Senser Story // Jeffrey Abramson
Introducing Jeffrey Abramson; an LA based experience maker, trail junkie and spy-turned-researcher…
Kick off this interview by saying hello!
Hello Sensers Worldwide! I’m Jeff (but I like the look of “Jeffrey” in writing). I am Minnesota nice, aged in a New York City barrel, corked in Venice Beach and enjoyed in Echo Park – CALI-FOR-NI-A.
I am a professional scout and partnerships executive for trends, arts, culture, technology and communities. I’m often working with brands and media companies seeking experiential and content opportunities. I spent the last three years immersed in virtual reality, including my position as Head of VR Content at Discovery Channel (more on that below).
I’ve been an experience maker for as long as I can remember. It started with “what if” daydreams as a kid. I dabbled in magic, wrote and performed plays and started a bicycle gang – leading friends on exploratory treks. Later, I honed my people connecting skills and organized high school events and hosted summer pool parties. I liked to capture and recount my discoveries and escapades (on VHS tape and journal entries I’d read out loud).
I have always had a deep appreciation for humankind’s natural curiosity and let that led me to film school and gigs doing trend spotting, then to my first full-time job at Miramax Films doing market research. Eventually it all coalesced in running the Gen Art Film Festival in New York City for over a decade (more on that below). I then ventured off to work with brands like Canon and Cadillac who were supporting the kinds of programs I built and start-ups likes film studio Broad Green Pictures where I developed the corporate innovations strategy and scouted and managed companies for our venture capital portfolio.
Tell us about what you’re up to in the real world!
It’s unclear if I’m in the real world or not right now. I spent the summer reflecting on humanity, science and practicing about Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing). I even took this pondering to the Appalachian Trail for a week of backpacking with a couple of college buddies. The hike also memorialized time well spent this summer preparing my physical vessel for the next 50+ years of life (aka ‘physical therapy”). Despite our resolve to sleep on the ground , I surprised my buddies with a one-night pit stop at the brand new Berkshires hotel Tourists which was en route. We we were their first hike-in, piano-jamming customers but won’t be the last. #Experiences
I love IRL, but technology has started it’s slippery slope towards simulation; I tend to be optimistic about it’s possibilities. I spent 2017 as the Head of Virtual Reality Content at Discovery Channel – truly rewarding my love for both adventure and technology. I recognize the medium to be the natural evolution of the human need to find the most visceral ways possible to share our experiences with one and other. It’s really the only way we know what to do with ourselves in this thing called life.
I fell head over heels for VR in 2015 when I experienced work by Felix & Paul for the first time at Sundance Film Festival. A year later I had a VR “experience” I produced in the festival – A History of Cuban Dance. While best watched in a headset – you can twirl around Havana here:
Then a year later, I’m hired by Discovery and we partnered with Google and Toyota to create a 38 episode series touching the lives of people on every continent.
Here, take a trip to Antarctica:
Now I’m an . . . . Experiential Strategist. Consultant. Independent Advisor. Specialist. Generalist. Ideator. Executor. Relationship manager. Just put me on your SWAT team and I’ll get the job done; as long as I care about the work I’m doing… Is it fun? Is it meaningful? Are the people collaborative? Is it cutting edge?
My career strategy? Same as my life strategy, follow what excites me. And keep it real.
I was lucky to spend over a decade from my mid-20’s to my mid-30’s helping to organically grow the popular arts organization Gen Art into a successful experiential marketing firm with members and events in five US cities. I oversaw our film program and eventually ran the company.
It was a spectacular display of symbiosis between emerging artists, tastemaker audiences, industry professionals and forward-thinking brands (such as Acura, Amazon and American Express to name the A’s). We not not only elevated the careers of many new filmmakers, fashion designers, artists and musicians – it also spawned 100+ super rad collaborative staffers who have led equally unique and awesome careers.
The vibe was so good – there were even several marriages between employees. I happen to be in one. We just got married in March.
Take a peek at all we did at Gen Art in this sizzle:
Give us a peek into your favourite working spot/environment.
My home office window faces Elysian Park, one of LA’s best kept secrets. In the winter it is like a rain forest.
Where do you live at the moment and why? Tell us about the area you live and why you chose this place?
It took a considerable effort for my wife to convince me to move from the solitude of Venice Beach to the more energetic and creative East Side of LA – Echo Park. I escaped New York just over 10 years ago in search of less concrete and chaos. Well, unfortunately Los Angeles is worse – except for where the sidewalk ends. The darkness of the beach at night soothes my soul.
Now Elysian Park is my front yard . . .
The city is my backyard . . .
. . . and the piney mountains of Angeles Forest are only 45 minutes away.
Where and when do you have your best ideas and most creative moments?
Mountain biking and trail running.
Something about blazing a path forward but having to stay focussed on where my wheel is headed or the flow of hopping from rock to rock – it’s my meditation. I often stop to voice dictate or take notes. I even did it for writing this…
I also like to go to public gatherings like art shows, music in parks, festivals, movies – being around a lot of people who are experiencing art and each other inspires me.
A creative journey is not one travelled alone. Tell us about someone who helped you get you where you are today or someone who inspires you and why?
My wife Lindsay is my muse.
Lindsay can decode my all my creative languages, is an insightful intuit and natural anti-anxiety remedy. She encourages me to take risks and has taught me to be more in sync with the present. When we travel we rarely even book hotels in advance!
My dog Bowie is my real life spirit animal. He literally showed up at our front door 3 years ago on the exact day I started working for myself from our home. He reminds me daily to have faith in my flow and discipline in my process.
What does your working process look like, how do you get productive? Do you have favourite tools or a specific routine?
I like to blow open order and then puzzle it back together. On highly productive days, I need my work space to be completely organized at the start, a minimal amount of tabs open on my browser, no email drafts pending and a top 5 “to do” list. Then I will let the day explode and by the end of it I will have accomplished the 5 tasks and more while also deflecting incoming email missiles, generating a dozen new ideas for the tasks at hand and still going down a few rabbit holes that make my work more informed and well-rounded.
And lastly, a Quick Fire….
Do you have a side hustle/project that you’re passionate about and that is not written above? If so what is it?
I’ve been lucky that my whole career my side hustle has been my main hustle. Right now I’m gearing up for my next adventure.
A couple other projects I’m excited to explore:
- Horizon. A virtual reality documentary exploring the memories of 100-year-old Americans who built the country from the ground up – miners, loggers, farmers.
- Nakuru Kuru. A virtual reality documentary retracing the steps of the man who discovered the world’s most coveted surf wave – Cloudbreak. Watch the prologue, Awakening, here or on your favorite headset.
- Family summer camps. What’s old is new again – coming to the countryside near you. Best yet? Another Sky.
Do you have any advice for someone working in the same sector / interest as you hoping to make it?
Pay attention to people. As a kid I used to call it “spying”, in college it was “people watching”. Now it’s research.
A must listen?
Podcast: Revisionist History (Malcolm Gladwell)
A must watch?
THE END IS THE BEGINNING
Also published on Medium.