A few weeks ago I watched a short documentary on Domenico DeMarco and his Brooklyn pizza shop, DiFara. Dom is widely considered to be the best pie slinger in the boroughs, maybe in the whole United States. The title of the film is The Best Thing I Ever Done, you can watch it online here. Now, I'm an unabashed fan of all things pizza. As a foodie, I wish I could say my favorite food was something erudite and sophisticated like gold leaf covered foie gras, but the truth is it's pizza. Seriously, I could eat it every day; big New York style slices, folded in half and dripping pepperoni grease. Sometimes I order jalapenos on mine... sorry, I'm back. What stuck with me from the short film was Dom DeMarco's line about buying his pizza parlor - the title of film - "the best thing I ever done." It wasn't just the purchase of the building. It's the pies. Every time Dom makes a pizza, he approaches it as if its the best thing he's ever done. Really, isn't that what we all want, to do work we are passionate about?

Last year, a hospice nurse posted the Top 5 Regrets of people on their death beds. You don't have to follow the link; most of us would guess the prevailing themes - work less, spend more time with family, live a happier life. No one ever wants "worked really hard" on their tombstone. Dom DeMarco seems to be far from passing and, God willing he'll be keeping slinging pies for years to come. Still, I have to think people like Dom don't have these regrets. When you spend your life living your passion, surrounded by friends and family, its not work. I mean, its hard and laborious, but its not work.

I had been thinking about this post for a while. I wanted to share these two videos under the theme of talking about work I am proud of. In fact, I was drafting in my head before the second video was even shot. I was going to write about how these videos feel like good work to me. By no means are hacked together amateur hour videos my passion or even my best work. Yet, there is something rewarding about telling these stories which I find compelling.

As an interlude and bump-in, (those are fancy video editing terms, see I am a pro!), Project Search is a national program focused on helping young people with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD describes people who are challenged with normal social interactions and interests. People with ASD have trouble fitting in and, as such, finding employment and being self sufficient. The goal of Project Search is to help young people with ASD gain professional and vocational skills with the end goal of finding meaningful employment. In Richmond, Project Search is supported academically and structurally by Virginia Commonwealth University's department of rehabilitation services, the Commonwealth of Virginia and local school districts. Bon Secours Virginia Health System - specifically St. Mary's Hospital - serves as the vocational sponsor. Students have to agree to leave the school system for good. They cannot go back once they enter Project Search. In the Project, they spend their days at St. Mary's, splitting their time equally between classroom work and internships in various departments. And star wipe back to the blog post...

I shot the first video as a proof of concept. We were working on establishing our digital footprint and needed something to show how online video can be low cost and high impact. I had no idea how much impact it would make. I've been told the rinky-dink video (which is not at all a comment on the subject matter itself) has been shown to over 20,000 people by various speakers. Audiences include governors, law makers, parents of children with ASD, and educators. That feels pretty good.

Nationally, students with ASD find employment after high school graduation less than 50% of the time. Project Search students find employment in about 90% cases. As one organizer told me, "its not fair to the control group." The second video is this year's follow up. In June 2011, Bon Secours graduated a second class of students from the program. I have to say, I think the video looks a little better. And cut to camera 2...

I guess this is my point: I'm not making Brooklyn's best pies, and I'm not out for a career in video editing. What makes me so proud of these videos is that they are works of passion. I do them outside of my day job. I do them because when I watch the clips, I choke up. This inspires me. I need to be a part of telling this story. This isn't work.

Hopefully in life, we can all find more ways to do what makes us passionate.

2010 Project Search Graduation

2011 Project Search Graduation

Project Search 2011 from Nick Dawson on Vimeo.