Twenty-Year-old Brett Leonard hightailed it out of Ohio in the spring of 1982. He had $243 in his pocket and a Chevy Nova with no reverse. That would be fine -- he wasn't looking to go backward.
Leonard landed in Santa Cruz, California; he was ready to make movies but wasn't ready for Los Angeles. This was the right decision. Before too long, Leonard found himself surrounded by "the digitati of northern California." Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and other influential Silicon Valley players routinely came up to party in Santa Cruz. Leonard tagged along, "spouting his ideas fairly arrogantly and stupidly" and determined to do something. He did.
Though focused on the exploding tech industry, Jobs and his cadre of entrepreneurial geniuses exposed Leonard to an emerging, parallel universe: cyber art. Cyberthon, a legendary "24-hour party where people were showing their wares from just the cyber-universe, both technically and creatively," was a bacchanalia of futurist thinking where Leonard picked up obsessions he still harbors today: computer-generated imagery and windows into virtual-reality world. With imagery in mainstream movies, a journey that would involve Scientology-sponsored commercials, ritualistic geometry, a legal battle with Stephen King, and in the end, his first big showbiz moment: The Lawnmower Man, a groundbreaking science-fiction movie that imagined virtual reality 25 years before anyone watched 360-videos through a home-use headsets.