Casey Neistat’s journey to HBO
Spielberg, Abrams, Kubrick, Neistat. One of these names does not fit with the others. Steven Spielberg attended a well-established film school, JJ Abram’s parents were producers and directors, and Stanley Kubrick came from a wealthy family and had his first camera handed to him by the age of 12. In contrast, Casey Neistat came from a small town in Connecticut from a lower middle-class family. He dropped out of high school by age of 16 and moved to New York with his one-year-old son to pursue his dream of being a filmmaker. By the time he was 26, he was world renowned and had a 2 million-dollar deal with HBO. All these factors made the Neistat journey much different from those of others.
Nesitats En Media Res
Casey and his stepbrother had just arrived in Rhode Island to film the second portion of the first episode. Van had brought his wife for support, and it was going to be a big moment. They had spent the entire day and the day before preparing for the shoot, making sure nothing would go wrong. However, Casey had no idea that things would turn out the way they would. When they finally turned on the cameras, Van came out with the man they had been waiting for- his biological father. It is at this moment that Casey is at the archetypical Abyss, the climax and turning point of his journey that led him to become a filmmaker. The scene itself was very uneventful, you would think that Van and his father were casual acquaintances from the way they exchanged small talk. After the shot was finished, although Van, being as prideful as he is, made it seem like it was nothing; Casey could tell the encounter had really shaken him. Did they really have to film such a pivotal moment? It was both at that moment that Van and Casey reconsidered what they were doing. They asked themselves whether all of it was really worth it, as it had gotten to a point where they were so invested in their work that their personal lives had gotten involved. Van and his wife decided to leave after that shot in order to spend some time alone and reprioritize, leaving Casey alone for a good portion of the journey that was to come. Casey decided to push on and keep filming. Reflecting on his troubled past impelled him to continue the pursuit of his passion in order to ensure that he would never return to being nothing again.
The Neistat journey consisted of documenting various adventures and experiences that would ultimately end in a casually meta fashion with the filming of themselves selling the show to HBO. The filming process for the HBO show was very intense, involving four weeks of constant traveling, adventuring and filming. This was followed by two full weeks of tedious and manual editing, sound matching, and filling in gaps of the story with separate shots which meant long hours at the office. It was this way, non-stop, for 8 episodes, ending in 48 weeks of work. This work was far from sedentary — they climbed up the worlds highest mountains, worked with the great artist and sculptor — Tom Sachs, and even managed to capture the time Casey almost died. This filming process, along with all it’s experiences, molded Casey into who he was and set the foundation for the way he lived his life and his unique sprezzatura-esque filming style. Meeting and working with Tom Sachs was arguably one of the biggest influential moments of Casey’s journey and life. The union of Tom and Casey happened by chance when Casey discovering an employment ad for the artist at a local gas station. Casey began by just carrying out simple labor tasks for him. The work was simple, mostly involving bringing materials for sculptures (usually wooden pallets) to the artist’s studio. From there, he got to know Sachs personally and became somewhat of an assistant/ manager. This was Casey’s first “real” job. Although art wasn’t exactly what Casey learned from Tom, Casey familiarized himself with the “creative process” by watching his mentor and being surrounded by inspiration. This time spent with Tom is equivalent to the portion of the hero’s journey where the hero takes on a mentor who is a crucial part to a journey’s successful end. It is during this apprenticeship that Casey learns to produce work from a state of organized chaos, so that creativity was always festered and work was always being completed. This style of work allows Casey to always have what he needs to edit or film whatever he wants whenever he wants. This work style allows him to always get the shot.
It is five years prior to the HBO filming, walking out of the Apple store, Casey is prouder than he has ever been. The smell of fresh sewage and stale hot dogs lingers in the air, and Casey’s palms are sweaty from the rush of what he has just accomplished. There is a new, obnoxiously pink, 1998 iMac and a Sony camcorder in the bag. He has just maxed out his only credit card, but nonetheless he was happy. He went home to Owen, his one year old son. They lived in a one room, studio style apartment in Manhattan
where him and his son shared one bunk bed. Owen of course being on top. None of this poverty matters to Owen, when his dad walks in with those new gadgets in his bag, he is the coolest person on earth. He doesn’t know that his dad was risking a lot by spending that much money on filming equipment on a line cook’s salary. Money that could’ve been saved, credit that he could’ve needed later. Casey filmed everything from then on out. This mostly meant his Owen’s accomplishments, Owen’s school performances, and all of the travels and adventures that the two had. Owen never questioned why his dad was always filming, he just assumed it was normal. Casey didn’t want to miss a single moment, and when something substantial happened, he never let anything get in the way of him capturing it. He lived this intense and constant lifestyle with some exceptions although. He never wanted to let filming get in the way of family, instead, he used filming to enhance his experience with his son, and to help capture the moments for record.
Casey and Van finally arrived in hollywood, the dry California heat beating on them as they walked in their suits up to the HBO building. The Neistats were not suit people. This didn’t help the fact that they were already incredibly nervous. Christine Vachone, the show and the brother’s sponsor watched them from the car as they almost waddled up to the door, passing on through to the other side. It hadn’t even been twenty minutes when they came out of the building almost sprinting. Christine could tell from their expressions that they had done it. “1.9 million,” Casey said in childish giddy. They all gave each other hugs and drove back to their hotel. Van immediately went to the BMW dealership to get his dream car, a convertible 3 series in Midnight Blue. Casey wanted to get something also. He walked over to the art district in LA, he went inside the first tattoo parlor he saw. He was finally content and satisfied, after a long journey to achieve what he wanted, with a fresh tattoo on his arm to bring it all to an end. “Always get the shot”