Our short film, Montana, based on my Sundance finalist TV pilot of the same name, played film festivals across the country this year, including
The Brooklyn Film Festival in New York, SeriesFest in Denver, and
The Awareness Film Festival in Los Angeles.
Montana will continue to play the festival circuit in the new year, and be available to watch online late Spring 2019. In a surprising but worthwhile development, I’m now hard at work writing the novel adaptation,
the manuscript of which has a target finish of mid Summer 2019.
at The Rainbow Room, The Sofitel, and The Plaza Hotel in NYC
at a private estate in East Hampton
at The High Line Hotel in NYC
at The Marriot Marquis in Times Square
The Phantom Of The Opera 30th Anniversary Celebration,
events for Art Basel Miami and
U.S. News & World Report.
of Better Spaces, a leader in tenant engagement. We’re creating and operating experiential amenity spaces in top commercial real estate portfolios across the country. It’s been an exciting opportunity to bring programming, design and a bit of theatricality to commercial spaces nationwide.
I am most proud of the fact that we employed a record 75 different people on various film and event projects, and are on track to continue growing in 2019 with new experiences and TV projects in development.
On a personal note, this year included a number of new travels,
from Tulum, Mexico to the Cotswolds of England
to Calivigny Island off the coast of Grenada.
2018 will likely be remembered as the year
I officiated my first wedding, moved to Brooklyn, and became an uncle!
2017: Top 10 Highlights
1. MAKING MONTANA
This Fall, I directed a short film called MONTANA, based on a TV pilot script of mine that was a finalist in the 2016 Sundance Episodic Story Lab. With a top notch cast and crew, we completed the film this month. And with the backing of more than 170 incredible supporters, we ran a successful crowdfunding campaign on Seed & Spark, reaching 104% of our goal. Additionally, we partnered up with The American Foundation For Suicide Prevention to use the film as a catalyst for dialogue, support, and education around mental health and suicide prevention. We are currently submitting the film to festivals around the world. If there’s a film festival you love, let us know!
2. THE TONY AWARDS
For this year’s 71st Annual Tony Awards, I directed one of the video segments for the telecast, directed the Nominees Luncheon in the Rainbow Room and Cocktail Reception at the Sofitel Hotel, and co-ran the After Party Gala at the Plaza Hotel. I look forward to returning in 2018!
3. THE NEW YORK FASHION GALA
Celebrating 81 years of service, The 2017 Fashion Scholarship Fund Awards raised $3.5 million dollars at this years gala, which I directed at The Grand Hyatt NYC. The FSF grants the single largest sum of money and total number of scholarships in the entire US. I’ll be returning to direct the 2018 gala, held next month at the Marriot Marquis in the largest ballroom in New York City.
For more on the 2017 gala, visit HERE.
4. THE 4TH ANNUAL ASC SUMMER BENEFIT
In 2013, I helped launch the national tech education non-profit All Star Code. It was an honor to return this year as Creative Director for my 4th consecutive benefit, and ASC’s most successful one yet, raising nearly $850,000 for its incredible programming. All Star Code creates economic opportunity by developing a new generation of black and Latino entrepreneurs who have the tools they need to succeed in technology.
For more on ASC, visit HERE.
5. THE POWER OF PLAY
This year at Fiverr HQ, Boat Ashore Productions launched its first ever workshop series, THE POWER OF PLAY, a unique and engaging on-your-feet experience that helps people access and utilize their two greatest resources when combating fear, fatigue, or frustration: a sense of wonder and their capacity to play. If you’re interested in bringing a POWER OF PLAY workshop to your home or office in 2018, e-mail me at
6. SPICE IT UP!
2017 included a number of exciting, creative explorations, one of which was developing SPICE IT UP!, my TV project with Elspeth Keller Scott, into an interactive, choose-your-own-adventure style series with Warner Music Group and Eko. While we have chosen to continue developing the series in a more traditional format, exploring the interactive and VR landscape was a thrill, and Boat Ashore Productions continues to develop and produce various interactive, immersive, and experiential content.
7. MY FIRST WRITER’S RESIDENCY
This Summer, I spent 10 days on the outskirts of Bar Harbor, Maine participating in my first writer’s residency, The Hamilton Project, courtesy of the Barn Arts Collective. I wrote and workshopped a selection of my new play, THE EXPERIMENT.
8. WIZARD OF LIES/PEOPLE YOU MAY KNOW
Check out my appearances in two films released this year,
THE WIZARD OF LIES (Dir. Barry Levinson – Now streaming on HBO), and
PEOPLE YOU MAY KNOW (Dir. Sherwin Shilati – Now available on
iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and VOD).
9. NEW TRAVELS
From driving up the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia and jumping off waterfalls in Bosnia and Herzegovina to dancing the night away in the catacombs of a 12th Century abbey outside Paris, 2017 certainly had some of my favorite adventures yet. Stay tuned here, at TheAdventureAddict.com, for more adventures soon.
10. MARCHING ON WASHINGTON
One of 2017’s greatest honors was hitching a ride down to Washington D.C. and participating in the Women’s March. Social engagement and activism have always played an essential role in both my professional and personal work. Going into the new year, may we all continue to march on, lifting up the voices of the few, the minority, the quiet, the oppressed, and the disenfranchised.
Boat Ashore Productions Offers Creative Direction,
Project Management, and Production Services
For Digital Media, Immersive Entertainment, and Large-Scale Events.
SEE YOU IN 2018!
Michael (aka The Adventure Addict) + Boat Ashore Productions
Cheers To The Friends
Cheers To The Gatherings
Cheers To The Travel
Cheers To The Adventures
And Cheers To The Memories
2016 was certainly my most adventurous year yet, in every sense of the word. I am thankful for the opportunity to know so many incredible people and places around the globe. Let us all continue to combat insularity and hate and strive for a kinder, more generous, and more inclusive world.
Wishing excitement and prosperity, love and connection, strong hearts and open minds to all my fellow adventure addicts out there.
In anticipation of visiting San Sebastián, Spain next week, I wanted to highlight some of my favorite small cities and towns around the world.
My father took this photo of me in 2005, jumping around Charles Fort, a military base on the water’s edge. (James’ Fort is located on the opposite side of the harbor.) If you find yourself in Ireland soon, Kinsale is definitely worth a visit.
Ticead amhain go dti an Kinsale, le do thoil!
I’ve been to Guatemala twice, once at age 15, and again at 23. I went to volunteer at El Hospital de la Familia in Nuevo Progreso with my father, who’s been making the trip annually for decades. Of the many towns I love in Guatemala, from Tikal to Atitlan, Antigua always stands out as a special place. This photo was taken just outside Antigua at the peak of Mt. Pacaya, an active volcano. Want a one of a kind experience? Hike up some molten rock to the clouds, and watch the lava flow in crevices just a couple feet below you.
I went backpacking through Eastern Europe in 2007 in search of my great-grandfather Leo’s art. He attended art school in Vienna at the turn of the 20th century. So I knew, at the very least, that Austria would be on the itinerary.
En route to Vienna, I spent a few days further West in Salzburg, birthplace to Mozart, home of the world renowned Salzburg Festival, and backdrop to the 1965 classic, The Sound Of Music.
Now I haven’t cried a lot in the last 10 years, but I did produce those perfect, slow-to-trickle-down-the-cheek Demi Moore style tears in Salzburg. And I encourage you to do the same.
Visit the Schloss Mirabell, admire the palace’s Baroque interior, walk up and down the Donnerstiege, a spectacular marble staircase. Then take in a performance of classical chamber music inside the Marble Hall. The night I visited, I was treated to a Dvořák string trio. It was the most beautiful music I had ever heard. (Cue those tears.)
A few years ago, I learned a very important phrase: “Treat yo’self”. Go out and ENJOY your life. Reward yourself for all that hard work. Travel has become my treat, my personal reward, my ice cream sundae. Last year, I had a three-week window snuggled between two of my biggest projects to date. This window happened to coincide with a business trip my parents were planning to South East Asia. So I bought a plane ticket and joined my folks for some much needed adventure.
I wandered the neon backstreets of Hong Kong. I took a boat around the floating villages of Siem Reap, Cambodia. I had one particularly magical day in the mountains outside Chiang Mai, Thailand. In the afternoon, I got into a water fight with four dancing elephants in a river. At sunset, a monk in a golden mountaintop temple blessed my family and me. In the evening, back at our hotel, I set up my first IRA with a (totally false) projected retirement year of 2050. I’m still not sure which of these activities was most surreal, and which had me counting my blessings more.
After a week and half with my family, I flew to Bali to meet Jesse, one of my best friends of more than 25 years. Bali had long been a dream destination of mine. Some artists have their blue period. I just wanted my Taymor period. (Julie Taymor infamously went to Bali on a fellowship after college, and ended up staying for four years. The multi-cultural mask and puppet work she developed during that time was later appropriated for Disney’s multi-billion dollar grossing stage production of The Lion King.)
Jesse and I arrived the afternoon before Nyepi, one of the largest Hindu celebrations and public holidays of the year. Nyepi is like New Years, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Yom Kippur and Burning Man all rolled into one. After our driver failed to show up at the airport, and we couldn’t reach our accommodations at Alam Shanti, Jesse and I gave in to a cab driver who had been trying to negotiate a trip with us for the previous few hours. As we drove through the streets of Denpasar on our way to the jungles of Ubud, all the roads behind us started to close. Villagers were making way for the parade of Ogoh-Ogohs, giant mythological demon statues that are used once a year in purification ceremonies throughout every village on the island. (Like Burning Man, the ritual ends with the Ogoh Ogoh’s burning to the ground. Unlike Burning Man, a grown ass man in a fur vest doesn’t try to sell you disco biscuits. )
That night, Jesse and I set out into the dark, damp jungles of the Monkey Forest, determined to find one of the street celebrations. We trekked and trekked. We were told the celebrations were over. I wouldn’t believe it, so we trekked some more, by this point completely lost in the jungle of a foreign island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Of course, right at the moment when we were about to give up hope, I spotted a glow up ahead. Jesse and I raced up and around the bend, encountering what I swear to you is the manifestation of all my wildest dreams.
(It’s called the Bhuta Yajna ritual. Go HERE to watch it.)
The first night of any new adventure is always the best. Nothing beats that exhilarating sense of jumping into the complete unknown. Jesse and I found our way back to Alam Shanti with the greatest feelings of excitement, relief, and joy. At our doorstep, we found two boxes and a small note. The note read that the next day, we were not to speak, we were not to leave the property, and if we must eat, enclosed were our only rations to consume. The entire island will essentially be “closed”. I opened up my box and found a slab of dry meat crawling with ants.
It turns out that Nyepi is the Balinese “Day of Silence”. To commemorate the new year, the day is reserved for self-reflection, fasting, and meditation. And as such, anything that might interfere with that purpose is restricted. The roads are empty. The lights are out. Even the airport is closed. While it is officially a Hindu holiday, non-Hindu residents and tourists are not exempt from these restrictions.
The morning of Nyepi, Jesse needed to get a little work done, but the WiFi was down. I was itching to explore, but when I approached the gate to the property to leave, I was stared down by the Pecalang, traditional security men who patrol the streets to ensure that the prohibitions are being followed.
Jesse and I were frustrated for maybe about a minute.
But come on. You don’t get to plan all your adventures. Restrictions can in fact provide structure, discipline, and inspiration. And sometimes, the greatest adventures can be found in not adventuring at all.
So Jesse and I gave in fully to the day. We put away our computers and kicked off our shoes. We pulled flowers from the garden and made color stories on the tables. We read and wrote and played cards by the pool. We soaked in the sun and meditated and had staring contests with frogs. We didn’t explore, well not in the traditional sense. We weren’t productive, well not in the “adult” sense. But rest assured, experiencing Nyepi was one of the greatest treats of our lives.
My hand won’t stop twitching. My feet won’t stop shaking. After more than 8 years living in that bustling metropolis known as New York City, I’ve returned to Los Angeles for an extended stay and my teeth won’t stop chattering, my mind won’t stop racing. Why is everyone on the couch watching Netflix at 2 pm? Why is everyone in bed with a dog by 10 pm? And how is it that every single Angelino qualifies for a medical marijuana prescription? It’s as if the qualifications were A) You’re human, B) You’re alive, and C) Haha. That’s it bro. Here’s your bag of Purple Dinosaur.
After 8 quick years, have I become addicted to the rush of New York City? Can I no longer keep still? Wasn’t the initial point of this blog to acknowledge the extraordinary in the ordinary, the great adventure in everyday life? Perhaps my biggest mistake was self-proclaiming myself The Adventure Addict to begin with. If I had initially decided instead on, say, The Apathetic Vagabond, The Nonchalant Explorer, or heck, even The Folksy Flaneur, maybe the idea of a carefree, casual Tuesday afternoon would not totally terrify the fuck out of me.
In New York, I wrote lists. Every day. List making was MY medical marijuana. I’d make lists in the frigid jail cell I call a bedroom. I’d make lists next to a splatter of vomit while I waited for the train, already packed so air tight that businessmen would have to circular breathe between their mouths, nostrils, AND anuses.
So last night, after enjoying a gluten-free vegan meal and a dip in the backyard hot tub, I decided to make some lists. I wrote down 25 things I love about New York City. And 25 things I hate about New York City. And 5 things I love about Los Angeles. And 5 things I hate about Los Angeles. See, despite living in LA for 5 years prior to moving to New York City, I couldn’t come up with any more things I loved OR hated about LA. This was interesting for me to note. Life in New York is 0 to 100, often in the same hour. In New York, I’ve experienced my highest highs and my lowest lows. Life in LA is generally more consistent. Pleasant, maybe even lovely, if not terribly interesting. A day’s biggest win shouldn’t be progressing a mile in less than an hour on the 405.
If I do 5 things a day in LA, rather than 25 things a day in New York, am I being less productive? Or is the key to productivity in NOT multi-tasking, in NOT running around, in NOT beating the clock? But in working in focused, isolated chunks, allowing my mind the space and pleasure to pause and reflect in between. What does productivity mean anyway? Could a 2 pm Netflix binge provide just the inspiration I was searching for? Will going to sleep before Midnight make for a new, relaxed and genuinely alert day? When did that tree climbing, cloud watching, smoothie making kid grow up to be the personification of a triple soy latté no whip? Gross. At least enjoy the whip, Mikey.
Now this is all just a lesson for me in perception, of both the internal and external sorts. In debating where I could be happiest, and where I am most likely to thrive, the answer really is: anywhere. As long as I do work I care about, and am surrounded by people I care about, I find that I’m a generally happy camper. I believe that’s true of most people.
When I think of New York, I can focus my attention on small apartments and jam packed trains, or I can choose to think about the glow and vibrancy of Lincoln Center, the autumnal park strolls, and all those gems tucked away into hidden corners. “The map is not the territory,” a friend said to me the other day. We all make our own maps. My map of New York is different than your map of New York, and neither is the territory. I can say LA is a place that makes me less productive, or I can just choose to work at being more productive, wherever I may be. (Again, whatever that means.)
“Who is that woman in the mirror with all the wrinkles,” my Mom said to me over the holidays. Talk about perception. She could barely recognize herself, as if time had suddenly catapulted her into the future with weight and responsibility, without care or warning.
Aging is a funny thing. Sometimes I sit across from people I think of as “adults”. I engage in quiet, adult conversation. I nod and scratch my beard. In my mind, I am flying around a track, acting recklessly silly, bouncing off walls and screaming and picking my nose. But you’d never know that. At least not most of the time. Because at a certain age, we’re supposed to “act our age”. We’re supposed to be Adults with a capital A. But the older I get, the more I realize that we’re all just acting at what we think an adult is supposed to be like, my Mother included. In fact, we’re all still children among the stars. None of us got the handbook. Every one of us is just floating weightlessly in space, grasping for solid matter to tether ourselves to.
So I’m going to forget all these neurosis inducing Adult questions for a second. Children work better with YES or NO questions, right? So scratch, “Where in the world will you be most productive?” Also, good-bye, “Where will you be most happy?” As if life shouldn’t warrant or value or necessitate all the other emotions.
“Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so.”
Instead, I’m going to get out of my head and try something more tangible:
Wherever you are, are you continuously finding ways to gain pleasure?
Yes or no.
Are you contributing something helpful or meaningful to the world around you?
Yes or no.
These questions require reciprocity in my actions. They require engagement with others and the world around me. They get me out of the floating space in my mind and give me solid matter to tether myself to. It seems the older we get, the more attention we pay to selecting and developing our internal states, rather than our external ones.
Eventually, decisions will need to be made. Work will need to get done. But for now, my hand has stopped twitching. My feet have stopped shaking. My teeth have stopped chattering. And my mind has stopped racing. I may never know the territory, but at least I know which maps I’ll choose to create.
The day before, I met the Queen of Jordan in Amman.
The day after, at Midnight in Aquaba, I reclined deeply in a field of multi-colored beanbags, taking in the Summer breeze and smoking watermelon mint hookah with my giddy Mom and Dad, watching the World Cup in Arabic on a jumbo screen beside disco balls in palm trees, lying under the full moon and a sea of stars, finally at peace with the universe, thinking surely this is what Moses would have wanted for us all.
But that day in between, that day in Wadi Rum, all I wanted was my damn hat back.
Though I had only been with her for about a month, she was unquestionably the best hat I ever had. She was my protection from that giant ball of fire in the sky. She signified that a true adventurer was under her care in the sweltering desert heat. Because true adventurers find their accomplices in the marked down section of J. Crew.
Unfortunately, in an instant, the heavy winds of Arabia snatched her off my head.
My parents and I chased her up and down vertical dunes of red heat. She was too quick. My beloved hat was on jailbreak, weaving in and around desert pillars of shattered rock until she disappeared into the great unknown. After an hour questing across a vast, empty sea of sand, my tweed companion was nowhere to be found. I dropped to my knees, and called out her name to the heavens. Haaaaaaaaaaat.
My head sunk low in despair. My parents put their arms around me as we trudged back to the truck. Our driver Mohammed, seeing frustration and sadness in the curves of my brow, asked me, “Did you not enjoy Wadi Rum?”
“I did. I just. I lost my hat.”
Mohammed opened the door and walked a few paces up the nearest dune. He then stopped and closed his eyes, the back of his keffiyeh swaying ever so slightly in the mild breeze. My parents and I looked at each other with hope and excitement as Mohammed disappeared behind a bend. A few seconds later, he returned, sand cascading like lava from between his fingers, revealing my crumpled hat in his hand.
I jumped out of the vehicle and rushed towards Mohammed, my head down again, only this time with gratitude.
“How did you find it? And so quickly?” I said.
“You know your hat. But I know the wind,” he replied. “You called out to your hat. Hats don’t have ears. They can’t hear you. But if YOU’RE still, and YOU listen, the winds, the Earth, they’ll tell you everything you need to know.”
In that moment, if a tear could have fallen down my cheek without immediately evaporating, know that it would have.
“Or,” Mohammed continued. “I just watched the whole thing happen from the truck and enjoyed watching you chase something you were never going to find. Take whichever answer you prefer.”
In retrospect, it was the most formative month of my life. Eight Aprils ago, I performed Shakespeare in London. I got lost in Venice, Florence, Chianti, Cortona, and Rome. I drove the perimeter of Ireland, from Dublin to Cork to Kinsale to the Cliffs of Mohr to Galway and back to Dublin again. In Paris I had tea with Sartre and Seurat, and read the entirety of Alan Watts’ “The Wisdom Of Insecurity” in one sitting in the middle of the train station. I got off in Marseille, thinking I was in Nice, so I stole a pizza and placed a $90 collect call home crying, “Je ne parle pas français! Je ne parle pas français!” When I finally arrived in Nice at 3 am, I was greeted by the howling call of my Rosalind, all wild hair and wicked smile, through second story windows overlooking the water. We woke up the next day, purchased a bottle of red and a bundle of warm chocolate croissants, and we danced on the beach to Morrison and Joplin until the sun went down. The next day, we hopped a train to Barcelona, and when we arrived, we met with Gaudi and Picasso. We purchased local grains and produce, and cooked a meal in our hostel before attending a flamenco performance in one of the local “tablaos”. The next day, my Rosalind left me, and I continued on by myself to Madrid and Toledo. Those days were lore in my history books, full of endless magic and possibility. But I’d like to think that any day can be full of great wonder, if I let it. “We had our whole lives ahead of us” is such an inaccurate cliché, because we ALWAYS have our whole lives ahead of us. So if I ever need a reminder, I can just look at a picture, open a journal, or simply close my eyes, and dance with a beautiful girl on the beach in the South of France.
Growing up with two doctor parents and two jock brothers under the woodland trees of Northern California, I never quite understood where my creative blood came from. Five years ago, in the Fall of 2007, I used up all my savings to backpack across Central and Eastern Europe in search of artifacts and stories that would illuminate my creative lineage. My travels took me from Munich to Salzburg to Prague to Vienna to Budapest to Berlin to Amsterdam.
My mother’s father, Louis Levine, was a Lieutenant Officer in the military police, stationed in Italy in WWII. His brother-in-law Obbie traveled desperately from the shores of Normandy to the city of Naples, not to discover that his sister’s husband was expected dead, but that Louis had instead become the “King of Naples”, tasked with running the city during wartime. Louis soon returned to New York City. By day, he was the lone Jewish officer in Precinct 13, NYPD. By night, he was singing “Carousel” to put my young mother and uncle to sleep in Queens. As a child, my mother would fill her journals with poetry.
My father’s father, Robert Schwartz, was an army photographer, the son of a long line of visual artists and craft makers. His father, Leo Schwartz, went to art school in Berlin, where he painted murals in Kaiser’s Palace. During WWII, Robert was not sent overseas, on account of a medical limitation: “flat feet”. We would later find out that the medical doctor who examined him, Dr. Nenner, was a cousin of his young girlfriend, Janet. The doctor purposefully failed my grandfather’s medical test so that he could marry and start a family with her. After being stationed in Colorado for a few years time as a medical photographer, Robert and Janet moved to Brooklyn, NY, where they had two sons and opened Vega Photography. Robert would photograph portraits, and Janet would oil paint over them. As a child, my father played the piano and participated in school choir.
So in true journeyman fashion, you travel the world in search of what you need and return home to find it. Defying the labels I had previously assigned to them, I realized that it was indeed my mother who taught me how to write, and who introduced me to renaissance models like Newman, Beatty, and Redford. It was my father who first played for me Davis and Coltrane, who took me up mountain tops in Guatemala and Costa Rica, and around river bends in Oregon and Colorado. And it was those two very jock brothers who learned guitar when I did not, who taught me to enjoy low brow comedy when I was buried in Beckett, and who made me see great storytelling not just on the stage and screen, but in sports and politics, in business and in law.
We are all many things. And we are all the sum total of our ancestors. Louis Levine and Robert Schwartz were veterans. But they were also my grandfathers, descendants and ascendants of great creative blood. Today, like every day of my family’s daily creative practice, we honor them.