The Roy Ayers Project: A 10 Year Discovery About the Meaning of Success
“Yo…What ever happened to that Roy Ayers Project you were working on?
*Sigh* “It’s goin…It’s going alright. I’m working on some ideas and trying to get some more interviews”
“What do you need to finish it?”
This is the part of the conversation that would go from uneasy to uncomfortable, when I would come up with an answer having to do with lack of money, or the omnipresent excuse of “life happening” (which, it does at times, but not all the time).
“I know you’ll get it done, in due time, right?”
These conversations were frequent when I began this journey on the Roy Ayers Project, where the goal was making a documentary with legendary jazz musician Roy Ayers, but became less frequent as time went on. I guess I wanted it that way because it was a way I could just not talk or think about it. These conversations were usually started by both friends I would see in passing or close friends, and unbeknownst to them, they were difficult for me to have. They actually weren’t conversations after a while because a conversation contains dialogue, and I was so quick to shut the interaction down that it wouldn’t even reach the point of dialogue. I love my friends for asking about what I was working on or the project itself becuase I know that they care and are genuinely interested about what I’m working on or Roy Ayes, or both, but they didn’t know that the project that was once a passion and joy became the source of angst and stress. This went on for many years, and happened on many different occasions, and their encouragement was extemely good willed, but it never helped. In fact, the questions made me regress even more, mainly because I didn’t know the answer, and that made me uncomfortable. Even though they cared enough to ask, it made me feel like I was failing them, and not only them, but the people who have helped me, and those who have believed in me, and even Roy Ayers himself. What was even worse than the feelings of failing my friends and loved ones was the death of some of those people, those who I interviewed who are no longer with us, and those who wanted to see the project succeed that never saw the completion. They never got a chance to see what I had promised them. That’s something I carried (and will always carry), and for many years, it was an accumulation of weight that I didn’t know how or if I was ever going to be able to release.
But this year is different. A shift happened, something that I must share with all who have followed the project, or to those who are working on any project, or for any artist or creative. It was a shift that I will never forget that has propelled me forward into a space of clarity, It wasn’t until this year, 2022, when I was finally able to feel some of that weight, pressure, angst, stress, whatever it was and is, where I can feel some relief, and can feel it ease from my creative spirit.
Let me start from the beginning.
In 2010, I was still working with my friends on what was my passion, a television show called Distortion 2 Static (D2S). After many years of assisting in producing this television show, I was also looking for a project that was different, and in many ways larger in terms of focus, research and study. I didn’t know what that meant exactly, but I was well aware of an opportunity that stood before me. My step father who worked at Avis Rent-A-Car (the LAX airport location, and had many people of note come through his job) used to have Roy Ayers as a frequent customer during his trips to Los Angeles. During one of their encounters, my step father informed Mr. Ayers about my video work, and Mr. Ayers said to my step father “have him call me”. I did just that. After a few conversations with Mr. Ayers, I landed on the idea of doing a full length documentary on Roy Ayers. I remember being in tears of excitement and humbleness when he cosigned the idea.
With the help of my D2S friends (mostly REL and Tone) we set out to create this documentary. We had a subject (Roy Ayers), we had connections and contacts to musicians, we knew how to work hard (almost at the expense of everything else) and we had determination. We had the ingredients to make this film happen, except for one, and it’s probably the most important thing. We didn’t have a story, a narrative. But that didn’t stop us. We had cameras, hustle, and heart, and with those three things, we were unstoppable. The plan wasn’t fully mapped out but were building the ship as we were sailing it, which was acceptable at the time. We were hyped to get interviews and I saw that as progress. It wasn’t until much later did I realize how important it was to not only have a clear objective, but to stay true to a clear objective. But I’ll speak to that a more later. We shot interview after interview, we talked to notable people, we interview Roy Ayers himself, we released short vignettes about the upcoming documentary, overall there was growing attention and excitement about the doc. My goal was to focus doing a tour with Roy Ayers, and showing the documentary along the way. There was a focus on facets of web and social media, specifically Twitter. I taught myself Wordpress, built a website and dubbed the website and film conjunction as the Roy Ayers Project. The site was populated with articles, photos, music, and media content all about and connected to Roy Ayers, there website was getting daily views from hundreds of people around the globe, there were beat submissons from beatmakers sampling Roy Ayers. The project was generating energy. I can feel this as a bit of a movement. This was the height of the project, and I had great momentum.
Then, there was some set backs, beginning with a round of funding that didn’t go as planned. Then we had to cancel one of our first in-person screenings. Then website became too time consuming to update, but the real issue was that the documentary was at a standstill. It start as doubt, then came the questions. The question of “What story is trying to be told?” and “will people really watch this doc?” or “Why am I spending time on this site when the documentary is what I’m supposed to be working on?” amongst other questions, situations, finances, you know…life happening. All of these questions and doubts were the perfect recipe to halt the project all together. By 2014, I had all but stopped updating the website the shoots were put on an indefinite hold, and I really didn’t know how to or what would get the project going again. The momentum was gone, getting it back seemed all but impossible.
In 2015 I relocated to Los Angeles, my hometown. While there was literal movement in my life, the stagnation of the Roy Ayers project stayed.
Outside of 2016, there was very little progress made on the documentary. I lost time. Years. I mourned the passings of greats who Roy Ayers played with. I try not to think about it too much. While I wasn’t working on the Roy Ayers Project, I was becoming a much stronger videographer and editor. I really got comfortable with a camera and began diving deep into design and photography, paying attention to details, growing my connections and strengthening bonds. The Roy Ayers Project wasn’t moving, but I surely was.
At the end of 2021, I really put myself to task. Something that I do when I am unsure of how to make a giant leap or even take the next step, I ask myself “What can I do with what I have at this very moment?” This question is helpful for me because it doesn’t focus on the things like money, or more access, or more resources, things that we can always use more of, and have a tendency to become hurdles and can morph into excuses. It’s also helpful because it helps look at things from an abundance mindset, which involves thinking about the things that I have more than the things that I do not. After much thought, I really began to put a reinstated value in amount of assets that I had, from video footage, to network, to fans, combined with my skills around content creation, social media, design, and curation that I’ve been working on heavily for the past five years. I also thought back to when I had the most momentum and joy with the Roy Ayers Project to see if I can bottle up that energy, and that was when I was actively updating the website. When I put it all together, all the signs were pointing to one of the most obvious directions that I never really considered — Instagram.
This was the inception of Roy Ayers Connection.
Now, this might sound like a shameless Instagram plug (which is so unnecessary) but what it really is is a perfect culminating point of technology, information gathering, and access. When we started the Roy Ayers Project, Instagram was a budding start up, and had no where near the capabilities that it has today. What the gram can potentially do is become a place that can be a hub for all things Roy Ayers as well as all the things and people that are connected to him. It’s a place of information gathering and sharing with Roy Ayers fans, those who are curious to learn more, and those who appreciate art. It’s a place to learn about the greatness of Jazz, and — wait a minute…this is sounding awfully similar to the site that I created back in the early 2010s. That’s because it is! Well, not literally, but conceptually.
It was at that point, it hit me.
The goal of the Roy Ayers Project has always been to create a documentary on Roy Ayers, but it took me 10 years to realize that the mission of the Roy Ayers Project was not about a documentary. The goal was to make a documentary, but it the mission was to celebrate the life and legacy of Roy Ayers. It wasn’t until this year that I realized that I was much too fixated on the goal rather than the overall objective. I was creating community through the website, a network of fans and supporters, a hub for all things about and related to Roy Ayers, but because I was focused on my goal of making a documentary, anything that I did around the documentary wasn’t “it”. The documentary was “it”, and anything that wasn’t “it” was a failure. That was my flaw. I realized that if I would have been clear with my objective at the start, then it wouldn’t have mattered if it was a documentary or a website, or maybe some other platform or publication that could’ve expressed my objective. By having a narrow focus of a documentary for all these years, I wasn’t open to receiving opportunities that could’ve amplified the mission. Instead, I didn’t commit to them, ignored them or shut them down because they didn’t fall in line with the documentary. My binary thought process was the reason for my struggle. My lack of agility held me back and prevented me from moving forward. The identification of the objective was the map that I needed. Not a documentary. Now, I can see, and the weight that I’ve been carrying for 10+ is becoming less cumbersome and more managable.
Now that I switched to a social media format, I’m excited again. I’m excited to share the footage that we have accumulated over the past ten years, as well as create new content that is engaging and informative all as it pertains to the objective. I look forward to highlighting the community of fans, musicians, DJs, and beatmakes that loves Roy Ayers, Jazz, and Black Music. I am glad to be working in a passion project around music journalism again, being an archivist, and working with a brilliant team. All of this is in the works and on the way to being shared, and I can’t wait to do so. As much as I want the world to see what we are going to be doing, and I want to have hundreds of thousands of followers, I know that that is not the true measure of success. The way success is defined through this project is by relying on our north star, which is simple: “Celebrating the life, legacy and connections of Roy Ayers”. As long as I’m doing that, regardless of 100 followers or 100,000, the project will be successful. This 10 year process has taught me about how I define success for myself, setting obtainable goals, making progress, and staying true to the objective, and most importantly, have fun doing it.
There has been years lost that I will never get back, and people have moved on that I will never be able to converse with, but there is also so much to look forward to, and that starts with now. I am happy about the people that I have talked to, and the fact that there were so many unforgettable moments shared throughout the process of this project, and that is why this is all so important.