What My Dad Taught Me

For those of you who know us or have been following our blog, you know we do not typically talk about holidays but today is a special one for both Jon and I. Like many, it took us a long time to fully appreciate our parents and understand that they always had our best interest in mind but as adults that has completely changed. Our dear friend’s over at Variable, Tyler Ginter, Khalid Mohtaseb, Jonathan Bregel, and Joey Lawrence, in collaboration with Coca-Cola for Father’s Day 2012, have created two very moving films that got us thinking about how our dads have inspired us.

“My Dad’s on going battle with Stage 4 non-Hodgkins lymphoma has taught me a lot about strength and resolve. It’s made me appreciate my time with him more.” – Jon Connor

“I see my dad about two times a year these days. He’s been living overseas for the last 16 years working non-stop. Seeing him nowadays is definitely bittersweet… I support his decisions yet I want nothing more than for him to come back so I can spend more time with him.” – Cristina Valdivieso

Variable had a vision for an inspirational story about Coca-Cola and perfection. Coca-Cola contacted them after seeing it to collaborate on a social media campaign for father’s day so they built context around the original film with a Behind the Story look at Joey and his dad.
Since Variable and Coca-Cola have posed the question, we thought it would be good for us to share what our dads have taught us. We encourage you all to get involved whether it’s here or at home with your family.

Coca-Cola, “The Perfectionist”

Coca-Cola, “The Perfectionist” from Variable on Vimeo.

“The Perfectionist” – Behind The Story

“The Perfectionist” – Behind The Story from Variable on Vimeo.

Both of these films got us thinking so here’s our stories:

I’ve spoken many times about my past on here and how exactly it was that I fell into the world of film but most of time I focus on how studying photography influenced my interest in film. The one thing I haven’t ever mentioned is that at the same time I was slowly transitioning away from photography and into film, I was studying psychology. Of course, I had a strong interest in it yet I knew I could not and would not make a career out of it. So why waste my time right? Following my love for a creative field was terrifying for me ever since I was a kid. My dad told us his story of how he came from Peru to the United States and in doing so, he had to make a choice: Continue on with his passion of photography or follow in the foot steps of his older siblings and dedicate the next few year’s of his life to education in order to one day have a successful career in a field that would prove to help support the woman he would one day decide to marry and the children he’d hope to help succeed. It’s pretty crazy to think about how the small choices my dad has made throughout his life could have affected our life so much. The energy that my dad brought to pursue his dream of being successful after arriving in America is the same energy he put into his parenting. Looking back I have to say I could be so difficult but that’s how it is when you’re a kid right? You don’t understand all the sacrifices your parent have made for you and no one will really ever understand. I don’t remember exactly when but at a fairly young age my dad made it very clear what he expected from my sister, my brother, and myself: Be happy. Do whatever it is in life that’ll make you happy. Follow your heart and the money will come in the end. Strong words coming from a man with his past. I listened and thought I understood but it wasn’t until I left my day job about 3 years ago that I fully got it. My dad moved overseas when I was 12 and while I got to spend a year with him abroad, my time with him became less frequent between the ages of 13 and 29. Over those years I missed him tremendously and from the outside not many have understood how or what kind of bond we share but it’s not for other’s to comprehend. The dynamics of my family are interesting to say the least but I believe the distance has really brought us closer. I consider my brother and sister my best friends in the world and there is nothing I’d hesitate sharing with my parents. I’m sure it hasn’t always been the easiest task but my parent’s have always accepted me for who I am. Seems simple right but coming from a strict upbringing of stern beliefs on what’s right and wrong, certain choices I have made in my life would have upset some but not my parents. Through the toughest of times, they have always been there for me and all my siblings. I remember telling them a few years ago that I wanted them to accept me and all my flaws so I would in turn not hold anything back. A risky move I know but after the age of 17 I found it to be pointless to hide who I am and what I do. I don’t think many people would have liked the brutal honesty approach but I, for some odd reason, found it important. Hiding anything from the people in my life who know me best and love me more than anyone else could didn’t seem like an option. I’m so incredibly grateful for not only my dad but my entire family. Leave it to the guys over at Variable to give me so much to think about. The long and short of it all is that the simple advice my dad gave me so many years ago and has continued to remind me of has influenced me in ways I could have never imagined and as simple as his advice was, I don’t think I would have followed my heart without his adamant advice.

My childhood was unconventional by most standards, I would assume. Certain things my Dad did would drive me crazy back then. He was strict in many ways. There were things he did that I wouldn’t understand or appreciate for many years to come and some that I still am trying to figure out.

My English teacher as a young child was surprised to learn that my Dad was making me diagram sentences. It wasn’t part of the curriculum. It was an antiquated method utilized to better understand the components of speech abandoned by the public school system. To me as a child, it appeared he was creating extra work for me. I didn’t get it.

He would make us forego more popular modern movies and watch the likes of The Marx Brothers, Monty Python, or The Court Jester with Danny Kaye. While my friends watched Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, I was watching the original version with Errol Flynn. My comedic heroes growing up were Jack Benny, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, and Red Skeleton. I went to a new school when I was younger and someone asked if I liked Bobby Brown. My answer was “I haven’t met him yet. I’m new here.” Years after the ridicule ended, I realized that for better or worse my knowledge of pop culture was replaced with a respect for the classics. Something that caused fights as a second grader became a source of respect from veteran comedians and filmmakers.

He moved us from right outside of West Philly to the countryside in Chester County before my older brother started junior high. We had over two acres of grass that we had to mow. For awhile, we had to use a push mower. That might sound fairly normal but I mean one that doesn’t use gas; an old school, no-motor, push mower. In the sweltering heat of summer, I muttered less then favorable critiques of the intelligence of this endeavor, under my breath. It sounded similar to Darren McGavin fighting with the furnace in “A Christmas Story”. During the coldest days of winter, it wasn’t uncommon to see one of us three brothers out back taking turns chopping firewood. He said in traditional fatherly fashion, “It’ll build character.” All that hard work we did wouldn’t go unrewarded. One night, as the snow out back finally stopped falling he put us to work again. Amidst our complaining, he got the garden hose out and a large piece of plywood. He hosed down the small hill behind our house and had us pack down the snow with the plywood. It was cold and I was annoyed. The plywood was heavy. My fingers were numb. It wasn’t until the next day, when I was flying down that awe-inspiring track of glorious icy pageantry at speeds unfathomable to a child, that I realized, sometimes when you do work that seems unnecessary and painful to a degree, later on you reap the rewards.

On weekends, rather then playing with friends, it felt like most of our time was designated to helping Dad out on some project or another. I’m fairly certain that in the history of mankind, no one has built more shelves then my Dad. No matter how many we had it was never enough. During these weekends, sawdust was inevitably created as well as scraps of wood, bits of trash and other remnants of the aftermath of “the mad builder’s” maniacal plan. My Dad would always say during the cleaning process, “Look down. Pick up.” Not exactly the type of quotable gems you’ll find inscribed on placards for future generations. The message was simple. Be alert. Be aware of your surroundings. Clean your mess up. He also said, “If you know how to sweep properly, you’ll always be able to find a job.” Although those words will probably not make it into the Library of Congress to this day I push a mean broom.

Duties of cleaning and handing my Dad tools, pencils, and tape measures were delegated to us minions deemed too young to operate power machinery. When he was in the process of doing something that required tools or my help. He’d say “Anticipate.” He didn’t want to wait and have to tell me he needed a pencil to draw the line on the two by four. He wanted me to see him taking a measurement and know he would need it and be ready with it. Seems like a pretty insignificant detail. Something that just annoyed me as a child. However, years later I see he was instilling a work ethic and an awareness that I try to take on set with me or apply to projects I work on today.

Along those lines, one of my dad’s all time favorite movies was “Runaway Train” with Jon Voight. He used to quote it constantly. I found myself later on in life working my way through college at a menial job at a restaurant. On a particularly tough night, exhausted,going through the motions and having been screamed at by an out of control owner for no reason, I wanted to walk out. I had had enough. Then I heard my Dad’s voice. He was quoting Jon Voight. It was a scene where Eric Roberts was talking about how he was going to go to Vegas when he escaped. Voight’s characters response was that he would not be doing that. He would be working a menial job at a restaurant and that his boss would then come in: “And then he’s gonna look around the room– see how you done. And he’s gonna say, “Oh, you missed a little spot over there. Jeez, you didn’t get this one here. What about this little bitty spot?” And you’re gonna suck all that pain inside you… and you’re gonna clean that spot. And you’re gonna clean that spot… until you get that shining clean. And on Friday, you’ll pick up your paycheck. And if you could do that… you could be president of Chase Manhattan– corporations. If you could do that.” So, with that bouncing around in my noggin I did just that. I cleaned that spot.

My Dad’s sense of humor and general crazy antics was a cause for embarrassment when I was younger. I used to get mad because he rarely seemed to take very much seriously. If you know me at all, you are well aware that if he taught me nothing else, it is this. Life is a short and often painful thing. The ability to make light of situations and laugh is vital.Never take yourself too seriously. I guess that’s why in real life I don’t mind playing the “village idiot”. Anyone who mistakes that for an actual lack of intelligence just doesn’t get “it” and that’s okay, too, because one of the most important lessons my Dad taught me was that real strength and character may exist where it isn’t conspicuously visible. Real strength isn’t loud and boastful. It comes from silent sacrifices that may go unnoticed. It comes from what you do when no one else is looking. Power. I mean real power, is rarely, if ever noticed.

So I’ll end this with two of my favorite quotes from my Dad:

“Sometimes you can’t play the flute. You just have to blow into it.”

“Be easy on people. You have no idea what they are going through.”

If you enjoyed the films Variable produced, we encourage you to make it known. Use the Twitter hashtag #DadTaughtMe, thank Coca-Cola for this campaign on their Facebook, share your story, or simply let dad know just how you feel.


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