Cory McAbee was born in Northern California as the youngest of three children. His father was an auto mechanic. His mother became a preschool teacher in later years. He spent his summers living with his grandparents in the Nevada desert. His grandfather was also an auto mechanic. His grandmother raised chickens.
McAbee's formal education ended with high school. The fact that he graduated was an act of charity. McAbee never read a book until he was in his mid-twenties.
McAbee ended his teen years living with his parents. Because he had never learned how to drive, he spent his days at home experimenting in painting and drawing. His outside influences in these fields were limited.
At the age of twenty, Cory McAbee met Bobby Lurie at the home of a mutual friend. Lurie and their mutual friend were planning to form a band. They invited McAbee to their band's first rehearsal. At the rehearsal it was discovered that none of the musician's knew any of the same material. The group "jammed" while McAbee stood holding a microphone. McAbee spent the next two weeks writing songs for the band. The band performed at clubs throughout California for eleven months until Bobby Lurie broke up the group because they were not improving, the music was terrible and Cory McAbee's overwhelming stage fright was an embarrassing thing to witness. Later that year, McAbee asked his parents to buy him an autoharp for his birthday. His father drove him to a music store and bought him one. McAbee taught himself how to play and began writing new songs.
Cory McAbee moved to San Fracisco where he was offered work as a doorman at a nightclub. For the next twelve years, McAbee worked as the head of security in bars, nightclubs and strip joints throughout San Francisco.
McAbee and Lurie became reacquainted in 1989 and formed the musical group, THE BILLY NAYER SHOW.
In 1990 McAbee completed the hand painted stills for his first animated short, "Billy Nayer." In 1991 McAbee and Lurie recorded the final audio track for the film and formed BNS PRODUCTIONS. The animated short "Billy Nayer" premiered in its final form at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival.
Over the next couple of years, McAbee wrote and directed short films including "The Ketchup and Mustard Man" and "The Man on the Moon." As a means of self-distribution, McAbee and Lurie developed a live musical perfomance that incorporated their short films. The show was called "The Billy Nayer Chronicles." It was presented at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival as the festival's first multi-media event.
After "The Billy Nayer Chronicles" had run its course, McAbee left his job and lost his apartment. He lived without a home for the following three years. During that period, McAbee compiled ideas for his first feature film musical, "The American Astronaut."
McAbee moved into a small apartment with a friend and took a job in a factory painting faces on mannequins. He wrote the first draft of "The American Astronaut" during this period. Within a year McAbee was laid off from his job, parted ways with his friend and took a room above the San Francisco bar The Hotel Utah. There, he met a friend who was managing a club two doors down who offered McAbee a job as his new head of security. During the three years that followed, McAbee storyboarded and rewrote "The American Astronaut." He also wrote songs for the BNS albums "The Villian That Love Built" and "Return to Brigadoon."
Eventually, McAbee moved to Chicago where he lived for two years.
Shortly after moving to Chicago, Lurie secured funds with co-producer Joshua Taylor for the production of "The American Astronaut." McAbee moved to Manhattan for nine months to work as the film's writer, director, actor, composer, musician and painter. "The American Astronaut" premiered at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival.
McAbee moved to Brooklyn, New York in the summer of 2001. The following years were spent touring with The Billy Nayer Show. Several musicians performed with the group during that period. Between tours, McAbee continued to write music and screenplays.
In December of 2006, McAbee was commissioned by the Sundance Film Festival to create a short film for mobile distribution. McAbee created a musical piece entitled "Reno." At its premiere in 2007, McAbee was given a mobile phone. He had never owned one before.
The film "Reno" became a favorite among operators worldwide. As a result McAbee was asked to speak about small screen films at technology coferences throughout the world. This exposure to new technologies inspired McAbee to write and design a feature film for screens of all sizes. In 2007 he wrote "Stingray Sam" with the intention of self-distribution on multiple platforms. "Stringray Sam" premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.
Cory McAbee will be a presenter at our October, 2012 symposium: Information, Space and Time: The Arts, Creativity and Learning in the 21st Century.