The years I was involved with BULLETT [2010-2014] held the most exhilarating and challenging experiences of my life. Over 4 years, I transformed from a quirky vagabond boy living out of his car on dollar slices of pizza into a young man with the confidence and skills to execute his vision for any dream.
I was interning at another publication with Aimee O’Neill when our boss Erin Ralph suggested we create our own magazine—at the time I had nothing to lose and felt a calling to my destiny. I began designing drafts for the first issue on Photoshop without knowing if it would ever be printed. Yet BULLETT came to life thanks to the persistence of my fellow co-founders Sah D’Simone and Idil Tabanca.
I’ll never forget the first meeting we had on St. Patrick’s day in 2010 at the townhouse on 56th street. I was 22 and practically a kid at the time. We were brainstorming names and I voted against BULLETT. I rolled my eyes, but it was too late. On that day we formed a rebellious team with infinite potential—we faked it until we made it.
Our main mission with BULLETT was to harbor creative potential in a post-digital world, building a cultural manuscript of our time. It was a disruptive platform aimed to document a movement of underdogs, industry upcomers and legends. We felt something was missing on newsstands and realized the best way to disrupt a market was to stay true to our vision. There was a monotony in American publications and we wanted to break free with something original, something unpredictable.
The theme choice of each issue was crucial in helping to tell a cohesive visual story. For each theme, we would all collect images and I would lay out a 200 page mood board, obsessing over finding the perfect images that expressed whatever crazy concept we could imagine.
I was called JO, orschlandoo, lil genius, hall of fame James, and so many other names for the alter personalities that would appear when working all nighters into delirium. We called each other Persephone when we couldn’t agree on selects, Sah became Tanya when feeling a bit feisty. During those all-nighters he would write to-do lists on my arms with a magic marker – there was nothing more satisfying than crossing off items so we could finally go home and get sleep. To blow off steam, we would play bumper cars with office chairs at 4am. I think the oldest person on the team was 25 at the time.
We always found inspiration in the unexpected. I once remember asking Michael Cera which 3 athletes he would like to attend his photoshoot. Within an hour, my interns were printing cardboard cut-outs of Michael Jordan, Björn Borg and Kobe Bryant at school. There was always some obscure strange prop I would insist on being absolutely necessary. I’ve had so many interns over the years I would like to thank for all of my bizarre tasks.
BULLETT’s been through not one, but two hurricanes and a burglary. We were driving upstate for a shoot when hurricane Irene began to swell. I had built sets around my childhood home the weekend before. As I was driving a 16 passenger van with the whole team I get a call from my mom, “You‘ll never make it here.” I ignored her warning and kept driving until we hit the closed bridge, but as always we made it work.
Hurricane Sandy happened to come during the week we were closing our surreal issue. Even though there was a foot of water in the downstairs hallway of my apartment building in Greenpoint, I was the only one with power. Morey Talmor, our design director was brave enough to trek across the Williamsburg bridge into the dark city where our hard drives lay cold. Morey MacGyvered his way through the freight elevator with Brady Gunnell and we designed the rest of the issue on my kitchen table.
Somehow, making photo cakes became a tradition in the BULLETT office. Every few weeks a head would pop into my office to warn of a code-cake situation and I would stop everything to spend 20 minutes Photoshopping something ridiculous. The best surprise was when my head was Photoshopped onto a mood collage I had just left on the server.
I hardly ever saw anyone from the real world outside our 27th street office or the hundreds of productions we produced. Yet it didn’t feel like a job, we were a family composed of unique pieces of a strange puzzle that only made sense when conjoined.
Having influenced a generation with my art and creative direction was an honor. It’s heart-breaking that BULLETT could no longer be sustained, but our family and memories will always remain. Everything we learned led us down our own unique paths. If I wasn’t personally affected by the “death of print,” I would never have taken the risks to pioneer and experiment with the boundaries of what digital media is today.
While the BULLETT iPad app was a Webby award winning phenomenon — it was still ahead of its time. Three years later, the format of Snapchat news started to become eerily similar. Unfortunately the content was not meant to be digested, just rapidly consumed. My curiosity in immersive media has lead me on a new journey creating web, virtual reality and gaming experiences and I couldn’t be more excited about what’s next 🙂
-James Orlando, Creative Director at Hyper.Zone
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