We all want to be healed from our past, but fame and success are rarely the answer. Instead, we have to find healing in other ways that don't rely on success or popularity. Take a listen to discover why fame and fortune aren't healing agents ...
We all want to be healed from our past, but fame and success are rarely the answer. Instead, we have to find healing in other ways that don't rely on success or popularity. Take a listen to discover why fame and fortune aren't healing agents and how to find true healing without them.
Justin Connor is the director of The Golden Age, watch it now on Amazon Prime
More about Justin, his film and his music can be found on his website | https://www.justinconnor.com/
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Justin Connor: Everyone thinks that if they achieved a certain status or money or fame or a TV show or a big podcast or a great album or a film like I did, or whatever, that, that will heal and absolve these wounds and create like a certain solve to to minimize that shame or lack of self worth. And I think that's this is a healthy aspect of that forces one to become a creator or creating on some level.
Justin Connor: I realized and why partly why satirized fame and the film was, I had to take the piss out of it all. Like I had to look at that, which I thought would heal me in a way creatively or notoriety wise. And because I knew that wasn't going to do it, even though I was craving it because of this wound.
Justin Connor: So I had to get really honest with it and satirize it because I know that deep down that's as big of a Mirage as anything.
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Srini Rao: Justin, welcome to the unmistakable creative. Thanks so much for taking the time to join us. Thanks for having me. Yeah, it is my pleasure. So I found out about your story because you wrote in about your film, the golden. Yeah. And I think that the thing that really struck me was that you wrote about this idea of this obsession that we have as a culture with fame, which I thought this is a no brainer to me because it's so important because I think that often we've prioritized, fame over mastery in craft.
Srini Rao: But before we get into all of that I wanna start by asking you. One of the most important things that you learned from one or both of your parents that influenced and shaped who you've become and what you ended up doing with your life.
Justin Connor: Oh, wow. That's a great question. I think, it's crazy. Our parents, I think, came from a generation where they did what they felt that they had to do, but didn't necessarily want to do, there, of course having a traditional family, my father was an attorney. My mom was like, I'm a dance teacher.
Justin Connor: And, but secretly, my mom always wanted to be a singer. My dad was just really great saxophonist and they both loved jazz and the irony. And I talk about it a little bit in this book that accompanies the film that I'm releasing later this fall is the irony is I became like the hybrid of what they really wanted to do at an, in a generation where they couldn't.
Justin Connor: My dad wanted to be a musician. My mom wanted to be a singer and it's I became a high bidder. Wanted to do, which was strange, but I've learned so much from them. Especially like my love of music. Like my dad was an incredibly large beach boys fan. And as a kid, I just couldn't stand listening to that damn music.
Justin Connor: I didn't buy it, but I realized, I didn't realize Brian Wilson's genius as a child. And now I realize. How much Brian Wilson's affected my life and how important they are in my life. And it was almost like I had to go through all this crazy Toodles with my father. He was like an alcoholic and abusive, I got into it into the film a little bit, but it was like he was training me, with all these jazz records and the Beatles and all these different bands, but especially the beach boys.
Justin Connor: And it's I get so obsessed and recording them with all the production. And I can't just make a regular album. It's oh, here's me on piano singing. It's I have to do my Brian Wilson. And I realized that was the badness of being raised by my father. It was like he was training me for something that I didn't even know.
Justin Connor: That's, what's so funny about karma or understanding fate in some respect. And my mom was just such a joy to be around. And I feel like I've gotten all of their best qualities, but we also get our parents' worst qualities too, so I was really inspired. By how passionate they were about music.
Justin Connor: And and my father, I reconnected with him after 25 years of being estranged from him. I, and I wrote about that in the book as well. And in I talk a little bit about my relationship with them in the film, but, he was on his death bed and he was like, couldn't move. And, he give his final parting words to me.
Justin Connor: The last time I saw him before he passed away, it was like, never again. No matter whether you're laying here like me and I can't get out of bed, he's like never give up, keep going. And it was really poignant because he was like a little bit of a workaholic and this kind of Irish guy, the, second generation immigrant from Ireland.
Justin Connor: And he really taught me about hard work and I've become a little bit of a workaholic, especially with regards to the film. And a lot of hats, but there was an N and that could be, not great for one thing. Path, you want to have a balance in life. I'm starting to learn to have more, but, I got this work ethic from him that amidst whatever I had to go through with them.
Justin Connor: I'm so very grateful for it because there's a real joy in work. And and I think I wouldn't have had the ability to make this film or do anything I do creatively or just in life in general, because I'm such a tedious worker and planner and executer. And I love that, so I'm really grateful to both of them for those qualities, especially just their love of music.
Justin Connor: Yeah. I know
Srini Rao: you mentioned that, your dad was an alcoholic, you became estranged from him. And yet, in reflecting on this, you seem to have what appears to be an overwhelmingly positive. Outlook on the impact that he had on your life. So I'm curious, one, where does that rifts began, but more importantly, what did you guys do to heal it?
Srini Rao: And how did you learn to forgive, whatever pain?
Justin Connor: Oh, geez. Wow. Yeah. Cause in the film, I really laid it out there that he was kinda like the antagonist of the film. And and he was, I had a really tough. Childhood with him. He was, I think in pain, maybe it was in part because he didn't follow his path the way he wanted to, whether it was music or something else.
Justin Connor: And got forced into law. Something, his dad was a big judge back in the day, but it took some therapy, it took some introspection. I was estranged from him for a lot of years. There's a lot of abuse when I was growing up. And part of it, I think is part of the devotional path that I explore a little bit in the film is.
Justin Connor: Once you hone in on, for me, the teachings from the east and a lot of my gurus from the east they teach us about how this life that we're leading. It's very easy when you go through these trials and tribulations and have to walk through the fires either with our parents or with the lover, someone that beat you or abused you or, ups and downs of life, that this is part of our own karma.
Justin Connor: I'm proud of her own fate. And it's very easy to have this perceive antagonists. That's keeping us down and ruining us of sorts, but really this is just a manifestation of that, which needs to be settled of sorts. So that's really what kind of re relieved it on some level. Like it's very easy to point the finger is that both my parents for something that lasted a lot longer than most children could have survived.
Justin Connor: And I'm surprised today that I'm still alive here talking to you right now, given my past, this went on for many years and it was chaotic. And I've had to do a lot of work to engender that forgiveness for him. So once I finished the film that helped allow room for me to forgive him. And I met with him after 25 years and we had a little bit of a shouting match, but by the end he told me how much he loved me and he was sorry.
Justin Connor: And yeah, it was forgiveness is the only way to really heal those wounds, but you can't forgive unless you can also forgive yourself. For, or at least, learn how to take protection and take care of that younger child self cause there's a real broken part of myself from the past.
Justin Connor: So I had to really like nurture this old, this younger kid in myself that I think is hurt, that they weren't able to parent themselves. So a lot of it comes from forgiveness and that's really tough with someone who like for years tried to ruin me. And but when you forgive. It allows that other person to forgive themselves or at least take a reflective image of their own madness so that they can try to build that up within themselves.
Justin Connor: So the last few years of my father, he became like my best friend and I was ruined when he passed away and I never would have guessed that prior to making the film. I was like, I'm never going to talk to this guy again. He really went out of his way to ruin my life and I'm really hurt by it because we're like sponges as kids, I knew he had an alcohol he had, he was dealing with alcoholism, but the funny thing, not the funny thing is the sad thing is, but the regulatory part of this whole conversation is his father. I, from what I gathered and understood was a thousand times harder than him than he was on me. So it was really like how it was, even though I was hurt by what had transpired, I felt more sympathy.
Justin Connor: Forgiveness of wanting to heal the little boy in him. As much as the little boy in me, he couldn't come to terms and heal and the way that he had been hurt. And I think he carried that out with me. So it was an element of like fortitude and strength to say, I'm going to break this cycle for him and for myself.
Justin Connor: And once I was able to do that and really confront him on it and he took it into his heart, we became like best buds. And it was almost like the past never even happened. It was almost like we were erasing my past with him and his past with his dad, but it all comes from in gendering, a deep sense of love, humility, forgiveness.
Justin Connor: And respect for the madness of material life. And just really, so I had to act like the healer and it, even though I was the most wounded or I felt like, but I wasn't the most wounded he probably was. So it took this big, like metaphysical stare at myself and going through therapy and, really trying to work on the fact that I had been through the ringer, but not nearly to the extent that he was.
Justin Connor: So I had to take a higher lens because I knew he didn't have the skillset in which to do hey podcaster, meet a cast. We're the top independent podcast network for creators. In the know we empower you to develop your podcast idea, find your audience and grow listener relationships or wherever those listeners are.
Justin Connor: You'll also find a whole range of ways to make money from membership plans for paying fans to our fully curated and creative advertising experience. Visit dot com slash network to find out more. Hey cast for the store.
Srini Rao: This episode of the unmistakable, creative is brought to you by ThoughtWorks a global technology consultancy. That's hiring senior and lead developers, data engineers, infrastructure, consultants, and more to join them in their roles across the United States. It's pretty clear that last year changed our working lives forever.
Srini Rao: And maybe it made you realize that you were ready for it. That thought works. They challenge curious minds to make a real impact, get to know them and discover how you can make your mark in tech. At ThoughtWorks, you're free to seek the most ambitious challenges free to change career paths, free to use technology as a tool for social change and free to be yourself.
Srini Rao: They're looking for change makers, opportunity creators, status quo, shakers ThoughtWorkers. And if you're listening to the unmistakable creative, that's probably you learn more and apply at thoughtworks.com/careers. Again, that's thoughtworks.com/careers. Yeah. The thing that I think struck me even more about what you said is when your dad was an attorney and it's typically attorneys are pretty well-to-do and typically the kinds of situations you've been in are, ones in which people come from low-income families, at least that's my perception.
Srini Rao: What I wonder is, when we see somebody like you what do we overlook or how do we, just, miss something like this happening. Cause it, just out of curiosity, did you grow up in difficult economic circumstances too?
Justin Connor: Quite the opposite, but you'd think oh, this kind of happens with people who are like not as well to do or whatever, but abuse.
Justin Connor: Physical emotional sexual all of it that happens in every household, irrespective of economic status, this, these stories happen to an extent far grander than you'd think. And I had probably maybe had the same, not misconception, but the same belief as well. And In many respects. I had a beautiful childhood, it's so funny because even when you go through these traumas, those are the things that stick out because we're like sponges and those are the things that palpably affect us the most.
Justin Connor: So it's hard for those not to override the positive experiences, but we had this nice beach house and we did have some lovely holidays together before things went sour and all that. It's I think these happen in well-to-do families, middle income families low income families.
Justin Connor: I think it happens across the board. So my mom and dad got divorced when I was like seven, but the divorce proceedings in court, him being a lawyer lasted till I went off to college and they never ended. And I was doing joint visitation with him and he was getting drunk. I was very abusive and, but I knew this was part of his own pain.
Justin Connor: And in regards to him being a lawyer like his dad, Was the son of an Irish immigrant and his dad became like the first federal judge excuse me, the first Irish Catholic Democrat to get appointed as a federal judgeship. So he's he was like a big deal. So my dad felt the pressure to be an attorney from his dad who was so tough on him versus pursuing music.
Justin Connor: So it was. And I was thinking of going to law school to college. So it's like I had to break the cycle to follow my two inclinations in a way my dad maybe didn't have the opportunity to, because his father was even worse towards me. And what's even crazier than that. When you think about this play on karma, my mom and dad, I think had a really deep, profound love for each other.
Justin Connor: And I think music was what bound them in some level. They were warring at each other for years. They were at war. Then my whole life childhood was like a battleground and I was like a soldier or like a pawn in this very strange battle and going in and out of court and going to see him and joint visitation, it was nuts.
Justin Connor: But to bring that karma play back into the conversation, my mom passed away just as I went into post-production on this film, on my dad's birthday. And my dad just as I was doing right before prepping for distribution. He passed away on her birthday, which sounds crazy. And I tell people this, like what?
Justin Connor: And I'm like, yeah, I know, but that's, it was almost like even in their parting from this earth and their disappearance from their body, they were teaching me something about love, about the sanctity of that this material life is a game. If we can see it in a different context, it's no different than doing a film.
Justin Connor: Or a stage play and wearing a different costume. Like I had some karmic stuff I had got to go through with them to pay off. Maybe I had maybe they had been my children, not a lifetime. I don't know, but it was palpably intense. I just thought it was a very, it was like their last parting gift to me was leaving this body on each other's birthday.
Justin Connor: I bought, I engendered a lot of forgiveness towards my dad. Not as much. For sure, for all the abuse somebody had put me through and my brothers through, but it was more like, think about that if you really want it to do whatever it is you want it to do, but you felt pressured to do something that your dad did.
Justin Connor: And you had to do that. That would cause a lot of misery. And I think a lot of that generation followed through on careers or beliefs. Expectations. Sometimes even just having a family and kids where they wanted to do something more risky, whereas in our generation it would be unheard of not to pursue what we want to do in a way that they didn't have the option to.
Justin Connor: So I think that's where I engendered a lot of forgiveness towards him. If that makes sense.
Srini Rao: Yeah, it does. So did you ever tell anybody like a social worker or anything like that or didn't and why don't people tell somebody when this happened?
Justin Connor: This is where it gets tricky. First of all, my dad was a very tricky lawyer, a very good one and told social workers, therapists, people knew about it, told the judges, but he worked with all the judges in courts.
Justin Connor: So he had a little bit of a different angle and our favoritism, perhaps in the legal system, a lot of our attorneys that we hired were afraid to take them on because he was so intimidating. And What's interesting about relationships while I've been on the sidelines for awhile, not in one is it's really important, I don't know who said it, the person you marry or end up with as a long-term partner is like one most important decisions you'll make in your life.
Justin Connor: Because on some of a he was so sadistic and the battle and was. Untruthful in court and it's easy to see it as oh my mom and him, or my mom was trying to resolve it. My dad was being vindictive. That was basically the long story of it. But if you flip it and now that I have a little bit distance from it, even though yes, we told social workers, therapists, et cetera, we had all the evidence in court, but we were had the deck stacked against us with lawyers that were intimidated by him, as well as him knowing everyone in the courthouse at which.
Justin Connor: Going to court with, in terms of the judges, et cetera, is really, now that I pull back and take like a wider lens of this whole thing, I could really see that my mom, my dad even admits that we're deeply in love. And for whatever reason, it didn't work probably in regards to my dad's alcoholism, but it was easy at the time.
Justin Connor: It was like, oh, this is happening because they hate each other. And it's if you do the flip side of it, it's I say in the book and the opening of it, and the intro is dumb. It's a thin line between love and hate. That song is like the soundtrack to aptly. Describe my parents play it.
Justin Connor: So even amidst what was going on, I think it was really reflective how much they loved each other. And maybe it couldn't work out because my dad didn't have the strength or wherewithal to. Escape this career. I'm not sure you ever wanted to do. And used alcohol as a way to pacify the madness, but I saw it as all that warring back and forth.
Justin Connor: There's like a deep love that they were both wounded from it. And then try to like, I dunno, Mamie each other. If that makes sense, then the afternoon. Yeah,
Srini Rao: You mentioned being on the sideline when it comes to relationships because of this and that actually made a perfect segue to my follow-up.
Srini Rao: How did your relationship with your father end up affecting your relationship with your mother as well as your relationship with other people in your life?
Justin Connor: Geez. God damn. This is like going to be like a therapy session. I've been no, I've been known to do that to people. No, they get he's a good question. Damn. My relationship with my mom. Got skewed because it was hard to discern whether she was protecting us or she wanted to combat him and give him a taste of his own medicine. So it was like very hard trying to figure it out. I was like my brothers, I were like kids, but it was like, we were the parents while this was all going on as young children.
Justin Connor: Cause we can see how vindictive and crazy this all is. So my relationship with my mom was affected by it. Because we kept asking her, can we just walk away and move away from this? Like we were trying to move to California, but it was like this, we're trying to get to some settlement, but my dad was never going to settle because they were steeped in vindication.
Justin Connor: So it got really ugly with my mom. And I think she tried to take him on, in a way she wasn't prepared for it. I think he ruined her. And I think that was my dad's plan of what he told me he was going to do from a very young age. So it was like he set out to do something. We told her and she couldn't see that he was doing it while it was happening.
Justin Connor: So that was hard. And it made me feel a little unsafe around her as well as of course being unsafe from my father, because it was statistic abuse. But in terms of relationship with others, I think when you go through. Some intense shame and pain. Really, abuse and trauma. You inherit a sense of shame, whether you like it or not.
Justin Connor: And there are different levels to this game, more often than not, the more intense or the longer duration of it, the deeper levels that you have, and my lasted longer than most, I really shouldn't be alive on some level after, telling people the real deal story. I'm grateful because it was just, it was have a, it went so long.
Justin Connor: And so with other people, in terms of relationships, whether it was partnerships or, romantic relationships and such, when that shame is so thick, if you don't process it, it's impossible to be in a relationship. So what gets incurred from shame is the, it's not even really the inability to love someone.
Justin Connor: I'm always like, I'm like a great boyfriend, but what frustrated so many women that I was with was I wouldn't allow them. I wouldn't, I was unable to accept their love because that shame was so deep in terms of. That worth that like self-worth thing. And I think a lot of artists have some kind of fractured past, which is what makes them want to create, and that's what makes their art and their creation.
Justin Connor: So interesting and beautiful because it's coming from a place of, there was some fracture there. They're trying to put the pieces back together. So I'm cognizant of that yet. At the same time, I really had to nurture. Ken and myself and rebuild that ability to say, yeah I'm worth being loved, but I, it gets very sinewy.
Justin Connor: In terms of how deep that those strains of that bedrock of your own like foundation can get cracked. That if you don't go through and process this stuff, you'll never, whatever it is. You'll do, you'll never feel enough. And it's we see a lot of people doing that out in culture now in terms of being famous or social media, and everyone thinks that if they achieve the certain.
Justin Connor: Status or money or fame or a TV show or a big podcast or a great album or a film like I did, or whatever that, that will heal and absolve these wounds and create like a certain solve to to minimize that shame or lack of self worth. And I think that's this is a healthy aspect of that forces one to become a creator or creating on some level.
Justin Connor: I realized and why partly why satirized fame and the film was, I had to take the piss out of it all. Like I had to look at that, which I thought would heal me in a way creatively or notoriety wise. And because I knew that wasn't going to do it, even though I was craving it because of this wound.
Justin Connor: So I had to get really honest with it and satirize it because I know that deep down that's as big of a Mirage as anything. So that's where it kinda came from. And I, yeah, so I think in relationships now I'm feeling like ready to get back out there and get back in one when that's time, when it's fate steers that my way, but I think it was challenging.
Justin Connor: And partly, I just, we all kind of date the wrong people on some level for many years, until we realized we're not, I think there's also elements where we. Can't help, but be attracted to aspects of our parents because that's how we were raised in our sponges. And I don't know anybody that doesn't date their parents on something love.
Justin Connor: I think that's pretty apropos. So I'm now cognizant of what I was once attacked acted too. And I realized that those archetypes, as well as with friends those archetypes are very reflective. Of the archetypes at which I was raised hell or high water, even if it's the worst thing for me.
Justin Connor: So now I'm like attracting a different vibration of person because of the work I've done. And I think that's where I'm excited in terms of where I move forward from here, but it took a long arduous process and I'm not, and there's a lot of people in my family that can't do the same or are still steeped into denial about it.
Justin Connor: And God bless them for wherever they are on their path. But for me, it was like I was suffocating. Address this. So I had to confront not only my longings for fame and whatever thinking that would heal these wounds, hence me satirizing it as well as really getting honest and really like gangster deep about.
Justin Connor: How wounded I was, and that was, that's a painful admittance to oneself and that's a painful admittance to the world because I would never, I never wanted to make a film and be like, Hey, here's all, here's what I've been through. What do you think? I didn't want to like, just put all my stuff out there, but I felt like I had to be so viscerally honest about what I had been through, even though it was so uncomfortable, it still is to this day, knowing that I put it out there because I felt like that was the only way.
Justin Connor: I could heal from this is by slaying the beast by being gutterly transparent and honest in a way that still frightens me to this day. Canvas credit union presents in the room with Todd marks.
Srini Rao: What are some of the most incredible parts of owning a business, the
Justin Connor: journey of it all to people, you get to meet the rooms you get to be in like the fact that you get to wake up and live your dream every single day.
Justin Connor: So it's just like this huge journey along the way that you got to appreciate a lot more of that's hands down. The best part is you don't know where it's going to take. But it's the best ride ever get through all the downs because the ups are way better. Dubai canvas credit union.
Srini Rao: So one thing we've talked a lot about unmistakable creative is how environment influences our behavior.
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Srini Rao: Download record now and become an interior designer today, even if it's just. This episode of the unmistakable, creative is brought to you by ThoughtWorks a global technology consultancy. That's hiring senior and lead developers, data engineers, infrastructure, consultants, and more to join them in their roles across the United States.
Srini Rao: It's pretty clear that last year changed our working lives forever. And maybe it made you realize that you were ready for a change that thought works. They challenged, curious minds to make a real. Get to know them and discover how you can make your mark in tech. At ThoughtWorks, you're free to seek the most ambitious challenges free to change career paths, free to use technology as a tool for social change and free to be yourself.
Srini Rao: They're looking for change makers, opportunity creators, status quo, shakers ThoughtWorkers. And if you're listening to the unmistakable creative, that's probably you learn more and apply at thoughtworks.com/careers. Again, that's thoughtworks.com/careers. Yeah. So one last question about this, and then we'll start getting into the actual work and really deep diving into this whole idea of fame.
Srini Rao: Did you yourself ever turned to drugs or alcohol as a byproduct? Give us
Justin Connor: a little bit. There are other people in my family tree I've been steeped with alcoholism, but fortunately I missed that, that strain and that shows up in different siblings. Usually when amidst. It's these situations, but, I can drink occasionally and be fine with it, but I don't normally drink anymore.
Justin Connor: I struggled with cigarettes for a lot of years, and I think that was from what I've learned, like in the lungs, that's where we hold our grief. So a lot of smokers, have some, not, I'm not saying all across the board. Nicotine is so addictive, but a lot of smokers from what I've read and discussed with them.
Justin Connor: And read about is that we hold these like gobs of grief and our in our lungs. So we want to anesthetize ourselves from feeling them are feeling those wounds. And that's what I felt like I was doing for a lot of years. And, I've played around with psychedelics and done all kinds of things and I was kinda all that stuff.
Justin Connor: There's always like a dipping my toe into. Water, but I've never felt like, oh, I need these things. Or I've had a strong addiction. If anything that I became addicted to is what I alluded to earlier with my father. If I have one Achilles heel it's a double-edged sword. It's my saving grace.
Justin Connor: And it's my done Uma fall down and it that's workaholism. And there's no way if I hadn't become a work call and having witnessed my dad and programming and to me, or wrongly hell or high water, whichever way, don't be a bum work hard, never give up, like instilled this work ethic in me.
Justin Connor: That was I have to I had to take a look at that too, because that can be an escape from living a balanced life from having a healthy relationship or being an obsessive careerist or. Wanting to show everyone what you can do or becoming a perfectionist or controlling, like all those themes come into that workaholism.
Justin Connor: So it's my greatest asset. There's no way I would've been able to make this film and wear as many hats if I didn't have that. But at the same time, that can be an Achilles heel far more than any drug could ever be. And now that the film is, and I'm promoting it outside of that, it's like really.
Justin Connor: Discovering my life, even though I know there's a million other projects I'm ready to take on next. It's I really have to step back and almost like reconfigure and reformat my life. Like you do a hard drive on your computer because I've been working with to-do lists and going, 90 miles an hour for so many years, maybe since I was a kid that I'm now learning to slow down and being like, it's okay to.
Justin Connor: To T take a step back from that because we're calls and maybe isn't it. Although it feeds me in many respects, it can also be not only my Achilles deal, but it might kill me if I do it to the same extent I've been doing it my whole life,
Srini Rao: I think I can relate I think makes a sort of perfect segue to talking about this whole idea of, fame for its own sake.
Srini Rao: But what has been the trajectory that led you into filmmaking? Post high school, college, all of that. How did you
Justin Connor: end up here? Sure. I was going to go to law school. Like my father, like I mentioned, early out of college. I was in Washington DC interning for Eric Holder, who was the us attorney under Obama prior to then and I was just, that's where I was going.
Justin Connor: And then I went and see this double feature in DC and it was Shawshank redemption in pulp fiction, two very seminal films at the time. And something about those themes of hope and redemption and justice. In, in the Shawshank redemption, and then just the style and the panache of pulp fiction.
Justin Connor: I was a parenting a fan already, but, and I was like, you know what, I want to do this. So I came and I've always wanted to be an actor. And I did it a lot as a kid. So I came to Hollywood and I, I started doing acting gigs and TV and commercials and film, and I was loving it. Still do love it.
Justin Connor: I think of myself as an actor first and foremost, and I want to continue doing that, but the business has changed so much since those like films, those independent films in the nineties, really, I think gravitate a lot of people to LA wanting to do something of a similar ilk. And and as I kept doing acting gigs, I started playing music and then at least an album.
Justin Connor: And I was like, oh, I'd love this to, okay, what do I do? So then I was at a crossroads, I wasn't getting out for the bigger roles, which I wish I had, which is, a lot of people's story here in LA. And I said, what am I going to do? So I wrote a script and I wanted to, the old joke I really want to do is direct, but I really did want to direct something.
Justin Connor: I had been watching all these independent films and directors and I'm like, I can do this. I've been on set. I know what's going on. I think I can do this. And it was really about. Stepping into myself as an adult from that kid had been wounded. Like it was like trusting myself, and I think directing for me was very important because it allowed me to trust myself as a kid where I felt like, trust myself as an adult.
Justin Connor: Whereas as a child, I was, I, I was like the same way as an adult, as it was then in terms of wearing a lot of hats, but. There was still that wound and this was like, I want to step into my shoes. I want to have the final say, and I trust that I'll be able to do this. And there were a lot of times where I was on independent films where I'd see them move on from a scene that wasn't done.
Justin Connor: I'm like, oh, the film screwed. Because if we don't have that same word, none but other people who are behind, like the producer director, couldn't see it at night. And I know it's such an inexact science making a film. So I wanted to put myself in that position. And I'm so glad I did. So I started writing the songs as if there were scenes in the film.
Justin Connor: And then writing the script and recording the songs as like a, with the tempos and the, the songs like rough tracks in the studio. And then the script that whole process took about two years. And I just, it, I don't know how I made it upon reflection, but it was like one of those things where you, if you have to make a film, Whether you want to, or not, if it's part of your fate, whether you've got the money or not, or whether you have the time or not, it will take you over.
Justin Connor: Like I was working with superhuman strain. So if you like gave me like $10 million and told me to make the golden age again, there's no way I could do it again. I can make another film, but I couldn't make that one again, because it was like, it was almost like a purging, like a boil that needed to get lanced.
Justin Connor: It was tough. Moving to directing made a lot of sense. And then I'm not a really big fan of musicals per se, but I don't like how a musical is this lip sinking? So I said why don't we make a musical? Let's get deep on your own path. Just what was where you're headed next on the devotional path.
Justin Connor: Let's see if we can do an album of this. Let's try to spin the oeuvre and do something. That's narrative kind of documentary. And we're not really sure what it is. Yeah. And and let's get really honest, and that, that's where it all came from. And I, I don't know how it came to fruition and I worked on this for years and years, but I'm so pleased with how it's turned out, I'm so pleased with it.
Srini Rao: So I think that all of us in our lives have that sort of moment of seeing that sort of double future, where it's one road versus the other. And. I wonder why you think it is that so often people don't choose the one they want, but choose the one that they need to do or choose the thing they think they should do.
Srini Rao: Yeah.
Justin Connor: Yeah. I think it's fear. I think it's fear. I think it's hard to, and this is why I think I look up to a lot of iconic class like Bob Dylan and Harry Nelson and George Harrison. John Lennon and all these musicians marched to the beat of their own drum. Like they're iconic class.
Justin Connor: Like they were singing about stuff that not many people were, same thing with filmmakers. We could go down the list, lately I've been like obsessed with Dave Chappelle, for some reason he's a brilliant stand up. But the reason I'm so obsessed with them lately is not only how good he is, but how originally is, it's like he's storytelling and then nailing you with the punchline, but being poignant while he does it.
Justin Connor: It's I'm really drawn to these people that are like hell or high water. I'm going to do something unique and no one else may get it, but me and that's okay. And that takes a certain bravery, and I was at a crossroads in terms of do I want to March to the beat of the drum that everyone else here is in town?
Justin Connor: I'm like, no, I don't. I, and that takes, and that's fearful because. I can already see there's elements of the golden age, and there's a lot of double entendres in it. And there's a lot of devotional fodder in it that maybe does zeitgeists are where the society is right now, in terms of some of the lyrics are seeing Maya as a metaphor for the illusory energy of the material age.
Justin Connor: Like it's a satire on so many different levels. I'm not saying like the culture, maybe isn't hip enough to get her right now. The zeitgeists just entrenched in that whole idea of being known and social media right now that it's like, there's elements that it might go over people's heads right now.
Justin Connor: But I know this is going to catch it. It's Ari is catching on with a lot of people right now, but a lot of voters are a spiritualist, but I'll it may be something that we'll just continue to gravitate and grow, but I had to trust that. It meant I was going to alienate some people or maybe they weren't going to get it.
Justin Connor: Or this is wait a minute. What is this film about? Or is this real? And what's funny about when I released the film, like people who I don't know, as well as people had to do, everyone's so entrenched and wanting to know what's real and fake with the film and that kind of style of partly narrative, partly documentary.
Justin Connor: And it's funny to me because we're so interested in this, like salacious. Storytelling our storylines of like Twitter and what's going on in culture. Like everyone wants to know what does she say or what happened there? Like they want to know the real nitty gritty of it. And I wanted to take, the wind out of the sails of how entrenched we become in other people's lives as what's real and what's fake.
Justin Connor: And it's almost like sometimes. Our culture is very gossipy and I'm like if we're going to get gossipy or we're going to get weird about what's happening, I'm going to create this character. But instead of making it fictitious and satirizing in a comedic light, I'm going to satirize it and look at my own stuff, but get really honest with it and not be coy about it.
Justin Connor: And I think at the end of the day, when people ask me what it's about, I still think the golden age is a comedy, but it's not a comedy that's like trying to make you laugh. Cause sometimes when you watching a comedy, you get, that the laugh is coming. So you're like on your at the edge of your seat waiting for when it's time to laugh.
Justin Connor: But the golden age is like a wink, wink. Are you in on the joke comedy, it's like a satire that doesn't hit you unless you're hip to the game. So yeah, that's where it's all coming from right now. And I feel like I had to do something to honor all those iconic. Artists that like just hit me so deep because I know they were doing something at the time people were like, this is crazy.
Justin Connor: You, why don't you do this instead? Like a romantic comedy, or why don't you do this thing, which would be a little smarter or do a TV show of 10 series, 10 part series instead of this or whatever it is. And I really admire people that. I'm going to do this as well as all the people that we don't know that are doing that, that aren't famous, or haven't been discovered that are doing really compelling work, whether it's writers or poets or artists or whatever.
Justin Connor: I think, there's a certain like wanting to refrain from what everyone else is doing and really honoring what, deepest in your core you have to do, or else you'll go far matter then had you not taken it on at all. So I think that's where it came up. Yeah,
Srini Rao: it's interesting for you to bring up this whole idea of fame and marching at the bed of your own drum.
Srini Rao: Because my last book that I did with a publisher was called an audience of one reclaiming creativity for its own sake. And the, the, we opened the book with the story of daft. One of the things I said is in a culture that basically is obsessed with attention. You have two guys who basically have chosen to intentionally make themselves more and more anonymous as their work has become
Justin Connor: more and more known.
Justin Connor: And totally it's a great reference. Geez. But yeah, and
Srini Rao: I think that to me is really an interesting jump off point for us to deep, deeper dive deeper into this whole idea of fame, know, I was like, why do you think that we have this sort of obsession with this idea of fame?
Srini Rao: Because I think you pointed out which funny enough will probably be the title of our interview is that this isn't going to heal our wounds. I can tell you, I wrote a wall street journal bestseller, and the problems in my life didn't go away. In fact, I was probably more insecure after that than I was before, but I think there's this idea that we have.
Srini Rao: And I remember Josh Ratner was on Sam Jones podcast off camera. And he said that, if you're not grounded or career in the arts is rigged for dissatisfaction which really stayed with me. And so one, why do you think this is like, why are we so obsessed with this idea? What are the really negative consequences of it?
Srini Rao: And what are the positives of letting go of that need for validation from the external world, particularly when it comes to creative.
Justin Connor: Oh, my God. Such good questions. Yeah. Let me first say and thank you for the deaf puck punk reference. And I wasn't necessarily familiar with their work, but I knew of them and I'm sure you've seen the documentary on them.
Justin Connor: Yeah, that was why we did
Srini Rao: it. Cause I remember, I watched, I was with a friend in Columbia, we're trying to figure out what the introduction to my book was going to be. My friends said, Hey, come down to Columbia. Let's hang out for a week. And so I went there and we watched this documentary and I said, that's it, that's the story.
Srini Rao: That's the story. We'll open the booklet. And because it was the crazy thing, the two things that really struck me about that story were when they got the first record deal, they were meeting with the record executives from. And the record executives showed up in a limo to pick them up. And they said, we don't want to be seen getting into a limo.
Srini Rao: We'll take the subway and will be throughout the restaurant. That's and they, then they took, when they did Coachella, which that was insane like that it went viral on YouTube instead of actually keeping any of the money for themselves. They literally spent all of it on the production.
Justin Connor: Totally. I love that. That's it. I know. I remember the documentary hit me too, dude. What a great reference. Thank you for that. That's a great metaphor to jump off on. First of all those guys, watching that was very humbling for me. And there are stories like that. I'm searching for sugar, man.
Justin Connor: Sister Rodriguez. I don't know if you've heard of that one. That's definitely heard of that one. Yeah. Yeah. And he's like just fell out of the limelight after doing like a couple of studio albums. And there's a lot of like interesting artists, Scott Walker, 30th century, man, a lot of about these profiles about these idiosyncratic artists that kind of shy away from the limelight or for whatever reason, good, better and different.
Justin Connor: I'm on the same page as daft punk with that. I think what we're going to see over the next decade or two, if not longer, if not shorter, is people refraining. In all and doing a strong body of work. And then you find out about them later and be like, holy crap, because it's a very mad age right now in terms of people running around doing whatever they can to be famous.
Justin Connor: And my daft punk version was, I wanted to make Maya O'Malley the lead protagonist famous. And the people that don't know me that watched the film. Start Wikipedia. And after like, how come I've never heard of this guy? And they can't find out anything on them. And it's almost like that's the comedy of the golden age is how entrenched people now want to know how come I didn't hear about this guy.
Justin Connor: And it's almost like a, a play on the play within the play itself. It's I would be more interested in making him famous than I would even myself, because it seems like everyone who achieves this type of notoriety on some level can't help, but get go crazy because. There's no place to go, but down once this happens and I think daft punk was very aware of that.
Justin Connor: And there's this term in the east and one of my grooves talk about it's called like a Hindi word. Like name and fame and worldly prestige. And they talk about it. And this one grocery list street in my he's so deep, he like talks about petitioners that's the last stage before true surrender on the devotional path.
Justin Connor: That's the last snare or crosshair of Maya or like that, which seeks to take us away from our devotion. Is this need to want him to be known and it's not even like really famous per se. You could live in an ashram and still have that. Why had cooker? It's like that whole ego that egoic I want, what I deserve, or I want to show my talents or I want that whole thing.
Justin Connor: It's it's beautiful. It's a wonderful display to show your creative towns and have people revel in it and work in it. I'm not like adverse to that, but there is. A flip side to that. If you're not detached from the fruits and rewards of your labor, if you're not patched to, the outcome in a way that we're so taught to can't help, but enjoy our be craving on some level.
Justin Connor: So in terms of the negative consequences of all of this, I think, I don't know. The people that I really relate to, so funny, you mentioned that Def punk is that documentary hit me so hard, but there's so many people that I look up to that they're wise enough to see that's a ruse.
Justin Connor: And I think the negative consequences are everyone is chasing this one thing or not this one thing, but everyone wants to be known. I'd be lying if I said I don't have it myself. Yeah. I, the golden age, I want the whole world to see it and I believe in it, not because I had anything to do with it.
Justin Connor: I just think it's a strong piece of work in the same way. I'll someone else's album or someone's painting is I'll tell people, like you gotta see this. It's amazing. Or a film or something, but it's not I think when you can get to where you're working as an artist and you're so entrenched in what you're doing and can stand behind it and the way those iconic classic directors or whoever can say, yeah, I did it and I trust this.
Justin Connor: And if it was just for me, then that's enough because it's so beyond the ego in terms of what we're doing and the reality of the whole creative. Is when we're really connected, we're really acting like a conduit or a puppet to something that's much greater than ourselves in terms of being like a channel through whatever divinity or the universe or divine inspiration, et cetera.
Justin Connor: But I think the negative consequences comes in because. I think it has the, I just think it has the potential to ruin so many people and we see how many it does. So I think the trend in the next 10 or 20 years is going to be people that completely shy away from this and just do a complete body of work.
Justin Connor: And. And the, and that's that. And then we find out about them later and we already can know it's already happening. People are like, Hey, there's this singer song from the sixties, seventies, you heard of them. And it's there were people that were hip to this game earlier than what we're discussing right now.
Justin Connor: But I think this age, old thing. You are how well you're known is very prominent right now, but I think it's going to become a ruse down the road. I think it's almost going to be embarrassing if it continues to happen, to the extent it does, because there's so many people that are listened to in front of a microphone.
Justin Connor: That part of my. Yeah, con, but I don't think they're like necessarily qualified to be, but it doesn't matter. It only matters if you're being, if you got a bunch of people, a bunch of followers or a bunch of likes or a bunch of movement behind you, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily compelling at that, what you're doing, if at all, so I think that's a, it's a very funny time of our existence and I, I.
Justin Connor: Following the credo of people like daft punk, are, all these different iconic classic artists, some of which we don't even know of and may never know. I think there's as much beauty in that as there is, and this idea of becoming known for our creations, because we know at the core of our being, whether we're entrenched in this business are not that, that there's no, the upside, isn't what we've convinced itself.
Justin Connor: We think it is.
Srini Rao: Yeah, it's funny you say that because I right now have, talks about this and it's yeah, I want millions of people to listen to unmistakable creative. And at the same time I would be okay if none of them had a clue who I was, I would in fact prefer that I would rather them know nothing about me and only know about
Justin Connor: my work.
Justin Connor: It's a relief and the thing that's interesting about Def punk and Bob Dylan. Yeah. People from, from a different generation that are like, oh wow. They were really marching the beat of their own drum. We knew nothing about them because the channels were fairly restricted where we couldn't really know much about them.
Justin Connor: Obviously with Della, we knew more about oh, he's dating this person. And he went to upstate New York to record this, but we didn't really know that much. And now in this day and age, it's it's almost a, you can't be known if you don't reveal it all. And even if you do reveal it all, you've got to self market yourself to death, which is something that most.
Justin Connor: Cannot do myself included are not really built for that. Like I'm a creator. I'm not really looking to like market myself and the people who are very successful, I think successful in this day and age market themselves pretty well, but that doesn't messily necessarily mean they're talented at that, which we were, they, which they did.
Justin Connor: Yeah.
Srini Rao: You know what I mean? Yeah. I've said it before. I've said, look, there's people who can build massive audiences because they're great. Marketers and publishers will literally give them a book dealing. And if that author is Hey, I want to print a book with pictures of my face on it that people can use as toilet paper to wipe their asses people like a publisher.
Srini Rao: But yeah, we can. Of course,
Justin Connor: I, my opinion, there's going to be a downside to all this that was going to be a grand reckoning. And if you can't see the Mirage and material, life of that, which it will continue to. Reflectively imbue upon our lens, whether we like it or not, there's a downside to all this.
Justin Connor: And I say, God blessed, all those people that have their big followers and are always online, but it's I'm more interested in creating art. And I, and sometimes I see all these people doing this for five and 10 years and they have all these followers and they're selling some poorly written book or whatever they're doing, but it's like in 10 years, it's going to be like, what did I create?
Justin Connor: Just a lot of like self spin about myself or interesting. The Instagram stories. I don't know, it just seems like there's going to be a downside or a reckoning to all this. So my job personally, as an artist feels like just to follow the lead of, the credo, someone like daft punk, I just think it's genius.
Justin Connor: What they did. They just want him to hold their masters and create what they wanted to do. And I think that's all you really want to do is just do something that's so unique to what's going on. And what's so unique and honoring yourself and I think. There's going to be a reckoning. I mark my words in 10 or 20 years, it's someone's going to be embarrassing.
Justin Connor: And there's a lot of celebrities now that were one celebrities in the eighties. I was listening to Rob Lowe, talk on, I think it was Joe Rogan. And he was saying, who the hell would want to be famous now? It's you can't go anywhere. If we were going out and partying, like we were back in the day and there was the paparazzi we'd be dead.
Justin Connor: We wouldn't have careers. And I think there's an element of I don't think anybody wants to. I think the ones who have had their brush. I stayed on the sidelines a little bit because you can't even say anything now without
Srini Rao: yup. Trust me. I can relate to some degree having had a brief moment of reality TV.
Srini Rao: But I think that really does make just a beautiful and really thought provoking way to wrap up our conversation. So I have one final question for you, which is how it shows all of our interviews. What do you think it is that makes somebody or something.
Justin Connor: I think it's I think w when we have those moments in life, when we go up and down and we look ourselves in the mirror and be like, where am I at? What am I doing? I think what makes it a mistake is, what we've talked about throughout this episode is sometimes we have to trust that, which it is we're creating or offering or serving is.
Justin Connor: Is so ingrained with that, which we have to share or create or expose to the masses, regardless of whether we're anyone understands it. But us, even if that audience could just be that one person, are we willing to do that versus do what we know, maybe our parents want us to do our boyfriend or girlfriend or wife or something that society will deem more acceptable.
Justin Connor: Like I really respond to those that can unmistakable. Follow their own path, hell or high water, regardless of what anybody thinks about them with weather, whether anyone even gets it except themselves are they still willing to proceed? And those that continue to say, yes, that's what I'm going to do.
Justin Connor: I applaud them to the ends of the earth and that is the fame that I'm looking for because that is its own. Like meritocracy in terms of a weight, it's a weight, it's a currency that extends far beyond money. That's done stands far beyond followers. That's really stepping into the shoes of a role that you know, is so deeply ingrained in your soul that no one may ever understand, but you potentially, and you're still willing to walk through.
Justin Connor: That's that's what I'm looking for. And I think that's the unmistakable part of creativity that I hope more people are inspired to carry out for themselves. Wow.
Srini Rao: This has been really, truly amazing and beautiful. I can't thank you enough for taking the time to join us and share your wisdom, your story and insights with our listeners.
Srini Rao: Where can people find out more about you your work and everything else you're up to in
Justin Connor: the world, the golden age by Justin Connor, it's a film on Amazon prime. The reviews have been outstanding. Go check it out. If you have an Amazon prime account, it's free. The album, Justin Connor, the golden age is on all streaming platforms.
Justin Connor: The book is entitled a day in the lies, and that's going to be released on all five bookstores and Amazon by Christmas. And you'll be able to get a hard bound signed firstname.lastname@example.org by the same time at the end of the year. And you can keep in touch with me on social media. I am Justin Conner and yeah.
Justin Connor: I'd love to connect with people. What's happening just real quick is people have been seeing the film that have been through some of their own traumas. They're really healing from watching the golden age. So for some of your listeners who have been through the ringer themselves you're definitely gonna want to take a check at it because people are coming to me saying I went through the same thing or are having similar iterations and it's by proxy healing, some of their own healing process and fostering, stuff that maybe they haven't looked at. So anybody who's been through the ringer and walked through their fire, I think the golden age is up up your alley.
Srini Rao: Amazing. And for everybody listening, we will wrap the show with that. Thank you for listening to this episode of the unmistakable creative podcast while you were listening.
Srini Rao: Were there any moments you found fascinating, inspiring, instructive, maybe even heartwarming. Can you think of anyone, a friend or a family member who would appreciate
Justin Connor: this? If, so take a second
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Feeling lost? You're not alone! There are over 1000 episodes in our back catalog, so it can be hard to know where you should start. That's why we've put together this list of some favorite moments from the past few years - these ones really stood out among all others and made listeners want more when they were done listening.