Tag Archives: writer

Traversing the Corona Virus Roadblock

Empty NYC 2020

By Christopher Pickhardt

The world is on pause right now as it collectively battles the fast-spreading Corona Virus aka Covid-19. The proactive and preventive measures governments worldwide are taking in order to slow down the spread of the virus are unprecedented in modern times. From Shelter-in-place orders in California and New York City and social distancing measures across the rest of the country, governors are urging citizens to stay home as much as possible in order to prevent spikes in Corona Virus cases from inundating our already overloaded hospitals and healthcare facilities.

All non-essential businesses have been ordered closed in an effort to prevent mass gatherings of people. Cities around the world have come to a virtual standstill, with eerily empty roads and highways sitting quietly like something out of a post-apocalyptic movie. Since many of these measures went into effect early last week, millions of people across the country became unemployed overnight, as their “non-essential” jobs evaporated before their eyes. Schools and universities have been closed. Wait staff and bartenders, barbers and hair stylists, actors and actresses and all types of performers, all suddenly without employment. Restaurants are only permitted to serve take-out and delivery. The entire travel industry, including cruise lines, airlines, resorts and hotels have all been affected because of the virus. That leaves only grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, medicinal Marijuana dispensaries and a few other businesses open to the public. It has been strongly recommended that we only venture out of the house to either exercise (while honoring social distancing of at least 6 feet from the person next to us) or to pick up vital provisions like medicine and food. The rest of the time we must stay indoors.

As we all adapt to this new normal, there is a massive cloud of uncertainty hanging overhead. It is unknown how long we will have to remain bunkered down in our homes, as we have never been here before – at least not on this scale. The Influenza pandemic of 1918 aka “The Spanish Flu” lasted almost two years and affected 500 million people, but that was at a time where we were a lot less connected than we are today. It did not take long for the Corona Virus to spread from China to all corners of the globe. In three months this little virus has caused BIG trouble planet-wide. And in its wake, families are left doing what they can to get by day by day. We all have to take precautions to stay healthy – both physically and mentally, as we are continually bombarded by the media with stories of woe and tragedy, leaving us feeling a bit helpless at times and very uneasy.

I am trying hard to keep a positive state of mind in all this chaos and focus on proactive measures aimed at ensuring a cash flow during this crisis. As a creative professional I have taken a financial hit myself. Film, television and theatrical productions have virtually shut down nationwide, leaving an entire industry in a state of limbo until this pandemic calms down. Some casting is still going on, with a majority of opportunities focused on remote from home work. The voiceover industry especially is thankfully still up and running, so at least I have that. But my video production work that helps keep me afloat has all but ceased for the time being, as many companies are focused on simply surviving this epidemic rather than moving forward with marketing initiatives.

As employees across the globe switch to working from home, that leaves many companies running a physical skeleton crew at their facilities, which means my avenues for sales calls are limited at the moment. The couple projects my partner and I do have on the books are pretty much on hold for the moment, as the ban on public gathering prevents us from actively filming anything right now. Additionally, the few nights a week that I work at a restaurant to fill in my financial gaps has also disappeared before my eyes, as there is a moratorium on in-person dining in effect until further notice. So given that I am relegated to staying home, I am switching gears and turning my attention to writing for the foreseeable future. I am hoping to snag some new freelance writing clients to help weather this all-encompassing storm as well as working on some creative writing projects that have been resting on the back-burner for a while.

I hope this crisis will not last too long, but however long it does last I am going to make the best of this window and work to be as productive as possible. I pray we will all get through this Corona Virus situation safely and most importantly healthy. God speed.

 

From Student to Speaker – Inspiring the Artists of Tomorrow

From Student to Speaker

By Christopher Pickhardt

I was invited to speak at my Alma mater, William Paterson University, as part of a panel discussion with other alumni, where we would share our achievements since graduation with students and elaborate on how we incorporated all we learned at the University into our careers. This enlightening event took place yesterday in the shadow of New York City in Wayne, New Jersey – just a short ride over the George Washington Bridge.

This engaging conversation between my fellow alumni and I and the crowded room of students (of varied majors) and faculty, was immensely enjoyable. There were three of us seated at the front of the Martini room (William Paterson’s cozy multi-media theater) in Hobart Hall aka the Communications building and we couldn’t have been more diverse in our chosen professions, yet as similar in our stories. We took turns telling our tales, reviewing our days at the University and each imparted tidbits of useful information and wisdom to these young studious minds.

The students were privy to the “war stories” of a career broadcast journalist who had most notably reported from the Wall Street trading floor on 9/11 and from the front lines of 2005’s Indonesian and Indian Tsunami disaster, where she stayed for seven weeks. The kids also heard from a career salesman and marketing guru who moonlighted as a children’s author – all after serving in the Marines when he was young. And they heard my story, as an actor, a writer, filmmaker and freelance videographer.

It was truly a privilege to be able to go back in time for a moment and recount my days in William Paterson’s Hobart Hall and praise the professors whom inspired me – like Chriss Williams, my film-making professor or John Rhodes, my adviser and journalism professor who helped me secure my internship at Late Night with Conan O’Brien when he was still at NBC in new York. These two pros, among others, showed me that you can make a difference in the world and provoke a spark within the artist that will eventually produce the grand flames of creativity within.

I was able to share my experiences as a struggling actor, filmmaker and freelance videographer and how important it is to remain focused on your career path. I answered many questions on craft, technique and especially how I market myself in the fast-paced world of social media we are currently in right now, where self-promotion is absolutely vital because nobody will work as hard for you as YOU.
Additionally I broke down my daily, weekly and monthly routines and how they related to my overall BIG PICTURE goals. How it is so easy to fall into the time-wasting traps that the internet offers and how fast we can slip into procrastination.

And lastly I explained how vital it was to ensure that an artist not only considers oneself a business person but that the artist dutifully maintains his creative endeavors in a manner that works AS a BUSINESS, and not merely as a hobby. This is of paramount importance if one wants to not only be successful, but desires to be seen as a creative professional and hence, taken seriously within the industry.

If there was one piece of advice I was able to relay to the students that for me, held real value was simply how important it was to believe in yourself. If you do not believe in yourself and your ability to achieve your dreams, nobody will. My belief in my talents, my dedication and passion are what have guided me on my journey through the failures and successes and kept me afloat during the hard times when it seemed my career aspirations were out of reach.

I also said to them how special it is to be an artist and how audacious it is to pursue a career in the arts, where the odds of success are often spewed onto the budding artist with the grimmest of patinas, yet it is the inherent rebellious nature of the artist to face the obstacles and naysayers with a stiff upper lip and proceed forward regardless – for the artistic hunger will surely override the roadblocks that the real world enjoys throwing at the creative soul.

In all, it was a great feeling, being up there with my peers in front of all those students during our afternoon panel discussion and later on during an evening panel as well, where I was the sole speaker. It is my hope, that together, the three of us left these kids with a sense that it IS possible to achieve success if you are willing to put in the work, to take the time to hone whatever craft is relevant to your chosen profession and how necessary it was to find a strong work ethic; which they must develop in school because it is the discipline that will follow them throughout their life in all their various endeavors. If they could take away even a morsel of these themes from our discussions and apply them to their lives, there is no reason that one day they could not end up sitting in the very seats we were sitting in, speaking to a future generation of William Paterson students about THEIR success. That would make me very happy.

An Evening at my Alma Mater

Chris Kim Lesley Stahl
From L to R: My girlfriend Kimberly, Lesley Stahl and I at the reception that preceded the wonderful lecture.

By Christopher Pickhardt

Last night I had a wonderful experience at my Alma mater, William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey (which I graduated from in 2002 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications). Along with several other alumni, I had the pleasure of being invited to attend a lecture and discussion with “60 Minutes” broadcast journalist and co-editor Lesley Stahl, as part of William Paterson’s annual Distinguished Lecturer Series.

This was a very interesting and engaging lecture, which was preceded by a dinner with the Dean and other William Paterson faculty and administrative staff. Ms. Stahl’s lively lecture covered her long and varied career at CBS which began right as the Watergate scandal was breaking and also covered the challenges of being a female journalist in a mostly male-dominated field in the 70’s and concluded with her respected contributions to “60 Minutes,” where she still contributes today. There were some fascinating tidbits, immensely useful advice for students and a terrific Q&A afterwards, where Ms. Stahl shared that she is in the midst of completing a new book which will chronicle her life as a grandparent.

I think the most interesting topic for me was the evolution of journalism from its print heyday to the fast-paced digital realm it is vastly residing in today. Ms. Stahl’s lecture really made an impact on me and enticed deep reflection about the media era of today. In the age of the internet, where any and all information is only a fingertip away, we tend to forget how far “information” has come. It is almost alien to imagine a time where news traveled slowly via countless local and nation newspapers, from telegrams and wires and largely from mouth-to-mouth. We tend to take for granted how much work and effort was put into researching a story and checking the facts in advance of an impending print deadline. Today with the click of a button one can find just about any information they want on the world wide web, written by God knows who and often without the smallest hint of credibility. Of course the major news outlets still follow traditional journalistic guidelines as they manage their internet counterparts, but they are but a fraction of the news-gathering entities online today in the wild, wild west of the world wide web.

The Information Age is a double-edged sword at best and an abomination to fact-based education at its worst and it is up to us individuals now to do the fact-checking, because with the onslaught of content and the enchanting power of advertising dollars, domains are pumping out legions of “click-bait” articles designed to allegedly increase their readership (with eye-catching headlines) and in turn attract the coveted revenue dollars instead of focusing on putting out actual information. In many cases sadly, MISINFORMATION is the law of the land, as readers flock to get their fix of slanted and or distorted versions of stories that may or may not align with the actual facts of the day and usually just serve to feverishly stir the pot of whatever the topic of the day happens to be. More than ever before, readers must be vigilant and shrewd when seeking news and lean on skepticism until proven otherwise. In other words, question everything. Which in a way, is kind of what journalism is all about. The tough questions are usually the right ones to ask. Yes, it was truly a memorable evening and one I was honored to be a part of.

One unexpected bonus from this grand evening occurred during a conversation I had with the head of alumni relations – whom after hearing a brief synopsis of my experience and achievements since graduation, asked me to participate in an upcoming alumni panel discussion where we would share our accomplishments with current students, answer questions and flesh out how we incorporated our educations at William Paterson into our careers. Having participated in a similar event in the past on two separate occasions at another local college [where I co-taught a workshop on independent film-making], I was eager to be a part of it.

I always enjoy public speaking and anyone who knows me is aware that I am not exactly an introvert. I have always been comfortable talking in front of people and love inspiring others with my world view or past experiences – which is always thrilling, especially if they can occur in the same discussion.

You may see the University’s official event page below:

http://www.wpunj.edu/news/detail.dot?id=6b6b6438-e9bf-4a76-8e28-5e9376d6642a