Planet Preschool

The Orchestra Room

A very long time ago, when I was backpacking in South East Asia, I met a fellow backpacker who said to me, “There are some things you can only learn ...
January 11, 2011

A very long time ago, when I was backpacking in South East Asia, I met a fellow backpacker who said to me, “There are some things you can only learn by traveling and there are other things you can only learn by staying in one place.”

I think she was right.  For about a month now I have not gotten on a plane or a train, and I haven’t even ventured above Canal Street, and I have to say it’s been one of the happiest and most productive periods of my life.  Each and every day over the long holiday break, I would sleep late, have coffee with Mary and Buffy (our puppy, who takes hers extra light and sweet), then I’d put on my boots and stomp through the deep snow across town to Little Airplane.

I would take my cup of Jack’s coffee up to the top floor and sit in the orchestra room all by myself and wait patiently for something to bubble up.  I worked on a film we’re making at Little Airplane, I wrote songs and I wrote letters.  For the first time in a decade, I felt like I had time to allow these things to rise up naturally, without the sharp fingers of a production schedule poking at me all day.  It was two weeks of pure and unabashed bliss.

Such experiences used to be a regular part of my day before I started Little Airplane some twelve years ago.  As some of you know, I used to be a writer and filmmaker at “Sesame Street.”  I worked at home and my days were largely my own.  I had the freedom to take long walks and attend to the quieter rhythms of writing which I had loved since high school.  But with Little Airplane came meetings, lots of them, so many in fact that we have a person here, Jessica, whose title is “Air Traffic Controller,” and her sole responsibility is to make sure that all our meetings start and end on time, and that the overall company schedule is adhered to on a minute to minute basis.  (And if you run an indie, then you know just how critical the schedule is.)

Over the break, I was able to remind myself of the life I had before every minute mattered, and I have to say I really enjoyed it.  And even now that the break is over and Little Airplane is once again buzzing with producers, artists and, yes, meetings, I find myself retreating up to the orchestra room whenever I have a free moment.  It’s become my oasis, the one quiet place at Little Airplane where my ideas can find their way into the world.

I know I’m not alone in struggling with the balance between making creative work and running a company.  And I have to confess that, for me, being a boss has never felt wholly natural.  But I accepted a long time ago that having my own studio was the only way I could ensure that my stories would end up on the screen exactly the way they appeared in my head.  So I’ll continue to put up with the budgets and schedules and meetings, as long as I can have a little time to myself each day to do what I was born to do:  Sit in a quiet room with a good cup of coffee and create things.

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