A Big Change for the Heasley Family

We almost moved to Maryland.

My connection to the company was solid and the job was right up my alley. Well, my old alley. It was an in-house Art Director position; the kind of work I’d left behind about three years ago. I submitted my application. I interviewed for it. I got a second interview and my friend already working at the company was enthusiastic. We started shopping for houses and my kids started imagining living in a place with actual snow on the ground (we told them it wouldn’t be that fun, but Violet refused to believe us). It was time to move across the country, a thing we’d never done before.

After Erin got her Master’s Degree, we were faced with the reality of what a part-time professor at a Community College can make (you honestly wouldn’t believe it) and the fact that the well paying, full-time professor positions are in short supply. We needed to explore options, and not just mine. Erin applied for other opportunities, too. One very close to home was looking really, really good. Until it didn’t and disappeared like a puff of smoke from the cigar of one of those derby-hatted cartoon bankers who is evil and you know that because… cigar.

So, yes, I put myself on the job market. After three years of working in film/video and doing freelance jobs, it was time to introduce a little more stability into our lives. Stability has always been the watchword around our house. As long as we could pay the mortgage and the bills and feed our kids and clothe them, it didn’t really matter to either me or Erin how much money we made. Never, not once, has getting rich been a goal (or even, just like, buying a boat). The goal is to do what we are supposed to do: care well for our family, be where Heavenly Father wants us to be, and do what He wants us to do. That’s how we’ve always conducted our life together, through good times and bad. It has served us well.

So, needless to say, we were stressing. A bit. And while all of this was going on, our friend Chris kept promising we’d have that lunch together that kept getting put off.

Waaaaay back in July, Erin and I were reminiscing about all the traveling we used to do back when travel was a thing we could afford, and we thought about Chris and his business of putting luxury vacation packages together and we hit upon an idea that was both ridiculous and too good to not at least pitch to Chris. Maybe he’d laugh at us, but it couldn’t hurt to at least propose it to him. Finally, in December, when we were trying to figure out what to do about Maryland, the lunch happened.

We told Chris our idea: send us on your vacations. Put us up in your five-star hotels, schedule our safaris and zip-lining adventures through jungles, make reservations for us in the best restaurants–do that and we’ll film it all and give you promotional travel vlogs you can use for marketing. And then Erin said, “And we’ll do it for free!”

And I said, “No, wait–wait a minute. It’s a lot of work for me after we get home to edit and put it all together and–”

And that’s when Chris cut me off and said, “I think it’s a great idea. Yes, I need that!”

And I said, “Y-you do? We really thought you were gonna laugh at us for trying to get a free vacation.”

“No,” Chris said. “And I’d like to take it even further. I’d like you to become my partners in Travel is SWELL, and I’d like Erin to train and become a Travel Designer with me and help me sell custom travel packages to people.”

We were floored. We went into the meeting expecting nothing and came out of the meeting with a spring in our step and promised ownership in a business. (And the chance to go to Machu Picchu. I’ve always wanted to go to Machu Picchu. I was pretty sure I’d now found the means to go to Machu Picchu.) We went home, shell-shocked, and immediately set to praying. And talking. And praying some more. Pros and cons were discussed, friends and relatives were consulted, options weighed.

This wasn’t quite the stability we were looking for. Travel is nice–travel is AWESOME (one might even say SWELL)–and we’d certainly be experiencing a lot of it as we went out to get firsthand knowledge of the places we’d be sending people to and filming our videos, but awesome travel is not a good enough reason to not take care of your family properly. Erin would be working on commission and I’d garner some payments for the video work, but nothing was guaranteed. It was another leap for a family that, evidence to the contrary during the previous three years, was more than a little risk-averse. And then we ran the numbers. And then we made a decision.

Three weeks later, we signed papers making us officially partners in Travel is SWELL.

This week, Erin completed her training.

And that, really, is why we’re finally telling you about it. Things have changed for us in a dramatic way and we’re excited to tell people, but we didn’t want to do it until we were ready. Erin is looking for clients. We hope you’ll contact her if you or anyone you know is looking to dream about their next vacation. She can help you in a big, big way.

Pretty sweet logo, huh? Designed by yours truly.

Now, if you know us and I were you, I’d have some questions. So, let’s switch formats. Here we go:

What the heck is a Travel Designer?

Great question. I didn’t know either. A Travel Designer is a lot more than a Travel Agent. Erin’s approach is to talk to the client about the experiences they’ve already had that they enjoyed, what kind of experiences they’d like to have, and where they might like to go. Want to go somewhere where the water is crystal clear blue and you’ll be treated like a queen as you laze about on the sand? Then Barbados might be for you. Want to eat like a king and take a deep dive into history? Hello, Rome and all these cool excursions and sites you might not even know exist. Simply put, a Travel Agent will get you to where you want to go, but a Travel Designer will not only get you there but make sure you have the time of your life. There’s even a questionnaire you get to fill out so Erin can best help you. It’s fun!

What about filmmaking? Writing? Comics? Is all that over with now?

Nope! I’m still in post-production on my newest short (in fact, we just shot some new scenes this past weekend), and I’m exploring other film opportunities that I can’t talk about just yet. I’m also actively shopping around a YA novel, Paper Bag Mask, and The SuperFogeys continues at superfogeys.com. That’s the beauty of working with Travel is SWELL: we get to stay here and, though our time is even more at a premium, things largely get to continue as they were.

For Erin, too?

Yep! For Erin, too. She’s staying on as a professor at Clovis Community, even taking on an additional class this semester for a total of three sections. She’ll teach and then, in her off hours, create travel packages for clients.

Sounds like you’re gonna be pretty busy. Wait… you guys still have kids, right?

Yeah. Three of them. They’re cool with not moving to Maryland, so it’s all good. We also create packages for families and groups, so they’re gonna get the opportunity to explore this world of ours as well. After a decade of never going farther than Los Angeles, that’s pretty exciting. Plus, I like to think we do a pretty good job carving out family time. There’s not a whole lot more important than that.

How much does Erin and Travel is SWELL charge for services?

In most cases, nothing! Some packages will require a small service charge, but that’s not common. Travel Designers are paid commissions by the vendors you book with, not by you. I know! I had no idea either until we got into this.

Why should I use a Travel Designer at all? Expedia exists.

Hey, Expedia is great! If all you want to do is get to and from somewhere, I say go for it. But if you want to explore hotels, food, rentals, excursions, and some really cool places to visit that you might not otherwise know about, then working with a Travel Designer is not only a great idea, it’s really the best idea. You know what I hate about vacations? Figuring out how to get from place-to-place. A Travel Designer takes care of all of that for you. Plus, we have access to online portals and vendors mere mortals can only dream of. We can hook you up.

Is Travel is SWELL only for luxury travelers? 

Not exclusively, but we’re definitely all about the package. We’re for people who really want to explore and experience something amazing, not so much for those who just want the cheapest flight to Florida and a rental car. But hey, if you want to know if we can help you with what you have in mind, all you gotta do is ask.

Sounds pretty cool. I’m going on vacation in the next year. How can I check out what you have to offer? 

That’s easy, just go to travelisswell.com, or email Erin directly at eheasley@travelisswell.com and tell her what you’re thinking. She’ll help you explore.

Eh. I’m not really into travel.

That’s more of a statement than a question, but I’ll address it. Over the past few years, a lot of people have asked how they could help us out. A referral would be great! If you’re not much a traveler, tell your friends.

This gonna be a thing now? You gonna sell me this hard on this blog in the future? Because if so then I’m ou–

Whoa, whoa, whoa. That’s not what I’m about. Just trying to share and take this one–ONE–opportunity to try to drum up a little business. This is a big, important change for my family and we’re just trying to get a leg up in the world. The blog will go back to normal after this.

Okay, cool.

We’re cool?

Yeah.

You know I think the world of you.

Yeah… I know…

Be sure and check out travelisswell.com ASAP!

There you go again!

Sorry.

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New Blog Posts in Other Places!

Hey everybody, just letting you know I’m still out here and blogging–but it’s showing up in other places! Here’s some links to two recent blogs I did about the work I’m doing creating my own films with Tremendum Pictures:

TREMENDUM PICTURES MAKES MOVIES. PLURAL.

I recently read that 80% of all short film makers never make another film. That’s a pretty terrible statistic. There’s probably lots of reasons for people not taking a second dip into the filmmaking pool, but the biggest has to be that making a film is really, really, REALLY difficult. Earlier this year, I finally finished my first short film as a writer/director, The Shift, after an exhausting year and a half of work. There were times I wondered if I still would have made the film if I knew at the beginning how much blood, sweat, late nights, feelings of self doubt, favors, mistakes, computer crashes, and, yes, tears it would eventually require. That 80% statistic resonated with me in a big way… READ MORE.

And…

MAKING MOVIES IS AN ACT OF FAITH: THE 205th

I wiped the wet brow under my sweat-soaked cap and shut my eyes tight against the setting sun. The grips barked calls to one another across the city park parking lot while my D.P. presented me with the very real possibility that we might not get the shot. This was, after all, the most complicated scene in the entire film–a tense “oner” that would see a smoking gun, blood splatter, and a character fall to the ground. We needed, probably, at least an hour of rehearsals to get the timing and the performances right.

We had five minutes. Three after arguing for two over whether or not it was even worth trying… READ MORE.

My Wife and I Lost Our Jobs. Six Months Later, We Discover the Next Step.

Towards the lightI couldn’t figure out how to title this post, so I decided to go with the stupidest one possible.

But, yes, it’s true, after six months and many, many more blog posts, my wife and I finally know what to do next. And, for us, it’s kind of insane.

First, a little background:

The day I was let go from my job just 24 hours after Erin lost hers has got to be one of worst–and best–days of my life. “Worst” for the obvious reasons, and “best” because even in the midst of being completely, utterly freaked out, I couldn’t help but be at least a little excited about whatever potential new opportunities lie ahead. It’s rare an epoch of our lives ends so definitively that we can recognize it in the moment. Usually, it’s only by looking back we see accurately just when one phase ended and the next one began.

And yet, looking back, there is more that I can see clearly now that I couldn’t even then. I believe life, if we are in tune with the curve of it, is always preparing us for the next thing. God is in the machine.

One of the difficult things about blogging every day during the first half of our unemployment was that sometimes I would have thoughts and feelings that I didn’t know what to do with, and, consequently, didn’t know how or if I should express them to the public. How could I express to you what I could barely understand myself?

The one consistent thought and emotion I’ve had since this all began is this: everything is going to be okay. The one constant inconsistency has been this: the how. For a long while we both assumed we were to walk the paths we and so many others had before: apply for jobs, then interview, then get a job.

Only that last part never happened. Time and again we’d both have these amazing interviews and then, for one reason or another, the job would not materialize. Worse, often the potential employers would just vanish (once, literally).

The longer it all went on, the more a thought kept coming back to me that I dared not express. If I did, then how could anyone do anything but conclude that I was a lazy bum? This thought was not a reasonable thought, and it would make what was an already tense situation even worse because behind the thought was nothing. It was a vaporous idea, signifying much and meaning nothing because it begged all sorts of questions for which I had no answers.

But the thought was there. And it was this: That the 9-to-5 is no longer for me.

For a time, I imagined the thought might mean that the book I was working on was the beginning of a new career for me. But I knew that was stupid. Unless you’re writing trilogies about starving kids killing each other* or the weird sex escapades of a woman who bites her lip a lot, it’s tough to make a living as a writer. I believe in both of the books I’ve written and I know one day they’ll find their audience, but it will likely be a niche audience.

Nothing wrong with that, but it’s not a living.

Alongside this thought was this nagging idea–a feeling, really–that I needed to patient. I felt like the answers would present themselves and that I need not worry. This is a great, comforting feeling to have unless you have a wife and kids who are used to things like money to pay for food and housing. But I trust such feelings to put me in tune with the curve, and I couldn’t just ignore it. I could only not share it.

So, I didn’t.

Which brings us to the decision. When Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing at Tremendum Pictures first asked to meet with me back in December, they told me straight up they were interested in me coming on board as a creative talent to help them with their various endeavors: feature films, marketing videos, viral videos, commercials, etc. Their first movie, The Gallows, comes out July 10 from New Line Cinema. Worldwide release, and it was made right here in Fresno. That’s a big deal. And they see Tremendum Pictures being an even bigger deal in the future, but for that they need talented people at their side. It was a flattering offer.

Two months later, and after much prayer and fasting and deliberation and barraging Travis and Chris with a million questions, Erin and I have decided to go all in with Tremendum. All in. This will be my every day.

But what does that mean?

Well, for right now, that means our financial situation doesn’t change very much. The entertainment business is a very different thing from what we’re used to and, for now, the money we receive is going to depend on what jobs come in and what deals can be made. We’re taking a true leap of faith here, confident that the money will come because that’s the promise we’ve received. Not from Travis and Chris, but from Someone a little higher up.

Make no mistake, for us, this is insane.

When we first got married, Erin and I had the mutual philosophy of not caring about making big money so long as we had stability. We valued that above all. As such, we’ve never had credit card debt and each time we’ve bought a home we’ve purposely gotten something that was way, way under what we could afford.  This is just who we are.We’re not big spenders. We’re not risk-takers.

But even more than being frugal people, we are people who consult the Lord on our decisions and don’t make big moves until we know it’s right. Signing on with Tremendum reminds me a lot of the decision we made to have our first child. At the time, we were in college, had no health insurance, and jobs that paid barely above minimum wage. And no prospects. After not being able to get rid of the idea that it was time to start our family and praying incessantly about it, it became clear to us that we were being asked to make a leap of faith. Only then would reap the blessing of being able to actually afford the child we were being prompted to bring into the world.

We found out Erin was pregnant the day before I started the job from which I was let go six months ago.

So, here we are again, on the precipice of something new and great. How great, we don’t yet know. For me, it’s going to mean working on lots of local projects and developing a TV Show that has already sparked some serious interest. I feel uniquely prepared for this. All my talents and skills will be poured into this job, and, though I have a lot to learn, I know I can do it. I simply, unequivocally, know it.

For Erin, this means going back to school. If she works now as well then I won’t have the flexibility in my schedule to pull this off, so she’s applied to get a Masters in Communication. She wants to teach at the college level and anyone who knows her knows exactly how flat out incredible she’ll bet at it. I’m thrilled for her.

How are we going to pull all this off? I don’t honestly know yet. I only know that we will. And that’s crazy.

Thank you, everyone, for following along with us through this journey. Thank you for your encouragement and words of wisdom. Thank you to those who supported us with gifts and babysitting and other assistance. We’re not quite out of the woods yet, but we’ve gotten this far in large part thanks to you.

This blog isn’t going away, but the focus will be shifting a bit. I’ll try to let you in as much as I can on the frankly awesome things I’ll be doing in the future. I’ll also be continuing my work on my books, and I might even serialize a few chapters or so in this space. I’d love to share more of what I’ve been doing the past few years.

Thanks again. See you soon.

*Yes, I know that’s not what the Hunger Games books are about. I’ve read them. They’re about vampires in love in a world where everyone is put into one of five factions based on their talents and forced to run in a maze to get to Hogwarts, the space school orbiting the Earth.