Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?

How does a dancer, choreographer, child of the theater find himself directing his first film?

About four months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting the actress, producer, writer, and artist Penny Arcade. She said a lot things to me that day, but the one that rings most prominently right now is synchronicity. “Do you ever notice when certain things in your life that are completely independent of each other seem to match up perfectly? That’s synchronicity, and the more of it you have the more you know that you are on the right track” she said flipping back her pink hair.

Penny Arcade
Penny Arcade

I am currently choreographing two music videos, dance captaining a musical, working for a Broadway choreographer, and studying Rob Marshall. Things feel pretty in sync. I am honing my work as a choreographer for both the stage and the screen. 

But while my life may be clearly heading in a very specific and exciting direction, all of this has me wondering, what is my brand?

I just read Brandicapped by Mel Epstein, in which he states very clearly that the brand and the business are one in the same. But how do I as an actor, dancer, singer, choreographer, and now director create a solid brand for myself?  If I truly am my own CEO, COO, CFO, etc, what is my unified aesthetic?

Josh Zacher Choreography
Josh Zacher Choreography

I am continually working on my website, and I have a “brand” (see above), but what does that truly mean? Do I have to unify the work of the theater with the more street style that I use when I work on film? In all of my work I like to use a combination of street styles and classic Broadway theatricality to create a kind of fusion. This is of course something has become increasingly more popular thanks to Andy Blankenbhueler (another choreographer who traverses between stage and screen) and the mammoth musical Hamilton.

But I am not Andy. I need to find my own voice. Where does this project fit into my brand? Maybe I’m brandicapped.

All of this film work comes appropriately in time for the Oscars. While many people are busy discussing why the oscars are #sowhite, much fewer are aware that the worst gas leak in US history occurred in California just this week and best actor nominees, Mark Ruffalo and Leonardo DiCaprio, are actively fighting against the leak as well as urban drilling in Los Angeles.

A Southern California Gas Company facility which has been leaking natural gas since October, in the foothills above the affluent Porter Ranch suburb of Los Angeles, Jan. 7, 2016. Already, some 2,000 families have left due to the smell and side effects, and mounting public anger over the leak led Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency on Wednesday. (Stuart Palley/The New York Times)
A Southern California Gas Company facility which has been leaking natural gas since October, in the foothills above the affluent Porter Ranch suburb of Los Angeles, Jan. 7, 2016. Already, some 2,000 families have left due to the smell and side effects, and mounting public anger over the leak led Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency on Wednesday. (Stuart Palley/The New York Times) (the above content was taken directly from wired.com, click picture to read the entire article)

Although it is fascinating to me that that the US does not have a clear and acute law regarding climate change, the Environmental Protection Agency, as of 2009, has committed to reducing green house gases under section 202 of the Clean Air Act as part of the “endangerment finding.” Among the 6 identified green houses was methane. The Porter Ranch region of California is currently sitting in more methane than ever causing serious harm to humans, nature, and wild life. Let’s hope that California governor Jerry Brown owns up to this situation. And quickly.

I guess that all of this is to say that it is us, artists, who have the power to save our world. I wouldn’t have known about the gas leak if it wasn’t for Mark Ruffalo, so there is a great deal of truth to the power of artists to take a stand. We can tell the story that will stop climate change.

(The title of this blog post is a direct quote written by Lin-Manuel Miranda from his musical Hamilton)

One thought on “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?

  1. I think it is important that Mark Ruffalo and Leo are advocating for the gas leak and the issue is able to reach to more people, but I’m not sure if we necessarily need to compete the gas leak issue against #OscarsSoWhite. Maybe that’s not what the post is suggesting, but that’s what I got from it. Great job on backing up your ideas with statistical evidence.