Star Trek ends, Reality sets in…

It’s been a crazy few months! Here’s what’s been happening in my life…

Post election. It’s two weeks after the election now and I’m just beginning to recover from the emotional vicissitudes of having “won the country” but “lost my rights”. I understood from my junior high experience what it felt like to be bullied for being queer, but not until now have I had to deal so directly and so often with people who consider me immoral or disgusting, who hate who I am and don’t mind letting me know. And never before was I willing to admit that when people vote on issues like this, it’s a public referendum on me personally, on who I am and the outcome of these votes affects my life directly.

This experience (the election, volunteering for the No on 8 campaign) gave me a much broader perspective of the world I live in and a clearer viewer of the people around me and the work I have to do. The experience taught me I cannot let myself be invisible and I must find my voice and use it. I know we all have different parts to play and I played only a tiny role in this campaign, but I am inspired by the many faithful players around me and I can feel in my core that I’m just getting started.

But let me wind the story back a bit…

Work. I finished my last shot on Star Trek at about 4am Saturday morning, October 11, 2008. That was the end of the now-standard three month run of six day weeks at the end of every big project. One week I clocked over 90 hours, one of my longest at ILM in a while (I know, Sony and Weta artists say “quit yer whining”). As usual I learned a lot from my always awe-inspiring coworkers and the talented and fantastically funny key creatives. Serious publicity for the film kicked off recently and the first full trailer debuted last weekend in front of Quantum of Solace. It’s always fun to read fan comments on our work and it’s even more fun to hear responses from my coworkers who helped create the images. I can’t wait to see the full movie and I hope people enjoy it. It’s gonna be a tough crowd. The movie comes out May 8, 2009.

Time off, sort of. I was scheduled for a relaxing week off after Star Trek, but I ended up having two weeks off due to a pushed project and during that time off I ended up working four days anyway. I did manage to squeeze in a little couch-time watching Dexter Season 2 while munching Newman-Os and spooning down Ben & Jerry’s. But mostly my time off was spent spend doing something I’d never done before that was completely outside my comfort zone: After I finished my last shot on Star Trek, I drove home from work at 4am, slept for four hours, got up, showered and drove into the city to begin three and half weeks of volunteering for a political campaign…

Volunteering. Obviously, this was a huge election year. I usually do my bit for democracy by talking issues with friends, casting my vote, waiting to see what happens, then getting peeved at the results. But for this election, I needed to step it up. There was simply too much at stake for the country and for me personally and I needed to get involved.

I considered volunteering for the Obama campaign, of course. I’m one of those geeks who a year ago actually put Obama’s 2004 DNC speech on my iPod for inspiration (don’t get me started). And the more I learned about him the more I trusted his vision for the country. But in the end, I figured Obama had millions of people fighting for his vision all over the country, while in my own backyard millions of people were poised to steal away my civil rights. Thousands of people here were fighting to enshrine their ignorance of and hatred for me, my friends and neighbors by supporting Proposition 8, an amendment to the California Constitution that would eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry. The choice was pretty clear and I decided to help the No on 8 campaign. I admit I felt a little guilty not taking part in the national fight for an Obama presidency, but I knew that guilt would be nothing like the guilt I’d feel if Prop 8 passed and I had done nothing but sit on the sidelines waiting for other people to do the work.

Very briefly, the three and half weeks lead-up to the election… In the morning I’d monkey around at home and in the evening I’d drive into the city, park near West Portal, take Muni to Castro and walk to the 2278 Market St San Francisco No on 8 headquarters to do some phone banking. Phone banking is not glamorous but it’s part of the grunt work required to connect to voters (more on phone banking in another post). As the election neared, we added visibility marches to remind people to vote no (and I think to keep morale up in the office). In the last week or so, we worked to counter specific efforts by Yes on 8 by doing new phone banking and flyer drops (I did a flyer drop in an Oakland neighborhood I knew nothing about – more on that in another post, too). Then, finally, on election day I volunteered with 7,500 other people to cover as many polling locations as possible and to hand out fliers and hold signs reminding supporters to vote No on 8. For me this meant a 13 hour marathon in Alameda county at Berkeley Firehouse #3, standing on a street corner handing out palm cards and waving signs. Without question, that was my favorite effort with the campaign and is probably what gave me the strength and motivation to actually get through the following day when it was all but confirmed we had lost the fight (I’ll talk more about election day in another post).

Take care all! My best, Michael

[This post updated Jan 17]

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