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Opinion: Working for ‘M. Night’ and the power of connections

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Do you remember the 2002 Visa commercial featuring Kevin Bacon? I do because it suddenly placed me two degrees from Kevin Bacon.

The ad, fittingly enough, played off of the parlor game, “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.”

Here’s how it works: I was in the Republic High School production of “Annie Get Your Gun” with Gerald Downey, who was in the 2002 Visa commercial with Kevin Bacon. If you Google, “Visa ad Kevin Bacon,” you will see Gerald (the hair dresser). You may recognize him as the “Busch Guy” in beer ads.

No doubt, some of you were in a Kickapoo High School production with Brad Pitt, who was in “Sleepers” with Kevin Bacon.

Congratulations, we’re now tied at two degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon.

For most of us, this does absolutely no good other than give us fun fact fodder for cocktail parties and those awkward reveal-something-nobody-knows-about-you icebreaker exercises.

However, it does underscore a pragmatic reality of connectedness. Every person you meet will lead you to exponentially more potential connections and in unexpected ways.

Recently, I was reminded of this in the sbjLive interview with Miles Boyer, office manager for the Southern Region of the Builders’ Association. He also happens to be Hollywood movie producer M. Night Shyamalan’s personal photographer.

For several years, I knew Miles did work for M. Night, but I had no idea how that came to be. It was equal parts what he knew and, of course, who he knew. It started when Miles shot a wedding in St. Louis. The bride then referred Miles to her cousin, M. Night, to take pictures of his wife’s birthday party in Philadelphia. A connection was made that has now lasted 10 years and took Miles to shoot Hollywood movie premieres and other Shyamalan family celebrations in Philadelphia.

“I’m still amazed that he doesn’t know another photographer that he doesn’t have to fly across the country,” Miles says in the video interview.

To me, Miles personifies “Make Something Where You Are,” a poetic video message crafted by Jeff Houghton of “The Mystery Hour.” Houghton made it for the world to hear but with Springfield in mind as he encourages, “Yes, it makes less sense to be in a place where your dreams reach higher than the buildings in your eye line, but the byline of your skyline is written by you.”

Houghton’s message is inspiring, and the reality is we are all so closely intertwined we are limited only by our hesitation to ask for an introduction.

As we approach the season of new beginnings with thousands of area high school and college graduates eager to make something, I wish each of them could know a few things:

• The middle of nowhere is also the middle of everywhere.

• Your network is not limited by the size of your place.

• Life is short but not as short as you think.

• If you must move away to make something, please come back and make it a smaller world after all.

Mar’Ellen Felin is CEO of sbjLive, a video media outlet and spin-off of Springfield Business Journal. She can be reached at


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