Potter in the Park


I have not written as much here as I would like but we just got back from a big day and I thought I might get some notes down. We have had a great year with the kids from St. John’s Home and as they look to increase the campus size, our work becomes more important.

We are on track to do somewhere near 15-16 events with them this year which is a different type of growth than last year - and just as exciting. So, as we round the halfway mark of the year I am excited where we are going and what 2020 might be looking like (more to come)

Have a great weekend and we will talk soon.


Year in Review 2018

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What a year it has been at Now Playing, the growth has been simply amazing. In 2018 we were able to fill an entire theater with students from Riverside Middle School, once for Black Panther and once for Ralph Breaks the Internet. We executed 13 events in 2018 and served over 1000 at-risk youth in Kent County because of your donations.

We raise $8219.80 to execute the 13 events, transportation, and refreshments for the kids we serve and are very excited to see what 2019 brings. Our partnership with St. John’s Home and the Grand Rapids Public School system continues to grow into a profound relationship with a lasting impact. So thank you to each an every one of you who gave from your heart this year and allow us to do this work that is making a difference in West Michigan.

-Eric Hultgren

Be Generous

The rest of the phrase goes like this, be generous and willing to share. On Giving Tuesday it is a great opportunity to make a habit of that. It is easy to get wrapped up with the din of the news and feel like everything in the world is a dystopian plotline, but we live in an amazing country with amazing people who give of their gifts, their time, and their money.

So take a moment today to be generous with your social channels, your time, and if you are able, your money. Because there are people who would love your gifts today to help them build up communities and organizations all across the country. 

Be generous. 


Giving Tuesday is tomorrow


This past weekend you had Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and today is Cyber Monday. While the idea of Thanksgiving is much different than in practice, in practice it has much more in common with the glut of buying that we all take part in before the holidays kick into high gear. 

So, after four days of indulgence, it is time to give back and this Giving Tuesday I would challenge you to find charities and groups that you believe in and give with all your heart. That doesn't mean give them all your money that means give a $1 with the same vigor and passion as if you could give $100,000 because charities know how to make things work - where they can always use more help is in getting the word out and that action can help with fundraising which increases awareness and helps with fundraising. 

Which means whatever charities you choose invite a friend to "like" them on Facebook, send the website to a co-worker, or tag them on Instagram so your audience can check them out. While this is not the only day you should give to your communities in whatever fashion you see fit, it is the one day of the year where it is a marketing tactic and groups like this one will take full advantage of that in hopes that you make a habit out of supporting them. 

Have an amazing Monday and I am excited to see what sort of magic happens in this community because of the generation of people like YOU. 


You Get One Lap

I was talking to a friend last night who said, “it seems like you are having a rough year. Good news is…” I stopped him there. Sure this certainly has not been my favorite year personally or professionally as the trials have been tougher than most.

But I said, a bit more pragmatically, as you get older this is just what life is like. As you age you lose more people you love deeply, you get more scars, as you get more responsibility or success the work gets harder, the ask gets bigger, the expectations follow and when you fall down — and you will, it is a farther fall than when you are 20.

But then you get back up.

Imagine how you might change the way you lived your life if you got up each day and said this is the only day like today I get. This is part of a single lap, this is a page in my story, but I won’t get to see the finish. You may feel it morbid but I tend to think that if I get up every day and put weight into the seconds, the minutes, and hours of the day I can put more meaning in.

This isn’t about getting more out, it is about putting more back in. Spending more time with your kids, your wife, your friends. NOT doing things out of obligation, canceling anything you don’t want to do, socially speaking, because none of us have that kind of time to waste. Not one of us has that kind of time.

Think about someone you admire, someone you REALLY look up to.

Why? Why do you admire them?


Second question, have you seen them sulking around complaining about how life isn’t fair, or that they didn’t get a __________________ (insert want), or they wish they could _________________ (insert action)? Or do you admire their courage, their ability to take risks, their attitude towards challenges and friction, their superhuman ability to get more done in a day than you ever seem to?

My guess is that it might be the latter.

And the reason that they can seemingly get all of that done is because they understand what is at stake. They understand that time is a commodity not to be wasted for any reason. Time is a commodity that never gives a return, it ticks down until your account runs out and each one of our accounts has an unknown balance in them.

Sure it would be easier if you knew you would live to 53, 73. 89, or 106…but you don’t. So you have to attack the day like it owes you something and go make a mark because if you got to the end of this piece, you have something to contribute.

You get one lap, act accordingly.

What If?


What if you counted to ten before you replied to that email

What if you meant it when you say “I’m sorry.”

What if you bought a stranger coffee and didn’t tell a soul about it

What if you tried to learn a new language

What if you read a book this weekend

What if you meditated for just 6 minutes

What if you ran before the sun came up

What if you watched the sunset 4 times a year

What if you danced in the rain instead of bitching about being wet

What if you made a meal for someone close to you

What if you quit today

What if you started a new adventure

What if you just started driving

What if you asked her out

What if she said yes

What if you tried the fish

What if you ran for office

What if you asked for seconds

What if you started something without permission

What if you let the record play

What if you lit candles for no reason

What if you spent a day watching the grass grow

What if you counted the stars

What if you just said yes

What if you put your phone away

What if you took a nap

What if you got a massage

What if you caught a movie on a Tuesday afternoon

What if you lived more real life

What if you consumed less digital life

What if you listened and didn’t speak

What if you gave hugs

What if you took a moment to make your own list of things you would do if there were no boundaries to tell you why you couldn’t. What would that look like?

Why Star Wars?

May 4th is a big day for Star Wars fans as it is, of course, Star Wars Day. So, may I start by saying, "May the 4th be with you." Now the use of that phrase dates back apocryphally to Margaret Thatcher in 1979, but the first official (although not by Lucasfilms or Disney) celebration of Star Wars Day was in 2011.

But why is Star Wars so important to Now Playing?

For the answer to that question, we have to go back to Dec 18th, 2015 which was opening day for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Coming out of that movie I had flashbacks to 1978 when my father took me to see the original Star Wars. He took me to a drive-in where we ate KFC which I remember because we never really ate there before or after this movie. As I sat in the car as the grease from chicken and the smell of fried food filled the air, I knew, even at 4 years old, I was going to be a bit different after this movie was over. 

You see, I was always a dreamer, I would daydream in class (sometimes still do in meetings), I am a lifelong proponent of visualization, I tend to look at the world in a way that assumes anything is possible and work backwards to a solution and really want a lightsaber. So, seeing Star Wars at that age ignited a passion for stories (specifically sci-fi), a love of film, and a drive to try things merely because they just might work. 

Back to 2015 after my friends and I walked out of the movie I called them all almost in the order we sat in the theater. I asked each of them "what did Star Wars do to you, as a kid?" They all had answers but the universal truth was that this one movie had made an impact on them in one way or the other. I pushed, "what do you think will happen to a 7-year old that sees this movie this weekend?" Down to the man, they said: "they will lose their minds." I was on a role so I asked one final question and we were all hooked...

"What if we took kids to see this movie who would never have a chance otherwise?" 


When the weight had sunk in we skipped by the obvious answer and moved to how could we do this. After some simple math we all pitched in and reached out to St. John's Home to see if they were interested. They were amazing to work with so we picked a date and arranged the tickets with Celebration Cinema. At this point, there is no 501 (c) we are just a group of guys who wanted to try something to see if it might work. 

It did. 

I remember that Saturday afternoon because my friend Justin was able to join me as we gave all the kids lightsabers and escorted them into the theater. As the movie went on the kids who sat behind us asked all sorts of questions. They type of questions you would ask if this was your entry point into the Star Wars universe and I remember thinking and then saying to Justin - we have to build this. 

So here we are 15 events later and celebrating Star Wars Day. Why Star Wars? Because the perfect movie came along at the perfect time to be the jumping off point for some of the most fulfilling work many of us have ever done. 

May the Fourth Be With You. 


Who is art for?

Over the weekend Angie and I had tickets to see Hamilton in Chicago, it was every bit as amazing as I wanted it to be. In fact, the only issue I might have was the tiny fortune I had to pay in order to get in.

Likewise, earlier last week I tried to get Gorillaz tickets for their show in Chicago and it was sold out, in under 40 seconds - that isn't done by human hands, it is by automation or bots selling to other bots to increase the ticket cost and sell it back to you. So, a show that is probably worth $40 a ticket is now $173 per seat. Rinse and repeat. 

My father told me a story over the weekend about his friend who wanted to go to see Hamilton and Book of Mormon when both shows come to Seattle later this year. For two tickets to each show, his total cost was a mind-boggling $5200.

Which got me thinking who is art for? 

It certainly isn't directed at people below a certain income threshold, I mean even movies can be priced out of access which is why Octavia Spencer purchased an entire theater out so that low-income families could see Hidden Figures.

At Now Playing, we believe that at-risk children need art as much, if not more than, children who have instant access to it. But, the economics of art put it well off the list of anything that low-income families, broken or otherwise, can afford to attend. 

Now Hamilton does do a lottery for each show and that helps - although the digital divide between the haves and the have-nots, according to the Pew Research Center, has gotten better, the gap is far from closed.

Which is why Now Playing is here.

With your help, Now Playing is able to give these kids the opportunity to see plays, performances, movies, community or sporting events that they would literally have no chance to see if it were not for you. 

That is the thing about economics, it is really hard to solve for because once you have paid for the mortgage, the lights, the water, the gas, and food and you have very little left - you just aren't paying $300 a ticket to see Hamilton even if it might change your life. 

I have lived a fortunate life that I am thankful for beyond belief which is just one more reason I get up every day and try to make a bigger impact for people who have not had the opportunities that I had. I do that by opening the door - even if it is just to a movie theater, to show them where dreams are realized, where daydreaming takes hold, and where storytelling happens. 

We all deserve the right to tell a better story and isn't that what art is for? 

Live a better story.

I know that I have lacked in the blogging department on the site and that is something I strive to get better at here as our staff grows. We will be announcing most of the board members here in the next 10 days so it has been a really exciting time here. All that to say I have been unexcusably busy. 

This Sunday I will be speaking at The Story Community Church about living a better story, a series they are finishing this week. It is an honor to have a chance to speak but I am always uncomfortable with this idea that I am somehow special because we started this. We started this because our community needed it and we were in the right place at the right time. The honest truth is if you just took 2 hours a week away from your Instagram, Netflix, or whatever distracts you from the important stuff you would have 8 hours a month. With 8 hours a month you could make a HUGE impact on the world around and if every person you knew took 8 hours (you spend 55 minutes a day on facebook) the impact would profound. 

So I am humbled by all of you who have donated and honored to be able to speak this weekend but I am way less interested in hearing myself talk than I am getting you to go start your thing. 

What will 2017 hold for you? Why not start now...


Start with Why

Getting someone to work with us once is easy.

Twice takes work. Inspiring them to work with us without asking starts with Why.