Yesterday, the 22 MacArthur Fellows were announced.
It has been my dream since I was an undergrad (ten years ago) to become a MacArthur Fellow (sometimes referred to as the ‘Genius Grant’). For those that aren’t aware of the program, each year the MacArthur Foundation names a handful of Fellows (23 in 2010). These so-called geniuses range from politics to science to math to poetry to education to entertainment.
The MacArthur Fellowship is designed to provide seed money for intellectual, social, and artistic endeavors. From their own literature: “We believe that highly motivated, self-directed, and talented people are in the best position to decide how to allocate their time and resources. By adopting a “no strings attached” policy, we provide the maximum freedom for the recipients to follow their creative vision, whether it is moving forward with their current activities, expanding the scope of their work, or embarking in entirely new directions. There are no restrictions on how the money can be spent, and we impose no reporting obligations.”
It is, in my opinion, one of the most prestigious awards one can win. Forget the money ($500,000 over 5 years – no questions asked)… although the money would be amazing… What the program means and stands for is, to me, astounding. Astounding in that it even exists. People are recognized for their creative or intellectual endeavors and are allowed the financial freedom to pursue those endeavors, to advance society, to better people’s lives, or to create harbingers of death. With no strings. Think about that for a second. It’s how it should be.
But there are always strings, aren’t there? That’s what is so mind-blowing about being a MacArthur Fellow. Besides the fact that you are hand picked because others believe that your contribution to your field will be tremendous. Not necessarily ‘has been’ tremendous. They want people in the thick of it, who are going to grow.
So how does one go about even getting on their radar? It’s a secret. Sort of. They have nominators, who are constantly revolving or changing. But it is completely unknown who these nominators are. And the hope is that the nominees don’t even know they are nominated.
I’m someone that operates somewhat on the fringes. I don’t like drawing attention to myself (okay, yes, I have a mohawk – but it really completes my face). I don’t have any connections to this world of academics (even after my time at Cambridge), my family isn’t super rich or well-connected. My father, for all intents and purposes, is the most successful Colucci ever. It amounts to a hill of nothing in the film and publishing world.
I don’t think I’m going to change the industry (film or publishing). But I know I am going to come crashing through the door of both. I have a unique mix of financial know-how, work ethic and creativity. I haven’t taken the easy road to my successes. My first film wasn’t some small indie. It was an eight-figure CG-animated feature done in 3D with an A-list voice cast. Done independently. My second feature is a visual effects heavy sci-fi thriller – done for a fraction of that – which no one is going to believe. My first book wasn’t a short comic done in black and white. It was a 150 page, painted graphic novel in full color and over-sized. My first project set up a studio wasn’t a spec script I found. It was a NY Times Best-Selling Fantasy series that is ranked fourth all-time in fantasy sales (behind only Tolkien, JK Rowlings and CS Lewis), with over 15 books.
None of that came easy. Each and every one was a hard fought battle (some still going on).
In the off chance that some nominator googled the grant and is reading this – nominate me. You won’t regret it. I won’t let you down.