The work of Mike Varley

Mike Varley 2020

March 19th, 2020

Five and a half years can go by pretty fast, can’t it? It’s not a lack of content that has kept me from updating the site, but rather a diversification of effort.

Back in November of 2013 I began a job at the NY branch of video game developer Avalanche Studios. During that time we produced two AAA video games – Just Cause 3 and Just Cause 4.

A screen I took for JC3. This ended up in Game Informer, which I subscribed to as a kid.

My responsibilities were unique to each project. On JC3, I started out in screenshots and video capture, which means I helped generate all the content for magazines, conferences, YouTube advertisement and in-game menus. I also did a fair share of writing for the project and was credited accordingly.

1960’s inspired JC4 Promo Poster.

Towards the end of JC3 and fully on JC4 I transitioned to the Production department. My responsibility was that of Outsource Manager, managing all the external relationships necessary to ship the game. This included Concepting, Characters, Vehicles, Weapons, Environment Art, Animation, Audio, Cinematics, Contractors, Music Licensing, and much more. I learned the legal side, the budget side, the pipeline side and the soft skills side. I couldn’t have asked for a better environment to learn how to create at a global scale. The experience I gained at Avalanche will stay with me my entire life.

Despite my busy work hours, I did manage to keep up on the personal creative ambitions. I’ve continued to make a mask a year for Halloween and am approaching my 10th year at the practice. You can find a gallery of them here.

In 2015, a group of friends and I developed a sketch comedy group called “Good Clean F—.” The show ran two seasons of sketches and ended up appearing in seven different festivals. You can view the sketches at the corresponding YouTube page.

Following the sketch show and deep into Just Cause production support, I wanted a creative project that involved total autonomy and no obligation to be anything beyond itself. This led to “The Love Method,” a feature-length script I wrote over the course of a year+ during weekends and night hours at Avalanche. I told no one except my partner Jessi about the script as it was being written, not wanting to compromise its true purpose – a creative exercise free from the burden of expectation. It exists now in a sharable for for anyone who’d like to read it, along with a shorter look book version. Reach out if you’re interested in learning more.

(An update after nearly completing the below)

This brings us to the present day. As the beginning of this posts suggests, I am no longer affiliated with Avalanche as of a week ago. I’ve left to once again pursue more independent ventures, this time joined by my partner Jessi Highet. As of tomorrow, we begin “2020: Total Clarity,” a multi-disciplinary art project with a focus on New York City and human endurance. Its aims are too elaborate for this post, but you can read all the details at

In its nearly 15 years, this site has gone from slick blog to outdated website to mid-2000’s time capsule. I don’t have nearly as much hair as that top left icon indicates and broken plug-ins litter the site. But for the time being we’ll keep this place as is. There’s still a lot of good content for the curious, and it matches my general affinity for all that is old and musty.

For everything cutting edge, check out Highley Varlet on Instagram and YouTube. Thanks for taking the time and catch up in a few more years.



The Quickie Crest Film Fest – Featuring Brunch: The Movie

August 4th, 2014

Thursday, August 14th is not just the final summer screening of “Brunch: The Movie” – it’s also the first ever “Quickie Crest Film Fest,” a celebration of local short short film talent at the esteemed Crest Hardware in Williamsburg.  We’ve been putting together the fest all summer – check out the trailer for all the short films:


Admission is $10 dollars with free drinks provided by Angry Orchard, Rebel IPA and El Buho Mezcal.  Check out the Facebook invite here!

Brunch: The Movie – This Saturday at Matt Torrey’s Brunch Edition

July 24th, 2014

Hey all,

This Saturday, July 26th will be the next chapter of the Brunch: Movie summer tour at Matt Torrey’s.  Join us for FREE brunch food and Mimosa’s at 2 PM in Bushwick.  Go to the facebook invite for all the details.


“Brunch” – A Movie about Hipsters

June 24th, 2014

Check out this video from the premiere of “Brunch: The Movie” back in March, in anticipation of our next screening June 27th!


Brunch: The Movie Summer Tour!

June 17th, 2014

Hey all,

This summer, Brunch: the Movie will be playing at venues all across the city.  Check out our facebook page for all the details.



Mike Varley reads “Solomon Stoddard and the Glimpse of Destiny” – The AD Reading Series

June 10th, 2014

Brendan Kiely reads from “The Gospel of Winter” – The AD Reading Series

May 27th, 2014

Jen Degregorio reads select poetry – The AD Reading Series

May 20th, 2014

Arianna Rebollini reads “Mount Defiance at Starvation Ridge” – The AD Reading Series

May 13th, 2014

Mike Varley Plain Dealer: Goals and Accomplishments, 29-30

May 6th, 2014

So it’s May 6th and it’s time for my annual birthday review…three months late.  Crazy how this newsletter has evolved since I began it eight years ago as I left college.  What started as a quarterly update turned gradually into yearly intentions, and not it’s a struggle just to keep that afloat.  Entropy is crazy persistent, but the destruction of old habits opens up space for new ones.  I have so many habits these days it’s hard to breathe straight, but all of them are well-intentioned and I hope I can keep perspective.

I’m thirty now.  I can say I’ve spent ten years pursuing creativity in earnest.  I’ve learned so much and still feel humility at my narrow scope of understanding.  I think that’s where you need to be to get somewhere good.
I wonder if this creation will continue.  I could see s way to make it stop now without leaving me devastated.  That might be the age and a changing brain, or it could just be hitting the cap of creative experience.  The momentum is too powerful to stop presently, however, and it’s impossible to forecast what form the pattern interrupt will take.
The city is not especially hospitable to awareness.  For those that don’t know, I left the nursing home to work at a video game company, and now I live here all the time.  I go from job to personal project and back again with little reflection built in.  I hope keeping the course generally positive will protect me from the dangers of such wanton auto-piloting.
Anyway, let’s do this!  A review of 29’s goals and milestones for the new decade:

Goals for 29 Review

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