For every person who makes it big in Hollywood, dozens of equally-talented folks fail for one reason or another. Maybe they threw their hands in the air and gave up. Maybe they fell victim to the demons of alcohol and drugs. Maybe nothing ever seemed to go their way, no matter what they did.
None of them, though, ever spent more than a decade charting their aspirations in print and in video, as Adam Kontras has done. The first full-fledged video blogger, Adam began chronicling what he calls “The Journey” in 2000, when he moved west from Ohio with his first wife, Jessica. Every few days since then, he has posted another text piece, with an accompanying video clip. As of July 2011, he has over 1,100 entries online.
When he reached number 1,000, though, he decided to condense the first 1,000 entries into “The Journey From 1 to 1000,” a tight film that showcases his numerous musical, comedic, and video production talents. While many in that position might be content with simply pulling together a greatest hits collection strung along a voice-over, Adam decided to craft an interstitial narrative: he steps back in time to 2000, when he and Jessica checked into a hotel on their way to California, and confronts his younger self. He shows him “The Journey From 1 to 1000” to see if young Adam will still want to continue the trip, knowing the emotional roller coaster ride waiting for him.
It’s not hard to imagine how the film ends (as I said, “The Journey” is now over 1,100 entries long), but the effort Adams puts into this is pretty cool, like all of his creative work. He not only filmed himself twice for those scenes, but he went back to the original hotel with Jessica and a friend to recreate the first video entry so he could include himself in the footage, a la “Back to the Future Part II.” (Stay to the end of the closing credits to see a funny outtake from that shoot. It’s guerrilla filmmaking at its finest, folks.)
Of course, I should point out that Adam has a lot of experience with this kind of thing: His “Adam and the Egos” routine involves him playing a three-member pop group (a wannabe gangsta rapper, a surfer dude, and a gay guy), with a fourth character who serves as their backstage tech guru. Adam is their manager. He stands on a stage surrounded by four TV sets, each with an Egos character on it, and performs a perfectly-choreographed comedy act.
As Adam narrates “The Journey” for his younger self, the film occasionally cuts to the two of them watching the footage; 2000 Adam gets understandably upset about some of it. My only complaint is that we don’t get enough of those moments (imagine how your younger self would react to everything you’ve done over the past 10 or 20 or even 30 years); there were times when I wanted to see more interaction between the two Adams, to really play up that storyline. The film has long stretches where I started to forget about them.
While you might wonder why you’d want to bother watching a film about yet another aspiring talent, Adam’s main draw is his willingness to put it all out there. Nothing is filtered, and even though he has an act called “Adam and the Egos,” he’s not full of himself, like so many others who also aspire to stardom. After repeatedly getting his hopes dashed, he knows it will likely happen once more, even though he can’t help but get excited when an amazing opportunity dangles in front of his face. Will it get snatched away again? Adam does a great job of heightening the tension in those situations without drawing them out to silly extremes. He’s a grounded guy who understands his place in the Hollywood food chain.
Adam’s many near-misses include: an offer to headline The Comedy Store; his time spent hosting “Living Room Live” on CBS’ “The Early Show,” when he had the chance to do “Adam and the Egos” skits on the “Price is Right” and “The Young and the Restless” sets (and broke the characters out of their TV sets); an offer to host a late-night show opposite Carson Daly; the chance to create a pilot for Comedy Central; his “Let’s Bomb Iran” parody, which received a ton of online play and almost landed him an appearance on Keith Olbermann’s show (he was bumped when the news of Rush Limbaugh’s drug addiction broke); and his one-time gig as an extra on “The Sopranos” (his story about getting a stare-down from James Gandolfini is priceless).
This is also a guy who has packed in an incredible amount of living since 2000, and it’s all documented here too: two marriages that ended in divorce (and yet both spouses were willing to become part of “The Journey”; Jessica even sings “We’re goin’ to the courthouse and we’re gonna get a dissolution” with him); a whirlwind month-plus trip across Europe and Africa; anger over the Hurricane Katrina aftermath that was so intense he quit his job and flew to DC to protest; a trip to the final 2008 presidential campaign debate; and a flight to DC for Barack Obama’s inauguration. His personal stories are just as interesting as his Hollywood ones.
Through all of his personal and professional highs and lows, Adam keeps his video camera running, never missing an opportunity to capture a moment, no matter how painful it might be. It’s like watching a reality show starring someone we actually want to root for. Will he finally succeed? Well, as he wisely notes at one point, it’s the journey, not the destination, that’s important, and hopefully we’ll have a chance to see “The Journey From 1001 to 2000” someday.