When the average 7th grader in 1993 was told to “tell a popular story in a visual medium,” you could bet dollars to donuts he was going to bust out a diorama. Countless shoeboxes in the 70s and 80s died senseless, construction paper-and-rubber-cement-drenched deaths and the kid whose mom had a boot obsession always won anyways.
My dad had this unruly and weighed-a-metric-ton VHS camcorder so a few of my classmates and I viewed this as our calling to re-create Riki Tiki Tavi on film. Dad even showed us how to dub sound on top of the tape. So, we slapped the soundtrack to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service on top of that bad boy and turned it in.
It was horrible – no two ways about it. But my classmates were mesmerized. We had just made a film. A few years later, I happened to tape over it with an Aerosmith concert, but that video marked the day where I knew I’d lost my soul to the storytelling power of video.
Whenever a school project came along, I’d make a video. If my family traveled, I made a video. A magical day came along just after I graduated from high school: my family took a trip without me and left me back home to mind the house. My 18-year-old (read: delusional) mind took over and I said – Hey, I’ve got the house to myself. I’ll make a short film! It’ll be brilliant. People will love it and I’ll be the youngest director ever to win an Academy Award. It is going to be AWESOME to be a millionaire! My aunt had given me $1,000 as a high school graduation present, so I’d done what any 18-year-old would do: I bought editing software. I recruited a couple of friends from high school, used real lighting and shot this fantastic art film called “Lobster.”
Turns out it was just a video showing two people eating lobster. But I still loved it.
I headed off to college as an aerospace engineering major, determined to be an astronaut but wound up doing a whole lotta math. I decided my time was better spent making films – short, funny films that made people laugh. During the fall break, a few of us who were stuck at the dorms while everyone else headed home made a video chronicling our time alone in the dorms. We posted it on the school’s intranet and it ended up going viral. That was the deciding point – college wasn’t for me. I was going to go make movies.
I’d heard that interning (read: working for free) was a great way to build your network, so I spent the next 6 months interviewing for every internship under the sun. This was followed by every door being slammed in my face. These production houses wanted experience – real experience – and I didn’t have it. So I decided to exaggerate my qualifications in the next interview I walked into. I’d tell them what they wanted to hear.
Well, I walked through a door labeled “Crank Yankers” not too long after that, an accomplished senior in NYU’s film department, fresh off his Student Academy Award win and, of course, running a small talent management company in my spare time.
I was hired before I even got up out of my chair.
In pretty short order, I was working 60-hour weeks (unpaid) and loving it. The folks at Crank Yankers were doing their job, too, asking me for my internship paperwork from school. I dodged request after request until one day, a massive piece of lighting equipment broke right as I was walking under it, slicing my head open like a fresh grapefruit. Bleeding profusely and surrounded by a circus of people sliding across the concrete floor on my blood (this is true), I was shuttled off to the hospital – which is where my employer asked for the school’s contact information because they had to inform them I was injured.
The time came to fess-up: Dude, I’m not in school. I just love doing this. I figured it was the beginning of the end. I went back to work right after they stitched me up and pretty much the opposite happened. The production company hired me retroactively and I got a giant pile of checks for all of the hours I’d worked since beginning my internship (this didn’t stink). The Executive Producer even came down and shook my hand. Instead of becoming the outcast, I became a sort of mascot for the show.
When the calls came down for people from the Crank Yankers staff to come out to Los Angeles for the beginning of The Man Show and continue on Crank Yankers, I got that call!
My time with shows like Crank Yankers and The Man Show were unbelieveable and reinforced everything I loved about telling stories with video. When my time with those shows came to an end, I moved to Chicago and caught the bug for radio. But no matter how much I liked radio, video was still there in my mind every day and I kept at it with the visual storytelling part-time.
It just so happened that during my part-time commitment to video and full-time commitment to radio, The Travel Channel was hosting a video contest. I tapped back into my childhood passion for travel videos and sent one in. I ended up making the cut and I saw the first day where a video I’d created from beginning to end make money.
I was the Executive Producer for the morning show on WLUP-FM here in Chicago during this time, interviewing people from across the city and sharing their stories with the world. At the beginning of 2009, I started hosting the Guy Bauer Half Hour, which was ripe with stories of people from all over the greater Chicago area. Right after Thanksgiving that year, however, the turkey wasn’t the only one who’d seen brighter days. I got a call that the entire show’s staff was being laid off. Not to give it up like the turkey did, I spent the next five months sending out résumés. I was back to my early days of internship seeking – doors were being closed and the phone wasn’t ringing.
All this time, I could never seem to forget how much I enjoyed making videos and telling stories. Tired of the silent phone, I decided to find work in other ways. I scoured Craigslist ads for video production work and in April 2010, I scored my first official freelance video editing project. It may or may not have involved puppies. But I will definitely tell you that there’s nothing like the day you receive your first check for doing something you love.
I love puppies. And I love them even more on video, it turns out. I abandoned the job search and took my 13 years of experience and officially launched Guy Bauer Productions in September of 2010. We’ve moved into our permanent office in Lincoln Park as of November 2016 and are considered one of Chicago’s top video production agencies. So there you have it – from a mortal fear of dioramas to exaggerations that turned into truths and launched the experience that allows me to create the body of work I’ve produced to date – it’s all here. I love that I get to wake up every day and do what I love for people I love doing it for. How many people get to say they’re a storyteller for a living? It’s pretty incredible to look back and how I got from there (7th grade) to here (my own company), but it’s only one piece of the story. I’m looking forward to the future and who knows – maybe you’ll even be a part of it.