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Meet Noah Monaghan

Today we’d like to introduce you to Noah Monaghan.

Noah, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
It all began in 2011. Low rise jeans were on the way out. Golden-haired teen throb J Beebs was on the way in. Obama just single-handedly shot Bin Laden in the face. It was a time of prosperity for all. And while Obama was blowing the smoke from his AK47, a young boy was in California, San Diego in the City of El Cajon (Fletcher Hills to be exact) attending Grossmont High School sitting in my sophomore art class considering his future. This is where we join our hero (a strong word to describe this Noah at this grumpy stage of his life). My name was Noah Monaghan. My name is still Noah Monaghan. I like to be true to my roots. This young and naive Noah was considering art. Like in general. Like how in the world can he make money making art? How can he share his art with the most people possible and share his passion with the world? The answer came to him as cherubs from on high descended on him fluttering around his head holding a lightbulb that glowed with such a fierceness that it exploded and in the raining glass all around it spelled out ‘one word’. No, it spelled out ANIMATION, not ‘one word’. And that is where my journey began. To pivot my drawing skills and my passion for stories and the exploration of culture into filmmaking and creating stories from that of the animated genre. But life was not to be without its trials and tribulations. Because life just ain’t that. It doesn’t care what you deserve, it’ll eat you alive and spit you out if you don’t have the money to save yourself. And our hero did not. So on September 16th, on the day of his senior year homecoming day, Noah swaggered onto his high school campus.

So then I enrolled in college. And not just one but two community colleges. And I began my hustle. I worked several jobs at this time. Lifeguarding. Swim lesson instructor, Art instructor, Hollister Impact worker, professional mud wrestler, Frosty the Snowman walk-around in our local mall. I didn’t say the hustle was glamorous folks. And I began to rise through the ranks. At the end of my career at Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges, I had organized a private gallery of my work, created a whole ass comic book, was the right-hand man of the painting and life drawing departments, AND won the Presidential Award for my art. It was a good time. It was an incredibly busy time and my family was there for me through it all. But this was NOT the goal. The goal was Animation. The Goal was CalArts. And I did it (kinda). I decided to leave my family and with the blessing of my Italian Mother, I moved up to Los Angeles to attend CalArts’ summer session which turned out to be one of the most influential times in my life. I ground and ground and hustled to create a portfolio so I could get INTO CalArts. Because one thing that the summer session taught me is that I WAS NOT the most talented anymore! I WAS NOT the most creative anymore! Or even the hairiest anymore! And yes, there was someone hairier than I. I too was shocked. I attended classes and worked on my portfolio AND worked as a baker at Noah’s Bagels (pause to let that fact sink in and let those laugh at irony). And the work paid off because I GOT IN!! And during my time at CalArts, I made some of the best friends of my life, and bonds were made over blood, sweat, Miyazaki, and tears that we all shared. That first year I was one of only three students to make my film all on paper. But that wasn’t enough for me, I felt that I wasn’t enough for my fellows.

So the following year I made five films totaling over 10 minutes of animation, and I (basically) produced the Animation GALLERY show single-handedly. That was an incredibly productive year. And that summer, I was able to get back to my family, my roots, and my foundation skills…..I painted a 24 foot mural for a family friend and hustled enough money to fund my VR interest and buy the equipment to fuel this artistic endeavor for (hopefully) many years to come. This past year, I was hired to be a CALARTS RA, and my friends and I were so inspired to get after it this year. We were so ready to get to work and prove ourselves this 3rd year. All WE wanted to do was create. And yet… even by the Fall, the world seemed to crumble around us and either personal or external stresses influenced almost everyone that I was close to, and the yearning for a do-over in the spring was felt by all. Yet **knock knock knock** … Oh, hold on… HI BITCH IT’S ME COVID-19 MUTHAFUCKA!!!!!! Yup… You could say that 2019-2020 didn’t end or begin how I wanted. Yet some things were positive. Being able to come home and unwind with the support of my family was so beneficial to my mental health, I cannot even begin to describe. I wrapped up working on a live-action feature film, earning a production title during all this COVID crap!

My heart was ripped out and crushed, so my family has helped me put myself back together and now I am forced to work on myself and my own issues rather than trying to relentlessly help others. I am producing my good friend’s film who passed away suddenly so that HIS art can live on, while he can’t. And I still plan on finishing my own film in VR. You wanted to know “briefly” how I got here. Well, the full version is 25 years  two months 28 days and some change, long. Consider yourself lucky. It’s not all fun and games in these streets. While there are good days and bad, There is not a day where I am not grateful for my family for they are there even when I don’t want them, which is honestly when I need them the most. Shout to them for always sticking by me and showing me love throughout. They kill me and save me on the daily. I want to also thank all my friends that decided to hop on the Noah Monaghan Hype Train for showing me love and joining me on the journey we call life together. I am thankful for all those who hold me up and I hope I can do the same.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
YOOOO!!! You want struggles. Well sit back down in that leather-trimmed chair, my friend, light yeeself a smoke, and let me riddle yee a tale of woe. Cause if yee hath not been told the LEGEND tail of Homecoming day 2012, then yee are in for a treat today!

So on September 16th, of his senior year of homecoming, Noah swaggered onto his high school campus and was arrested and thrown into his own home on house arrest for drawing dicks. Ok, jump back. Did he just say he got through into house arrest for drawing dicks? Yes, Reader. Yeah, I did. Ok, continue. Thank you. Now rewind six months and yours truly was VOTED TO THIS POSITION by his fellow upstanding students of Grossmont High School. And this position was to design, draw, lead the creation of over 10,000 square feet of paper murals to drape the exterior of the gym for homecoming. AAAAAAAND the TRADITION was to hide penis’, peni? Penises? Into the homecoming “themed” murals. Oh, and did I mention no teacher was approving my designs or was overseeing me as I drew these things for hours, or weeks in the gym alone? A high school boy, drawing alone in the gym, with no teacher supervision, for months? Luckily I didn’t have Dorothy and the Wicked Witch of the West getting it on. Oh, the theme, which I didn’t pick, was the Wizard of Oz, WHICH ALREADY HAS PHALLIC SYMBOLS IN IT!! So I did the deed and the ASB class painted it all under my supervision. All were cool with the dicks, some asked to change one or two, I was cool with it. It was all fun and games, no malice or intent here.

Then came the night before Homecoming, I was getting high fives and ass slaps and the whole nine yards because all of our hard work was gonna pay off. Then, as the murals began to slowly be unveiled from their place on high. The first shining scrotum reared its ugly head! And ZAP!!! It blinded three teachers. They fell to the ground in pain, their vision, gone for their LIFE!! STOP! Mr.***** yelled the MAN who was “supposedly” in CHARGE of Homecoming and its supervision “WHO has done this heinous thing?” and slowly all eyes turned to me accompanied by everyone’s fingers. Pointed directly at my heart. The sheer fear and the blame that they were feeling turned to lasers that hit me from every direction. I wailed and was turned into the scapegoat. Braying, I hopped away to hide my pain and sorrow. No words can truly describe what I went through over the next eight weeks as I fought to return to the school that I had once loved with a passion and heat of 5½ freshly cooked hot pockets. But I will tell you what I learned, or started to learn. That you cannot trust the system.

And that goes for any system, for systems are run by people and people can always, ALWAYS be corrupted by their own greed, power, negligence, arrogance, and/or money. You can fight the system, and you can BEAT the system, but you will never be the same. For the energy of that person/group of people or systems that needs to be taken down or changed/challenged is already in POWER and (i learned) near impossible to endure alone. I learned I couldn’t trust everyone, for I was abandoned by those that had called me friend and vice versa. I was accused by teachers I had confided in and was vilified because they were scared for their position. This hurts the most because I love people and had never seen this side of humanity. Yes, there were those who stood by me, who supported and gave testimony to the man I was too quickly being forced to become. But the damage had been done. I learned that nothing in this world goes to who deserves it and being a good person means very little to those who are in power, especially if you pose a question to their level of control.

And the last thing I learned is men, adult men with power, they suck! And I vowed to myself that if I ever have the privilege to hold a position of power, to listen to those around me, remain considerate, caring, and helpful to everyone. I will not become like one of those Men who changed the Noah I was!. One of the most humbling things I learned was the mistake that I made with my family. I am VERY fortunate to have a family that supports my dreams, I don’t say that they don’t give me criticism when I’m being a dumbass (and I’m a dumbass A LOT), but they see my passion and they encourage it. But as a hot-headed senior, I didn’t think I needed them as much as I did. This suspension rocked me to my core, making me question a lot of things in my life. But I never questioned them. I couldn’t because they were there for me the entire time and I’m sorry it took me to have this happen for me to TRULY understand the meaning of the word. They would not let me fail, and they and the reinvigoration in my faith helped shape me in this time and to this day. I know that is every Disney movie ever but if it had not been for them, I might have never fought this, to begin with, I might not have stood up for myself, I might have left that school and gone the rest of my life running from my problems. I learned who my family was, how they care, and how much I have to learn from them.

Probably the most important thing that I learned. But yes at the end of this, what was supposed to be a 4-month sentence/expulsion because I was a “good student”, Bitch, I was straight-A, AP student, A Team Leader,… talk about a good student, I was a MODEL STUDENT, my sentence was reduced to only six weeks after I with the help of my friends and family and a lawyer family friend, presented to THEM, my defense illustrating that their actions against me were illegal. And I won! I came back. And Did I ever. I didn’t tell anyone that I was returning to school but just showed up to my first-period class on that Monday morning. As I walked in, the class erupted and I was floored!. My ride or dies yelled and gave me hugs. Throughout the day, some teachers announced my welcome back and applauded me. I got high fives and congrats callouts from students I didn’t know. Others were wearing Free Noah shirts. But I also got ‘the look’ on those “friends” faces as I breezed past them surprised of my return, and the whispers that I could feel hitting my back, the gazes of students who were scared of me, and teachers who wouldn’t even make eye contact with me, showed me the true colors of these people. So it answers your question, no it hasn’t been a smooth road. And honestly, looking back at the lessons learned, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
My business is me. My business is people. My business is stories and cultures and the exploration of how we all are different and the same. My business is family and learning to be better and how we interact and how we pick ourselves up after we fail. We feel happiness, we feel sadness, we all feel pain, we all feel love, now if that’s a Jeffrey Dahmer kind of love or a pizza pie hitting your eye kind of love whose to tell you what right or wrong (one is DEFINITELY WRONG, sorry to yuck Jefferies yum) but we are all tied as humans to each other with these unifying traits. I want to make it my business to tell stories in which we all can experience something universal, using characters that should be represented more in this media. I try to be true to myself in my stories, and sometimes I’m not always right (most of the time not right) and I think that that is good to learn because it expands my mind to adopt others’ opinions and insights. I try to remain curious all the time and let go of the prejudices in order to learn about a person (even if they are an anti-vaxxer) for who I am to judge them on their life and their decisions. I try to bring humor and levity to situations so that I can bring some happiness and serotonin into the world hopefully make this world a little better or least a bit more bearable. And Yes, I do take myself too seriously sometimes, so shoot me. I mean, please don’t, but I’m an honest person and I won’t apologize for my passion. But also none of this matters so **shrug** I just think we can always use some more joy.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
I don’t believe in favorites so I will tell you one of my earlier memories. When I was younger, my brother and I had bunk beds. He had the top bunk and I, the bottom, that was just the pecking order, folks. However, we as lovers of danger didn’t play on my bunk, no that was for children, no we would always play on Shane, my brother’s top bunk because there were risks. Something at stake. We ran our black market lego trade ring from the top bunk, our top bunk vanilla wafer poker rooms were always filled, and our fight clubs… well, I won’t go into that. Let’s just say that we WEREN’T fighting in the top bunk, when our father, Dad, called us to lunch. Shane would spring over me with the agility and grace of a 5-year-old boy, knees me in the faces and stamping my head into the Lion Kng sheets, hustling over to get his grilled cheese lunch of whatever the fuck. I pulled my thick chubby ass out of that mattress and waddled my way, trying to rush down the bunk-bed steps so I could give my brother a flying squirrel kick uppercut, and yes I was a very coordinated thick chubby 4-year-old, thank you very much! As I am going down the ladder, I slip on a sock that my devious foe, Shane, had left directly in my path to slip on. My foot shot out from under me and I tumbled to the ground, which was littered with a minefield of legos. Shane was gooood, oh he was VERY good.

And I proceeded to hit EVERY. STAIR. OF. THE. BUNKBED. ON MY WAY. DOWN. There was like 76 stairs on that thing (ok, I’m exaggerating a bit). I hit the ground and the legos around me begin to vibrate, their timed pain mechanisms begin their countdown. The wind has now been forcibly removed from my lungs. And so here I am, four years old with no air in my lungs, lying on the battlefield of fallen legos, I’M FREAKING OUT. So I do the only thing I can. I let out a death gurgle. The world is turning black around me, the air is not coming back, my sense of reality is slipping. Yet this death gurgle, reaching the ears of my Dad, and his Super Dad power knows exactly what this is. He fucking leapfrogs over my brother who is running to him crushes a bottle of tang (it was the ‘90s) and runs into my room. He sees me reaching out my hands to join my ancestors. NOT TODAY ANCESTORS, YOU SHAN’T HAVE MY SECOND BORN SON!!!! He braves the legos, searing pain racing through his neurons. He scoops me up and ejects out the room as the legos explode in fury about the room.

I’m still fading as he rushes me to the living room. He clicks on the TV with the little button, we didn’t have a remote and shoves the only thing that will save this situation, into the VCR player, look it up zoomers. As I gasp for air, he tucks a towel under my head, and then it starts. As my eye closes for the last time, I hear the sultry twangs of a guitar. And soon, there is the sound of a blustery day. A very blustery day. And I open my eyes and Winnie the Pooh is there reaching out for me from the TV. My hands grasp his paw as he pulls me into the television. And I can breathe again. Everything is bright and shiny. The colors are so vibrant and new. He gives me this taste and drops me back down in front of the television and there I lay and recover for the battle for the top bunk has just begun.

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