courageously and fully. He never once made it about him, he made sure that he gave as much to everyone else as he could in whatever time he had left. In doing so, he fulfilled himself.
This year didn't try to steal my mother from me, it tried to steal my mother from herself. After an undetermined amount of time, the asshole tumor in my mother's gut tried to stop her. Tried to slow her down, and make her quit. Instead she looked 2016 in the face and told it to go fuck itself. She is now well on her way to a full recovery, and continues to live her life fully and completely, dedicating herself to her own well-being, her children, her family, and her kids. I separate children and kids, because her children might be myself and my brother, but her kids are her students. In doing so, she fulfills herself.
Photo by Danny Bristoll
(fac·to·tum | \ fak-ˈtō-təm) noun - a person having many diverse activities or responsibilities
I find myself hilarious, and I use this blog to stroke my own ego. Thanks for indulging me.