Part The First, in which we learn the origins of the Kinda Good Plan and the birth of legendary volleyball recruit, Danny Kinda.
Danny Kinda was born in Wisconsin in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and seventy-nine. With no boy’s volleyball in the region, our young hero elected to play on the women’s club team, the Wisconsin Waterfalls…
Okay, sorry. This is supposed to be the true account of the origins and history of Kinda Good. I promise to keep to the facts. Mostly.
I was once a part of a company named Kinda Good. During that time it was never completely clear what we were or what product we were selling. Today I’d say we were a volleyball entertainment and apparel company but that doesn’t encapsulate all we were working towards or believed ourselves to be. If you’re familiar with our work this article series will offer a nostalgic look back and behind the scenes of our videos and content. If you aren’t, this will be a treat.
Kinda Good did not start in a snowed in cabin in Wisconsin with an eight-year-old boy setting a volleyball until it wore a hole in his bedroom wall. It began in Hermosa Beach California with three dudes on a couch.
Ten years ago I was playing beach volleyball with AJ Mihalic and was hanging around with him and his roommate Dan Madden. We were sitting in their living room talking about doing some kind of project together. Over the course of my senior year in college, I had made a full-length action movie with some friends and most of the Cal State Northridge men’s volleyball team. It was called Viper.
AJ, Dan, and I talked about making a video together and I pitched three ideas I’d been playing with. One was about a guy who thought he had super powers but didn’t…but maybe he did? The second was about shopping cart detectives and the third was to record a fake volleyball recruiting video to send to my college coach as a joke. They did not care for the first two ideas.
College coaches get bombarded with recruiting videos that advertise the skills of college hopefuls. I had been in the office for a few of these sessions and seen videos of all levels. Some players send in game footage, others make highlight videos put to music. Others are more skill showcases, recording themselves in the gym doing hitting lines or setting to a target, etc. This seemed pretty interesting to me because in these controlled conditions you could manipulate the video to show yourself in a better light. Cutting out bad hits for example or slightly lowering the net. I had the idea of sending my college coach Jeff Campbell a video with an awkward player who’s recruit tape was littered with obvious cheats and bad filming (camera gets hit by errant serve and films wall for the entirety of the player’s serving exhibition).
This was the shell of the idea I brought to them. What we came up with as a team turned out much bigger.
That we made the first video at all was a testament to the power of collaboration. If it had just been me, the idea would have remained on that couch and I would have moved onto other never-to-be-filmed ideas. AJ was the one who got things done. As much as we talked about funny ideas, AJ was the one to say, “We’re filming this tonight. I’ll call Scott Davenport at Dominguez Hills and get us gym time.”
AJ also had a video camera.
What Dan brought to that first video was the personality and star power. I wrote a script for the shoot that had most of the final dialogue we used but after a few bland readings, Dan decided to go in the opposite direction. Instead of a quiet, socially awkward player, he became a cocky hothead that was so assured of his gift any coach watching would be lucky to get him on their team. After the first few line readings with the new personality (AJ and I ruined the takes by laughing), we knew we had something good.
Before I came along, Dan and AJ had been G-Chatting back and forth potential names for a company. What the company was for wasn’t clearly defined, maybe a training meet-up for players maybe a sponsorship outlet for AJ. But the most fun part of creating a company (or a rock band) is coming up with a cool name. They were pitching name after name before Dan pitched a decent one and AJ responded:
AJ: That’s kinda good.
Dan: That’s it! That’s the name!
Dan: Kinda Good!
So we put the video under their company name, Kinda Good. The unnamed recruit became Danny Kinda and his teammate in the video became Aj Good.
We all brought ideas to the video and it was better because of it. Other than the character (who we would later question if Dan was really acting, as the line between Dan and Danny Kinda continued to blur) Dan also came up with the line, “Reasonable serves.” He liked his contribution so much he made it into a T-shirt with his face on it.
Over the next few days, I edited together the footage we shot using Dan’s desktop computer. They saw the video and thought it was funny but Dan had a lot of notes, mostly on cutting it down to make it shorter. I was living in Venice Beach and had to drive down to work on the video. Sometimes they weren’t there and I’d have to climb in their balcony to get to the computer. I showed them a copy, thinking, Okay, this might be a little better now. That was a fun video, I can’t wait to send it to Campbell. But Dan wasn’t done with his edits. Although Dan and I have similar tastes in what we like, we have very different work styles. Dan is a perfectionist while I’m happy to slap something halfway decent together and move on to the next project. Dan pushed me to keep making it .5% better but it was exhausting driving down to edit only to get another email asking me to tweak the timing of this clip a couple seconds or make the title font a little lower and I’d have to drive down, break into their apartment, and tweak it again and again. There was even talk of reshoots!
Having already given a DVD of the video to Northridge’s assistant coach Jeff Conover to put on Campbell’s desk, I was ready to be done. But even more than that, I wanted people to see it! So one night I put the most recent copy on my own YouTube page and shared it with my friends.
The next day Dan was sent a link to the video. A friend in Ireland had been forwarded the video and recognized Dan under the American flag bandanna and mustache. The video had already been viewed two thousand times. Dan freaked out. He and AJ were getting all kinds of publicity for a company and website that didn’t even exist yet. They had no product or inventory to sell. Dan made me take the video down until they could scramble something proper together. A few days later we put the video back up under Kinda Good’s YouTube page and spread the word.
The response to the video exceeded anything we could have predicted. It spread through the volleyball community as coaches and players forwarded it to each other, appreciating the spoof. But not everyone got the joke. Even with the video building in absurdity to the slow motion “Take My Breath Away” number at the end, some people thought it was serious. Including many YouTube commenters.
AJ, Dan, and I each had our favorite parts of the video—11ft line, reasonable serves, net drop, coach on one—and they kept changing the more we watched it. Even the poor quality of the video seemed to add to its authenticity. The video was blowing up. Kinda Good started getting emails from people all over the world who had found the video. We had something cool here and couldn’t simply move on to another project. Especially not one about guys going undercover as bums to retrieve stolen shopping carts. Danny Kinda was a hit and the volleyball world wanted more.
But we never could have predicted the national team would come calling.
To be continued…