Brad talks about the importance of taking the time to really see someone.
Brad acknowledges that having a lot of energy is actually a super power and that by meditating he learned to ground and focus his energy more.
Brad considers Val Kilmer a brother who he would do anything for or with.
Alison Martin: Wee wee! Okay, go ahead.Hi.
Jean Trebek: Hi. Here we are in our little studio.
Alison Martin: That’s right. Which is really just like a corner in my little back house.
Brad Koepenick: Well, today we have the amazing Brad Koepenick. That’s right.
Alison Martin: I’ve known Brad for a bunch of years. He’s a real force here in the San Fernando Valley of California. I met him because he was doing an animation camp years ago when I also knew his wife, Carol Koepenick. She was a wonderful teacher at the elementary school near me, Carpenter Elementary, and my kids went there and loved it. And Brad is like the Pied Piper. He can get anyone to sort of like jump on board, right? He’s infectious to be with in a in a very joyful way.
Jean Trebek: You cannot be sad if you’re in Brad’s company.
Alison Martin: That’s right. That’s exactly right.
Jean Trebek: And he has a whole wonderful new platform that brings together donors and influencers and charitable organizations. And it’s called Spark Rise. And it’s amazing. And that’s just coming out.
Alison Martin: And he helped start a Valley International Prep High School out in out in Chatsworth. Would that be Chatsworth, right? Where where the Hope of the Valley is?
Jean Trebek: Northridge.
Alison Martin: Northridge, right. Exactly. Sorry. Chatsworth was the old campus. And then he also works with Val Kilmer and does Cinema Twain. Mainly we talked with Brad about his heart…
Jean Trebek: Right. He shares a lot of just beautiful things that he is and that he has to embrace about himself. And I love him.
Alison Martin: Me, too. He’s very sweet. So here he is, Brad Koepenick.
Brad Koepenick: All my beautiful friends.
Alison Martin: Hi, Brad.
Jean Trebek: I’ve got Brad on the brain because I’ve watched so many Brad things.
Brad Koepenick: Well, here’s the thing. Here’s the thing. I don’t care what we talk about. I really can’t even tell you the timing on this. The fact that you said today in particular is really weird. And by the way, do you believe in… I already know you do… synchronicity?
Alison Martin: Yes, of course.
Brad Koepenick: Love, magic, God, synchronicity, spirituality, cosmic leanings.
Alison Martin: Yes.
Brad Koepenick: Good. We have now won. We’ve won awards from four different chambers.
Alison Martin: Really?
Brad Koepenick: Yeah. Originally, the Steve Allen Award came from the United Chambers. That was for Ian – Spark Regional Award. We did a thing with West Valley Warner Center, but via Northridge Chamber, gave Michael the principal of the year and then a Chatsworth Porter Ranch gave Chuck the Unforgettable Educator Award this year.
Jean Trebek: Wow.
Brad Koepenick: So I’m a person who truly believes, and I really do, that my community is real. Yeah, I’m having a blast. I’m living my best life right now. I must have bumped into… And I’m not exaggerating 20 students last night and current students really… Because they sit in a canopy at the Northridge Mall but I’ll tell you one thing. It’s magical there.
Alison Martin: That’s amazing.
Brad Koepenick: That’s my life now.
Alison Martin: Now Spark Rise brings together donors, brands, influencers through social media.
Brad Koepenick: Spark Rise is a premier digital platform that – I call it Disneyland for activists. But we were a little ahead of the trend, and we have solutions for brands and nonprofit celebrities and activists, and we found ways to support them, that quite frankly, increase brands bottom lines. And so we’ve been doing it in various stages in various ways. We spoke in 30 states now and we spoke about Spark Rise at the United Nations. We spoke at Google headquarters. We did radio like Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols. We talked about Spark Horizon Close. We were part of stories of social impact for Capital One cafe. So it’s something that’s been going on, but it’s go time! The pandemic proved an interesting opportunity, so I merged the companies with really significant brand, uh, brand ambassadors, philanthropists and a tech company out of Seattle. So I have an extraordinary team, great governance and structure. And as you know, Brad needs governance and structure.
Alison Martin: Well, we want to talk about all your projects, but we want to talk more about you and how you are. You said at one point you are the guy with the most energy in the room.
Brad Koepenick: Okay. So I make a joke and I say, I’m BrAD. Why do I say this? Because I was a literal poster child for AD at one point. They made a film called Autistic Kids With Cameras. It was about my work with students on the spectrum. This was in 2006. The last thing I wanted ever. That particular year, my mother was passing away and there were a lot of things going on and I was working 14 hours a day, seven days a week, teaching. The last thing I wanted was a camera following me. But I was with actors for autism. On Saturdays, I taught students on the spectrum animation, filmmaking, storytelling, theater, improvisation. These are the things that, as a young man, this is what saved my life. I’ve been thinking as of late, my parents had a place down on Balboa Peninsula. My dad was a working man. He worked up here at Rockwell Atomics International. I don’t think he never took a day off. But when my dad got home, he put on a tool belt. He had a beer, we had dinner, and then he would go to some property that his uncles helped him buy. But at one point it turned into he bought a duplex at Balboa Island. The only reason I’m at Balboa Peninsula. Why am I telling you this? I spent the bulk of my time alone making films. And I was, you know, nine, ten, eleven when my science teacher told me that we had were having a science fair in sixth grade, I simply wrote the song Pollution and had it in a film. You did not do that in those days. This was not part of the approved curriculum.I didn’t know any better.
Brad Koepenick: And I bring up Balboa because those were the days when I took my speedboat out and would just head out. Yeah. I had a Boston whaler and that meant I get to go out as far as I could till I scared myself and dream. And I saw whales and I saw crazy stuff. I got to live in that world where actually theatre and animation and filmmaking gave me a storytelling pathway that I use now. So. I don’t apologize for my energy because, quite frankly, it’s a superpower. Yeah. And it’s what saved me as a teacher because I didn’t care if you paced in the back of the room. I had a circle outside the door. If you needed to take a few seconds or a few minutes or even the hour to get yourself together. I’m extremely compassionate about all of us, if you if don’t mind me saying so, that are somewhere on the spectrum and it enabled my teaching. So this energy and it is a lot of energy – served me really well as a young actor. I found my way to Chatsworth High School where I met my very best of friends and they all went on to storied careers in the industry and I still work with all of them. I’ll tell you this.
Brad Koepenick: What I said for 30 years, teaching was the ability to create, nurture and maintain meaningful lifelong relationships. It’s the single skill that will propel you in the 21st century…And here’s what I love about that’s conflict resolution. That’s forgiveness. Those are listening skills. These are persuasive speaking techniques. That’s precision listening, active listening, listening for entertainment. I always said as an actor, you find the character in the other actor’s eyes. You find your character, that means you’re connecting. So my teaching led to a rather obscene amount of beautiful relationships. I was afforded the opportunity to not only teach one class in a school, I was at 150 schools, right? This is not an overexaggeration. I was just a guy at the Country School… Jean’s child was was there. She didn’t know me then, but I was right there. I remember standing next to you a thousand times, and the gentleman at this very progressive school allowed me to do what nobody was doing then, which was animation with young people. I, I, I lucked into animation early on. I found a camera when my son was going to be born and I ran over to Bullocks to buy a camera to film the birth. What do you know? There was a little button that said Anim. I was like, Does that mean animation? The guy goes, I don’t even know what you’re talking about. I said, If that means that that camera takes a frame a second, you can push a button and it goes like that and if it’s got some options. He goes, Nobody’s ever asked this. I said, I’m asking. So sure enough, it had a quarter frame. Half frame, one second frame. I said, I’ll take five of them. Wow. My wife said, What are you doing? We can’t afford five cameras. And I said, This would be amazing. So I started an animation program at the Country School that grew into after-school programs that… name a private school because I was at every one of them in Studio City, Sherman Oaks, Woodland Hills, all the way through Calabasas and Agoura, all the way to Malibu. And then the thing just grew and grew and grew. We became Celluloid Heroes movie camp that’s named, of course, after my favorite band of all time. That’s The Kinks. Uh huh. I was obsessed with The Kinks, but it started as after-school programs, and it turned into camps. Once it turned into camps, we exploded. So my partners, John and Greg Kenseth, and I would do this in firehouses and temples, and we just did it wherever students wanted it, and we did it nonstop. So we would have 30, 40, 50 kids in a camp once a week, but then we’d be down in Newport, we’d be in Orange County, we’d be in LA, we’d be in Agoura, we’d be over at NoHo.
Brad Koepenick: My home was Lankershim and Magnolia over the what used to be Pitfire Pizza. Oh, yeah. And my buddy, who I had founded the Whitefire Theatre with, we were a founding theater company there and did some plays there that became movies. And it’s really fun because honestly and this is true, the movies and plays that we did, they sort of echoed Tennessee Williams, echoed Mark Twain and echoed Sam Shepard. And now I’ve literally made movies about Mark Twain. I’m making one about Tennessee Williams. And Sam Shepard is my favorite playwright. And so I’m living it all now. It’s manifested. It’s manifested because I’m the luckiest man in the world. I have 10,000 foot soldiers that are media literate. They’re creatives. They’re loving. They know all my faults. These are my students, right? And now they say, Hey, coach, I want to make a movie. Well, okay, I’m making one. This weekend, I started acting again after 25 years and I’m producing with my students. They’re tech geniuses. They’re innovators. And they invite me in. And I say, no, I don’t have time. I don’t have time because I was teaching. And now I’m like, Yes, that’s right. That’s right. The answer is yes. Right?
Alison Martin: Tell me tell me a little bit about your idea of forgiveness. So you said that forgiveness is an important human skill. Why?
Brad Koepenick: I loved when I taught because I taught communications and that gave me the opportunity to break a million rules. You know, you’ve got that personality. I’m, like, follow me. Let’s go. I was wild. But when it. I’m really working with underserved kids in a meaningful way. You’re talking about family situations. And when you’re in the trenches every day, that can overwhelm you. So, my students, I really devised our own curriculum. Based on creating a sacred space where we could communicate, including me… my most personal fears. Obstacles, maybe. Life story. And finding a way that was appropriate without doing that thing where you cross into psychology. I never did that. I had a psychologist the best in the world, by the way. I had her right here. So we had a safe, sacred space where we would discuss things openly. Tears flowed. It was incredible. And I watched students from incredibly difficult situations confront, express themselves and use that sacred space to come to a place of healing.
Brad Koepenick: Over the years, I learned to come to a place of healing because I’d done so many community circles with my students and so many activities and exercises where I can’t ask you to do something if I’m not going to model it, right? So, teaching media literacy led to conflict resolution that’s negotiate, compromise, compromise, avoid, delay. Surrender. Get help. That I would I would go through those. I’d say we’re going to have a big year this year. We’re going to learn a million things. But honestly, I want to speak to you about the fact that all I really care about, is that you understand that there’s help. If it’s not me, it’s someone in the lobby. If it’s not someone in the lobby, it’s a parent who’s standing over there. It’s not a parent, it’s over in that person’s office over there and there’s a therapist over there. But the ability to take care of yourself. Practice self care. And then eventually, which has changed my life, mindfulness and meditation on a daily basis. Um, will lead to having the kinds of skills, forgiveness that will provide you with a better life for yourself.
Alison Martin: That’s beautiful. I agree.
Jean Trebek: So, Brad, what do you think mindfulness is? What is it about mindfulness? Because you hear that a lot.
Brad Koepenick: Okay, so I’m running around. We called it the Willy Wonka tour. Alison was there. We’re in an old brick building. I have two months to open a school. So I’m giving the Willy Wonka tour. By the way, it was magical. And it was the Willy Wonka tour because I know how to build teams. And in that case, we had one of those extraordinarily cool teams where it was like, I believed every word I was saying. I’ve never actually had to sell anything I don’t believe in. But in this case, it was like, we’re going to be speech and debate champions. Why? We had the national speech and debate champion- the best teacher in the in the country. Oh, by the way, every kid’s going to go to college of their choice. Why? Anne’s the best at what she does. She’s a partner and she will get you into the college of your choice. That is what she does. Oh, don’t talk to me about our parent body. I happen to have one of the strongest leaders I’ve met in 30 years, and she doesn’t even know I know her. My wife dealt with her. So that’s Alison. But my point was, I’m running around giving this tour, and at the very, very end, I would say… This is a school of mindfulness and meditation, and the parents would look at me. I was a little bit talking out of my- You know what? Because, yes, I knew of the David Lynch Foundation they provide in public schools around the country. And my friends were with the David Lynch Foundation. Yes, I knew of the Mindup Foundation because Goldie Hawn is awesome. And she gave Mind Up to my teachers. So I knew we had people that were going to bring us meditation and mindfulness and they knew what they were doing, so we did it. But the real beauty was one night when a couple moved in. I’d wanted to bring some people in from up north, from Silicon Valley, San Francisco, etcetera. This couple walks in and I gave them a Willy Wonka tour and he says, Shut the door. And he says, You need to know based on what you just did, I’m going to sell my home and move to Los Angeles with my two daughters. By the way, we teach mindfulness and meditation around the world. And I said Thursday night, 7 p.m., four nights later, I walked into the space. A man with AD who had to lie his whole life right during theater exercise.
Jean Trebek: And how was it?
Brad Koepenick: Oh, it was great. I’m relaxed. No, no, no. He whispered something in my ear that night. A mantra. And it changed my entire life. Wow. And he and his beautiful wife not only left their daughters in our school, by the way, they’re incredibly special. And they just graduated university and are doing social impact work and business at a level that I’ll never understand. But he came in with the students for four years, and we had a mindfulness and meditation class that was not a joke. So the woman that we had teaching Natalie was just really, really good at it. I took my first sound bath in that class and now I go to the creative visions in Malibu and do it over the beach. So I learned my meditation practice. With my students and in some cases, some of my students even taught me to go deeper and deeper and deeper. And that’s real. It changed my life. And everywhere you look around the globe and I know you know this because you interviewed global leaders and thought leaders, it is the conversation we’re way past. Is it good for you? Do you need it? It is the conversation in leadership and especially in the tech world and startup world.
Alison Martin: Brad, what’s the first thing you do in the morning?
Brad Koepenick: Meditate. I have a practice where I, uh. Well, I’ll just…I’ll get specific. But I’ll tell you this. There are certain things I say out loud. I’m a gratitude list guy. I’m a big gratitude list. I say mine out loud because I’m a kinesthetic learner. So I like to move and I like to do things. So I sometimes, as I’m driving in the morning, scream mine out. I’m grateful for Jean. I’m grateful for Alison, I’m grateful for Val. I’m grateful. And I just go down my investors, my advisors, my best friend, of course, my wife is at the top, right? My wife’s at the top. Um, uh, 40, 40 years together. Um, and she learned to meditate. It’s been really important, especially during those extremely trying times. The last several years, my morning practice is a practice of writing. I write. I speak my gratitude list. I attend programs, seminars, and other such things that promote wellness. And it’s funny. I used to ramp up. I’d listen to Radiohead Muse I’m a rock n roll guy, but put it on loud. Get to work so that everyone can follow you to the next blah blah. Nuh-uh. 8 a.m.. Get in the car and I wind DOWN. Yeah. And get to a place of quiet head. Quiet mind. And usually it’s going to be Stevie Wonder, right? Little Cat Stevens thrown in with some few musical theater songs and been big on Godspell lately. And I wind down. So my morning used to start ramping up. Not a healthy way to live. Now it starts all the way winding down so that I can be as loving and kind and shut the you know what up for the day, right? So thoughtful, honest, intelligent, necessary, kind to think methodology. Do I need to say this? Does it need to be said by me? Does it need to be said now? When I’m in, when I’m dealing with someone in business now, I really do pause. I didn’t understand pause until I learned to meditate. And now it becomes a daily strategy for every single conversation that I have.
Alison Martin: Oh, that’s… it’s great.
Jean Trebek: It is great. And you’re so right. Brad, about meditation. It’s not whether it’s good or bad for you. We know science knows that it is important. And I know myself when I do take time to sit with myself, you know, meditation gets all these weird connotations and the idea of “no thought” – And that’s not it. But when it’s like plugging into something deeper, more than just those quick shooting star thoughts. You know, it just grounds you. With a lot of beautiful energy that you have, so am I hearing you that that meditation helps ground you?
Brad Koepenick: I would say it’s the number one practice in my life right now that has led to transformational change in my family, myself, my professional career and my life. And like you said, when I now get to connect with young people who we’ve been through this together and we all have a shared language about something like meditation, it leads to really meaningful and deep and profound productive experiences and projects that I don’t think would have otherwise come from somewhere else. And those now take the form of films and sometimes short films and TV shows and tech companies and processes that I just don’t think would have come from anywhere else. I was lucky enough. I’ve been writing lately.
Brad Koepenick: In 2004 and I got to teach with some pretty profound people like Mikhail Baryshnikov and Edward Albee. But the man that was there that transformed my life was Paul Sills and Paul, his mother was Viola Spolin, and Viola Spolin brought theater games to communities. Then eventually those theater games became improvisation. She wrote improvisation for the theater. Her son Paul took those same theatre games in the 60s. He applied them to professional actors and he started Second City. Paul is one of the more profound directors in American theater, where he was very much a mentor to me in his life.
Brad Koepenick: I got to do story theater with him and what do you know? I’m there teaching this thing for kids, but Paul is right there, so I’m in his workshop and I bring it up because, well, one, you’d be playing a game. You know? We’ve all done theater games in theater class, whatever, our whole lives. But with Paul, he would just play the game. Right? Right. Just play the game. And I’m like, What? So, I got led into Spolin. Next thing I know, I’m working with my idols. Only people I’ve read about in books were once a week without talking about anything else – we simply did Spolin games. Viola Spolin called that process meditation in motion. Wow. And one time I got to go to Paul’s barn with 30 teachers from around the world science, math, English of all grade levels. And all we did in a magical barn in a blue circle was take our shoes off in the morning, say not it, not it, not it, and play games. And then at the end of the day, we would reflect on where they fit into our curriculums and how we might use these games in this process.
Brad Koepenick: And I only bring that up because that was the closest I’d ever come to true meditation. I didn’t realize it, but in the process of one of those games one time we played this game called Transformation and I literally opened my eyes at the end and people were staring at me. I was lost. I was somewhere else. I was in a pure state of bliss and joy and play. I only bring that up because I’m not so sure that if that didn’t save my life through certain years because I was doing the grind thing, I was doing the whole thing, the whole unhealthy thing. And then, when I found meditation, I start to reflect on, Wow, really? The universe has been throwing this at you in various ways and you just weren’t listening, right? So now I listen to that still voice. I try to build upon it. I try to surround myself with people, which is why you’re so important to me. You’re so important to me because, when you bump into people in life, when they’re dropped into your life and you didn’t take the time to see them. It can be. Well, let’s go in the other direction when you do, take the time to see them…When you are still enough to be opposite somebody and they take the time to see you. It can be positively and utterly a game changer. Yeah. And you two are that for me. And when you invited me to write for you, it was an opportunity for me because I’m already amassing these people around the world for Spark Rise. But it was like, This is incredible. It’s like you two sort of just got me and I was just able to go to meet so-and-so and you’re like, Yeah. And it was really joyous. It was nothing but positivity, nothing but beautiful people in the same space. And at our first high school graduation, I did give a speech on taking the time to see each other, and I gave that speech because I’ve noticed so much in my life that people don’t take the time to see each other. I wrote a curriculum on Crash when the film came out, but I do believe that we crash into each other so that we can feel something. I do believe that if you take the time every day that the miracles flow, they’re everywhere. And yet I can’t tell you how many times I’ve witnessed somebody right here in front of somebody and it’s like, wow, they didn’t even see, you know?
Alison Martin: Yes.
Brad Koepenick: We lost a beautiful man who took over from my communications class at a school this year, but he was simply flowing through as a substitute at the time. And I was running around and ,as soon as I walked by him, I felt his energy and I stopped and I said, Can I talk to you for a second? Who are you? And he said, Why do you ask? And I said, Who are you? And he told me and I was looking for somebody to be my replacement. For my communications teaching, which, by the way, that’s all I knew, right? Well, he tells me my name is so-and-so and I was the director of communications and marketing for Universal for 20 something years. And he lists out this ridiculous resume. And I said, What do you want? And he said, Well, I’d love to teach because you love teaching, don’t you? And I said, By the way, where have you taught? And he said, USC. Wow. And I said, Would you like to start teaching here next week? And he said, yes. And that’s the kind of “Right”.There are these right in our midst every single day. They’re the most beautiful human beings. And just like things going on and we blow right past and don’t want to blow right past anymore.
Jean Trebek: I love that you say that, Brad. I’ve read so many books of, I guess the afterlife or what happens metaphysically, and the one question so beyond there being no judgment when you look back. But the question apparently that this one person said that was asked when they had a near-death experience was – how present were you to your own life? And I remember reading that and it took my breath away. And I remember going on a five day silent meditation retreat. And at first it was awful. It was so-
Brad Koepenick: Very hard.
Jean Trebek: You could not read. You really had to be with your own – with yourself. And I remember thinking to myself -this is the first time that I’ve really tasted oatmeal because in the morning, you know, you’re so quick. You stand in front of the refrigerator, you’re multitasking. And I just thought, you know, slowing down is a beautiful thing. And it’s hard when, like you said, I have a lot of energy. And I was always told as a little girl, can you please come and sit? Can you please go sit? Go watch TV. Go. You know, calm down. Calm down. And, um. And it’s a beautiful thing when you take take the time to be present.
Alison Martin: And see someone.
Jean Trebek: And see someone.
Brad Koepenick: I was an actor in my 20s and 30s, like I said, and actually worked, which was odd, but I never enjoyed it. I was never present for myself. I never truly locked in, but I worked. It was my whole thing. I wasn’t there. I believe a Strasberg said at one point there is no acting until 50. I’ll take it I’m 62, but I’ll take it. And say that because I mentored young actors and professionals my whole life. But now I can be present and model that for them and say, you know, you might want to consider because what I’ve found now in meditation is just an enormous amount of joy in being still on stage, an enormous amount of joy. I was in high school and I was very, very, very adept at physical comedy because my body flew in different directions and I was doing a play called Scapino. And this is a play where you literally – you swing from ropes. I would have doctors come up to me afterwards. And they were right, by the way. They would say, I need to speak with you. Meaning? Are you okay? Yeah. And I don’t think you are. And they were right. And. It’s really fun when you start to get into, wow, I can only take care of me, right? I have the option now of whether I want to be slow or tap into that energy.
Brad Koepenick: Because that energy is not bad. I want to get away from that whole methodology where you’re saying to everyone, you’ve got to slow down all the way. Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater for a second here. It’s my superpower. I love people. I stand in a canopy on Wednesday nights in a crowded community space because I love community. I’m an extrovert. This is okay. You know this is okay. So go find yourself an introvert to be your partner. Go find. Go find the dot, the cross, the people to take care of the stuff that you’re not getting handled and you be you. Right. And that’s why it took me a long time – 62. This company (Spark Rise) is not a company. It’s a movement. And it embodies literally everything about things that I love. A little entertainment, a little bit of media, philanthropy, technology, nonprofit. It’s just a lot of fun. And now I get to be me. I don’t have to apologize for being me. Right.
Alison Martin: I said to Jean, the thing about Brad is when you leave him, you feel like you can do anything. And so what would you say to someone who might feel stuck or in a job that they don’t love or retired and not sure what to do? How do they regain that inspiration or passion?
Brad Koepenick: I found music again. I had simply hung it up. I didn’t touch the piano. And then, what do you know? We start that high school and this is a true story. Student named Noah. You know him? He comes up to me one day. We’re a few weeks into school and he goes, Brad, will you play a song with me Friday night? And I’m like, running around. I’m like, What? What? What song? And he goes, Sunday afternoon by The Kinks. I had to stop for a second. It just happened to be a song that I played with my old band in my 20s. And again, those young people, just by watching them find music for the first time and do it. I completely am reconnected with music theatre. I never was a visual artist and my wife just gave me an art lesson and you know, I painted. So I worked in an art gallery. Val Kilmer and I built an art gallery – Helmel – and it was for Val’s art. And that’s where I’ve been housed. But then what do you know? That high school moved over and they built a building and there’s a big two story house and they street art painted it.
Brad Koepenick: It’s psychedelic. And I was like, This is my new home. I can be present on that second floor twice a week for a couple hours and be of service to this entity. But I’m telling you that because that whole excitement about finding visual art for the first time, finding poetry for the first time, finding writing again, I’m a writer. I never said that for 45 years. And I’m a writer. I write screenplays and I write plays and I write children’s plays and I write songs and I write articles. But I never said it out loud. So am I good. Who cares? Don’t care. Is it fun? I never knew that I was going to be able to have this whole authentic presence. It came from watching younger people find their skills for the first time and then just transmitting it back. So my suggestion is we only got today. What are we talking about? What do you want? You want to start a company? Go give it a shot. What’s the first thing that happens? Nothing. I mean, you know. Oh, no, your painting’s not good. Are you kidding? You know, that’s that song. What? What? Who cares, right?
Alison Martin: It’s the idea of play.
Brad Koepenick: And so I’ve spent the last six years with my soul brother, Val Kilmer. But Val, here’s what happened. We reconnect. He’s doing Mark Twain. He invites my high school students a decade ago to shoot him. Who does that, by the way? Nobody does that. My 15 year old filmmakers went down there. They weren’t even in a film academy, and they filmed him while one of the greatest actors in the history of cinema, while he got to find Mark Twain. I bring this up for a reason. I walked in the night to his first workshop performance, thinking this is going to be a nightmare. What am I going to say to Val Kilmer? Oh, that was really good. You know, what are you going to say? It’s going to be a twain wreck, as he says, within two minutes of him- he was fully at play! He’d never been funnier. And Val Kilmer is the funniest man I’ve ever met. Yeah. And I bring it up because it reinvigorated. We were just talking about Paul Sills and playing Viola Spolin. But this is an actor who people wrote off. At the top of his game. Because why? He’s fully at play. He’s embracing. He’s embracing. The physical comic, the humorist. And the very best of his talents. Right. And he’s doing it in the last stage of his career he had at that moment, I turned to him and I said, I’m going to spend the rest of my life putting this performance in front of as many students that I can all over the world. The end. And my beauty of my time with Val, because we were pretty much 14 hours a day, seven days a week, we traveled the country because of his condition. And I think most people know. But he had throat cancer several years ago, but the ramifications left him with… so I was his voice with him. And we get each other, let’s just say that. And I only bring this up because we would drive through San Antonio and I’d go for hours without talking.
Brad Koepenick: But he he calls it prayer because that’s his practice, right? I call it prayer meditation. Silence. But being silent together for so long over such a prolonged amount of time in such a meaningful activity as bringing Mark Twain to different cities and then blow out and visit a high school. Or we’d visit a college. It taught me a different way to move. So I credit. Credit, Val. Val, someone who I met at age 14 who was this big. This big. And he’s still that big to me. I credit him for bringing creativity and a little bit of self esteem… and he brought it back for me. I’m an actor and a writer and a producer again, because I got to spend time with somebody who just doesn’t question that.
Alison Martin: Right.
Brad Koepenick: He just goes for it. For better or worse, whether he loses everything or not, he’s going to go all the way to the sun. And that’s something that’s very meaningful and profound to be around because the two of us – we completed a whole together. Yeah. So my answer to you about somebody who should do this. Should I do that? Hey, guess what I just learned from this guy who is going through some pretty hard stuff. He rolls big, he rolls hard. And what I learned is it’s a lot of fun. So what do you care? Go for it. Go for it. Just say yes. I’m a “yes and” guy.
Alison Martin: Yes and – that’s right.
Jean Trebek: The power of yes and.
Brad Koepenick: But I also because I’ve been thinking a lot about it, I’ve been thinking like, you know, you get in this sort of world of leadership and blah, blah, blah. Yes. And but “no” is a complete answer.
Alison Martin: That’s right.
Jean Trebek: That’s true as well. Yes.
Brad Koepenick: And so drawing boundaries and things like that to part of, again, communications class. And these are things that I’m now learning for real as a man in 62, you know, all skills that, of course, you roll right into your professional life.
Alison Martin: Right. Brad, before we wrap up, I just want to ask, what would you like to tell a listener that’s important to you right now? Is it Spark Rise? Is it Cinema Twain? What would you like us to leave with?
Brad Koepenick: In a couple months – There’s a premier digital platform that’s actually been years in the making. There’s a placeholder right there and it’s a place for you to be able to help. And you don’t have to give money and you don’t take your credit card out. You simply take an action and you get part of the thing. You get to be part of the things you care about with. By the way, the people that you love, those are your your favorite artists and your favorite filmmakers and comedians and musicians. And what do you know? You’re all taking this action, but you’re raising tons of money for the things that you love most theatre, arts, education and the environment and mental health and vets. And we can all do it together now because guess what? That’s where everything’s going. Yeah, it’s been going that way for a while. So I say, let’s do it. So go to Sparkrise.com in a couple of months. Don’t go there now it’s a placeholder site.
Brad Koepenick: And let me just say one thing about Cinema Twain – we built Val Metaverse. I still laugh, but we did it. Um, it’s called Camp Kilmer. Camp Kilmer. If you have a chance to see Val Kilmer’s performance as Mark Twain, if you like the Val documentary on Amazon Prime, if you like that little sliver in Top Gun 2. And man did I learn a lot on that one. Um, if you like that sliver, you must see this performance because it’s very rare in life that you’re treated to a performance … and it is Mark Twain, after all… where somebody so fully and joyously inhabits someone else and does such in a way that the questions. You’re left with a hundred questions. So try to check Cinema Twain out. Right now it only lives in Camp Kilmer, and it’s not even there yet. Okay. I’d still like to screen it for you, though, so come over to my house.
Alison Martin: I would love that. Yeah, we would love that. You’re just such an amazing person to me, Brad. And I love you to bits. Maybe when Spark Rise is out, we can do this again.
Brad Koepenick: Well, you two mean the world to me. I don’t know again why we come into each other’s lives like this. But you. We did something profound, and I’m real proud of that. But it’s it’s even more fun now to grow together.
Jean Trebek: Yeah, it is.
Alison Martin: Yes.
Brad Koepenick: We’re all in different places together, and it’s really fun to go, okay, what are we going to do next?
Alison Martin: Right.
Brad Koepenick: That’s right. And so I’m real grateful that you had me here today. Thank you.
Alison Martin: Have a great day. We’ll be thinking. We’ll be thinking about you all day. Sending you good Mojo!
Jean Trebek: Shine on.
Alison Martin: Love you, Brad. Say hi to Carol. Bye. See you later. Bye bye.
Alison Martin: He’s so great, isn’t he?
Jean Trebek: Love, Brad. Yes. Yeah.
Alison Martin: And I love that he, first of all, has done so many things in his life. When you read about Brad and you hear his other interviews and I love that this time he just really focused on what his soul is telling him and just about people being seen and heard and about being vulnerable.
Jean Trebek: He’s very deep and I think he has so much wisdom. I really enjoyed how he shared that he feels that his high energy is his superpower and that by, you know, he’s learned to meditate to kind of take all of that energy and and just solidify it and then it works for him rather than against him.
Alison Martin: And I love that he’s so inspired by kids. He is such an advocate for children and teens and young people. He really he goes out of his way to involve them and influence them in a really positive way.
Jean Trebek: Yeah, he’s a mensch.
Alison Martin: He’s a mensch. He’s a mensch-y guy.
Jean Trebek: He is.
Alison Martin: So, Brad, go Brad, go! Thank you for listening. And if you see something for Spark Rise, please go to it. Spark Rise is really amazing. Look it up. Google it because it’s it’s going to be great.
Jean Trebek: It is. It’s going to help any charity organization. That’s right. Just expand their donorship.
Alison Martin: Exactly. All right. Hey, bye. We’ll see you next time. Bye bye.