I was pleasantly surprised last evening to receive an email from a old friend. Attached to it was a photograph which you see off to the right.
No, it’s not the 4 Stooges although that would have been an appropriate moniker at the time. It’s the cast and crew of a film shot in the late 60’s called “The Treasure of Ralph Moneybags” and seeing this shot made me think about how in many ways the digital world we’re in has helped and hurt what is now getting to be two generations of kids.
Jon, Teddy, Eric and I were schoolmates from elementary school forward. We did a lot of things that parents would NEVER let their kids do today: wander about the streets to one another’s homes, go unsupervised to the schoolyard to play stickball or football or a game we called “mugby” (a particularly violent and rule-less form of rugby). Things kids used to do with one another to stay connected. Mud seemed to have been our lingua franca.
Ralph was, as I recall (and it’s been around 40 years so my memory may not be great) a project the four of us did with a movie camera and some makeup. It involved one of the great movie-making stunts ever which, I’m told, still elicits gasps whenever this movie is shown. We threw a dummy off a very high bridge on the Bronx River Parkway. The footage was (is) spectacular, it is edited well enough that it seems as if someone jumped, and the police apparently got calls about a suicide when we filmed it. Adding to the realism is our having the villain (me) tying the heroine (Jon) to the Metro North railroad tracks as part of the filming. No trains were harmed!
So what does this have to do with business? Kids today make videos. The tools are better and they’re immediately accessible by their friends and families around the world (we held screenings at Teddy’s house). Our project took weeks and weeks between shooting and editing. We’d shoot, have our moms send out the film, and wait. If it was wrong, we’d do it again. Today, the whole project would have taken a day or two. There was no immediate gratification as with a video camera and bigger penalties when you screwed up. So we were amazingly careful (particularly for us!). We learned the lessons of planning, delayed gratification, resource conservation (film and processing were expensive) and collaboration. More importantly, we did this ON OUR OWN. No parents required, none involved. Our time was our own (we all played sports, some played in rock bands, most of us did homework) and we managed it. We weren’t scheduled and play-dated to death by our parents.
I’m happy to live in age with all these tools. Without them, Eric, who lives in the Bay Area, could not have found me and sent me this gem so easily nor could I have thanked him as publicly. “Ralph” is, I’m told, safely on DVD where his legacy can live on. While I know that copy will start to go in a few years, the digital master won’t and we can burn new DVD’s. Try that with the original film (I’m still looking for my copy which I hope isn’t dust by now). But I think something is lost by our kids mistaking the connectivity they have now with the kind – the really human kind – we had 40 years ago.
Eric, as I said, is in the Bay Area. Check out his band. Oh yeah, he has a day job too but I’m sure it’s not as much fun! Jon runs a fabulous pizza place in Chicago which probably IS as much fun as anything. Teddy, sadly, passed a few years ago but he’ll always be the hero to a lot of us.