The Hero’s Journey of Jeff Gomez

What is the best thing that I love about my work? The aspect I love most about my work is that story has the ability to help people transcend trauma and
heal their wounds, and I get to help tell and spread these kinds of stories on a grand scale. When I see evidence that this is working, there is nothing more satisfying. And whenever I do this, I am somehow transcending my own trauma, healing my own wounds.

What is my idea of perfect happiness? Watching my daughter Evangelia rise to the challenges that 21st century life throws at her.

What is my greatest fear? That my faith in humanity is betrayed, and we fall into a dark age that can ultimately destroy us.

What is the trait that I most deplore in myself? The convoluted thought process that often separates my mind from my body. Yes, it’s the same process that has won me fortune and recognition, but it sometimes deprives me of intimacy. If I’m not careful I can be lost. I’ve very nearly surrendered to this at times, but I’m not done grappling with it.

Which living persons in my profession do I most admire? In entertainment, I admire the women who have defied odds and made it on a grand scale, producers Kathleen Kennedy (who made most of Steven Spielberg’s movies, and now runs all of Star Wars), Gayle Anne Hurd (who made many of James Cameron’s movies, and now produces The Walking Dead), and Amy Pascal (who ran Sony Pictures, and now produces her own blockbuster films). I also deeply admire Jonathan Mildenhall, Chief Marketing Officer of Airbnb, who’s work transcends the brands he’s represented. Jonathan has had a positive impact on popular and human culture.

What is my greatest extravagance? I’ll never get over the fact that I have multiple homes, and can move freely around the world. As an inner-city child, I would never have believed that I’d have property with trees, that I could go downstairs to enjoy fresh bread in Athens, or walk with my family down the shore near my beach house. I also recently got a 65-inch LG OLED 4K HDR television, but that was a wonderful gift!

On what occasion would I lie? I’m a writer. I make up stories for a living. But I believe myself fervently during the entire the time I’m doing it. Stories that are written by authors who don’t believe in them usually suck.

What is the thing that I dislike the most in my work? I hate being unclear and long-winded. I keep people around to torment me if they see that happening.

When and where was I the happiest, in my work? I’ve been fortunate enough to recognize the moments in my career where I have “leveled up.” When I won the Magic: The Gathering license for Acclaim Entertainment, and could start writing comic books and videogames. When I convinced Mattel to let me produce an ambitious transmedia campaign around Hot Wheels. When James Cameron approved my company to work on Avatar. Those moments are magical and validating, because they are rooted in the efficacy of my creativity. Happiest of all? Those midnight Facebook messages from Nicole Ryan in Perth, Australia, telling me that the transmedia population activation techniques my team developed were working. The lives of indigenous and low economic status students would be improved, because we were empowering them to self-organize and help themselves.

If I could, what would I change about myself? I wish I were a faster, more efficient writer. But then again, that’s why I’ve surrounded myself with such an excellent writing team.

What is my greatest achievement in work? My greatest achievement is the Collective Journey storytelling model. For years I’ve been puzzling out how something is missing in the standard Hero’s Journey narratives we’re seeing in global popular culture. The internet and pervasive communication has made all stories participative, because we can take them and modify them and share them. This unprecedented development has given voice to the voiceless, but it has also enabled an elite few to foment chaos. Collective Journey brings clarity to what’s been happening to the world. It’s the work I’ve done that has been most quickly recognized and put to good use by whomever encounters it.

What do the words ‘The Financial Freedom to Create’ mean to me? Let’s get this clear: we all have the financial freedom to create. I was writing stories and drawing pictures as a child in a housing projects apartment in the middle of a slum on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. I was creating entire fantasy universes at a city college, which was paid for by government financial aid. When my company went broke after 9/11, I created a lesson plan for dealing with the crisis for kids and toured schools teaching it. It’s nice to have money, but money never helped me create. Love, hope, the rage of inner demons, those are the elements that give me no choice but to create.

Where would I most like to live? New York City is my heart and driver. I walk the streets and see the grime beneath glittering buildings and stainless-steel subway cars, and I remember what it taught me decades ago, how it almost killed me. I’m at home in New York.

What is my most treasured possession? My most treasured possession is a broken toy monster I call Rover. My Mom gave it to me for Christmas when I was five. His eyes lit up, he growled, and rolled around on the floor. My kid sister broke him a few days later. But I’ve kept the body all these years. To me Rover smells like imagination. He was the star of all the epic Monster TV shows that played out across my bedroom. These days Rover hangs in my daughter’s bedroom.

What is my most marked characteristic? When I was a kid, listening was an act of survival. I needed to understand the dynamics in any room, down any street I walked. Listening turned enemies into friends. Today, listening is at the core of my work. I’ve learned that so few people genuinely listen, and so few people are really heard, that offering authentic listening makes the connections needed to solve most any problem. I love to listen and connect what I’m hearing to my understanding of story. People are the products of their stories, and broken stories can be healed through listening and understanding.

What is my most inspirational location, in my city? When I was a kid I used to watch four or five movies a day in Times Square. Not always a safe endeavor! But in those theaters, I began to make connections between all these different movie universes, and between the movies and the behavior of the audience, and I began to wonder about that weird participatory space between the image and the viewer. Those were the seeds of my work. Today, I’m inspired by what goes on in Union Square Park, just a few blocks from my office. My city has an activist’s voice, and its mouth is that park.

What is my favorite place to eat and drink, in my city? The greasy spoon diner on Sixth Avenue, around the corner from my office.

What books influenced my life and how? J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings transformed my life. Not just because the author had created a fully realized story world, with its own original languages, cultures, and history. It was because of Tolkien’s description of Frodo’s bearing the weight of the evil One Ring; his anguish, his determination, how the Ring preyed on his mind and spirit. As a 13 year-old with a nasty, virulent and secret case of OCD, I profoundly connected with this and was inspired by the work. It proved to me that fantasy could save lives. Lin Carter’s Tolkien: A Look Behind “The Lord of the Rings” revealed the engine of Tolkien’s narrative,teaching me how the books were accomplished—and by extension how any great work of story is the product of many, many building blocks and components. That book bought me a career.

Who are my favorite writers? When I was younger I adored Tolkien, Stephen King, Arthur Conan Doyle, Kurt Vonnegut; more recently, Junot Diaz, and I just started enjoying the work of Nnedi Okorafor. I’ve read just about everything Fabian Nicieza has ever published, but don’t tell him that.

What music would I listen to on my last day? Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run all the way through.

Who is my hero or heroine in fiction? In The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo the Ringbearer laments how dark times have come to his world, and how he wishes it did not have to happen. The wizard Gandalf the Grey replies, “So do I, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” Gandalf is my favorite, because that’s the best advice I’ve ever taken. The Doctor of Doctor Who runs a close second, and now he’s a she.

Who are my heroes and heroines in real life? The future of all freedoms enjoyed by people across the world is in the hands of journalists, who are putting their lives on the line to investigate corruption, crime, extremism, and authoritarianism. I’m meeting and speaking with them around the world, and there is no question in my mind that they—and those brave enough to give them the vital information they seek—are our unsung salvation.

Which movie would I recommend to see once in a lifetime? Bicycle Thieves directed by Vittorio DeSica shows us a parent and child attempting to hold onto the last shreds of dignity in an Italy ravaged by fascism and poverty. Absolutely beautiful.

What role plays art in my life and work? Art has always been my salvation. Art dropped the rope into the cage of my life, allowing me to climb out of the prison of my perception of reality. I’ve been fortunate enough to have created a few unique artistic products, but I’ve come to realize that my life itself is my artistic expression—the models in transmedia storytelling I’ve built and applied to these huge story worlds, the new Collective Journey modality that attempts to make sense of what’s happening to us—my expression of these are my art.

Who is my greatest fan, sponsor, partner in crime? My biggest cheerleader is Alan Berkson, a thought leader in the media and marketing space in his own right. Alan recognized the value in my ramblings on story and multi-platform worlds back in the 1980s, and has consistently pushed me to greater ambition. My team at Starlight Runner, particularly Mark Pensavalle, Fabian Nicieza, Steele Filipek, and David Wisnik, have my back and support my insane endeavors. Chrysoula Artemis is my wife and partner in crime. Too few realize what a tremendous impact she’s had on the way I see the world, and my expression of that vision.

Whom would I like to work with in 2017? My intention is to work with journalists and media figures around the world this year to apply Collective Journey modality to address the issue of fake news and improve media literacy.

Which people in my profession would I love to meet in 2017? I’m fortunate to be able to meet most anyone I can think of, but this year I’d love to be introduced to Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer of Netflix, and Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon. They’re heading the entertainment conglomerates of the future, and the impact that they are having on global culture is profound.

What project, in 2017, am I looking forward to work on? I’m working with Morgan James Publishing to finish and put out a book called, Collective Journey: The Dynamic New Storytelling Model That Explains What is Happening to the World. That’s at the center of my working life right now.

Where can you see me or my work in 2017? I’ll be on a speaking tour of the world in the coming year. In entertainment, my team worked on the storyline for Need for Speed: Payback, a big videogame from EA/Ghost. You can keep track of my projects on the Starlight Runner Entertainment Facebook page, or on the Collective Journey blog.

What do the words “Passion Never Retires” mean to me? It means the rest of my life ain’t gonna get any easier!

Which creative heroes should Peter invite to tell their story? Nnedi Okorafor, Jonathan Mildenhall, Lara Dewar (World Vision Canada), Tim Day (City Movement Canada), Jordan Greenhall, and Fabian Nicieza.

How can you contact me?
Follow me on Facebook:, Twitter: @jeff_gomez, and LinkedIn: Jeff Gomez.

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