Thursday, May 28, 2015

30 for 30

In less than a week, I’ll be turning 30. To celebrate the occasion, I had an early birthday party with approximately 30 of my closest friends and family back home in New Jersey. As if that wasn’t apt enough, the theme of my party was Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, just like Kimmy’s 30th birthday party episode, though fortunately my fiesta was a more positive experience than that of the titular character of the new Netflix original series.

My Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt-themed 30th birthday party

These appropriately synchronous “30”-focused items have arrived at a pivotal point. To explain, I’d have to back up a bit to note where the Kimmy Schmidt hype has begun.

Several years ago, while working at Canadian immigration law firm Campbell-Cohen, my co-worker Matt Cohen looked at me and asked, “Do you know who you look like?” I’d heard this question before and was usually satisfied with the follow-up answer provided by the inquirer. I was always changing my hairstyle and was typically compared to whichever Hollywood celebrity had a similar look. In the moment of Matt’s inquiry, I was sporting shoulder-length dark brown hair and bangs reaching my eyebrows. His answer? “The new secretary from The Office.” As someone who was familiar with the show but had never seen an episode, I immediately searched to see if I could find the person he had in mind. While perusing the cast, my cursor stopped on Ellie Kemper. With her similar haircut, I was pretty sure I had found the right gal. I posted on Matt’s Facebook wall with a link to her IMDB page asking, “Is this who you meant?” “Obviously,” he commented, and I remember his friend Ally Kemper also commenting something about her similar name.

I still never watched an episode of The Office after that. It wasn’t until the smash hit Bridesmaids released in theaters that Ellie Kemper popped up on my radar once again. While watching her onscreen, I was satisfied that my doppelgänger had a sweet, funny role and didn’t make me embarrassed to show my face. Though we no longer had similar hairstyles, other people were now telling me that I resembled Kemper.

Fast forward to 2015. While spending some downtime on Facebook, I started noticing a few of my friends posting about the new Netflix original series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Though I had not yet heard of the show, I was happy to see that Kemper had nailed a starring role and that my friends’ posts were all positive. Eager to check out the series, I began watching the show soon during my first available day. After only four episodes in, and with my upcoming 30th birthday party on my mind, I sort of jokingly posted on Facebook saying that I should have an Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt-themed party. Eerily, a few episodes later, Kimmy celebrates her 30th birthday on the show.

Now I was enthralled. I had binge-watched the whole first season and seriously wanted to combine these synchronicities. Since I work at Famous Birthdays with a lot of web video stars who create viral six-second videos on Vine, I was inspired by them and thought I could figure out a way to do Vine videos for my party. The idea wasn’t fully formed, but I started telling my friends about my thoughts. While telling my friend Missy, we started discussing creative projects in general that we could do, such as YouTube videos about things that we’re passionate about. “Missy, I think we should have a serious business meeting. Let’s set a time to do dinner and we can come up with some things we can work on,” I insisted. Missy was onboard and I’ll never forget when we met at Pono Burger on April 1. Missy opened up her notebook and said, “Okay, so I think let’s not do Vine. Let’s do a web series.” I immediately looked at her, excited, and with the biggest smile said, “Oh my god, yes! You are Xan!” I suddenly realized in that exact moment how similar her wardrobe and look were to Xanthippe Voorhees, one of the characters from the show. And that is how Unbreakable Missy & Lori was born.

Missy and I agreed to come to our next meeting with outline ideas for a 10-episode series. We knew that Missy would do the editing for the project, but didn’t have any other production roles solidified. However, I went home that night and just started writing and writing and writing. Although I had never written anything fictional like this before, ideas were suddenly spewing out of me like volcanic lava. Before I knew it, I had five episodes written and was excitedly telling my parents and Missy the good news. Though I was never convinced of the existence of angels before, I was pretty sure that my grandmother’s theatrical writing spirit was creatively assisting me with this project. (Of course, coincidentally enough, my grandmother’s maiden name is actually Missy’s last name, though Missy and I are not related.)

While Missy and I had originally set a goal for 10 episodes, before I knew it, 17 episodes were scripted for our LA-based parody of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. One thing after another started falling into place as we began production on Unbreakable Missy & Lori. So much positive energy seemed to surround us as we set to work.

The synchronicities continued as Missy uploaded our completed first episode (below) the day of my 30th birthday party in New Jersey. Though Missy was in LA at the time, I had the opportunity to debut the episode alongside Missy’s parents, as well as mine, in our home state.

Now that Episode 1 has launched, I’m preparing for the next big things arising on my schedule, which include our 30-day crowdfunding campaign, as well as my 30-day birthday month of June. On my return flight to LA, I began thinking about the constant reoccurrence of the number 30. With this in mind, I set to work on a list of 30 goals for my 30 days of June. The final list is as follows:

1. Work out for 30 minutes every day.
2. Achieve my 30-day crowdfunding goal.
3. Do 30 creative things for my girlfriend Nicole.
4. Spend 30 minutes in the sun.
5. Meet/interact with 30 new people.
6. Eat raw vegan for 30 days.
7. Find 30 cool things in Santa Monica.
8. Meditate for 30 days.
9. Discover 30 inspirational quotes/stories/things.
10. Have an Unbreakable Missy & Lori launch party with 30 attendees.
11. Write for 30 minutes.
12. Add 30 followers on Instagram.
13. Get 30 more YouTube views.
14. Spend 30 days doing exactly what I want to do.
15. Send 30 personalized messages about Unbreakable Missy & Lori to friends/family.
16. Reach out to 30 press contacts.
17. Post 30 social media posts for Unbreakable Missy & Lori.
18. Express 30 days of gratitude.
19. Explore 30 new destinations.
20. Listen to 30 new songs.
21. Smell 30 scents.
22. Touch 30 textures.
23. Strengthen 30 relationships/friendships.
24. Learn 30 cool facts.
25. Delight 30 people.
26. Provide 30 recommendations for Famous Birthdays.
27. Learn about 30 people from West Orange, New Jersey.
28. Do 30 creative activities.
29. Say 30 positive affirmations.
30. Record 30 stories of love.

I’ve entered each of these goals on a spreadsheet, and I’m ready to embark on my 30-day journey.

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