The Head Is Born
The beautiful thing about inspiration is that you never know when it’s going to hit. Case in point – it’s 1989 and I’m working in the equipment checkout room at NYU’s Tisch School of The Arts. The room is located in the “basement” of Tish, at 721 Broadway, and it’s where student filmmakers go to borrow the cameras, lights and all the grip stands they’ll need to make their films.
Now eventually, the administration would implement a bar code scanning system to make the equipment check-out process as easy as buying groceries but at this point it’s all done manually and it’s a pain in the ass. Basically every serial number on every piece of equipment gets written down manually. There’s a lot of equipment coming and going and it can take an hour or more to process each student’s order.
If you work in the basement, you will inevitably encounter the film student who believes that he or she is about to embark on a cinematic journey which will result in the production of a film that is no less impactful than Lawrence of Arabia. They will approach the check-out counter waving around a sort of arrogance that is normally reserved for royalty while their crew scrambles around them like peasants. This budding filmmaker, high on the power that comes with being a director, expects that his film is going to be a masterpiece and that his film equipment should nothing short of pristine.
In all likelihood, this budding filmmaker will probably never even his see his film through to a rough cut, let alone a final print and if he does, there is a very good chance that it will (A) involve at least one shot of the Brooklyn Bridge and (B) involve a main character who’s contemplating suicide. But I digress. The point here is that ‘prince for a day’ is scrutinizing every piece of film equipment with a fine tooth comb and rejecting anything that bears even the tiniest scratch. Mind you this is film equipment that gets banged around several times a day by students who literally drag this stuff through city streets to get to their locations. Everything has scratches! And I’m writing down serial number after serial number until The Prince finds a grip stand that is to his liking, while a line of students waits anxiously for their turn at the counter.
Anyway, by the time I finish processing Sergei Eisenstein’s order, my head is literally about to explode. Literally. And that’s when I grab a notebook and jot down a quick sketch that represents exactly what I’m feeling in that moment:
This is the original drawing of Jim a.k.a “The Head.” This image of a guy, whose head looks like a giant swollen hairy testicle, would later inspire a storyboard that I would pitch to MTV executives. This would, in turn, land me my very first animated TV series at the age of 24. Inspiration is a beautiful thing.