Dice by Riho Kroll

The Randomness of Circumstances

Hello Mythopoeians! 

Today I turn 32 feeling like I'm on the precipice of my future. Not quite there, but with the glimmer of possibility ahead along a razor's edge of perils and folly. May fortune be on my side and persistence carry me through the difficulties to come.

Today I'd like to talk a little bit about the creative career path. Since I was the age of 17 I've dedicated my life to the arts, forging a path that I was warned would hold no guarantees and plenty of risks. Like many young artists, I felt myself the exception to the rule that would defy the statistical impossibility of success that such a career holds and demands. 

For certain I was wrong. After I graduated film school in 2010, I was left largely adrift in the vast and uncaring jungle of New York City, scraping by as a mover of furniture and sweeper of menial tasks. The collapsed job market meant that I was taking gigs for less than minimum wage, oftentimes making $75 a day from alumni who should've known better but could not resist the lure of young foolish labor trying to make their way through a cutthroat and elite commercial environment sustained by corporate commercials and cobblestone connections. 

Eventually I found myself back home where many of the same practices existed in the more glamorous and plastique perfect skyline of Hollywood. There, I worked for bad people who felt at ease worming  their way into the toxic dog eat dog environment of entertainment, exploited again for less than minimum wage and told to do tasks that far exceeded the scopes of my tasks. Asians, it is assumed, are good with computers, which in my case was true. Networking - the computer type, not the person to person type -  has somehow always become my purview at ever career stop I've had along the way. 

During these times I didn't have a clue of what to do or where to go. It was period of exploration with the crushing wave of melancholy punctuated by moments of euphoria delivered through new experiences forged from youthful exuberance and escapism. The Graduate is one of my favorite films of all time. 

I kept going on my creative endeavors largely because of my friendship with Vince, who had chosen to remain in New York to stay out his visa. We corresponded on scripts and ideas, including a reality show called The Warrior Within. 

It was the first time we created anything together. I felt proud of the idea and knew for certain it could succeed if only, just only, someone would give us a chance. 

My fugue state continued through as I shuttled from one job to the next until eventually it was suggested by parents that I should return to my ancestral homeland: Taiwan. There, my eyes were open yet again, this time to my inherited culture long dismissed under a deluge of comic books, games, and cartoons that made up my very American childhood. 


In 2013, I asked Vince during one of our correspondences whether or not I could edit, and later write on one of his scripts - his long gesticulating film school fantasy, The Skies of Fire. He graciously agreed, and so it went back and forth month after month, draft after draft, until we had forged what we thought was a masterpiece. 

The same problem we faced years earlier now haunted us again: we knew, if given the chance, Skies of Fire could be great. But who on earth would give a chance to two 23,24 year old nobodies on their first script? 

We decided instead to make a comic. We used our education producing and directing films to create a graphic novel instead, and the rest, as is they say, is history.

In hindsight, everything looks so perfect, so fitted, so fated. We found our first taste of validation in our first Kickstarter and the experience left us thunderstruck with passion and purpose. Yet so much of what we've done comes down to timing. We knew Kickstarter from our last days in film school, where the burgeoning platform was used by some of our classmates to fundraise their student films. We succeeded, and some say have paved the way for independent comics on the platform ever since. 

The older I get, the more I think about how lucky we are to be doing this. If it weren't us, it would've been some other comic, just as great, the path just as paved as it was before. So it was for Youtube, so it is for Tik Tok, Cable, Twitter, Snapchat, and any number of platforms that have come before will come since. 

When we start our careers, we expect an ever upward trajectory towards some higher and higher goal. When we plateau we suffer, thinking that perhaps we aren't doing enough or not doing the right things. The truth is, where we start oftentimes determines where we'll be. It's true on Kickstarter where the algorithmic discoverability means that your initial 48 hour take will largely be proportional to your final amount raised.

Extrapolated towards a career, how much you 'blow up' often determines how 'big' you'll get . Hard work is one variable that you can tweak - so is the Work, but the truth is the knobs go only so far. There's randomness involved, expressed as circumstance. We were on Kickstarter Comics in 2014, the right place at the right time. It's gotten a lot tougher since and the work on the platform a lot better. I'm proud to have some small part in that, but I also think about how lucky we were/are all the time. 

Opportunity doesn't come around very often. That's something I've learned. I hope in the future that I'm sharp enough to recognize it, and wise enough to seize it. There's an old quote about that: "luck is when opportunity meets preparation."

​May the lessons of the last 32 years serve me well for the 32 to come. 

- Ray 
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