A Career thanks to the Butterfly Effect

June 12, 2022 0 Comments

but·ter·fly ef·fect

(in chaos theory) the phenomenon whereby a minute localized change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere.

A few times throughout my life, something triggers my memory of how I feel I obtained this career in video production & engineering, now passing 35 years.

It was 1985. I had just turned 16 that summer. Now fall, my sister’s birthday was on the way. Having cable TV for many years, I knew about what they called “The Public Access Channel,” although I rarely watched it other than looking for the current time on their character generator that they called “The Community Bulletin Board.” I had known though that they would offer free birthday greetings, which I thought would be neat for my sister to see……so I submitted one.

Around the time of her birthday, I found myself intently watching that Community Bulletin Board waiting to see her birthday message. I don’t recall ever seeing it. What I did see, was an ad asking for high school volunteers to help with local sports broadcasts.

That fall, I was enrolled in an electronics program at a vocational school that served my high school. For years I had dabbled and tinkered with electronics and computers, and it interested me. This program taught circuit theory, electronic fundamentals, etc. When I saw the ad looking for volunteers for local sports cablecasts, I think I thought “that could be neat to try.” My high school had no video program, and my knowledge of anything video production was a B/W camera with reel-to-reel VTR I saw once in Elementary School. My family didn’t own a VCR bak then, let alone a video camera. So my knowledge was “zero.”

“That could be neat to try….”

Myself in 1985 regarding a video camera.

Back to the Cable TV ad. I called them, and scheduled an appointment to “interview” with someone at the cable studio. I remember meeting the Program Director Jim, and Sports Director, Chris. Jim took me downstairs to the basement to give me a tour. Like most basements, it looked dark & dingy. It seemed mostly illuminated by the panel lights on huge VCR’s, monitors, and various equipment with flashing lights, etc. Jim began to tell me about some of the gear. I never saw any of this before. I can still vividly remember looking at one corner at a table filled with battery chargers and portable VCR’s, all with flashing indicator lights. At this moment, I was suddenly feeling very intimidated and overwhelmed at what I was seeing.

The Career That Almost Wasn’t…..

Now I have reached that Butterfly Moment, although didn’t know it of course. Standing there, listening to Jim talk about the gear I didn’t understand, looking at a room full of intimidating lights and meters and electronic gear that I couldn’t comprehend–I was going over in my mind my “goodbye speech.” I think it would have been like this: “Thank you for giving me a tour of the studio, but I think this is beyond me. But thank you for your time.” Yes, that ALMOST happened. I was seconds away from that coming from my mouth. But it didn’t.

The Career I Never Knew I Wanted ….

I showed up for the first event in October, 1985. As it would turn out, I really loved it! I worked as many events as I could. Everyone I met as staff and crew were great, and I became very enthusiastic about learning and doing more. How much more? Two years later upon graduating high school, I was shooting & editing a magazine format show among other things. With my electronics background, I would start to excel with the technical aspects of the equipment. Upon graduating from Community College in 1989, I was offered a full time position, where I would remain for the next 10 years. Needless to say that this was “my calling.”

A moment I remember from my interview with Jim & Chris from the cable studio:

  • ME: I don’t have any knowledge about video equipment.
  • CHRIS: Can you work a stopwatch?
  • ME: Yes.
  • CHRIS: Can you go like this? (moves his arm back and forth like operating a switcher fader).
  • ME: Yes.
  • CHRIS: You’re hired!

A Short, Seemingly Insignificant Moment–Determined a Life Path……

It wasn’t until some time many, many years later that something triggered me to think about that moment, and it hit me what very well may never have happened had I said “Thank you for your time, but this is beyond me.” Would I have worked Super Bowls? An Olympics? All of those events all over the continent? Would I have developed a career in video production where I am now running my own business? Did this career happen because I decided to give the Public Access studio a try? If it wasn’t for that seemingly small and fast moment, would I have had this 35+ year career at all, and all of those experiences? Could it be that one moment, that at the time would seem pretty insignificant—really created a life long path? You know….a Butterfly Effect.

We all know that “Hindsight is 20/20,” but think of moments in your own life that may have been greatly affected by what seemed to be a small and insignificant moment–something that altered a life outcome…….Feel free to leave comments!

I thought about the subject for this article after recently learning that “Jim,” the Program Director from the Cable Station–passed away in 2020 at a fairly early age after health difficulties. Thank you Jim for giving a chance to that newbie high school kid back then.

FEATURED PHOTO AT TOP: A large butterfly I found having a rest on the side of the TV Trailer I was operating circa 2002. Symbolic for this article, isn’t it?