This article originally appears on my Medium page.
One week ago we were inside the Claridge Theater in Montclair New Jersey celebrating incredible indie web series, films, and fiction podcasts. The New Jersey Web Festival had kicked off, and a collection of inspiring and passionate creators had assembled to start a weekend of positive affirmation and the celebration of talent and creativity. As reactions rippled through the crowd caused by whatever we were watching at that moment on the big screen, I couldn’t help but marvel at the path that led me here, as an Executive Board Member and the founder of the Fiction Podcast/Actual Play wing of the festival.
Getting Started with the NJWF
I first heard about the New Jersey Web Festival too late to submit. It was 2018 and the second season of my web series The Hunted: Encore was making its way through the WebFest circuit. Our show had been to festivals all over the world but somehow I missed the submissions for a festival just across the Hudson River from me. Creators I respected from all over the world started posting about this festival in Montclair New Jersey, and what they were writing blew me away.
Here are some excerpts from 2018 FilmFreeway reviews:
An unforgettable Jersey experience! From the moment we were selected, through the detailed planning and promotion, to our very first group photo op in front of the theater, we felt like all-stars.
I have a love/hate relationship with Linkedin. I use it daily for research and networking as a producer and tech founder, but during my time as an actor, I’ve found that it has little to no value. It’s tricky trying to figure out how to thread the needle between these two distinct personas on the internet that are often opposed. On the one hand I’m an actor and gamer, and on the other I’m a tech founder and producer. Linkedin exacerbates the problem by forcing me to exist solely as my resume, and thereby crafting two separate or even disjointed images of myself. It creates a dichotomy that is uncomfortable and feels inauthentic. As a result, I’m not sure I comfortably connect with either crowd.
This post also appears on Medium and Linkedin.
It seems like every other day, there’s a new article about the latest big-name Actual Play series, or how Dungeons & Dragons or their parent companies are making a comeback. Although these stories are interesting and important, they often lack one key perspective: that of the people who made it possible for this content to exist in the first place. I’m talking about the gamers, streamers, and podcasters who started when this form of art was just beginning — all of whom deserve more recognition for their work. You can’t talk about the resurgence of tabletop gaming without acknowledging those who have been pushing ttrpg storytelling to the forefront. These unsung heroes of gaming culture don’t receive the appreciation they deserve industry-wide, despite reviews, awards shows, networking events, and conventions popping up for seemingly every other web-based art form. It’s time for that to change.
This article originally appeared on Polywork’s Blog. You can also find it on Medium, and Linkedin.
Polywork is the professional social network built for the reality of work today where people have side hustles and passions that are just as important, if not more so, than their day jobs. It’s the network you need to show your true professional passions rather than be defined by industry stereotypes. During my time on Polywork I’ve been connected to incredible professionals and artists who I’ve been thrilled to collaborate with. The amount of talent and passion being poured into Polywork inspires me every time I scroll the feed. Whether you’re looking for new opportunities or just need some advice, Polywork is the network you need. They’ve been crucial in my own online presence and I’m thrilled to join their ranks of Polynaut advisors to help shape the platform to better help creatives everywhere. Join me today!
(Note: as a Polynaut advisor my invite link allows you to skip the waitlist. I am not compensated in any way for bringing people on the platform. Polywork DID make a one-time donation to a charity of my choice, I chose The Seeing Eye in Morristown, NJ in honor of my mother who was an alum. That is the extent of my compensation.)
Polywork’s Immediate Impact on Me
When I added Polywork to my email signature alongside Linkedin, I got a lot of questions from people. However almost immediately I found the responses I would get were far more personal and far more tailored to my life. Going through Linkedin I realized there was really no sense of my life outside my Executive Assistant career. I’m a union theatre actor, an award-winning filmmaker, a podcast producer, I launched the first “film festival” dedicated to fiction podcasts. All of those things make up who I am and how I define myself, but on Linkedin they were afterthoughts. On Polywork they were front and center for anyone who wanted them. It completely changed the way I promoted myself outwardly and allowed me to present my whole, complete self.
This article also appears on Medium and my Linkedin.
For those of you who know me, you know I’m generally outspoken and forward. This is not a new phenomenon, my parents raised me to ask questions, speak my mind, and they taught me how to defend my opinions. As a rule my parents wanted me to be inquisitive and curious by nature — a trait I honestly think has propelled me forward my whole life. There was always one topic that I had to avoid around the house, however. And it was a topic of great interest to me. 34 years ago today, my sister Victoria passed away from a heart condition. One year and nearly 5 months before I was born.
I often look at six and a half years ago as the moment my life changed entirely. That "and a half" is the difference between my saying my life changed for the good, and indescribably for the worse. It was six and a half years ago that I returned from my single longest acting contract, and was feeling artistically and creatively stifled. I was acting, yes, and I was loving every second of it, but I wasn't creating. I wasn't generating the art rattling around in my brain in the form of ideas. So I called Marcus Thorne Bagala, my longest collaborator, and together we planned a project of classic showtunes reimagined in today's radio genres. We didn't know it yet, but that was the very first project of Charging Moose Media. "and a half" later, I sat by my father's bedside working on one of the tracks for this album as he passed away.
Yesterday I officially made an extremely nerve-wracking and exciting decision. I gave my notice that I will be leaving my Executive Assistant job at Dashlane to finish up at the end of January. However I'm not leaving to start in a new Executive Assistant role. As of February 2022, I will be turning my entire professional focus to the whole reason I moved to New York City in the first place. I'm returning full-time to the world of Acting, Writing, and Producing.
After I graduated college in 2012, I made the majority of my living as an artist. I travelled around the country performing. I worked on stage and screen in a wide, exciting range of projects. In 2015 I earned my membership to the Actors' Equity Association. 6 months later my father's cancer took a turn for the worse, and I took a break to be with him when he passed. A week after his funeral, they found a tumor in my mom's stomach and we started the process all over again. In June of that year I tried to return to acting, and during a musical theatre class with Jen Waldman my voice stopped working. Upon inspection with Dr. Linda Dahl, I found out that I had a polyp on my vocal cords and would need surgery. This took my return to acting date to January 2017. One week after I was cleared by my doctors to return to performing, they declared my mom's cancer terminal. I packed my life into a few boxes, put my acting career back on the shelf indefinitely, and I moved to Maine with my brother, Will, to take care of her until she passed.
In July of 2015 I felt on top of the world, ready to chase my passions and truly build my career as an actor. May of 2017 I had lost both my parents, lost my voice, and lost my will to be professionally passionate. Anyone who has followed along with me in the last few years know that I have continued to act and produce work. There's a different, however, between chasing it as a career, and making passion projects. Almost 6 years after my father passed away, I'm finally ready to do both again.
I have some really exciting irons in the fire, and I am so thrilled to be able to put my entire attention back to my passions. If you're looking for an actor, a creative partner, a development producer, or just someone to bounce ideas off of, do not hesitate to reach out. I'm going to be very available very soon.
In the meantime, thank you, thank you, thank you. More to come soon :)
Since I joined the New Jersey Web Festival as an Executive Board Member I knew that we needed to be open to international and non-english fiction podcasts. As a filmmaker, one of the most amazing parts of NJWF was interacting with creators from all over the world and getting to experience their work. I thought, however, that with the limited resources of being a small festival and not wanting to add the burden of english translations to non-english podcasters, that this may need to be a goal for a future year.
That decision, however, didn't stick right in my gut. Then last week, it came up again.
I received emails from creators of podcasts in Swedish, Arabic, and Russian, asking about non-english podcasts and their inclusion in the festival. These creators were excited for what we were building, proud of their content, and hoping that the NJWF would have space to consider their shows.
One thing that Neem Basha (Founder/President, New Jersey Web Festival) has instilled in me as we build this new Fiction Podcast experience is that every decision we make regarding our festival must be in the service of celebrating creators everywhere. To restrict "everywhere" to mean "english-only" would be so violently in the face of everything the festival stands for that we can't in good conscience allow that.
I'm gonna preface this article by acknowledging that I come off as bitter. I accept that interpretation of these words if you so choose. Because honestly? I am. I'm bitter on behalf of every single independent content creator who continuously hopes that industries will start to make space for them. The barrier to entry has never been lower for creators, except for the barriers towards acceptance and being viewed legitimately by those in power.
It should also be said that I'm the head of the Fiction Podcast Planning committee at the New Jersey Web Festival. I am also an independent content creator, but I acknowledge that I am potentially speaking out of both sides of my mouth here, optically.
The final caveat I have to make here is that I'm a member of The Podcast Academy (you can see the logo in the lower right of my website) and I'm very happy to be one. Paying my annual fee has given me access to networking, events, and a mentor/mentee system that has been extremely beneficial to my own growth as a podcaster. When the Academy was announced, I saw many threads in the independent podcaster community of people who were skeptical that it wasn't going to turn into just another gatekeeper. I truly believe the founding goal and mission of The Podcast Academy is positive and altruistic. However color me now one of the skeptics that they will be good for podcasters at large rather than for only the established industry.
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.
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.