010: Alex Mixter - Being an ambassador for change through your craft
Alex Mixter is a community filmmaker in his hometown of Saginaw, MI. After living and working in Chicago and Denver, Alex returned home and started Hound Lab Films, which specializes in producing web content with an emphasis on local activism. His first feature-length documentary, RE: SAGINAW, premiered in May 2017. The film put a spotlight on the pending demolition of the historic Charles Lee Mansion, which has since been halted. Alex is currently the project manager and marketing developer for the Lee Mansion Restoration Project.
In this episode we talk about:
how moving back home to lower his expenses and focus on creative endeavors set Alex on a path he never expected
how we, as storytellers, can get lost in our own “bubble” (aka “echo chamber” or “silo”) and not even realize it
contribution and purpose have become his primary goals through his art
how important people are to a cause or project
some powerful stories from the people of Saginaw during the filming of his documentary, RE: SAGINAW
how his devotion to his town and his craft evolved into a role as a leader and ambassador for change
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Alex Mixter: 00:00:00 I think the thing that really knocked me back the most, like outside of me, was going to talk to this guy, Chet Atkins, who is a preacher and he invited me into his church. I read an article about him on the news and his, his whole ministry is like trying to find the people who are lost and help to give them a purpose. And his whole core of his whole thing is like, what is your purpose? What are you doing? Like if you do not have a purpose, you flounder in life and you don't, you'll get in, you'll be on the wrong track. And uh, he had a history where he went to prison I think twice. Um, and he was involved in gangs throughout the eighties and uh, he just broke it down. For me, it was a really interesting conversation because I'm a white kid from the township, you know, talking to this guy who had a radically different life experience than me and him just basically breaking down like what drives you to join a gang and the hub, the heart of it was basically like they showed love.
Gabe Ratliff: 00:01:15 Welcome to The Vitalic Project podcast, where you'll learn how to find your own voice in a world filled with noise. I'm Gabe Ratliff. I'll be your host as I sit down with fellow artists, creators, and entrepreneurs to learn more about their work and how they serve others so that you can tap into your creative purpose and live a life that's drawn, not traced. All right. I'm stoked. Let's get to it.
Gabe Ratliff: 00:01:44 Hey guys, thanks so much for joining me on this episode of The Vitalic Project. This is episode 10 with Alex Mixter. Alex is a dear old friend. We met at work several years ago and he left Denver and moved back to Saginaw where he currently lives. He's a community filmmaker and is owner of Hound Lab Films which specializes in producing web content with an emphasis on local activism. His first feature length documentary RE: SAGINAW premiered in May 2017, and the film put a spotlight on the pending demolition of the historic Charles Lee Mansion, which has since been halted thanks to his film and the work that he's currently doing. He's actually now the project manager and marketing developer for the Lee Mansion Restoration Project, which is an interesting turn of events that we dive into in this episode, and I'm really excited to share this story because Alex is doing some really amazing work and one thing that's really pretty phenomenal that came out of this is, you know, he was. He went home, wanted to lower his expenses so he could really focus on creative endeavors. He wanted to show some love back to saginaw amongst several other cities in Michigan that we've seen over the years needs support including Detroit and flint. And He. He goes on to tell me that I guess Saginaw is called Detroit Junior Junior and Flint is Detroit Junior. And so pretty funny. But in this episode we talk about how, you know, he went home and was trying to lower his expenses and focused on this creative endeavors. And it took him on this path that he just never expected. And we talk about how as he was working on this documentary that, you know, we as storytellers can get lost in our own bubble and not even realize it. And he realized this as he was starting to go back and look at his original cut of the film and his since decided to expand the film and has been recording new interviews to really broaden that reach of the people that he's speaking with to get a comprehensive and objective view of what's going on and really take that step back that he needed to be a true documentarian and do the type of work that he really wants to do and, and have that authenticity to it.
Gabe Ratliff: 00:04:15 We talk about contribution and purpose and how that's become two of his primary goals with his art and how important people have been to this cause and this project that he's jumped into and we talk about some of the powerful stories that came up during the filming of his documentary RE: SAGINAW. And finally one of the things we go into is, is the devotion to his town and his craft that evolved into a role now as a leader and an ambassador for change. And it's just, just Kudos to him and to the work that he's doing. I love it. He's a peaceful warrior. I mean, he truly is a kindred spirit. I love so much about what Alex is doing and how he stepped up into this role and he even goes on to say, you know, he's not a developer and is not, you know, this is not something that he knows about but has really jumped into helping save this historical landmark and fascinating stuff. So I'm excited to share it with you. Let me get out of the way and let's jump in.
Gabe Ratliff: 00:05:36 Alex, thanks so much for being on the show, brother.
Alex Mixter: 00:05:40 Thank you sir. Thank you for having me.
Gabe Ratliff: 00:05:43 It's been way too long. I am so excited to catch up with you. You've been a busy boy.
Alex Mixter: 00:05:48 Yes. A little bit.
Gabe Ratliff: 00:05:51 So I like to start out the show with what I like to call the cliff's notes, you know, I'd love to just catch up the Vitalic audience with you know, who you are, what you're doing, and how you got here. It can be as high level as you'd like to go. You know, we don't have to get super deep, but you know, just to kind of give a little backstory on, you know, who Alex Mixter is.
Alex Mixter: 00:06:12 Yeah, that makes sense. So yeah, I grew up with a dad who was a journalist and so there was cameras around the house all the time. So in like the third grade I got started making videos and like doing skits with friends and stuff like that. And uh, and then when I was in the fifth grade I made a documentary about my school field trip to Mackinac Island, Michigan. And that was the first time I ever made money as a videographer because the school actually did a grant to get all the students in my grade, like a copy of the documentary that I had made. And that was basically like the very beginning. I always mark that as the beginning of my career in fifth grade. And then throughout, I mean, throughout middle school I was making a projects to get out of speaking in front of the class.
Alex Mixter: 00:07:00 Uh, like I was doing videos so they could just put that in. So I didn't have to talk and then, um, in high school there was like a student film festival that I'm like, I participated in every year and uh, they made a documentary about my school marching band. I did a, like a short Vietnam film because I was, I was into that in high school and then did like a drama and realize that I will never do drama work film ever again. And then from there just went into college and then within a year of being in college, got a job as a videographer for the local hospital. Um, and then from there it was a, a big angst to get out of my town, uh, because I was in my hometown. I didn't go away to college or anything and uh, I was super antsy to get out.
Alex Mixter: 00:07:52 So I moved to Chicago, which was the closest big city. Uh, Detroit wasn't an option at that point, at that time. And uh, so went to Chicago and then spent three years just floundering and like I really cut back on all the video that I was doing. And then when that got old, I started looking at in Colorado to see what that would be like, um, and got a job in Colorado and then I moved to Denver and I was there for like a year working as an editor, which is where I'm at you and it has an editor. It was really refreshing to get back into like a real production, um, and to see other people who I could learn from and not just be this rogue video guy and my bedroom. Um, and so like working with other people was super awesome. But then, uh, in the nature of startups, that job wasn't around long.
Alex Mixter: 00:08:51 And then I was in that for the remainder of my time in Denver. I was working the Denver Film Society, a just consuming documentaries and met a bunch of people there who just introduced me to a bunch of filmmakers that I had never even heard of. And like cool movies like Koyaanisqatsi that I'd never even heard of until then. And that change, like seeing that as like a documentary was really interesting because I'd always been interested in documentary work. And then, you know, in the face of rent in Colorado decision that moving back to Michigan would be a good move. And um, the main thing that I wanted to pursue going back to Michigan was like, um, how do I write my career in a way that I'm doing stuff that I want to make? Um, we're making crafting videos. Uh, that wasn't, you know, I never had the crafting hobby ever. So it was kind of like, you know, like an atheist editing religious videos.
Alex Mixter: 00:09:53 It was this weird. Like, I, you know, I'm doing the work. The work is good, I'm getting paid. It's, you know, I'm like making a living. But I remember a specific moment that like I always cite was, I was talking to my friend Nate, uh, and he said, uh, you know, like now that you're a freelancer, you could do a whole page on your website of like just crafting videos and you could market yourself towards like the American Quilters Association or like whoever. And I just remember thinking to myself like, I really don't want to do crafting videos.
Gabe Ratliff: 00:10:30 I'm done. I'm done.
Alex Mixter: 00:10:32 Check it out of that industry. And what was funny was that I realized just a year of working at, you know, a crafting company, um, I suddenly was qualified to be like a crafting videographer and then it, you know, looking back over the course of the career thinking like those, you know, those pitfalls of like, I don't want to call it a pitfall because it's a whole industry, but like being a wedding videographer is its own category that you can really get locked into and like doing music videos as its own thing and doing commercial work is its own thing. And then the question that arose was like, um, what can I do for a year that will re-qualify me for stuff? Like what, what do I want to do? Um, and then I just realized that like, because I was working on a documentary about my hometown of Saginaw, in Michigan, I started that when I lived in Chicago.
Alex Mixter: 00:11:33 So there was all this time where I was like kind of working on that film of like trying to figure out my own hometown and I just wanted to explore that more and so I thought like, well maybe like moving back home and finishing the documentary at the very least would be a good idea. And I moved back with my parents and then um, and then to make money I like, I decided that I was just going to start working with organizations that need videos and very quickly found out that the nonprofit sector, like in like, especially in eastern Michigan, there's really, really cool work that's being done through nonprofits. But all of them have the same. Like, well we can't afford videos. And so I was in this niche of like, well I'm trying to restart my whole career so I'll do it for free or I'll do it for 100 bucks.
Alex Mixter: 00:12:25 I'll do it for 300 bucks. And I think the very first client that I had was $300 in Michigan. And that organization ended up being like the fountainhead for all of the work that I ended up doing. Um, so taking that hit early on and just being able to live in my parents basement for awhile, not worry about the overheads of life and everything that just snowballed and snowballed and snowballed until I was able to move out of my parent's basement and then into my own place. But I created a company called Hound Lab Films and that was basically originally a plan to redo my resume but through video and say like, Oh, I got a job with this company, Hound Lab Films and started making Community Work and doing nonprofit work. And then the next thing you know, it felt like maybe I should keep doing this thing.
Alex Mixter: 00:13:18 And so then, uh, I got done with the documentary and then premiered it and then realized I'm, the movie wasn't done. So I reopened to the whole thing and I'm still working on it right now because it's, I'm trying to figure out how to make it less of a time locked piece. It's a 2016 film right now. Um, but I want it to be something that you can watch and, you know, like 20, 35 and it's relevant still somehow. So trying to figure that out has been the challenge. But that's been, um, a lot of what I've been working on is like a lot of, like lot of, um, a lot of nonprofit work, a lot of organizations that are doing really good work, um, and creating content for that. Um, but then if they're doing the documentary, one of the things that came up was, um, the whole point of the film was trying to find the good things that are happening in saginaw and it's a town that has a reputation of a.
Alex Mixter: 00:14:17 I remember when I lived in Colorado, that headline that was going around was that they opened up a drive thru funeral home where you could pull up in your car and there's, you know, the body and you can, you can pay your respects and then drive away. And that, that was like the most popular thing that was going around the Internet of people. Like, oh, that's so typically saginaw. Um, and I just remember thinking like, all right, there's got to be, there's got to be good news, you know, and like our news here is entirely if it bleeds, it leads. Uh, so it was just trying to find the good things, what's going on, trying to pay attention to what people are actively doing. And that's what I found about a. or that's when I really found out about the Lee Mansion, which was this House that, um, people were trying to prevent the demolition and there was just, it's a movement that's been going on since 2011, uh, where people have been trying to save this house. And then, uh, the film ended originally on this, like hopefully someone does something with that house. And then it turned into, Oh shit, I'm going to end up doing.
Alex Mixter: 00:15:25 I started going to bat for it. And uh, and that turned into the whole ordeal because we came up with a concept of like what the house could be. And then we pitch that to the city. Uh, and went to the city and said, here's the idea. And they said, that's good, but I don't know how that's going to work financially, so if you can make it work and uh, then we will let you do it. And um, they gave me three months to do that. And then in the third month I found a developer to take it on. And then, uh, we've been going ever since and I became the project manager. I'm the redevelopment of the house just by being the advocate for it. And so I've had to remind to remind her developer a couple times, but, hey, I'm a videographer, I don't do home restoration, you know, that that's not something that I'm a professional at. And uh, I think that he forgets that sometimes when I'm saying things like, uh, what's that part of the door called those types of questions. So, uh, that's the, the evolution over time is going from making skits with my friends in elementary school and to being a project manager and the redevelopment of an abandoned house. Uh, so that's kind of where it's currently at.
Gabe Ratliff: 00:16:53 Wow.
Alex Mixter: 00:16:54 Yeah.
Gabe Ratliff: 00:16:55 Hero's journey.
Gabe Ratliff: 00:16:58 I love it. I love it. It's a. So I want to kind of take us back and kind of come back up through where you are today. Um, I was, I was going to step back to, even though I'm completely distracted by the drive through funeral home. I love. I love that you.
Alex Mixter: 00:17:21 Locally viral
Gabe Ratliff: 00:17:23 Yeah, I love that you are focusing on the good. That's also something I really try to push back out to the world myself and that's when things I love about you. It's just, I can't stop thinking about it. That is just the weirdest thing ever. And like I totally like my wife Tiffany. We, we both don't want to do any of that. The cemetery, the waste space in the earth, the waste and coffins, any of that stuff, any of that ways we just want like the big celebration with friends and family, right? Yeah. And um, you know, just get cremated, be done with it. So it's just like mind blowing to me that that's like a thing and it can just kind of bastardize the concept itself to such a level of like, it's like, you know, Taco Bell for funerals, you know what I mean? It's just like today, only ninety nine cents you can get, you know, and it's like they throw in, you know, Kleenex tissues if you pay for this package and you're like, wait, what? And there's like a box of Kleenex that's at the door, but you don't get that if you don't do this, you know, while supplies last order, you know, I dunno, I'm just like, what? So anyway, I digress. Um, so, you know, I'd love to hear more about Hound Lab Films. Where did that name come from?
Alex Mixter: 00:18:57 Oh, that's a cool story. Yeah. That, that was my dog actually. She was a, a Bluetick coonhound, chocolate lab mix and there was just a bunch of names that were going around and Hound Lab just of just kinda stuck. Uh, and the logo is a dog. Um, but it turns out that there's a company called Hound Labs. That's a, I think the California or Colorado, but they invented the first marijuana breathalyzer, a breathalyzer that can, they can tell if you're high. I guess. Uh, I, I just recently found out about that because someone was like, Hey, is this you? And I was like, no, I'm not marijuana. But uh, but the name is just one of those things that like, I don't know, it's weird coming up with a name for something because you're, it's going to be so permanent at some point, but then at a certain point, whatever you pick just like, becomes redundant. Like it blows my mind that at one point someone came up with a name, Kleenex, you know, like that was like some, what about Kleenex? And then that was the name that now people don't even say tissue anymore. It's clean at the brand is the. And that's just, I don't know, it's crazy. The imagination can come up with that kind of stuff and the confidence it takes to put forward. Like, no, this is the name of the thing. What's
Gabe Ratliff: 00:20:25 the same thing with like Google right now? Google is a verb. Yeah, go google that. It's not just a noun.
Alex Mixter: 00:20:33 That's thing like, can you google this?
Gabe Ratliff: 00:20:36 Right. And you're like, wait, wait, wait, no, no, no, we work for Microsoft, bro. Right. It. Yeah, it's, I was just thinking that, that again, the other day that it's now become such a regular thing to use these terms and you know, and now just go ahead and go like
Alex Mixter: 00:20:54 what does it mean? And it's just like at a certain point it doesn't matter. But like I get hound hound dog films a lot of like people trying to remember it loosely. I think my own dad called it hound dog for awhile. I think he's still, but like, it's that,
Gabe Ratliff: 00:21:14 was he an elvis fan,
Alex Mixter: 00:21:16 you know, he ain't nothing but a hound dog um, I don't know. I think it's just, yeah, hound lab I always kind of liked to because like the lab element of it, like, like Labrador versus laboratory I always thought was a funny thing. Uh, and uh, uh, yeah, that's pretty much it. It's a, it's a dog breed.
Gabe Ratliff: 00:21:39 Well, and I think it really signifies a in this subtle and not so subtle way. You know, there there's like this serious, very thoughtful, compassionate side to you, but then there's also this like comedic, lighthearted person as well. Right. And so it's Kinda just like, it felt it's, it's, it's in the tissue of the whole idea of that, right? Like the whole concept of like lab and like Labrador and laboratory, like that was the same thought I had. I was like, that's totally Alex. I love it. I get it.
Alex Mixter: 00:22:17 It's funny too, because I do kind of have a philosophy in life of everyone should be more like dogs. Uh, just that general like, Hey, what's up? How's it going? It's kind of hard to be mad at a dog unless it does something, but it's usually your fault, you know, like if you're mad at a dog, it's like, well you shouldn't have let the dog do the. But anyways,
Gabe Ratliff: 00:22:38 I know I'm always like, I'm having to remind myself that with my cats because we have a couple of furry kids and one of them is amazing. He's like, his nickname is Bill (fucking) Murray because he's so chill. He's like so cool. And he's a, he's a Tuxedo. So he's also like, he's rocking a Tux, so he's also just a camp and he's, his name is MIDI, like musical instrument, digital interface. But that's right, total geek. But the other one, Mojo named after Mojo Jojo, he is like Mojo the Destroyer, which is now his other nickname because he just is like that mischievous cat that you're just like, seriously? He's like, he's so predictable, but in these unpredictable ways where you're like, I know he's going to mess this up, but I don't know in what way. And then sure enough, as soon as you take your mind off of it, you hear this crash or you hear something get knocked off and you're like,
Alex Mixter: 00:23:35 it's like a sitcom like that. That's so Mojo, ya know?
Gabe Ratliff: 00:23:39 Right? Just look at each other and we're like rolling your eyes. Like I knew it and you know, and then I have to be like that. He's a cat. Seriously, stop he's a cat. What can you do? Their cats, their animals. They're just doing what they do. We've domesticated them and we still think that they're gonna, like not do what they do is animals. And you're like, okay, so, um, this is that digression I knew he would do. That's just amazing. So I'm, so I wanted to ask because I love that you brought this up in the questionnaire, but what is the, what is the rust belt for those that don't know as far as
Alex Mixter: 00:24:18 the rust belt is like a. yeah, it's a lot of what attracts me to saginaw is the fact that it's kind of like the embodiment of the entire, of the entire region of the rust belt, which is, uh, you know, these towns that were heavy and the manufacturing, uh, and it kind of spreads across. I think it's from like Minneapolis to a or like to Pittsburgh. I'm not sure exactly what the, what the regional boundaries are for it, but it's just, I mean, essentially the midwest have all these, like all these towns and all these areas that, uh, that relies so heavily on, on manufacturing. And then over the last half century has just slowly eroded. And um, it's been a lot of job flight. We were heavy gm town here in Saginaw. So if you know the story of Detroit, you basically know the story of Sag and all that. But uh, the, the uniqueness of it is that it's much smaller. Um, we're at it's height. It was like 100,000 people lived here. Now it's like just under 50,000. I'm one of the things that are currently worried about is whenever the, whenever we do a count again, whenever we have another census, we're gonna probably be less than what qualifies us as like a proper city. So like now that there's all these grants were no longer eligible for and uh, which creates even more problems because we've been declining sense. I think it's the early 19. So I want to say, I want to say you're like,
Alex Mixter: 00:25:56 I'm pretty sure early 19 seventies is when it really started to decline. But it's, it's just kind of sad because it's just been this flight, but it's not so much of like this thing where people went from Saginaw to California, but like from Saginaw to second on township and like those little things matter a lot because like I was, I grew up in the township, so I grew up in Saginaw township, which is adjacent to the city of Saginaw. Um, and now I bought a house in the city of Saginaw when, and I despise the township for everybody, but it is because it's suburban hell, you know, and there's like the only thing we could do growing up was like to get high and go to Walmart. And that was like the fun stuff that you can do. Um, but it's just, it's not a unique story in the sense of a loss of manufacturing jobs because that's pretty synonymous throughout throughout the rust belt.
Alex Mixter: 00:26:51 But it's, it's like the unique, uh, the population demographics of it are very interesting. Where at one point it was the highest crime rate in the entire country per capita. It was like the number one most violent city in America. Uh, I think we're off the top 10 now completely, but um, I mean towns like Detroit and everyone's sort of flint lately too. I'm in the last two or three years and uh, but we are basically a small flint and flint is a small Detroit, so I kind of referred to Saginaw as like a Detroit junior junior situation and that's the, I think that's the general vibe of if, you know, if you're to paint a picture.
Alex Mixter: 00:27:40 So, I mean, it seems very clear already from what you've shared with this, but what was it, what is it that, that at its core is what made you decide to focus on local activism as you have and you know, reinvent yourself in the, you know, after leaving Denver and wanting to start a new with what you want to put out into the world. What, what is it at the core of that like really drew you to that specifically? Um, it was a really natural evolution because at the very, I mean, at the very heart of it, I wanted to do something that made me feel good. I wanted to do work that like, made me feel like I was actually contributing to something as opposed to like some, you know, like horseshoe corporate commercial or something. I've done a lot of videos that I just like, man.
Alex Mixter: 00:28:30 I remember at the hospital that I worked at, I made a video of how to clean a Gurney and like there's nothing that makes you feel like you're not doing anything then cleaning a relief, but you know, you can look at it as I'm helping the nurses and stuff. But um, it was mainly wanting to do. It was a very selfish reason honestly, out of the gate of like wanting to do work that I feel good about. Uh, but then I moved home, you know, like in late December, 2015, um, and the election was in swing at that point. And so a 2016 was the first year that I was home. And that was a very consequential year in the country obviously. And I'm. One of the things that I just kinda realized throughout the election was that like people were looking to whoever was running for president, whoever your candidate, what as a, they were looking to them as this like, well, we need to fix, we need to fix things.
Alex Mixter: 00:29:27 And then when you look around, you know, a small town, the people don't even know who the mayor is a they don't know who's on, who's on the city council even or they've never even been to a city council meeting. They don't understand how their government works. Like the local government works. And like people don't even realize that here in the city of Santa, we don't directly elect a mayor council. They appoint and they actually did last night, they appoint the mayor and the mayor pro tem and there's just all of this like, man, I wish the president would change the world type conversation going around. But no one was really thinking about how uh, other town works and what's happening in their own town. And everyone's just at home launch and stuff. But, um, to me, it, you kind of realize if you go back to like the founding father days, like there was like the 13 colonies and that was it.
Alex Mixter: 00:30:19 There weren't too many people and there was a whole country undiscovered at that point. But now that we have this massive sprawling, you know, giant country chock full of manifest destiny, uh, they, we've kind of forgotten like that the way that it's supposed to work is like the town becomes the county, the county becomes the state and the state becomes the country. And like that type of evolution, um, you realize that if you actually, I mean, as Corny as it may be, like if you actually wanted to make effective change in the world, like the best place to possibly start as in your hometown, wherever you're at. And so that kind of advocacy really just clicked, like in a way that, um, I mean, especially growing up as someone who hated this town, I needed to get out of here. It was horrible. Uh, and, and I just like, this town is nothing for me.
Alex Mixter: 00:31:10 And then coming home has been the exact opposite of like it is what you put into it and then when you start doing that type of work, when you start putting in the sweat equity on it, you start looking around and realizing how few people show up like that. And so it's like, it's more of a bug that I want to spread of just like if you just get involved in some way, you know, there's a lot of things that can change in just your town. And if you can change just your town, um, there's a lot, there's a lot that can happen and your quality of life is going to be better for that. And, and like the best way to spread that kind of propaganda is through video too. So it, it, it helps to be able to make content that is, that hint of here's a way you could get involved.
Alex Mixter: 00:31:57 Here's what these people are doing. And a big thing for me too is I did over, I want to say over 50 interviews for my documentary and uh, talking to over 50 people directly and saying like, what are you up to? And like, Oh, I started a nonprofit that provides music lessons for children for free. And you're like, Oh shit, you know, I watched a whole season of breaking bad yesterday that when you surround yourself with those types of people, it's really contagious. But I've noticed there's a fear of like, how do I even get involved? And me being a videographer, the ultimate Trojan horse for me is like, Hey, can I do an interview with you? I'm working on this project. And then in that interview I'm not, I'm asking you questions that uh, are for me in a big way. But a lot of what I said after I finished the documentary or at least the interviews for the documentary was like, I wish that there was a way that everybody could have the conversations that I've had with these people. And then it kinda hit me like a ton of bricks one day of like, well, that's why you bring a camera and a microphone because then you can translate the best of the best of that to people and say like, well this is what this person thinks and that's a really solid way to, you know, get inspired to actually get up and do something. So that's the kind of the core of it. I think.
Gabe Ratliff: 00:33:22 I love it man. I love it. I mean, that's, that's why I'm doing this, you know, because part of, part of what I realized my mission really stemmed from was this desire to similarly tells these stories that we've trained to do. But what I really the stories, I really love telling our stories like yours, you know, these creatives, these creators that are out there
Gabe Ratliff: 00:33:52 taking what they do and doing something with it, you know, and like have the, have a message and that are like making the world a better place in their own way, wherever that is. Whether that's saginaw or San Francisco, you know, and it's just, it's amazing to get to have these conversations. Just like you said, it's like the same thing every time I do one of these, I leave floating. I just, I know we wrapped, we wrapped up the interview, right. And you're just like a. because it feels so good because you're like, I captured that. I captured this amazing conversation around this amazing work that these people are doing and you know, and it totally taps into being fellow creatives, but also just like really devout to the human condition, you know, and like really trying to stop, you know, living in this same vicious cycle where we just think somebody else will do it, you know? And I like to go out, like you said, it's like contagious. You start doing it and you're like, oh, I want more of it. I want to do more of this. I want it to be bigger. I want it to affect more people.
Alex Mixter: 00:34:58 The funny thing about that is is like I'm kind of realizing just now that like, uh, the very first documentary that I didn't, high school actually, um, was about trying to, uh, trying to shake the stigma of like being in marching band. And the band Geek, you know, kind of thing. And that was the whole focus of that film was like, they're not geeks, they're people who are really passionate about this. Well, I guess that is what a geek is, but like, but there, there is a completely different thing when you get to know people who are like super fired up about something and when you examine that, I feel like it's a lot more illuminating than just like writing something off. And that was Kinda the whole core of the saginaw documentary too. It's like people looking at this thing and having an opinion of it. And it's like, well, how do you shake that perception? And that's what I love about doing video. And, and uh, you know, it's a fact that like you can, like, you can expose people to things and people and ideas, uh, that you might not have otherwise ever crossed paths with.
Alex Mixter: 00:36:09 And that's why I like documentary particularly. And I kind of realized very early on like, well the, the problem with a lot of filmmakers who get into the film industry and like go to school for film, they come out the other end, like I want to make my film and I need to do that because I want to be a director and, and it's just iii. I and I'm one of the quotes from someone that I interviewed was like, if you are not saying we shut up because it needs to be like we're working on this, we're doing this and that type of philosophy as something that like I want to be on every billboard in America. Just like the reason that no one wants to make your film is because you're probably just being selfish. But like if you're doing something with a little bit more heart to it, I think that comes across organically. And uh, I haven't really had any. Like, I don't know, it's been a really great process to like, like organically discover what it is that I'm trying to do. And uh, and the doors open when it's like I'm trying to be more inclusive. Like trying to spread this good word and that's when people agree to interviews and stuff like that as opposed to light blocking up on. I'm making my mess to piece. Exactly. Yeah. So will you give me money to make my masterpiece?
Alex Mixter: 00:37:34 Um, so what, what would you say has been your biggest challenge doing this work? Especially being, you know, Detroit, the third, um, the hardest, the hardest thing has honestly been realizing my own bubble and realizing where I'm at in my head space and uh, my own shortcomings on stuff because I'm trying to make the definitive movie about, about Sag. Uh, I'm, one of the things that happened that kind of knocked me on my ass a little bit was I got done with the film and realized it was kind of coming across as like gentrification, the movie, you know, and it was just like I was in my own world of my network and people, uh, the people that I knew directly, but then there was a point probably like midway through 2016 that it was like, I need to get out of my bubble in a big way.
Alex Mixter: 00:38:31 And uh, that's been the hardest thing is just like acknowledging all the bubbles that exist and then being able to accurately represent the town as opposed to just like, here's what the young white people who are doing over here, but then like realizing that I have made a lot of mistakes of like, there was no women of color in the entire film of everyone that I interviewed. Like how was it that there was not a single woman of color in the whole film? And it was just realizing that I was on this like unconscious trajectory of, Oh, you should talk to this person next, oh, you should talk to this person next. And that's how it evolved. What is at the end of the interview, I would always say who should I talk to? And then they would look at it like introduced me to three people that they would introduce me to three people. But being in those bubbles was probably the biggest challenge of seeing like, okay, who am I leaving out on this? Uh, and there's, uh, a very, very diverse population here. And it was my own personal fault of like not jumping up my world and exploring all of the other worlds that were within a half mile of me. So I think that was. Yeah, I think that was the biggest obstacle. Just being honest about that too. Acknowledging it.
Gabe Ratliff: 00:39:48 That's such a great comment to documentary filmmaking, I think. Right. And especially now as we're having such conversations around being a white male in America and the privilege that we have that we don't even think about, that's now becoming a conversation. It's a topic people are having and it's a fantastic conversation because there are so many subtleties that we have grown up with not recognizing that are completely these blatant, um, what we feel like we don't even think of them as privileges, you know, and then you, you, when you step back and you are in someone else's shoes and can see what those are like in these little ways. Um, I just saw a post the other day where Dr Phil was having this conversation. I think I saw you shared that. Yeah. Yeah. Because it was fascinating. Somebody shared it and I saw it. I was like, well, that's worth sharing because he as a white male trying to call it out and he's got a big audience.
Gabe Ratliff: 00:40:49 So it's a great opportunity to be able to say. And he had African American people on the show talking about these little examples and he laid out some more over, off the set. Right. And it was just so cool to hear like, oh my God, I didn't even think about that. I didn't even think about that either. And we take it for granted and I think it's so great that this is a conversation that we're having. But to your point about that challenge for you, what a great thing to be sharing with other documentary filmmakers right now and as you are working on projects like that, especially something where it's local and it's, you know, based on activism and trying to make positive change locally to then realize, especially in somewhere like Michigan where there is such a diversity and you know, especially areas like Detroit and so many places around that nor eastern region where there's, it was a melting pot spewing off from New York, you know, and uh, I grew up in when I was a kid, I grew up in DC and I, my life was diverse. I, I, my best friend was a, this young girl turquoise that like we were all watched by the same woman, Oma. She came to my wedding, you know, and like her and pop pop. They were my, you know, they were my guardians when, when my mom was at work or whatever, you know. And like I grew up in that diverse type of environment and I love that. I did. But then as I got older, I've had this kind of wavering path of still having a lot. I mean, this is something I've really thought about recently, but I've still had, I've, I've even looked at this show, this show is like leaning more towards white people and I, and I recognize the same thing that you did doing a documentary just in this last few weeks.
Gabe Ratliff: 00:42:48 I was like looking at that was looking at the photos for the, for this, for the posts, for the show. And I was thinking, Oh my God, I'm totally doing it. I'm totally doing it, you know, and I've been, I've been trying to keep it mixed with gender based, like with women and men. I'm really trying to promote women out there doing all this really great work. And it started to skew just a little bit to men, but I'm trying to pull it back. Right. So I am being conscious about it. But then I started to step back even further and looked at. Oh Wow. Yeah. But what color are these people? You know? And I have my one friend Maya, she's Israeli. And so, you know, I love being able to have a conversation with her because she's, she's like totally a activist and is like doing a lot of great work with regenerative regenerative. It's so hard for me to say regenerative. I'm a sustainability and all these things in San Francisco and I was so happy to have her on the show because there's like another layer of that to her. Um, but that's one of the things I had to step back and realize like, oh man, I really have to keep expanding this because I'm not doing my job.
Alex Mixter: 00:43:59 Like, I mean, it's an unconscious thing for shut a lot of people because uh, uh, uh, growing up where I did, it was weird because I'm, there's this massive disconnect. There's a river that goes straight down the middle of the town and I was on the far west part of town. But if you look at a map, and this is actually like a map that we created in the documentary to like to really visualize it. But there is, um, I think still the New York Times they did this thing called mapping race or something like that. If you Google Mapping Race New York Times, it'll probably come up right away, but you can look at any town in America that and see the racial makeup of it. And in Saginaw it is the east side is African American, the west side is white and that is so pull. But like then when you start to trace the history back, you start to realize that that was very deliberate and then there was a whole period where it was keeping them on their side of the river.
Alex Mixter: 00:45:04 And um, that's the kind of stuff that was never talked about ever growing up. And it was just like, oh, well that's just the way the world works. And um, no, it was very deliberate and like red lining was a real thing and I didn't know what red lining was until I was like 25. And so that for people that don't know, well, uh, actually back through, I think it was the Johnson administration, they were trying to drive the expansion for the suburbs. And so they created all of these loans, um, for people to be able to move. So there's all these like really good fha loans that became available to a lot of white people. But then in the black neighborhoods it was literally red line because they would color those areas in red, um, and say this isn't an area that's eligible for that.
Alex Mixter: 00:45:59 So it was a way post Jim Crow, or actually it was kind of a, well, it was right in that same time period where it was like as the civil rights movement was happening, but it's that colorblind element of it. And I say that with air quotes of a, everyone can have this, but some restrictions may apply. So that drove the element of the suburbs as people being able to get these home loans. And that's when you start to realize that like racism in these types of towns, uh, wasn't always. No blacks allowed on a know on a window. It was, I'm sorry you're not eligible for the loan. Um, that kind of change in the town has had lasting effects. The school that I went to, I think it was 90 percent white and then there is a school on the other side of town which is on the east side and that one is I think 98 percent black.
Alex Mixter: 00:46:54 And uh, that discrepancy is even weirder when you realize that, uh, that the school on the east side is constantly being threatened with closure and they're going to close that school. And that's been a, that was a conversation, uh, when I moved back, that was very prominent. Was the closure of saginaw high or Arthur Hill. There's these two schools in the city that they were talking about closing one or the other, combining them, maybe closing both of them and creating a new school, but heritage high school that, that was never, ever, ever a conversation of like, is my school going to be here next year? Or, you know, like those kinds of questions were never anything that I had to deal with. And then, um, it wasn't until I started doing video work with a group called Iam, Saginaw High, uh, which they like in retaliation of the closure, did this point of pride movement of like talking about all the great alumni who came from saginaw high and uh, and I made a video with them and then like talking to the parents of the students, interviewing the students themselves and a hearing, you know, like a 15 year old say, well, you know, they think we're worthless and you know, we're trying to prove to them that we're not.
Alex Mixter: 00:48:09 And it's just a completely different world that was two miles away from where I grew up. And I don't know how, um, I don't know how this, this conversation or this. I'm like the trajectory of what's happening. I don't know how that's going to be
Alex Mixter: 00:48:28 reversed in any way where it becomes more of, of a diverse town as opposed to this polarized town. That's what kind of scares me, is that what's happened is everyone moved out and then close the door really hard behind them. And now what's happening across America is young people are discovering that the inner city is pretty cool and that like there's cool architecture and like usually the historic cores are very cool and well built and what we've done is torn down a lot of the buildings and left a lot of it for dead. And now we're having this conversation of like, how do you, uh, show back up and say hi, we've been gone for 50 years but we'd like to take this property now. Thank you. Um, and that gentrification conversation is rampant all over the place. It was huge in Chicago when I lived there.
Alex Mixter: 00:49:21 Um, and I don't really know what the proper. I mean through lake or like through the sixties and the fha loans and everything. Um, that was how they drove the suburbs. But like I'm wondering if we're ever going to try to drive the redevelopment of the inner city. Um, and that's one of the things that I would love to see is like inclusive incentives that, um, that allow people to be able to like take control of their neighborhoods and like in ways that acknowledge that we've been letting them start for a long time and trying to reintroduce that conversation. I think it's going to be a very uncomfortable thing in the same way that talking about white privilege is an uncomfortable thing for a lot. A lot of white men. You know, I deserve everything. I worked really hard for him. It's just like the know the inherent advantage of going to the high school that you went to alone. I've had conversations with people before who, uh,
Alex Mixter: 00:50:19 God, one of the things that was really popular in high school that makes me cringe when I look back on it was the adoption of a calling saginaw, Sag, nasty. Uh, and that was what I've learned is that a point of pride for the east side St from Sag Nasty. But then all of these white high school kids were all like, yeah, I'm from Sag Nasty. And like the, like acting, like they came from a rough neighborhood, um, and I was in Ferndale, uh, like just outside of Detroit, which is a pretty white town and I was an art market and it said there's a shirt that said, oh bitch, please, I'm from Detroit. And it was just in this Ferndale arc market. It's like wanting to like own that pride that street credit of being from Detroit or whatever. Um, it's kind of really awkward thing to see like how we do this and I don't know, it's going to be a weird.
Alex Mixter: 00:51:15 It's gotta be a weird time, but I think that's why it's a cool time to be a documentary producer because um, these are conversations that like, I'd like to hear a lot more of what people are actually feeling and how you properly a redevelop the inner core of the city. Because I think the suburbs where a mistake, I think it's a failed experiment. And I think going back to being a city is the way that things are supposed to be is the way we've done it for thousands of years until the fifties when we said, what about the suburbs now that we have cars and all that. Um, but now that we've extended way out into excerpts revisiting that, um, there's a big conversation that has to happen that people would rather not have. And that's when you see ram and gentrification. That's when you see it done poorly. That's when you see people being pushed out. But I think there's a whip today to invest again and not have it be, um, a very exclusive thing that only only privileged white people can enjoy.
Gabe Ratliff: 00:52:13 We saw the same thing in our neighborhood. You know, where I, I started getting excited several years ago thinking like, Oh, you know, our neighborhoods starting to, you know, come up and I'm starting to see new eateries and all these cool things start to pop up. And as I was, I was, you know, it was the, the bleeding that was distracting me. Meanwhile, I start hearing this undercurrent of information about. It's actually more gentrification than being a prosperous neighborhood, you know, and it being inclusive, prosperity and that, that's, you know, I think it's really, it's true. There's an attempt, I've, I feel like in our, in our actual hood of, for people are really trying to keep it diverse and inclusive and to, and to bring each other up, but they're still with as far as developers and where a lot of the money comes in, you start seeing stuff gets scraped and totally new things and like every, you know, everything starts going up and it's just like you said, you know, going back to Michigan. I mean, it's just continued to escalate since left
Alex Mixter: 00:53:26 where it's just more um, uh, more and more people are having to leave because they can't keep up. It's, you know, it's following suit with like San Francisco and Austin and all these places that have become these new tech hubs and it's happening full bore right now in Detroit, which I'm because it's cheap. Well, that's the thing is I actually heard this, I heard this quote, I'm Kinda, I was on a plane looking for something to watch and I came across this. It was, I think through maybe vice, they did a TV show where it was like these abandoned places that this guy would go skateboard at a was like the whole show. But um, there was one episode they did about Detroit and uh, he skateboarded there. He interviewed this one girl and she had this quote that like, like has been going in my head ever since.
Alex Mixter: 00:54:20 Um, and she said something along the lines of like, she hates when people say that Detroit is like a blank canvas and uh, people have been here the whole time, you know, like that whole, like people are moving back to Detroit as the, you know, the expression. But um, there are people who have been here, never left, watched everyone leave another, watching him come back. And, uh, that, that idea of looking at it as a blank canvas is kind of like the embodiment of how the racism in this type of stuff is completely ignoring an entire group of people who have been living in that town that everyone fled. You know, the, that I don't know, it's a lot more of, there are pieces that are already there. What can you contribute to it? Like how can you help to build it into something. But to look at it as a blank canvas is just like incredibly offensive.
Alex Mixter: 00:55:21 I think that that's what I like right now about Sam is that it's all of the, it's like all the things that people were excited about in Detroit, but it's small enough where I feel like, I mean I could call the mayor right now, he's in my phone and like just have a conversation with him about stuff and that level of like a tight knit community. I'm wondering if this town can be an example of how to do it right. Um, and there's already a sense of it being done wrong. There was a, there was a big building downtown that used to be a hotel back in the day, but then it turned into section eight housing and then they kicked everyone out and now it's luxury apartments. Everyone's heard that story before they bought the building for 600,000 and they sold it for $30 million. Um, so like that type of stuff is happening actively and I feel like, uh, one of the things that I want to work more towards is being more critical of what's happening. Um, but in the meantime, I've been trying to make friends before I saying, you know, the millions of dollars you're pouring into the teller, stupid because here it's like a take everything we can get, you know. And um,
Alex Mixter: 00:56:34 yeah, I'm kind of got them off. But
Gabe Ratliff: 00:56:37 no, I mean I get, it's, it's, it's, it's the core of why you're doing what you're doing, you know, and this is why you're on the show, you know, is to share what's going on and share this message agonize like so many other cities all over the country. So that's one of the things I loved about your trailer is that, that, that, that's actually mentioned, you know, that it's just like anywhere else and it's, it's an example for the rest of what people are seeing all over the country, you know, and these mega, I don't wanna say mega cities, but these large metropolitan areas, you know, they're just continuing to go up and up and up and it's totally going. I, that's actually a Freudian slip, but it's actually totally going kind of the direction of like the mega cities like judge dread, you know, like that's like, I mean it's random analogy, but it where it's just these huge cities that it just becomes more disparate between the 99 percent and one percent where they've got these big, huge, lofty places and everybody's living in these projects that are like these huge skyscrapers, you know, and like it's just continuing to blossom off.
Gabe Ratliff: 00:57:46 And that is totally an analogy for kind of where we're heading. I mean it's, that's, it's not really about, like you said, it's like more on this, the, the, the ability to course correct really stems from local. And then rippling out not the other way. And that's been the problem is it's been the other way. So I, yeah, I, I thank you for sharing that. I did want to step back and ask, you know, now that you've done regarding saginaw, the documentary. I'd love to ask you some things about that, you know, I know you're kind of pulled it back into production and are working on it more, but I was wondering, you know, what, what we're, what have been the results or the outcomes of doing the work with the film and you know, how has that kind of, Oh, is that open people's eyes? Like how has that changed the conversation?
Alex Mixter: 00:58:47 The coolest thing that happened in the whole process, and this is actually about a year ago now, um, I was able to show the film at my old high school, uh, they had like a half day at school and so what they did was, was during second hour where they just sent out a link that all the teachers could press play on it. And I got a bunch of interesting messages from kids who were like, I had no idea that, that, how Lee Mansion, there's a bunch of kids who are way on the west side. I have no idea that this house exists. And that's exactly where I was. And so to hear a students say like, I had no idea. It's like, yes, that's what I'm trying to do. That like showing that your town is so much more than your high school. Um, it was a lot of the goal and I was happy to be able to show it at that school in particular because I feel like the biggest news of the things that make me furious or are coming out of that high school.
Alex Mixter: 00:59:49 Um, and one of the other things that I heard yesterday, I was actually one of my buddies a wearing this hoodie at a. he's in the film because he opened a skate shop and Sag Anna. And uh, we had, uh, a really good conversation. And he told me that, uh, he had people coming into the shop after the premiere saying like, we, we, we saw you on the film and we wanted to come check you out. And I thought that was a really interesting result, uh, to, to just kind of use the movie. And what I realized through doing it was it never should have been a movie, you know, it should have been a bunch of short form web content, which is what it's slowly evolving into a. But having the movie is great because now we can do events and we can actually have like q and a's and conversations around that.
Alex Mixter: 01:00:38 And that's been my favorite part of the whole thing is doing these screenings and then talking for an hour afterwards with people who have opinions or thoughts. And like, um, a lot of really cool conversations and a lot of things too from the q and a that have shaped the way that I've been doing things. Like with like my own personal activism locally. Like the things that I've heard, people will say you can take that and, and go into meetings with people with that in your back pocket basically. Um, so there's been a lot of interesting things that have come out of that. Um, I'm, I'm really interested in getting the movie done just because I know that feeling, having it in, into something that I can just put online. Like my ultimate goal is to make it so you can go to [inaudible] dot com and the movies there you press play.
Alex Mixter: 01:01:35 Uh, and my very first job I ever had was I worked at a library like in the city and um, I was in charge of the computers and there were people who were coming in who could not afford a computer or an Internet connection and the library was their only way to do that. And I don't want that person to go in and say, oh, that moves and then look it up and get a $10 pay wall or something like that. So I want it to be something that you can just go to the website and press play and if you want to donate to help me out grants, but I really don't care because I'd rather people see it and hear from these people in the town because the biggest reaction was I didn't know that that was a thing. I didn't know that that organization existed.
Alex Mixter: 01:02:15 I didn't know that, um, we could get involved in this. You then. So transforming it from a movie and saying, come watch my movie and instead of having it be like, learn about your town through this movie. And it's also interesting to kind of fight the uh, I remember asking the question in the heart of postproduction. Asking myself like, is this movie for Saginaw for about Santa? And that is a very different thing because we never mentioned in the film that it's the most violent city in America like that. And when I showed it to a couple of friends in Colorado, they're thing was, I think you should raise the stakes more of like telling people where we're at. And, and I've been conflicted with that because it's just like every Detroit film I've ever seen has started with it was so cool and now it's a shit hole.
Alex Mixter: 01:03:12 And like that is just such an exhausted conversation where it's like we get it, like it's, we get it over that I don't want to have to hurdle over that conversation to get to the good stuff. Um, [inaudible] the core of the whole movie is actually a Mr Rogers quote where he said something along the lines of like, whenever I'd see something scary on tv, my mom would say, look for the helpers. There is always people helping and that is in the teaser trailer and showing people doing stuff, um, people cleaning up parks and people, you know, creating indoor skate parks because there's nowhere to skate in the winter or like whatever, you know, like whatever it is you want to do, just contribute to it. But otherwise just shut up. We don't need the other parts where it's, you know, well, but it's really bad and crime is bad. And I don't know, that's a really exhaustive conversation to me. Yeah.
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Gabe Ratliff: 01:04:48 I wonder is, is there a story that stands out to you that would be great to share from all these interviews? Is there one that that really kind of knocked you back or was really funny or just really hit home or.
Alex Mixter: 01:05:08 Man, that's interesting question because it's a, they all kind of have their own. Like there were people that I talked to that I, I didn't, I include in the film at all that I got a lot out of. I'm trying to think of what really got me the most though because uh, in terms of my own path, I'm trying to document the demolition of have two buildings downtown and like having conversations around like what's actually going on with that because it was a case where the costs are because a couple bricks came off the building and they hit the sidewalks so they had to close off the sidewalk and then it was like $100,000 to repair the bricks or 320 something thousand dollars to demolish the block and they demolished the block. Um, and even so, even within that conversation there was a developer who came forward who coincidentally is now the developer of the Lee Mansion. This guy came forward and said, here's $100,000. I'll take care of the bricks, don't talk blake, don't tear them down. But they already had the permits already signed. And uh, they were just so dead set on doing that. That, like, that shaped my career in a big way. But probably, um, I think the thing that really knocked me back to the most, like outside of me, uh, was going to talk to the sky, Chet Atkins who is a preacher and he invited me into his church. I read an article about him on the news and his,
Alex Mixter: 01:06:48 his whole ministry is like trying to find the people who are lost and help to give them a purpose. And his whole core of his whole thing is like, what is your purpose? What are you doing? Like if you do not have a purpose, you flounder in life and you don't, you'll get in, you'll be on the wrong track. And uh, he had a history where he went to prison I think twice. Um, and he was involved in gangs throughout the eighties and uh, he just broke it down. For me, it was a really interesting conversation because I'm a white kid from the township, you know, talking to this guy who had a radically different life experience than me and him just basically breaking down like what drives you to join a gang. And the, the heart of it was basically like
Alex Mixter: 01:07:39 they showed love, the people that I was in a gang with showed me love and that's where I went. That's it was you got my back, I've got your back. And that I remember growing up, people just like these kids just killing each other. And it's like, no, it's a very complex thing where at the core of it, what this guy is trying to do with his church is spreading love. And like that's a way different conversation than the one that happens away from the east side of Saginaw. It's two completely different worlds and being able to bridge that, um, and that's kind of close to the end of film. It like weaves through all of these people who are doing stuff. But kind of the climax is with him saying like, here's the low that I hit him. He and, and he told a story about how he tried to commit suicide.
Alex Mixter: 01:08:28 He put the gun to his chin actually. And then the bullet jumped out the chamber. And uh, yeah, he had a very visceral experience. And that's something he tells a story about, a lot of just, um, that was a big moment for him of like, all right, there's something that I got to be doing here. And he's expanded his church in the time since we've done the documentary. Um, and he was just always so damn welcoming and he brought me into his congregation, uh, and I shot a whole whole sermon that he did and uh, it's my favorite part of the whole film. And uh, yeah, that, that in particular was probably my favorite of the whole thing. But other than that too, that there's, I mean like you talk to people who used to be like, there are so many stories that I heard to have, like all these cool people that I was talking to that had some kind of backstory, a be it like heroin addiction or like that there's alcoholism, there's all these things that people were grappling with and those are the people that did the most like outstanding work.
Alex Mixter: 01:09:36 And I found that to be really interesting because we never talk about that in the film. Like I didn't pry them on, like tell me more about your darkest moments with heroin and like that, that's just not, that's an unnecessary thing because right now they're doing this, you know, right now this is the work they're doing. And uh, that's kind of the whole theme of the documentary is like, you look at Saginaw on it's been through some really rough times, but right now here's what's happening. And I think that's a completely different way to look at it and not throwing like, you know, all the weight that it has to carry of being this town that has this comeback kids story. It's just like, no, it's just, you're going to hear about it in a different way. I think. Yeah, it's
Gabe Ratliff: 01:10:22 the truth. I mean it's, you know, the whole concept of, you know, get knocked down seven times, get up the eighth and succeed, you know, and, and it's the same thing that we deal with, with businesses and with our work and, you know, putting something out there and being vulnerable. You know, I think, you know, these cities in Michigan have, have been very vulnerable over the last several years, many years, and you know, it's kind of like when you are a kid and you get sick, it builds your immune system up. Right. And I didn't, I feel like where I feel like you're coming from is this place of, you know, just coming back stronger, but being present, being present to this is what's. I love that. That's what I'm, that's what I'm hearing is that it's around this is where we are now. We can look back at our past as much as we want, but that does absolutely nothing. Yeah. And except to have the hindsight of don't do it again, you know, and to move forward from it. But to be present to this is what we can do now and move forward and how we can change things to be a prosperous city that is inclusive. I think that's a huge.
Alex Mixter: 01:11:36 I think that's a huge existential crisis that a lot of towns across America are grappling with. It is the idea of like, well, do we just let that part of town go do like, do we, like, we're currently at like right now we're at a fork in the road where we, we asked ourselves whether or not we're going to right the wrong. Um, and I think we have a beautiful opportunity right now to do that. But there is a big attitude, uh, that's very real, especially around here. It's, it's a lost cause, don't, you know, just don't, don't bother with it. And um, I think that's an incredibly messed up way of looking at things because you're, there are lives within that, that are just completely writing off. Um, and I've, like, I remember saying something along the lines of like, it's weird to me that people go overseas for a mission trip or something like that, but they don't go over the river. So like help. Um, and yeah, I don't know. I don't know. Like again, I don't know what that conversation is going to be like when we
Alex Mixter: 01:12:45 make a decision on what it is we're going to do. But it seems like nationally we've been drifting away from even trying to acknowledge the elephant in the room and, and like even acknowledging that there's been some, like something wrong that happened and people, uh, who are way victimized, feeling victimized by even being accused of being. So. Yeah, I dunno, it's, it's a very, very big question. I feel like right now that I don't know the answer to other than massive investment. Um, and people don't want to. People don't want to have that conversation like have you early. A really good experiment is just to ask someone how they feel about providing reparations and people get very upset about that question. Like absolutely not. But then like my way of thinking of it as like, what if that was in the form of investment and like infrastructure investment school will investment like heavily funding the schools having trauma. Like, like having trauma psychologist in the schools dealing with these problems that these kids are dealing with. And um, that kind of investment I feel like would be the best thing to do. But I don't feel any hint that that's where we're heading. Um, so it's this like piecemeal bandaid kind of thing for now of putting a market and, and saying we did it. We're helping.
Gabe Ratliff: 01:14:25 Well, speaking of which is, this seems like a really great place to kind of segway into the, um, the Lee mentioned project. I, I'd love for you to share how that came out of the documentary and what's going on with that because that, that's just an amazing story in itself.
Alex Mixter: 01:14:41 Yeah. That was, um, I mean that's been the coolest thing I've ever been a part of. Um, it's been a very, and it's been very interesting to, uh, to have the front row seat on a pressure like this because it's made me understand a lot more about like how development actually happens and like what it like the big question of why are they tearing that building down on why don't they do something with it. Um, that was where I was coming from at the beginning of don't tear the house down and then when I got to an area that could actually make decisions where I like, where I was interacting with people like the mayor, you know, like when you start talking to those types of people, you start realizing like what it is that's actually a needed in, like within that conflict. So with the Lee Mansion, it was a house that every in town, uh, it has an interesting story because the lady who lived there owned a pat leopard and she owned a Black Panther and she would walk around town walking these cats and she was always dressed up in big furs and like, like dressed up really nice and just walking the street with a leopard.
Alex Mixter: 01:16:00 And so she became something of an urban legend around town. And I'm in the mid two thousands. She went to hospice in New Jersey and then her house was vacant for years. Um, and, but it's this beautiful brick like lumber baron home, uh, that people don't even know the history of. Like that's been a really interesting thing actually, is you start with the lady with a leopard and then you start realizing who else lived there. And it's a really awesome history for the, it's, it's like a, it's like a high drama, like the newspaper articles to read, like a dramatic screenplay basically. And that house just became the focal point for like the whole preservation movement of like, we're going to save this house in particular. And uh, in 2011 it was acquired by the city and um, there was instant fear that they were going to tear it down, uh, through working directly with the city.
Alex Mixter: 01:17:03 They told me that they, they really acquired it because we're in the post housing crisis era where, you know, 2011 is three years after the bottom fell out on the entire housing market. So they wanted to make sure that this house on a main road in sap a wasn't acquired by a slum Lord and turned into these shotty apartments. And that's a really real concern because in my neighborhood there are a lot of beautiful mansions that are just chopped up. Um, in fact there is a house that is currently being restored like two blocks away from me and they told me that, uh, he used to be like nine different apartments in one house, so they didn't want to see that happen and um, they acquired it and then they were worried that it was going to get demolished. Um, so they, they pushed back and uh, and there were a couple people who were advocating for it, uh, but from what I've heard is they went to the news more than they went to the city with their grievances.
Alex Mixter: 01:18:02 So there's a bunch of articles that were published in 2012 about like, this house is gonna be torn down and, and according to the city, when I talked to them, they're like, we just wanted to control it. We wanted to make sure that. And then nothing happened for years. So they tried to find someone who wants to buy it. And then I'm in the newspaper articles that said that it was just very complicated because it was bought with hud money. So there's these weird like strings attached to it. Um, and then in 2016 it randomly came up at a city council meeting, had been just, just vacant for all these years of, uh, of someone just saying like, we out to do something with that house. I think it looks, I think it looks bad. Uh, I think we should get rid of that house.
Alex Mixter: 01:18:47 And then they voted that night to like to tear the house down and when they voted on that, there was a huge backlash where a bunch of people like, pushed back and got a, the deciding vote, which was the mayor because I think it was three to four vote or something like that. It was a very tight vote. And the mayor flipped his vote from Lake. We should tear it down to, we should list it. But they gave very strict conditions of like only until the end of October or something like that. Um, and then somehow like, like honestly, amazingly enough, the guy who was doing a, like he volunteered to list the house and as he was trying to sell it, he would always get someone who was this close to buying it right before they were like, what's going on with that house? So we get these people who are super interested had the finances and all of that.
Alex Mixter: 01:19:45 And then it would come up at city council, like, what are we doing? Like we said we were willing to do this certain amount of time and here we are. And they were like, well, well we've got someone who's interested in it and that bought enough time to keep it going. And so it was just on this pending isn't going to be demolished or not. And then around this time last year, I made a whole series of videos talking about how, uh, like really breaking down what the actual problem was, which was the fact that there's a development agreement that's required by the city. And what I learned very early on from directly advocating for the house and working directly with the city was that the city never wanted to be residential again. They didn't want some guy to move in and spend 10 years restoring it.
Alex Mixter: 01:20:33 Like there are plenty of people who have done that. I've got A. I've got a couple of friends who have spent decades restoring these houses and it takes a long time if you're doing it on your own. But this is not a main strip. This is on the main drag and we don't have time for someone to get around to doing the roof eventually. Like it needs to be done within a year or get out, you know. And so that's why it never sold. And I remember asking like how can it be such a high profile house that everyone wants to see saved and then no one wants to buy it. It doesn't add up. And then you realize that while the city didn't want that in the first place, the last five years had been with, instead of people saying, don't tear it down, I'll find a buyer for it.
Alex Mixter: 01:21:13 You know, and what we did is we, um, I remember I was coming home from the airport and I was house sitting for one of my friends who, uh, who has restored a beautiful Victorian mansion and while I was there it just kinda like, like hit me of like the reason that I think about this house the way that I do is because of this house, the House that I was house sitting and seeing what can be done with these homes is incredible. And so how do you expand that where people can use this house right on the main drag to show what's possible, you know, to show like what a restaurant can do, what too far gone actually means. And then it became a question of like, but how does it maintain itself? It's not going to be someone's house. How does it keep going?
Alex Mixter: 01:22:10 Like, what's a plan that we can do that it won't just be vacant again in three years. And we realized that if it turned into offices, we could use the bedrooms upstairs as offices. We could use the whole basement as offices because it used to be a doctor's office and a lawyer's office for almost a hundred years. So how can we convert that into offices and then use the first floor as that, like, like that community space that people can learn about what we have in this, these houses that are, are aplenty around here. A lot of them have been lost, but there are still plenty that could be restored. And so could we drive the restoration of these beautiful homes from this house that has so much public attention on it. And that is when it changed a lot, that conversation completely changed. So I went to the city, um, I was working with the mayor at time who is now the mayor as of last night and I was having these long phone calls with him just figuring out like he was my voice of here's what the city is looking for, these are the confines you have to work with them.
Alex Mixter: 01:23:20 And then, uh, working with him directly. And then he brought me into a meeting with the mayor. The mayor pro tem, the chief inspector. And the city manager and I went in front of everybody and said, here's my pitch and that's when it turned into we love the idea, but could you make it financially like who's got like, do you have the money to restore it? Well, no, but here's my idea. And they said, well, you gotta find a way to make that work. Um, so I got three months at the beginning of the year to make it work and I'm in that timeframe. I talked to everybody in the city and uh, realize that all of our public institutions that should be taken on projects like this completely dropped the ball. I'm the county Land Bank, which, uh, my whole thing was like, what if the Land Bank acquired it and then did what the city requires of it and then handed it off to someone.
Alex Mixter: 01:24:16 What if they took it off the city's hands, beautified the exterior, took a ton of the work off of what's ultimately going to be the budget. So the roof, which is $25,000 and the porch, just $10,000, like these types of things that would create a way better street view of the house. Um, the Land Bank wanted nothing to do with it. They didn't want to be stuck with it. And so I went to the foundations and they were like, well, you know, it's just going to be torn down so I don't know why we would put money into it and I'm just all of these conversations that came to a dead end. And then I went to a specific developer who's doing a lot of work in saginaw and it was a 10 minute conversation and he was on board. Yes, it happened really fast and uh, but it was all of this front end community activism of like how can we as a community save this thing?
Alex Mixter: 01:25:08 And then I, we had to go to the capitalist group on it and say it's going to be a private development now because, you know, Oliver Republicans, institutions can do it. Um, and now we're fully underway on the project. And uh, all of my meetings changed from that point on because I said, well, I've got this developer and he could get the money was literally like his company could just guarantee the loan that we needed to make the whole thing happen. And then if we actually have the tenants in the upstairs of the downstairs, this thing's actually going to keep itself afloat. And there are so many nonprofits that I work with through Hinton lab that like I know that there are tons of organizations that are one or two people who just operate out of their house, but they could have an office affordably in the Lee Mansion and use that even more community asset.
Alex Mixter: 01:26:01 So the like the whole is just like hopefully going to be buzzing with these organizations that are doing impactful work. And then the first floor can serve as that kind of resource for people who don't, who are in the same position that I was in three years ago. Just not knowing where to even start and saying here's where you can start. And having a person there potentially in the dream concept, have someone there who can say, well, what are you interested in? Well, I like this like, well here's a nonprofit that provides, you know, music lessons for children like that type of connection. Um, and they need volunteers and they need money and they need instruments, you know, all of that stuff. Um, this house could be the focal point of all of that. And so that's the concept that like moved it into development.
Alex Mixter: 01:26:47 Um, and now, you know, ever since we got underway and I became the project manager on it and we've had over a dozen. No, I've lost count actually have like community cleanups where people just volunteer show up and help some things. So like last time we were pulling up the floorboards and the dining room that had been destroyed by the bad roof. We've got a new roof on the house, by the way, with a bad roof was leaking onto the floors of the second floor. Well, I was going through the attic floor and then down to the second floor floors. And then that went down through the ceiling of the first floor and then that wrecks the floors on the first floor and like that bottom, like all, all I was trying to do last year was get a roof on the house. That was my primary goal.
Alex Mixter: 01:27:32 And this is why, because now we're dealing with the damage that happened, uh, in all that time that it was abandoned and vacant. But again, and this whole thing kind of ties into what we were talking about earlier is like the longer we sit on these types of issues, the more problems are like coming up and it's going to be more expensive to rectify. So now that we have a roof on the house, we can actually dry the house yet, but it's going to cost so much to do the floors now. And there are rooms that we don't have to even touch the floors because that part of the roof wasn't bad. And it's just that kind of thinking of like, well, if we're just going to tear it down, why would we waste the money? And you hear that, you hear that in the schools.
Alex Mixter: 01:28:13 Why would we invest in them if it's just going to close, you know, you hear the same conversation and that that's what gets me super fired up about preservation work is, it's the ultimate metaphor for all of this, of just, if we do the investment right now down the line when we work on these things, when we fix things up, it'll save us money. You know, it'll put us a little further ahead. But as we pretend, it's not even a problem as we let the lead, you know, like the leaky roof go. Now the floors are bad. Now the second floor is shot. Now it's scary to walk at this part of the, of the house. And um, it's just been so crazy to see the house just come back to like, it's. We cleaned out the whole basement and that took, like that on its own was eight cleanups, I think of just people coming in and just working on one section at a time.
Alex Mixter: 01:29:08 And there was one room that I think we had over 12 people who showed up that day. And uh, there was just junk up to your neck. Um, and then we cleaned the whole room out and uh, while we were doing that too, we were finding like historic artifacts, we were finding like the diary of the previous owner, like all of these crazy things that are buried in there. And then you think about like if a wrecking ball just came through and just knocked it all, like what is lost locally for our local history. There's just so much that we found and I have a storage unit offsite that we took everything out and straight to the storage unit to just preserve it for now as the house gets pretty developed. But it's just seeing all that firsthand and seeing the house go from this. Ooh, that's scary too.
Alex Mixter: 01:29:57 Like wow, these walls, you know, like these ceilings, it feels so much bigger on the inside. It looks on the outside and uh, they don't make them like they used to. That conversation is rampant and uh, it's just been a really cool project to, you know, to be there on the front line as project manager. Like to see it every day and then to forget even how bad it was when we started because we're already so far ahead and got, I've even forgotten what it looks like with a bad roof before because now it's got the new roof and it's just a new part of the landscape and we're trying to get the plywood off really soon to someone's the plywoods off. Uh, it's not gonna look silly abandon anymore. And then what was going to get torn down is ultimately going to be, I think one of the coolest gems of the entire strip.
Alex Mixter: 01:30:44 Wow. That's. Is that going to be called going to be called the mixture mansion now? No. No, it's the Charles. No, no, I think it's the mixture mentioned. I'm pretty sure I heard this mixture mentioned project. Well, the really the guy who built it was like a lumber baron who just made a killing in saginaw on like lumber and at the height of the lumber era, he was one of the guys who had a mill right on the river that was behind the house. And that house is actually unique in the fact that it's the only lumber baron house left on the entire, like the, like the whole riverfront that we've got this whole river and we've lost like probably hundreds of houses and um, this one is left and it happens to be one of the prominent lumbermen that people don't even really know about.
Alex Mixter: 01:31:38 There's a couple of the people know about just because the streets and the schools are named after them. But this is just one of the guys who made a fortune and I read his obituary and I think one of the lines, and it is along the lines of like, uh, uh, like, um, I, if you had an organization in the city of Saginaw and you have experienced the generosity of Charles Lee because he gave to every organization. Every church just was always giving. And then the way that we were paying as tearing his house down, I was gonna say like, what? It's so great that this now has become an embodiment of that giving back. You know, about like keeping it going and now being this place that can be a community space and can be an office for these, you know, nonprofit places. I wanted to ask, how many offices do you foresee being able to go into upstairs and the downstairs?
Alex Mixter: 01:32:33 Um, I think it's a grand total of eight. So there are four usable bedrooms upstairs. There's one that's just kind of like a little closet area, uh, that would be too small for someone to rent. Um, but all the bedrooms are just huge, like the, they're really cool spaces with these cool bay windows and uh, these interesting views of saginaw that you don't often get. And uh, and my office is actually in the future going to be upstairs at the Lee Mansion, so I'll be there pretty much every day. Um, you know, as if I'm not already, but um, the, uh, in the basement there's another for a, but one of the rooms we actually just got done completely dismantling where the cage was. It was a full room, like the whole room itself was a leopard cage. Um, and there's like scratch marks and stuff that you can see and uh, there was like there's this tiny piano that we found that we liked to pretend or who knows, but like we pretend that's like the leopards piano that April children's sized ones and uh, it's just been such a crazy project to like see something in such a crazy shape to take a leopard room and turn into a, you know, like an office for a nonprofit, uh, is a, it's a complete transformation.
Alex Mixter: 01:34:01 And I hope that people see like more potential in that because it changes the way you look at things from like, Oh God, that you know, that buildings that eyesore, we should tear it down. And instead you start going like, do you see the gingerbread on that house? Like, did you see the, like, like all the intricate woodwork up on the top and when you're walking you can look at stuff and go like damn, like who put those small little like lion sculptures along the second floor? Like there's all these tiny little detail because they just don't do anymore. It's usually just a glass monstrosity. But when you see like the, again it goes back to like your perspective on things of do you see it as this run down house or do you see as something with a ton of potential and A. I think that transformation as people drive down Washington Avenue and see it every day, there's a little bit more, like there's a little more difference.
Alex Mixter: 01:34:55 I'm like, as we're chipping away at it with a bunch of volunteers, um, eventually people are going to forget what it even looked like. And that's. And that's the day that I'm looking forward to is when it's just completely functional. And at the gym, you know, it's, it's, it's common, but it's just, I hope that this can serve as a catalyst to show like what we should be doing more of because I'm seeing more young people engaged by the preservation effort than anything else that I've seen. I've seen people coming out and saying like, I didn't know that this existed and it's the coolest and now it's like, okay, look at the rest of downtown. There's a ton of good stuff. And there are buildings Albert Kahn designed, did like, he was the guy of Detroit who like, he's the architect for a lot of iconic buildings in Detroit where he did a couple of buildings in saginaw. There's one left, um, and it's a cool building, you know, and hopefully people just use that as a springboard and that's the whole point of the houses for people to come in and then leave with a different perspective on what's even possible.
Gabe Ratliff: 01:36:00 How can people support like if the, when people hear this episode or um, you know, if they learn about it, how are you kind of focusing people's efforts if they want to, especially if they don't live, say in Saginaw, how can people support the project?
Alex Mixter: 01:36:18 We're, um, we're about to kick into a fundraising campaign actually. Uh, so it's nice to see past that because, uh, the Charles Lee mansion has its own facebook, a slash up Charles Lee Mansion. Um, and that's where we've been doing all of the volunteer coordination saying we'll be here on this day, show up if you can. And that's where we're going to launch a whole fundraising campaign to completely rebuild the porch because that's going to be a big part of the public image of it is for the last half century. It's been an enclosed porch and we're going to properly restore it to the original porch. Um, so people haven't even seen the front of the House since 19, I think later fifties. I think it got closed. So there are generations that have not seen the original columns for the house which are under, they're either under the porch because we've, we've ripped it off and seeing what's under there and it's the original columns from 18, 88.
Alex Mixter: 01:37:22 So that's going to be a lot more of like the public eye. And so we're going to try to raise about $10,000 to see, um, what kind of public support we can get. There's a question of like, lied on a to a private project because I know I mentioned earlier that it is a private development, but it's, it's not a money making venture at all because it's uh, the, the main, uh, concentration for our developer has been like doing something that is like honestly, like a morale boost saginaw of this house that everyone thought was going to get torn down, re purposing it and now it's going to be something that you can drive by. That's not an overgrown lot. Um, if they tore it down the other lots a lot because it's the only house on the whole block. So there's an entire city block that is mostly overgrown, a not very well maintained.
Alex Mixter: 01:38:16 And this house is going to be the gem on all of that. Um, so it's, it's, it's a community project that, uh, needs help basically. That's why it's here oriented. That's why it's very heavily donation based. Um, we're not making any money on this thing, but it's just a matter of doing it because mean, again, we didn't get the help from the Land Bank, but we didn't get help. You know, like from any public institutions to make it a public thing, but it's a private public development where it's, it's a private development cause it has to be to move into it or like a community public space W
Gabe Ratliff: 01:38:56 Well, and it seems like very symbolic of the city itself, right? Like, it's, it's kind of become this personification if you will, or just a symbol of not personification but assemble of the city itself and like holding onto its roots and not just scraping and starting anew, which is what we talked about earlier, being obviously the wrong direction, but to keep it what it is and you know, as we move into this digital space that we are in now and as we just land on Mars and all of these things, you know, she's futures are happening that we hold onto these, um, these roots and these, you know, it's just like with vinyl, this comes up on the show a lot, but it's just a great analogy where people thought I was a music buyer and I saw so many places closing and vinyl was going to die and go the way of the Dodo.
Gabe Ratliff: 01:39:58 And it didn't, it came back with a vengeance, you know, and like thinking is because people just recognize that there's something beautiful about that format and I think it's just another symbol for people's connection to their roots, you know, and like where we've come from, you know, and like there's just some things that don't need to continue to be. I mean, it's great that we're continuing to progress forward. I'm a total, you know, I definitely am a futurist to a certain degree, but I'm also a really appreciate where we've come from and, and uh, how our history can really play a part in that hindsight to be better as we progress
Alex Mixter: 01:40:37 a lot of the, I don't know the problem as, as humans, I feel like we get very distracted by the, by the shiny new stuff. And I feel like in the last hundred years we've gotten, like so pumped on like the innovations in everything that like we have lost touch with a thing that was inherent to the last couple thousand years of human existence, which was how it works, how community works, how people work. And I feel like mine is a great analogy for it because it's like the, that that was a, that's how people made money was by my record and here's a tangible thing and I'm just kind of realizing that like all the storefronts that are empty now are all things that like you can't really go back to because technology has really moved so quickly. So like the cobbler on the corner has now become like, like a hold out us of, of like this one store front that's not going to go anywhere because people need to fix their shoes.
Alex Mixter: 01:41:37 But people are gonna throw their shoes away and all that. But like having, I don't know, having these, these original things that are inherent to people and rebuilding towns and just kind of retracing where we came from a I think is very, very important thing to acknowledge that like 150 years ago we had a completely different town and even 50 years ago we had a completely different town from that. So there's all these arrows that are happening. But at the end of the day it's just people in a city. And that was another thing that, that preacher told me was like, I hope that saginaw, like it's the people that make saginaw, so it's a matter of like the people in Saigon, a wanting to do something because other, because otherwise it's a town, it's just a name of a region, uh, but it's the people who are inside of doing things that's the most important element and I hope that we can retrace everything and learn what made towns work back in the day and uh, and like try to pick from those things and see what we were doing. Right. And try to move forward in a way that's, you know, original the people, but also with all the perks of technology, like you can use facebook to bring people to the accounts and do volunteer cleanups and stuff. It's just a matter of not being distracted by the shiny stuff and the meantime.
Gabe Ratliff: 01:43:04 Yeah, no, I, yeah, I love it. I feel like that is a really great, um, sort of bookend to this story. Um, so I, I'm going to take this opportunity to now switch gears a little bit to some wrap up questions. We're going to have a little fun here, Bro. Okay. Because that was your doing a whole lot of really amazing, impeccable work and I love it. But I want to ask you some fun questions now. If you could have one medium, which one would you choose? Art, film, Literature or music?
Alex Mixter: 01:43:44 What was the last one? I broke up a little bit. Oh, art, film, Literature or music? One medium? Yep.
Gabe Ratliff: 01:43:52 I would probably do film, I mean for obvious reasons, but I like to ask that one because I know you're also a big music fan like me. So yeah, uh, books. So yeah, I realized that, uh, I, I like, I primarily listen to podcasts these days. Uh, I primarily read nonfiction and I primarily watch documentaries, so it's just kinda like, it's um, I don't know. The thing I love about the movie experience at least is that you can sit down and not be in your world for like an hour and a half and like you have the lights go down and you can be completely distracted. And um, I mean I think that's true for pretty much any medium, but it's, it's a very, uh, purposeful thing going to the movies. Like it's, it's almost like a ceremony of sorts where you sit in the chair, you know, you have the traditional foods were causing that additional foods.
Gabe Ratliff: 01:44:54 But, but yeah, then it goes to early. Let's go down and up comes the adventure. But uh, yeah, I'd say film for sure. I got to see. Um, it was actually an awesome experience for me. But uh, I volunteer at comicon here in Denver and um, you know, they do a lot of work with, uh, with literacy through comics, with their pop culture classroom. Is that the umbrella nonprofit? And I'm. Ron Perlman was there this year and you know, he's done so many amazing films, but he actually spoke to that and it was awesome. He had this really great comment about that sort of ceremonial experience of going to the theater and how, you know, being able to watch it in the comfort of your own home is sort of dismantling that ceremony and how that's how he feels about it. And he was very passionate about it, but it was just such an amazing, the way that he spoke to it was so powerful because he really broke it down to, you know, this 100 years we've had to go out to the cinema and like see these big spectacles and what that, you know, that we can't. It's just another thing that we shouldn't lose
Alex Mixter: 01:46:17 that connection to know that was a big thing like when I was working for the Denver Film Society, uh, that like really, I mean got driven home was the fact that like, you can't replace that experience and it's the same thing as going to a concert. Like, you know, people talk about like the conflict of not making any money off things like spotify. But, uh, like I feel like things like spotify or tool to get you to the concert, you know, to like be able to really discover what it is that you're trying to zero in because everyone has their unique taste. But ultimately I think it ends with people gathering somewhere and um, and being, you know, in a movie theater and seeing what movie magic actually is and seeing what that experience racism like q and a's like I talked about earlier, being like the best part of the movie.
Alex Mixter: 01:47:06 Um, I don't think that we can replace that in the same way that the vinyl conversation. Uh, I don't think that that can be replaced. And the cool thing was where I worked at the Denver Film Society, that movie theater was like a three screen independent theater next door to a record store, which was also next door to like if it's a to a bookstore. So it was like all of these dying arts of like the cinema, the record and the book. And I feel like the holdout is going to be people wanting the book in their hands. People wanting to see the screen, the big screen and the whole experience and people wanting to drop a needle on something and not just skim through and hit play on a stream. Um, I think that people are like, I don't know if the future is going to be as crazy and Dystopian as we think it's going to be with like the, the giant leaps in technology because everybody that I know wants to throw their phone in the river.
Alex Mixter: 01:48:03 So it's like, I feel like there's this pushback that's happening. I don't know how strong it's going to be, but I think, uh, just like probably 19, 68 Kubrick said this is what 2000 one's going to look like. And then it was nothing like that. Um, I think that's, I don't know, I think we get very distracted by Scifi and very excited by it and like, Ooh, it's going to be so exciting and crazy. But at the end of the day, I just want a book and like a candle, an old house that was built to last a long time. And, uh, watch a movie at the theater and go being with people at a concert, you know, like that's where I want to head back to these. I feel robbed of that at least because growing up in the suburbs, it's so, it's so disconnected. Yeah. Has, speaking of which has, um, has, is a work of art or film or literature or music ever directly influenced your life?
Alex Mixter: 01:49:07 Oh, hell yeah. Yeah. Um, so the movie roger and me, but more, uh, was a lot of the inspiration for what ended up being recycled on a. because I looked back at the film when I was in Chicago and I like watched, like I watched Roger and me and I remember just thinking to myself like, damn, that's a negative ending, you know, it's, it's so like, ah, everything's, everything's going to shit. And I got to talk to Michael More directly through the Denver Film Society where, uh, where I asked him questions about what he thought was actually going to happen. I'm like, through all these rustbelt cities, he, he had the answer, but I don't think there is any hope. Sorry. Now with our current system and I learned to kind of agree with them, like with the asterix of a, within our current system, you know, like things have to change or else we are on a very horrible path right now.
Alex Mixter: 01:50:03 Um, but that movie just like made me mad in a way. But the movie that probably like lingered with me the most was um, Oh God, the movie hearts and minds, um, which actually Michael Moore a credited at one point as one of his all time favorite movies, but like hearts and minds was a Hudson Vietnam film that was made during the Vietnam War and it's one of the first protest films. And um, that movie inspired a lot of the way that like, or like the way that I like to see documentaries playout, which, uh, there's no narration but you just listened to everybody. And so like he would talk to an American general and then hard cut to a Vietnamese funeral. So it's like you would get both sides of the whole thing and then you as the viewer have to make up your mind about like, well, is this ethical?
Alex Mixter: 01:50:58 Is this right? Is this, but the film never explicitly says, here's what we think. It's just conversations and a hearing people's perspectives and talking to a, the guy flying the plane, dropping the bombs as well as the people who got bombed. Um, that level of interaction really changed the way that I looked at, you know, how documentaries can play because I grew up with a lot more of like a lot more of the Ken Burns kind of pbs. I'm that kind of style of documentary, which is radically different. But like I mentioned earlier on Koyaanisqatsi being like one of those movies that just knocked me on my ass if there's no words movie, but it spells this whole like it, it paints a complete picture of like, are we doing this right as humans? These big existential questions without saying anything. And uh, I love the way that there are certain films and filmmakers who put it in your hands and say like you decide. And I think that's an important thing. I feel like people want to be spoon fed too much. And, and I liked the directors who, who asks you questions, you know? Yeah. All right. Two more questions. What movie always makes you sad or even cry heart some nights.
Alex Mixter: 01:52:26 Maybe it's a different one. No. No. Um, well shit. Besides forest gump, I'm a. yeah, that one gets me every damn time. I'm Saturday. Well there's a part in hearts and minds, uh, that like a [inaudible] the cool thing about working at the film society with that I had a because I worked at a projectionist and so I had free reign of the theaters. Um, so at the end of the day it would be like a, what do you want to watch? And so we could just have the theater to ourselves. And, and that's where I saw for the first time was I had a subscription to netflix where they mail. You remember when Netflix mailed a desks?
Alex Mixter: 01:53:14 I had them mail me blue rays cause you can drop a blu ray and hook it up to like a, a to a movie projector and it'll look amazing. So I was renting blu rays from Netflix that I wanted to watch in the theater and hearts and minds was one that came up as like, I should probably see this one. And I put it in and I watched it and theater and was sobbing towards the end, like not just like, oh man, my eyes. It was like I was making noises. And uh, that part though is, um, they go from, because I kind of referenced it earlier, there's a general who says that like the Vietnamese don't really value life the way that we do. Um, and then it hard cuts to a Vietnamese funeral where there's women wailing over the graves of their, you know, their kids or their husbands that have died in the war.
Alex Mixter: 01:54:06 And then, uh, and then they interview a bomber pilot and uh, he talks about like not even realizing what he was doing. It was just a, it was a game to him. It was just do your job and then you fly over, you dropped the bombs, you go home and it starts to. Cause. They asked the question of like, what if it was your kids kind of thing? And then he has to like, he has to take that in and you watch him process it real time and he says like, if it was my daughter and then he starts breaking down and then there's this long pause where he's trying to get it together and uh, and the interviewer asks like, do you think there's anything we can learn from this? Or something like that. And his response was like, I think we're, we're trying not to learn from this.
Alex Mixter: 01:54:58 Like we're actively, like pretending nothing's wrong and just like not taking anything home from it. And uh, yeah, it's just a really heavy scene where that there's just so much that's being processed and the context of the Vietnam War and seeing a bomber pilot, realizing what he's doing, seeing the people who are impacted, grieving and then hearing the completely disconnected general saying that they just don't know you life like we do. And that is a really interesting way to make your point, to drive it home and say, you know, here's what we're doing. Here's what we're doing, and again, there's no narrator, it's just letting them talk and that's exactly how the documentary that I made was, is just let them talk when narration just weave from person to person and you get to meet people along the way. But uh, I'm not gonna tell you what to think because they're going to tell you what they're doing, how they feel. Yeah. And that's the beauty of documentaries is that they can let people just share and then you take from it and be objective. So on a lighter note, what's the happiest? The happiest movie a man? Yeah. I'm just now realizing I watch a lot of. I thought you were gonna. Say Hearts and minds. You're like really happy man. What is the happiest movie
Alex Mixter: 01:56:34 instantly to a negative one man got. Even like Pixar movies these days are such a drag. Yeah, it's true. Like they are so, like thought provoking and moral based. Yeah. Well, yeah, it's like A. Oh, it's a cute, quirky movie about a guy who puts a bunch of balloons on his house. But first let's retrace the steps of his wife dying. You know, like that, that is its own heavy jumper station, but I just say movie or what's the criteria again? What's the happiest movie? Yeah.
Alex Mixter: 01:57:22 Or that you know, that makes you, that makes you laugh or smile is just kind of the emphasis of the documentaries. And then I realized they're like, I don't think there's such thing as they're usually jumping into a or like a conflict. But, uh, my all time favorite movie is actually falls, which, ah, spaceballs. Oh, spaceballs. Yeah. Mel Brooks. Oh yeah. That. And I'm actually Mr Science 3000. The movie, uh, the like, that's one of my favorites and I just die every single time I see it. Um, but yeah, primarily spaceballs because that really is like the, uh, if there was a ying and a Yang, like hearts minds is one part, but then spaceballs as the other where it's just like, I really am a sucker for lines. Like when he says what's the matter? Colonel Sanders and chicken is the embodiment of my sense of humor in the desert. We ain't found shit.
Alex Mixter: 01:58:33 This just, there's a slapstick element to like I did because I was honestly raised on like 19 eighties, nineties, nineties comedies. So like, um, a lot of really obscure stuff my dad was into like, do you ever hear the movie Hollywood shuffle? I know that name, but I don't remember it. It's this really funny a critique on Hollywood. Uh, but then there's also Amazon women on the moon that my dad. Yeah, like, like that kind of stuff. So there was really got like the Ben Stiller show. Did you ever watch that? Oh man, I don't like before Ben Stiller was really Ben Stiller and uh, he had his own show that was like super wacky, but like that was the kind of stuff that my dad would like quote all the time and then we'd watch. I mean, like I don't know how many times I've seen spaceballs, but I can quote the entire movie. Um, but it was, it was funny having that moment of like, what's a happy movie?
Gabe Ratliff: 01:59:34 I know, right? You're like, wait, what? Let's think about that. I'm very serious. I'm realizing. I don't know. I always laugh a lot when we shock, so I felt like it was a good question. Um, what you going on? Urban Development and stuff like that shit gets real. Is there anything else that you'd like to say as we wrap up here? I mean, uh, is there any like kind of last parting words or anything you'd like to leave people with?
Alex Mixter: 02:00:04 Well, shoot, we covered a lot. Uh, primarily I want to say thanks for listening to, um, because it's the stuff that you get so like, you know, kind of lost in your own echo chamber of like just being in the work so much that it's interesting to like talk about the work, um, because it is just a matter of just getting things done. I've, I'm a huge recommendation that I have, if be chill, the core of the podcast being creativity and things like that. If you've never read the book, the war of Art, go buy it right now. Uh, do you ever read that one before?
Gabe Ratliff: 02:00:38 That one is like top of my list. Steven Pressfield. Yeah. Like he has books that are in my queue.
Alex Mixter: 02:00:44 I have bought that probably a dozen times by now because I always give my copy away to people just like, this is what you need to read and I have kind of the kindle version of it on my phone so I can like literally reference it at any time, but that book is just huge because it's just showing up, doing the work. That's really the only thing that really matters. Um, and yeah, not getting too lost and to, you know, actually talking about it and actually creating stuff because that's one of my biggest problems is like there's so many like ideas and things we could do that I feel like I forget to make stuff sometimes. Um, and stay on that horse.
Gabe Ratliff: 02:01:26 Hear! Hear! Yeah. I mean that's one of the things that I love about doing this is that it's um, you know, getting to kind of unravel the creativity of others. And what I find that is this beautiful result of this con, these conversations, is that, like you said, you know, you're so into the work, you kind of forget that bird's eye view, that 30,000 foot view of what you're actually doing. And, and um, you've, you have this innate, you specifically have this innate drive to just tell stories and have impact, you know, and it's like you kind of forget that it's this creative muscle, you know, and like you go and you do these pieces and like these, like the web content that you're doing this short pieces that are just kind of continuing this connective tissue that is based around this impactful work.
Gabe Ratliff: 02:02:35 Just to keep people connected to the story. You can see, you know, I, I just find that it's easy for us to forget like we're doing this thing that has an impact and is also continuing to work that muscle. But it's like, you know, you're just like, I'm doing the work I got to do now. While, you know, one of the things that I find that so beautiful about these conversations it does. I'll have people tell me afterwards, they'll be like, man, thank you so much. Because it reminded me, it was essentially kind of what you just said, you know, it's like, it's like it reminded them about their passion or something that they're like, oh my God, I totally forgot. Yeah. Like, yeah, for a second. Yeah. It's like this reminder. Um, and that's what's, it's this beautiful thing to see on my side because I get to go through that experience as you're on, on, uh, you know, unfolding this story.
Gabe Ratliff: 02:03:27 Um, but yeah, yeah. Yeah. And then, you know, the hindsight, looking back, how far you've come over the last three years and like all this and how I'm, like you said, I mean just getting into this work on a local micro level, but that has this macro relevancy, you know, and I, it's just that, that reference that you made to that and like how that ripples out and how that's really how a city. It's all about the people, but it's all about the, you know, the local people that then grow into what it ends up making the entire city in. Like how that spreads across to the country and to the world. And uh, and it's so funny because we all think like, oh, we're global. We, you know, I can read about whatever across the ocean, but it really does stem from our community. And uh, I love it brother. I love the work you're doing. Thank you for doing it. Thank you for sharing with us.
Alex Mixter: 02:04:38 Thank you, man. It's great to have podcasts like this too because it's like, it's really interesting to be able to hear where people are coming from and stuff because like I guess the number one thing I've learned is that like the people that I really, really admire and respect and will actually listened to a three hour podcast of them talking. Like the essence of it is just, they're just always just like, I'm just doing the thing that I'm doing stuff. I guess if it's not this mythical genius thing of, of like, oh, I can't do things because I'm not, I'm not at that level, but it's just always one thing at a time, like one project at a time. And then eventually there's a body of work. In fact, the last thing that I want to say actually is if you haven't heard the quote from, I think it's Ira Glass, um, where he talks about creativity.
Alex Mixter: 02:05:29 Do you know what I'm talking about? I just heard it the other day and I was like to really briefly paraphrase. It's basically like that feeling when you're just getting, going where your taste is good and that's what got you into the game. But like you know that your own work isn't there yet because because of your tastes, but basically of like you're disappointed in the work you're doing now and it's not quite what you want it to be. But like closing that gap, the only thing that you can possibly do is make a giant body of work and then eventually you're just kind of there without realizing it. And I don't think I'm there yet by any means, but it's been fun to make a ton of stuff. And then, you know, like I'm getting the notifications that like a year ago I was just making videos about like we need to save the Lee Mansion and it's just funny to look back and see what's actually happened and what was actually required and seeing where you were naive and seeing where you were onto something. And I think that's the beauty of the creative part of it. Yeah.
Gabe Ratliff: 02:06:27 Yeah. It's funny, I was just, I listened to Chase Jarvis, I'm his show religiously. I just, I love it. I love what he's doing. Uh, he is the co founder of creative live. We used to talk about them some back in the day at work and I actually found him through them. Um, and then I started following his work. Um, but, you know, I'm just a big fan of what they're doing and their whole model that was different than ours are similar but different. And um, he is also having creators and entrepreneurs on the show. And he was, he was just talking about that same IRA glass quote and he's, he's lived that example of his body of work. And he was talking with the same thing where he got to a point where then he could look back and be like, oh, okay. And then he realized a lot of this has been trying to get to that.
Gabe Ratliff: 02:07:16 It was about, not really about him, but it was like him growing as a photographer and trying to get to this point, right? Like what we think of as success. And then when you get to that point, realizing that it's, it's really all for not because it's helped get you there as a creative, but it's not been about we and us. And that was when he made the shift and founded creative live and they started that process of that now helping thousands and thousands of people grow as creators by having this opportunity globally to be able to learn and not have to be. You know, he was talking about how like there could be somebody like Mozambique who now has the opportunity, if they want to learn how to be a photographer, they can go and use our app and have that capability. If they can get to a Internet cafe or whatever, you know, and now he's feeling that, you know, calling that is, he's gotten past the taste part, right.
Gabe Ratliff: 02:08:18 And he's gotten even past that mastery of his craft where now he's giving back and that's, that's totally the path that, that same path that I definitely want to also walk. But I cherish that whole concept because I think that really, that's what I keep hearing from people, you know, it just, it's, it's when we get past ourselves and trying to like be the best we can be at what we do and like who we are and whatnot, but to then I keep hearing it over and over and over. Just when you start to give back to people and you're helping others, serving others, um, that that's when you really find fulfillment and happiness and in it, it has nothing to do with fame and money and all of those things that comes from the type of work that you're doing.
Alex Mixter: 02:09:06 And honestly like, it's funny to hear that too, because that's the quote. I think it's from German or something he says, early age, just imagine what we could get done if no one cared who got the credit and uh, just getting it out there doing it and making sure that it's done as opposed to saying, well, this is the mixture mansion, you know, more of like a, just quietly doing stuff is pretty much what I want to do is just, I don't even care if there's a name attached to it. I just want to see the work done. I just want to see the good stuff.
Gabe Ratliff: 02:09:43 Yes sir. That's why you're the best. Alex, we're last question. Where can people find you? How can they support? What are the links that people need?
Alex Mixter: 02:09:54 You follow what you're doing? Um, mainly, well because I'm about to rebrand everything because like I said, we went back to the drawing board and the documentary, there's a whole platform that I want that to be, but it's currently three saginaw.com. Uh, and then how lab films dot I'm, I'm, I'm, I'm private on a lot of stuff on instagram because people are weird in the world. Uh, I don't, I don't have a twitter, but I've been thinking about getting back into the twitter world because I realized I've been doing it wrong, so mainly those two websites because I like personal stuff. I mean it goes back, I don't think anyone's following me, but they're following the barely hopefully following the results I should say of a, the Charles Lee mansion is all part of the Saginaw website. Um, and, and like how in lab is just kind of like the dumping ground for a lot of the nonprofit work that I'm doing, but at the end of the year we're completely changing the website around and everything too. So it's a lot more of a honing in what, how lab actually is because at the beginning it was just a throw it at the wall and see what's, see what sticks. And I'm at the point now with how in lab where there are things on the wall that stuck, uh, that I need to make note of. So it was pretty much a part of it, I guess.
Gabe Ratliff: 02:11:17 No, that very well. I'm actually in the process of doing a similar kind of deconstruction in more of a right and just like honing the purpose and, and the, the work that really needs to get done, uh, to, to find that fulfillment, you know. Thanks so much Alex. I thank you again for your time and for sharing this amazing story and, uh, keep up the great work, brother.
Alex Mixter: 02:11:45 Excited man. Thanks for the opportunity to chat.
Gabe Ratliff: 02:11:50 Yes, sir. Much love.
Alex Mixter: 02:11:50 You too, man.
Gabe Ratliff: 02:11:55 Well, that's it for this episode. If this is your first time listening, thank you so much for being here. I really hope you enjoy the show. Vitalic Project podcast comes out bi-weekly and is available every other Thursday for your enjoyment and all links and show notes for this episode can be found at vitalicproject.com. If you haven't yet, please subscribe to the show and leave a rating or review on iTunes. If you'd like to be a guest or know someone that would be a great fit, please go to vitalicproject.com/guest. If you want to follow us, you can find us online by searching @vitalicproject. Thanks again for listening. Until next time, keep being vitalic.