Frogcatcher Films: An Inspirational Origin Story

Why are we named “Frogcatcher Films”?

After living an incredible 95 years, Mim’s grandmother Eileen Ann (O’Malley) Nekuda passed away. She died in her hometown of Clinton, Massachusetts, in her childhood home sunroom that her late father, John E. O’Malley had constructed with his own hands over 80 years before. Eileen passed at sunset on the first day of fall 2013 surrounded by her family, both in person and via phone and skype, including her children, her son-in-law, her grandchildren, great-grandson, and her beloved brother.  Granny Eileen was the best friend her grandchildren ever knew.  Over the course of the year leading up to her death, they each anticipated her passing, knowing that when the time came, none of them would ever be the same again.

The funeral was held a week following her death.  Mim, her husband Jason, and their son Zephyr, drove from New York to Massachusetts the day before the wake and funeral.  The services were attended by everyone in the family and by many folks from the town and beyond.  Everyone wept.  Everyone embraced and consoled.  Everyone sang and prayed during mass. Many laughed recalling stories of Eileen, and all sighed with relief that Granny Eileen was finally at rest with her husband Leslie J. Nekuda, who had died over 65 years before.

The evening after the funeral, Mim and Jason found themselves sitting with Mim’s Aunt Maryann and cousin David in the same sunroom in which Eileen had passed away.  The room was fresh and clean– inviting–the way granny Eileen would have liked it.  They proceeded to recap the amazing events of the day including the heartfelt eulogies, the bagpiper dressed in full attire hired to play both outside of St. John’s church and at the cemetery, as well as, Jason’s beautiful singing of the “The Lord’s Prayer” during mass and leading everyone at the graveside in singing an emotional “Oh Danny Boy” and “Will Ye Go Lassie, Go.” Jason and Mim found joy and an intense sense of hope and creative purpose in that bittersweet conversation.

Later that same evening, during the long car ride home from Massachusetts to New York, Mim and Jason decided they should establish a company specializing in film production and creative concept development.  Armed with a lifetime of reasons why they should pursue this endeavor, they developed a timeline for it and discussed the talent found within their own family, as well as, closest friends, as being the first to be approached to join the company.  By the time they arrived home four hours later, they had developed the company idea, but just needed a name for it.  They would eventually find inspiration for the name, because of Jason’s late grandfather, Tony Ramirez.

It was the first days of autumn, during a typical mealtime at the Robinette home.  Three year old Zephyr was happily swaying back and forth in his booster seat, mastering using his fork.  This time, Zephyr’s parents Jason and Mim began enthusiastically and humorously talking about the company they were creating.  Mim clarified and established the company vision, and the two of them discussed the structure, the talent, addressed how incredibly sound a mission and goal they had set– yet they did not have a company name.  The table went silent.  All were in thought again.

Both Jason and Mim worked in marketing for several years.  Mim’s ultimate focus became marketing, social media, brand development and strategy, whereas Jason’s focus became marketing, product development, social media, event planning and PR.  The subject of company name and identity is never taken lightly by these two.

Each was thoughtfully and silently eating dinner when Zephyr interjected a mandate: “You two! Talk! Now!”  That was his way of asking them to continue their what he perceived as a fun and entertaining conversation. Neither parent had anything to say (well, not yet), so each just looked at each other from across the table, grinning and attempting to hide their overwhelming delight in the cuteness of Zephyr’s command.  They found themselves somewhat challenged, but not defeated, wondering what name they would give to this group, think tank, collaborative, team, family amalgamated creative company of adventurous artistic endeavors.

They continued eating quietly, thinking, thinking with the sound of knives and forks touching plates and an occasional thud of a dinner glass being placed on the table. –They then started up the discussion again discussing the company’s identity and agreeing the company focus should be on live action films, featuring a-typical archetypes going on various kinds of literal or inner journeys—simple and exciting adventures—films that everyone in the family could find entertaining.   Again, the table talk ceased and quiet thinking and eating resumed.

After a moment, Mim looked up from her plate and said “Frogcatcher Films.”

Jason’s eyes rose from his plate before she could even finish saying “films.” He turned inward, eyelids thinning, again looking down at the table, acknowledging the idea by nodding his head and swallowing a mouthful of food. His response was teary-eyed, “I like it.” Correcting himself he then said “No, I take that back. I don’t like it, I love it.”

Mim and Jason nodded in agreement, smiled and resumed eating. And Zephyr made another interjection, requesting “two is the limit” dessert. It was his way of telling them his moderator’s job was done, he finished eating another meal and he deserved two Oreo cookies.

Why Mim Suggested “Frogcatcher Films” As Our Company Name.
by Mim Paquin, CEO, Frogcatcher Films, LLC

Frogcatcher is based on a story that Jason’s late grandfather Luis “Tony” Ramirez liked to share about his grandson, Jason.  This story was one of the first stories grandpa Tony shared with me during our very first meeting in California in the summer of 2006.  It was so endearing and—as I eventually learned—very rare to see this generous, strong, hardworking, man’s man, do-it yourselfer, war veteran (US Army Medic), cowboy’s stiff demeanor, become reshaped and overwhelmed with joy and pride and happiness, smiling with such ease.  —To me, grandpa was another powerful reminder of that generation of grandparents and great grandparents who did so much to ensure their children and grandchildren would grew up in a world that was safe, fair, welcoming and full of innocence, hope & wonder. I adopted grandpa, whether he wanted me to or not.  He was the only grandfather I would ever know, since my own grandfathers had passed-away before I was born.

Grandpa Tony told about the nights when he and a friend would take little Jason and his older brother George out on moonless nights into the rice field canals of Sacramento Valley to go frog catching. The frog catching expeditions operated out of a small aluminum single-motor fishing boat.  Jason and his older brother George were not yet 10 years old being brought on these adventures.  As grandpa described, Jason wasn’t too eager to grab frogs out of the canal water.  Jason was afraid of them.

A typical frog catching expedition was just a job to an adult, but to a child under 10 years old, it was an adventure.  The motorboat operator and other passengers wore headlamps, each wired to the same large battery located in the middle of the boat.  The catcher, one of the two boys, was in ready-position at the very front of the boat.  The catcher didn’t use a headlamp, because the light from it would scare the frogs away and the weight of it, could cause him to lose balance and fall into the water, potentially getting him electrocuted.  Both the boatman and the catcher would spot the frog eyes peering just above the waterline. Small marbleize gold and black irises reflected the dim passenger headlamp light. The boatman would then whistle the confirmation and cue that frogs were ahead, cut the motor, and drift the boat in the direction of the unsuspecting frogs.

The sound of the boat’s wake, its rippling water, could be heard under a chorus of frogs, crickets, and other critters echoing into the darkness.   Moonless nights offered no comfort to the frogcatcher, there was no glimpse of outline of anything. No silhouette of the farm houses, barns or beautiful mountain range in the distance. The only comfort to be found by the frogcatcher was in the palms of his hands gripping the cool aluminum boat rail, the smell of roots in muddy water, and encouraging voices from behind. Certainly no comfort was found peering directly into glowing curious frog eyes.

When it was Jason’s turn to catch frogs, grandpa encouraged him to grab the frogs. But Jason just couldn’t bring himself to grab and grip the alienlike amphibians from the water. Sadly Jason was unsuccessful his first night out frog catching.  He went home, frog-less.  Grandpa Tony did not like seeing his grandson defeated.  Grandpa wanted to see his grandson succeed. So for their next frog catching adventure, grandpa decided to give Jason a small live frog to play with during the afternoon leading up to the night of frog catching. Jason played with his new frog friend and got used to grabbing him, holding him in his hands, touching his frog head, flippers and bumpy back in the safety and warmth of the afternoon sun.

The part of the story that made grandpa laugh is the fact that his own idea to get Jason to succeed actually worked. Said in a somewhat surprised manner, the pitch of his voice rising with delight in each statement, “At night, when Jason got to the front of the boat his whole little body was dangling over and he’d see a frog and his little hands would grab ‘em and catch ‘em.” He continued “When he’d hesitate, I’d tell him.  Just… Go on n’ grab ‘em! Just grab ‘em!” he laughed.  “By the end of the night he was an expert.  He was no longer afraid of ’em.”  This memory evoked a sense of pride that could be seen in grandpa’s eyes. Through his surfacing emotion, I could envision my husband as a seven year old little boy, afraid in the darkness, in an unfamiliar place where no confidence could be found, except in the support, encouragement and wisdom of his loving grandpa.

Whenever I heard that story, I’d immediately think of Mark Twain, and yet to be discovered American ideals.  It is as if by design, we Americans are followers of fool-hearty, lofty dreams that are only found far and away in distant evaporating clouds.  Yet, onward we go running into a vast unknown where we grasp and grab, we try, we learn– sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding. We repeat this with every endeavor, every dream, over and over again.  We explore and we discover something new in ourselves, overcoming our fears as we hold onto our dreams and go after our goals… or frogs.  To quote grandpa Tony on overcoming fear, “Just go on n’grab ‘em!”

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