We had the good fortune of connecting with Gerald Lamb and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Gerald, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
The short answer is that I cannot imagine doing anything else. I feel continually propelled to make things, to learn new skills, and to grow. In what seems like a past life I had jobs assembling plasma sputtering machines, selling knick-knacks, and repairing computers, but at the end of the day I came home unfulfilled and ultimately unhappy. Creating art, in any medium, was always a relief valve and something I needed just to get to Friday. It has not always been an easy journey, but I’ve done everything in my power to focus my life and work around creating and being creative. I feel deeply that we have one short life, one brief moment to explore the universe, and all of us should take full advantage of that. You don’t have to be an artist, but I do believe you should live your life with intention and purpose. My art, my writing and filmmaking, is my purpose.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
From childhood, I’ve been obsessed with the power writing has to grapple with the intangible and offer solutions to the overwhelming challenges of life. Through writing fiction I found that I could carve out a slice of reality, abstract it, wrestle with it, and ultimately digest it in the hopes of becoming a better person than I was the day before. The symbiotic relationship we humans have with stories is endlessly fascinating. How we identify ourselves, interact with the world, and behave with one another are all mediated through story. Stories are our window onto the world but also our reflection of it. That stories can be told in so many mediums has also intrigued me and I think the most accurate descriptor for who I am is “storyteller;” I enjoy telling stories in whichever medium cuts to the heart of things the cleanest. Filmmaking and documentary are dear to my heart and I’ll be the first to admit that the cinematic lens heavily colors my writing and my broader perception of reality—for better or worse. Growing up to be a “storyteller” had no clear path and a lot of bunny trails and dead ends along the way. It really wasn’t until I went back to college after several years “wondering the desert” that my artistic work began to flourish. However, instead of getting a creative writing or filmmaking degree, I decided to get a history degree. My reasoning was that if I better understood the vast, complicated story of humanity I could tell better stories. My first novel, “Filtered” a young-adult dystopian novel, grew out of my struggle to comprehend the enormity and banal bureaucratic horrors of the World Wars and the Holocaust. The more I learned, the harder it was for me to brush off the very American idea of “it can’t happen here.” I’ve had more setbacks than successes, but I think the key to staying motivated and continuing to create is establishing what it means to “succeed” and what it means to “fail.” If success only means money and recognition, than you are probably in for a long, miserable life. Success is picking yourself up from the dirt, wiping the blood from your nose, and daring it all again.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My wife and I moved to Chandler from downtown Phoenix only a couple of months before the Covid-19 lockdown, so I haven’t had much of an opportunity to develop any favorite haunts in Chandler. However, I know exactly what I would do in downtown Phoenix. My perfect day in Phoenix would start at the Phoenix Art Museum. My favorite exhibit was when they hosted Ragnar Kjartansson’s The Visitors, but the permanent exhibits are always worth an afternoon. I like to end any trip to the art museum with a visit to You Who are Getting Obliterated in the Dancing Swarm of Fireflies by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. From there we would walk downtown to the Monorchid building for a burger and churro ice cream sandwich from The Dressing Room. So, so good. After lunch, I’d duck into the Film Bar and see what’s playing. I always love going to films that I know nothing about. That nervous anticipation about what I’m about to see just adds to the experience. After the film it’ll probably be getting dark so I’ll follow the neon glow around the corner to the Cobra Arcade and lose a handful of quarters to nostalgic games. If there is any energy left in the tank, I’d probably wander over the Melindas Alley for a nightcap and conversation. I can’t do this more than once or twice a year, my wallet and constitution won’t allow it, but I always go to sleep with a smile.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Breaking into filmmaking is a challenge, and I would not be where I am today without the opportunity and trust extended to me by the Vail Preservation Society. In 2018 they entrusted me to finish their documentary that had been in the works for nearly a decade and contained dozens of filmed oral histories that could never be re-placed or re-recorded. It was a huge challenge, but one I felt compelled to take on and, in the end, Voices of Vail turned out far better than any of us had hope garnering local, state, and national awards and attention. Making Voices of Vail gave me the confidence to know that I may not know everything about being a filmmaker, but that I know enough to get started. It’s always a gamble betting on a first-time anybody, but I’m glad they took a chance on me.
Gabrielle Mortellaro, Leslie Lamb, Gerald Lamb