This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
How’s it going? I’m Todd Brueggemann and I am in video production.
I think it evolved. In the beginning, I was doing a lot of acting. So I started off on that side of the camera and then got into photography, and then photography led to video. Now I’m doing video production.
When did you know you could do this for real?
I knew I could do this when they started paying me. Before that, I was just having a good time trying to figure it out. When people started paying, I was like, Oh my God, this is awesome. Like, I can do this. And then the obsession started with, How do I get better?
What was your first real break and who gave it to you?
You know, there’s never been a big break, but there’s been tons and tons of chipping away. I remember when I first started, I was driving for Uber and Lyft. And I just didn’t want to do that anymore. So I thought, How do I make a hundred dollars a day? That’s when I was like, I’ll just do product photos. So then I was the cheapest product photographer, and then I started getting hired, and then just chipped away, chipped away.
“There's never been a big break, but there's been tons and tons of chipping away… I started getting hired and then just chipped away, chipped away.”
Tell us a wild or unbelievable story.
The wildest thing, I don’t know… I guess the thing that was maybe the hardest was going back to school and learning math. I tested into the, um, “stupid math” when I was in college. I’m not sure how to put that the best, but they put me in the special math class. So to get out of there and actually retrain my brain to learn math? I don’t know if that’s the wildest thing, but that’s the thing I’m the most proud of: being able to learn something I actually didn’t think was possible.
Could you imagine a life without creativity?
You know, I feel like as a kid, I wasn’t very creative. So I guess I could imagine a life like that. As a kid, I played sports. That’s what everybody did. I grew up in Ozark, Missouri, so there wasn’t a ton of art there. It’s changing now, which is cool, but at the time, it just wasn’t around. My father was a musician but I wasn’t into music.
I think at this point: If it’s not creative and it’s work-related, I’m just not going to do it. I’m not the right person for it. And there’s creativity in everything—even in programming. The best programmers are artists. The best machine learning engineers are artists. It’s not about regurgitating previously discovered formulas. It’s more about creating paths to answers from preexisting formulas. You get formula A and formula B—we need artists to figure out how to get between those two.
“I love being an artist because that inevitably makes me creative. And when we’re creative, we can solve problems.”
What would you say to young Todd?
I think I was an emotional kid. I would say, “Keep your emotion.” In school, you know, they channel it. They put you in the corner and they want you to just sit there and do what you’re told to do. But some people aren’t built for that. It is harder to be one of those people, but it’s more fulfilling because we feel more of what’s happening. Some people just feel more. I don’t know why. It’s easier to be one of the people that doesn’t feel as much, but some people are just emotional and it’s best to just let those emotions out than to bury them.
What makes you come alive?
The thing that makes me come alive now is learning new things. If I don’t understand something, I want to spend all of my time learning it. I don’t know why, but I just want to learn. I have this thirst for knowledge that’s never really been there—I used to just be kind of comfortable. But now I love learning new things. Like mathematics. Going back to that, that was so hard for me to learn. And now we can read a physics book and not actually have to do any of the physics. They just tell us what was done. So I think right now, that would be it: just learning more, continuing to get smarter, and putting myself in a position to solve really big problems. I love being an artist because that inevitably makes me creative. And when we’re creative, we can solve problems.
The pandemic and you.
I was lucky because my wife and I got married a couple of months before the pandemic. So I was able to go into it with a really strong and healthy relationship, and that helps a lot. I don’t know if I could’ve made it through the pandemic without that because companionship is great.
I had a friend tell me the other day that they shouldn’t have called it “social distancing.” That inevitably makes it seem like we’ve all got to be socially distant. But we don’t need to be socially distant—we need to be physically distant. They should’ve called it “physical distancing” because “social distancing” has really set us up in this situation where we think, Oh, we’re supposed to be not communicating. I mean, at least it sounds that way. I think it was a misbranding.
“There’s creativity in everything... The best programmers are artists. The best machine learning engineers are artists. It’s not about regurgitating previously discovered formulas. It’s more about creating paths to answers from preexisting formulas. You get formula A and formula B—we need artists to figure out how to get between those two. ”
What does the near future hold for you?
You know, I’m hesitant to say that I’ve got it because I know it’s going to get picked apart… But I’d say in the next couple of years, I’d like to come out with a couple of theories for why hurricanes rapidly intensify. I think I’m really close. That’s the truth of it. It’s that weird thing when you can, like, feel it coming. It’s being open to receiving the information and then researching all the different things we currently know—but also trying to pick apart why they’re probably wrong. I feel like it’s going to happen. You know how it is whenever you feel like something’s coming? I mean, I really do. And it’s just… It’s an interesting feeling.
This interview was conducted on November 2nd, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.