It was an overcast tuesday colored with a cold, grey tint covering the sky. With soft window light showering the room I watched my brother literally breath his last on this earth. Laying on his hospital death bed, Jordan’s head was slightly turned to the right. His chest raised as his body tried to keep living, his gasp for air was heard in my heart. I shut his laptop, leaned up in my chair and with fear in my heart I said, “Mom…” As my mom quickly turned to his aid, he tried to breath two more times. Trembling and helpless, I watched his last battle for breath. His chest never raised again. My brother, my hero, my closest friend, my fellow warrior in this battle of life, dead. Sweet, gentle, kind-hearted Jordan, gone. Seventeen years of a relationship like almost twins, over.
The ice-cold, bone-chilling darkness that cloaked my heart was utterly horrifying. My mom ran out to get a nurse as my dad began to cry loudly. I watched three nurses come in and check for signs of life. Nothing. They’d cared for him nearly a year, and now these nurses cried as they checked for his heartbeat. They knew and I knew. The big-dog doctor came in to double-check and sure enough, he nodded in agreement with the nurses. He tried to close Jordan’s eyes but they wouldn’t. He tried again and they resisted again. He gave up politely and awkwardly as I watched his every move.
Once everyone finally left the room, I shut the door. I walked over to Jordan’s bed, unsure of everything. I looked at his once joyful face, finding nothing but the cold shell that once housed my brothers heart. I held his lifeless right hand as I whispered bits of my broken heart. Shocked and empty, I shared my last moments with my brother. My mom called my brother Jeff to tell him the “news”. (He couldn’t be at the hospital because he was sick that day. When someone has cancer, you can’t be around them if you have the most common of colds.) I could hear Jeff’s cries through the phone.
I remember calling our friends back in Palm Bay, Florida. Coach Grimes, Casey, Jared, Tom and Joe. One by one, I uttered words I don’t ever want to say again. I remember Joe almost dropping the phone as the words “Oh… shit” passed his lips. His mom nervously called for him in the background and it sounded like the phone hit the floor. That was the end of our phone call. In silence, I sat in one of the ugly aqua green chairs in the hallway of the 6th floor in the children’s cancer ward wing. I wanted to send every one of those chairs blasting through a window.
That was five years ago. Tuesday, August 19th, around 3:10 in the afternoon.
Before you fade to black, make sure you sing the fluttering, musical number of the airplane making its way onto the pallet. Don’t forget to wipe their mouth, silly. Make sure they’re fat and happy! When this deed is done, you can then fade to black. And by fade to black I mean fade to white, because it’s happier. The happy ending. The dishonest, happy ending.
We don’t deal well with honesty. We don’t deal well with blunt truth. We don’t deal well with the harsh realities of this world. We don’t deal well with death and frankly, we don’t deal well with the truth. We want closure, but life doesn’t always grant us that. So we trade truth for selfish closure. We’d rather not know what really happens. We want the good news first and the bad news never. We want joyous hymns as the unathletic kid hits the game-winning shot from half court.
I don’t relate to dishonesty. I connect to the broken, honest scenes, written by people who’ve experienced life as is.
I want to be transparent and honest about the most radically tragic day of my life. I’m not saying we should always focus on the dead bee on the ground instead of the sunflower standing above it. But sometimes we need to focus on the dead bee because it’s a part of the world the flower lives in. Maybe it gave it’s life for the flower? Sometimes the best lessons we can learn in life is by how not to do something. By showing an opposite, I don’t necessarily need to see the other side of the coin to understand the coin, itself. I’ve seen what it can become when in the wrong hands, I can imagine the coin on the other end of the spectrum.
When people ask me, “Are you a Christian filmmaker?” I politely shake my head in a “no.” like fashion. I’m sure as a kid, you grew up wanting to be a “Christian” cheerleader, or a Christian golfer, a Christian firefighter, or even a Christian basketball player? No. I’m just a filmmaker who happens to love Jesus. What’s in my heart will come through in my scripts. I have to make sure my heart is in the place it needs to be when I write so that truth comes through. Pain is real, death is real and thankfully, Jesus is too. I’m all about a “happy” ending, if it ends truthfully. Sometimes the truth sucks. Sometimes it hurts.
I love Jesus and I’ll claim His name until I die but the movies I make won’t be at your local “Christian” bookstore. Because a title card slapped on the end with an out-of-context Bible verse isn’t a good ending. Because hope isn’t always dressed in fickle happiness; sometimes, it can seem like a desert. A desert that may look like an endless journey into death but instead, it’s a long, scary path to life.
I’m excited to finally release my latest short, “no. 14″. This film was made with no budget, it was all out of pocket, shot in a day and a half.
L 16-35mm 2.8, L 85mm 1.2, 50mm 1.4
edited in Adobe Premiere CS6
colored in Davinci Resolve
I was blessed to have many talented hands on this project in every facet. From my friend Jake Sidwell composing the music, to Jordan Kelley doing the makeup, to Brett Driver and Michael Gentilini, Jr working the camera, to Olan Rogers and O’Ryan McEntire making the posters, to Chris Brank lending his gear for Taylor Wooten to rock the audio, to my brother Jeff acting and fighting beside me, to Isaiah Stratton “drowning” in a gross pond, to Brent Christy killing it, to Doug Young lending his studio for the location, to Corrie Danieley talking me through my character, to Nico Sexton lending his faithful assistance and to all the people who advised my script and gave me feedback. I couldn’t have made this without you.
In anything that relates to hit-men, we see the money, the women and the cars, but what we don’t see is the pain that’s left at the end of the day. We see the external outcomes, we don’t get to see the internal issues. James Bond is a great example, along with Jason Statham. At the end of the day, the only company these guys have left are STD’s and blood money. The goal with my character Uriah was to give a glimpse into his internal struggle with his lifestyle.
In short, to become a better filmmaker. I’ve always been interested in stunt work and fight choreography but I’ve never been able to focus on those two things in one sitting.
I’m not in front of the camera if I can help it and that’s for good reason. Writing and directing is what I want to do for the rest of my life, with some stunt work on the side. If you do see me in front of the camera, it’s probably for physical roles or for stunt sake, “no. 14″ fell into both categories. Back in August when I pitched this idea to a few close friends, I told them that I didn’t want to look like me and that I may grow my beard out, starting in October and maybe getting some sort of haircut. My goal was to not look like Justin Robinson. A brilliant friend of mine, Ryan Hendrick said, “Start now.” After 5 months, my puberty traveled from Iraq to my face, resulting in the beard.
(This is a still from my first ever short film, “Battle at the Tilman” summer 2006.)
I have no training whatsoever with stunt work or fighting. The only experience I have is spending hours upon hours of fake fighting with my brother Jordan. Most fight scenes in movies are the most unrealistic things you’ll ever see. I am aware of line between realism and exaggerating the fighting to look good on film. For example, foreign martial arts movies shoot with wide angle lenses to show all of the action because the talent can do the action or you have the American movies with tight/shaky camera work to hide the action because the talent can even throw a decent looking jab. Some martial arts movies turn into a huge dance routine or the Jason Bourne camera work just gives people a headache. I wanted to try and find a happy medium. Fight scenes are all about camera work (ANGLES ARE EVERYTHING.) Most real fights aren’t pretty, they obviously aren’t choreographed, and they usually go to the ground, resulting in some ground and pound action. If you’ve ever witnessed a real KO or a UFC knockout, you know that the face can only take a limited amount of straight blows to the jaw, usually resulting in contorted bodies and bloody faces. Realistically, fights don’t last very long, unless someone was on drugs, which is why I wanted this fight to last about 30-40 seconds.
With every film I make, I want to get better. This was my attempt.
Thanks for watching. I really appreciate it.
Poster by Olan Rogers
Brilliant behind the scenes stills by Michael Gibbons
Apart from my own attempts at screenwriting, this is what I do in my “downtime” on pretty much a 24-7 daily basis. I study films, watch interviews, listen to soundtracks, re-watch No Country For Old Men, study screenshots and read scripts. Sleep isn’t at the top of the food chain for me.
“The Vikings” show is pretty sick. A very unique take and style on the vikings. It’s a little strange at times but what I dig about it is the coloring, genre, costumes, locations, floki, music, acting and freaking Ragnar’s mohawk. Medieval-ish stuff is one of my favorite genres of all time.
I’ve also been studying some Wes Anderson films as of late (Thanks, Gunner!) For some of them, it’s my first watch. If you’ve seen any of his work, you know how unique and somewhat weird his style is. The funny thing is, it usually works. I do know that some people either hate or love his films but I find myself learning from his strengths and weaknesses. 3 things I love about Wes Anderson: 1) His stories usually have some aspect of family, filled with broken people and family issues. 2) How he tells his story with his camera. Wide angle, strange framing and long jib shots. 3) His musical choices. His movies are filled with quirky songs from all genres. I find myself writing to playlists of music from his movies on spotify.
Short films that have inspired me lately:
“Cargo” – This little story reveals the deep love of a father in the midst of hellish conditions.
I got the awesome opportunity to work on a project produced by Elevation church. “The Fatal Place” had a killer crew, led by our director, Jared Hogan, Steven Lester – first AD, Brent Christy – gaffer/key grip, Jeremiah Clever – audio and our wonderful producer, Ashley Hollingsworth. I got to be the first AC, working with the red epic and zeiss glass/super speeds generation one. Steven Lester taught me a lot about the ins and outs of being a first AC. He was basically my teacher for 3 days in the deserts of New Mexico. Class was good and I didn’t fail the class, thankfully. I’m grateful for opportunities like these.
i went to new york for the first time on march 11th, 2013. i was working for my good friend, chris brank on a shoot in millburn, new jersey. before the shoot started, we had some down time to spend in new york. like thousands of others, we ventured through the city with nothing more than excited hearts. after a slice of greasy, new york “za”(pizza), we made our way around the city that never sleeps. we were about 100 feet from the entrance of central park and it was then, in the midst of a crowd in a crosswalk, i made eye contact with shia lebeouf. watch the rest of the story in this video by my friend michael gibbons. check out his site here: http://michaelgibbonsmedia.com
granted, shia labeouf is one of my favorite actors and, in my opinion, a very underrated one at that. the dude always delivers! that being said, i never want to treat people in the industry with a paparazzi type welcome. no one likes that, especially shia. paparazzi doesn’t even let him enjoy his coffee at starbucks without a photoshoot. when i saw him, he could tell i knew who he was. josh, michael, chris and i stopped in our tracks and they looked at me with curiosity, “what are you gonna do?”. like any good tourist, we all had our cameras in hand, like a cowboy with his gun. i handed josh the camera because i knew if i approached shia with a camera, it would attract attention and i’d look like a papa with a razzi. (most paparazzi dudes don’t look like your average, white, american. i look a little darker than your average cracker.) there’s certain times where you shouldn’t approach someone ‘famous,’ but if you do, don’t fangirl them. they’re real people too, they pee just like we do. they have jobs, and in this case, shia’s really good at his. anybody can spot a person with an agenda, especially selfish agendas. now back to the issue at hand. he had his hood on and he was walking fast. i had no idea what i was gonna say but i just wanted to encourage him somehow. i truly just wanted him to know that i care about him, apart from movies.
after catching up with him, i called his name, he turned and took off his hoodie and said, “what’s up man?” as he said that, he saw chris about 20 feet behind me with a (C100) camera over his shoulder. he quickly pointed at chris and went into defense mode with, “i don’t know who you are!”. i chimed in with, “he’s with me.” which cooled him down and chris pointed to his phone, reassuring shia that we weren’t the razzi. i told shia that his audition video for the orphans play was awesome. i felt like that got his attention because he had just uploaded it to vimeo about 3 weeks before. (thanks isaiah stratton. shia’s hour long auditon video for the play orphans: https://vimeo.com/58326220) he humbly responded with. “thanks man. i appreciate that.”. after that, he grabbed my hand in rocky balboa fashion and said let’s grab a photo real quick before this causes any attention. i never planned on getting a picture but the quick gunslinger that chris brank is, had his phone ready and took that moment in time and made it into one of those cool picture things. with a quick handshake and a request for him to scream, “OPTIMUS!” we parted ways. (i’m kidding, i didn’t ask that.)
it was really cool to meet shia but my heart is always heavy for people in the industry. they go through a lot of bull. at the end of the day, credits don’t matter, people do. they’re toyed with, stalked, and used to no end. granted, only my toes are wet in the industry that is film but what i’ve seen is, most of those types of people need solid, loving friends, not more fans. how many people ask for things from those guys, instead of truly asking how they are. your agenda will be known, they can see right through the crap. make your agenda honorable. give with your life, don’t take. i’m here on this earth to love Jesus and love people. i hope and pray that i’ll always go against the grain and love those guys instead of trying to use them for my own, selfish sake.
the crew – josh weir, chris brank, yours truly and the very scottish michael gibbons
here’s the trailer to a new film by my friend, jared hogan. i got to help produce this short in january of this year. the adventure of shooting this brought us from charlotte to kentucky, indiana, chicago, all the way to wisconsin. shot on the C300.
I’ve jotted these words down with hopes of encouraging aspiring filmmakers. I’m no seasoned veteran in the industry but I have gotten my toes wet. This subject is vast and my words can only touch the surface. As random and jumbled as these words may be, I hope a streak of light shines from them. Thank you for reading.
ACT I – INSECURITY FEST.
Hi. My name is Justin Robinson and ever since 2006, I have passionately pursued the arena of filmmaking. In my little experience, I’ve been able to cross paths with many talented filmmakers of all shapes and sizes. One thing I’ve noticed with a lot of them is a thing called insecurity. Insecurity is a lifelong, terminal disease that we all suffer from, some don’t fight it as well as others. Insecurity breeds jealousy and jealously breeds a person no one wants to be around. Bitterness is jealously on steroids or crack and that’s a combo no one wants to order. Let me break it down for you. *begins break dancing* After the initial assault of this combo, it leaves one battered and jaded. I understand why, that’s why I’m writing this.
Let me tell you a secret. A girl who constantly swims in a pool of insecurity is a whirlpool of pain for everyone. A girl who is secure with herself is a very attractive thing. A healthy level of confidence in one’s self is a beautiful thing, especially in women. Granted, the difference between confidence and pride are as drastic as Twilight and a good movie. This topic of insecure filmmakers can be translated into artists in general but stay with me. If you’re an aspiring filmmaker, like me, there is one thing you should know: know that you’re not good. If you think the opposite, you’ve already lost. I’m not saying that you should constantly doubt your work but what I’m saying is don’t treat your project(s) like it was your newborn baby. Everyone thinks their baby is the most beautiful thing ever. If people are honest, some babies look like aliens from a bad syfy movie.
ACT II – THE HEART.
The hidden philosophy of insecurity is hating any movie that doesn’t have your name on it. I’ve seen some guys verbally trash a video and then months later, they’re stealing the very techniques from the video they trashed. Plagiarism is rampant with insecure filmmakers. The posture of a jealous filmmaker folds his arms, rather than opening them to lend a hand. “Credits are everything, praise is everything, I am everything.” This is the “me-monster” syndrome. I’m sure you’ve seen or smelled this syndrome at some point. See Brian Regan’s genius bit about me-monsters: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NiUsfEkVRDY
“Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man.” – C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity, p. 163). Filmmakers are so quick to find the fault in others (myself included) instead of finding the good, like our mothers taught us. Obviously, filmmaking isn’t a place for people who don’t like getting their feelings hurt, those need to be left at the door. Grow some thick skin and wear a cup. There’s not a problem with criticism on someone’s project but there is a problem if the heart’s intent is to destroy. It’s a lot easier to hate than help. Be harder on yourself than other people. Don’t just take shots at people just because you have ammo. Side note; credibility is everything. If you try and give non-constructive criticism on anything, make sure your resume’ isn’t naked. Before telling someone their movie sucks, make sure your work doesn’t amount to a pile of cinematic dog crap.
If you’ve ever watched a leech, you know that they suck.. I don’t know anyone who claims a leech as their favorite animal but we can all take life lessons from leeches. Don’t try to suck the life out of people, straws are for milkshakes, not for careers. “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth, And put perverse lips far from you.” – Proverbs 4:23-24.
ACT II.V – YOUR TIME WILL COME.
If you make quality films, people will attack you. They will talk about you. They will bash you. They will try to destroy your character. There will be ‘friends’ of yours who hear this rhetoric and do nothing to protect you. To be frank, not a lot of guys have any balls. Having said that, a loyal friend goes a long way. You need a person that you can stand next to and honestly say, “_______ will not screw me over”. If your face is on Youtube or in a theater, you’re now on the pedestal of society. That’s just how it is. Even if it was a crappy video, people will subconsciously put you on the list of famous people. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with people giving someone praise, it’s up to you in how you handle that praise. Uncle Ben couldn’t have said it better, “With great power comes great responsibility”. The best thing you can is to receive it and deflect it. Don’t search for it, don’t let it be your appetite. God created the world, just because you made a movie doesn’t mean you’re a hotshot. Some may hate you for your ‘fame’ and some may even hate you because you get more Facebook likes than they do. That’s how insecure our society is. Some dudes are so insecure that they actually delete people they follow on Twitter so the ratio of following to followers is impressive. Most filmmakers have more jealously than they do originality. Credits, oh, credits. I’ve seen people get red in the face from just seeing my name in the credits… of my own movie. I’m sure some guy got mad at Picasso for putting his name on his paintings. Don’t be that guy. Many people won’t remember credits anyway but I do believe that people will remember a meaningful conversation they had in the hallway of school or over a cup of joe. Our culture breeds consumers, go against the grain and produce something. I don’t mean in the film sense, contribute a helping hand, share some love and service to others. People should be priority, not ourselves.
When the slander happens, you should lovingly confront the person and share an honest conversation together as best you can but sometimes they can be so high on jealously that it’s impossible to talk. Love them as best you can but don’t let them walk over you, especially if the issue at hand is their jealously. Jealousy/bitterness runs rampant like a tornado leaving destruction behind. “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.” – Matthew 18:15. Not all endings are happy but thankfully, some friendships can be restored. That should be the goal but there should be a line. If someone hurts my family, I could forgive them but I will never let them near my family again. I believe that a line that needs to be drawn because people can be very smart to obtain their selfish goals. Too many friendships are damaged or even broken because of someone’s bitter heart. “Pride is competitive by its very nature: that is why it does on and on. If I am a proud man, then, as long as there is one man in the whole world more powerful, or richer, or cleverer than I, he is my rival and my enemy.” – C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity, p. 164). You can’t prevent the actions of other people. Just keep yours in check. Treat everyone the same.
ACT III – LEGACY.
Fast forward to the end of your life. What do you want to be known for? What do you want your legacy to be? How do you want to be remembered? This summer, I had the opportunity to work on a shoot in Orlando, FL for Steven Lester (video producer at Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC). We had a team of 9 cinematographers, all top notch guys to work with. One of them was a gaffer/lighting technician/cinematographer who graduated from Full Sail University. This guy knows his stuff! I have a deep hunger for learning anything in the film world so I just asked if I could shadow him. One thing that set apart him from many was not only his knowledge but it was his character. I’m not a gaffer by any means and he’s years ahead of me in all technical realms but he didn’t treat me like it, that’s the catch. He graciously taught me and let me tag along like a young kid with his father at work. He shared his knowledge without restraint and he wasn’t the mom who won’t share the family recipe. He easily could’ve treated me like a typical PA-type role, but he didn’t. That’s just a small glimpse into his character and apart from his tight resume, that’s what I’ll remember about him. That’s how I want to be remembered. How will you be remembered?
TheChrisBurch. Who is that? I’m glad you asked, I’d love to tell you. Chris Burch is a man of many talents, one of those being his knack for comedy. In short, he’s funny, that’s what I’m trying to say. If you’ll let me finish, I’ll tell you how I was able to convince him to be in some of my videos. The first time I knew of his existence was through a video that my friend Chris Brank made, “What Are You Doing?” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vEcmNNEBIU) Before the video played, Brank told me that this kid was funny and boy was he right. After watching the video, I knew I had to meet this dude. With mutual friends such as Chris Brank and Ryan Hendrick, our divine introduction followed and it was love at first laugh. If I made a graph to show you how much laughter was had by us 4 during any given hang out session, the graph would be off the charts. (Pun intended.)
Our friendship blossomed like a butterfly going through puberty. I expressed my desire to cast him in some of my videos and he welcomed it with open arms. My heart for filmmaking is definitely on the dramatic side but I do love writing comedy sketches in between serious projects. I’ve heard it said that directing is 80% casting and if that’s so I’ll keep casting Chris. One of my favorite things about writing and directing is that I get the opportunity to share people’s talents through film. Jamie Costa was one of the first, key ingredients to the recipe of sharing. To see Mr. Costa in action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GdpvqAkt048. With Chris, I’m like the dad with a super athletic son who dominates in sports and I just watch and cheer. I wrote a very random sketch in one of my classes during my spring 2012 semester and after I gave the script a bath, I brought it before him and and my friend Addi Musen (Addi is the funniest girl I know.) I write scripts a lot but I trash more of them than I use but once I heard them read the lines, I was ready to rock. That sketch came to life in the form of “Date Night” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DynRq-NsMlw
Apart from being in videos and just all around comedy, Chris has an awesome heart for God and for people. One of the ways he shows love for people is lightening their load with laughter. He has a huge heart to serve, leaving his bias and agenda behind. THAT’S VERY RARE ON A FILM SET. Some people have things happen in their lives to where it makes them grow up in a drastic amount of time, Burch is one of those people. I know God has blessed Chris with the gift of a Will Ferrell like feel for comedy. I mean he could literally walk around a funeral home and make people die of laughter. I’m not a comedy sketch writing genius by any means and I know I have a million things to learn but I sometimes have the ability to spot bad ideas. I’ve been apart of a few unplanned pitch sessions in my day BUT Chris has actually cooked up some above average ideas. One of those being the last sketch we did “halftime” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2Wn6hN7T_s
We made a few sketches over the summer and after he finished his 2-year degree from Spartanburg Methodist College, he then wanted to pursue a degree from North Greenville University. Since his commute to work and school would be so drastic, he needed a place to stay. I always try to be very intentional with my friends in how I can be the best friend I can be and I vividly remember God telling me, “This is how you can be the Gospel to him”. Apart from my brother Jordan, I’ve never had a roommate because I’ve always commuted to school. Living with the Chris Burch has been one of the funniest things ever. I’m sure you can imagine.
I write all of this because I wanted to share The Chris Burch with the world. He’s been a huge encouragement to me, not only with filmmaking, but in my pursuit trying to be the man God has called me to be. Here’s some videos of where you can watch him in action. Be sure to stalk him on Twitter, Instagram, and Halo –thechrisburch