the serial killer of filmmaking

scream mask

“I’m good at life.”

“I’m a good pastor.”

“I’m a good cashier.”

“I’m a good musician.”

“I’m a funny comedian.”

“I’m a really good filmmaker.”

All of these sentences would be atrociously annoying heard spoken, let alone, internally lived out. Polluting the world with the “good” stench that follows pride at its every move. It’s a smell that nauseously fills the air of filmmaking. It’s a swirling epidemic that has swept humanity since the devil slithered through Eden and right up to Adam and Eve with a menu of godly goodness. Even if you don’t believe in the Bible, I’m sure you still know the pride of which I speak — the rampant and treacherous valley many confuse for fickle praise. The valley many set up camp in, only to be swindled into buying a mirror that turns a blind eye to the truth. In fact, pride was the reason why Satan became Satan. From heaven to hell it took him.

“Pride, envy, avarice – these are the sparks that set aflame the hearts of men.” – Dante Alighieri

Pride is a disease we all suffer from; it eats away like a cancer. It usually comes in a deathly trio, accompanied by two other warped siblings — jealousy and insecurity, which usually results in massive amounts of animosity. Pride begets jealousy and jealousy begets insecurity and those three beget nothing good.  It’s the serial killer of filmmaking. I’ve seen it destroy and devour character, leaving nothing but burped-up bones and a jaded, spiteful skeleton of a person. It’s a hungry monster with reeking breath and all, feasting on your goodness. Don’t dare feed it.

cancer eating cell

These are words that I write myself daily, and even at times, preach.

In my 24 years of life on this earth, I’ve seen a lot of young, aspiring filmmakers wear the “good” stench like a cologne. Think of an overly potent musk from K-Mart that could wake the dead. Like a sweaty middle schooler, post-gym class, now doused in Axe body spray, thinking it’ll help him in life or more importantly, with the chicks/babes/hotties. And for the record, any Axe body spray is too much; ask any female. I know so many aspiring filmmakers who truly believe they are good, somewhat untouchable filmmakers. Dangerously good, in fact, but great is probably how they’d put it. I’m sure you know the smell.

In the filmmaking arena, the level of ones goodness can so often, and easily override ones reality.

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 10.33.19 AM

“Young writers should be encouraged to write, and discouraged from thinking they are writers.” – Wallace Stegner

The desire to be a good filmmaker is a great quality and it’s one you should strive for. I strive and aspire as hard as I can. I mean, no one wants to suck. But, if you think that you’re “good” it’s hard to understand or even see the need for improvement. WHICH IS WHAT WE ALL NEED! Now, I’m not saying that any aspiring filmmaker should constantly tell themselves that they suck at life, without hope. What I am saying is that it’s ok to suck and it’s healthy to know that truth at heart. It’s good to get better, though. In fact, that’s the goal, the only one — to get better. If you’ve arrived, there’s no need to keep venturing. Don’t arrive! Just keep swimming… just keep swimming.

Plus, if you rely on your filmmaking goodness, it’ll be a really depressing journey. And this career path already has its share of ruthlessly depressing spells along the way. Some say it’s a long road, which it looks to be that way. And while some people are cruising along that pavement miles ahead, I’m just trying to get the training wheels on my bike from goodwill to work, readying for another go at the bumps in the road, scraped knees and all.

Even brilliant filmmakers have made some pretty bad movies, and that’s good. Look at the numerous films from Hitchcock during the 1920s-1940s. He wasn’t very good… yet! Obviously, he became great. REAR WINDOW and ROPE are some of my favorite movies of all-time. The last ten minutes of Jimmy Stewart going to monologue war is one of my favorite scenes ever.

Even the Coen brother’s have made a few films that made me question if they really did make NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, which is in my top 5 of all-time. Every filmmaker has sucked at one point. Everyone’s voice cracked a few times before it settled in. That’s the beauty of it, and that’s the hope we should hold onto. I mean let’s be honest, we all pooped our pants at one point. Pride smells like poop is what I’ve been trying to say, I think. Sorry it took so long.

M. Night Shyamalan has one of his childhood VHS short films as an extra on the DVD of SIGNS or THE VILLAGE — it’s him dressed like Indiana Jones, running from a German Shephard. It’s hilariously bad but also an encouraging little nugget for us hopeful aspirers. Now fast forward from those VHS days to his career now. In my opinion, SIGNS and THE VILLAGE are really underrated masterpieces. Moral of the story — he got better.

BUT, personally I think he’s gotten horribly worse during the past few years. Maybe he only had a few good movies in him? I hope not. Nonetheless, watch this interview with him talking about some “bad reviews” on his movie THE LAST AIRBENDER. Now, I don’t know his heart but after watching for myself and reading some of the youtube comments, it’s pretty apparent that a lot of people think that his begotten “good” smell is beginning to stink.

“Writing is like a sport, it’s like athletics. If you don’t practice, you don’t get any better.” – Rick Riordan

Growing up playing basketball in almost every league possible, I met many “good” ballers who would surely sing a ballad of their skills. Yet, those were usually the cats who couldn’t sing or ball at all. Most of them would constantly turn the blind eye to their need of improvement. Rather than letting their game speak, which they didn’t have, they would instead conjure up their vocal assertion first and foremost, as a shield of insecurity. Pride does that, it’s a liar. 

Everyone always thinks they’re better than they actually are.

One thing I’ve learned about basketball, if you’re the biggest fish in the pond, you should find a bigger pond. Or visit the great lakes or the beach or the Amazon river. There’s bigger and better monsters out there. To further iterate, I give you P.S. Hoffman as one of his many honest characters. Seriously, these guys exist, both on the court and in film festivals.

Scott Derrickson, writer/director of SINISTER, DELIVER US FROM EVIL, THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE said, “Cinema is so much bigger than you.” He also said, “The lie of plastic surgery is not that it makes people younger, but that it makes them feel further from death.”

I’d say the same about pride.

The best example of someone radically humble, while at the same time being radically brilliant is none other than my favorite DP, Roger Deakins. If you watch him in any interview, he’s almost child-like in his love and awe for filmmaking. He says he gets nervous each day he goes to work, like when he first started. The way he talks about directors, the way he talks about camera equipment and the film vs. digital war — he speaks from such a humble place. And if you know his work, you know that he’s one of the greatest cinematographers of all-time. He even has a forum where he personally responds to questions from all over. Take a minute and just read his answers, he’s a kind gem. http://rogerdeakins.com/forum2/

DEAKINS

“My good friend, Eliot always asks me, “Have you surrendered yourself to the great abyss? Have you kind of come to the end of yourself. It’s not about you, it’s not about all your talents.” All those things form this pseudo-reality where you find all your validation in what you do. If you surrender yourself to it, with those things not being as important then you find creativity again. You find out the reason why you create. Creativity is for others. It’s not for yourself. It’s to serve others. ” – Filmmaker Salomon Ligthelm from the video ‘The Great Abyss’ shot and directed by Christian Schultz. https://vimeo.com/90667610

Being good at anything in life doesn’t require your own verbal will power. And even if you are good, that doesn’t give you a get-out-of-jail-free card to hide your pride behind the 1-2 punch of the humble-pride combo. We’ve all been secretly prideful about how humble we are. This is something we’ll always battle, and we must not forget to do the actual fighting. Wake up, splash your face with a cold cup of humble reality, and don’t fear the mirror.

Or you can go on spraying yourself with an ungodly amount of Axe and keep lying to yourself that it smells like sexual tension. When in reality, it reeks of pride and insecurity with a hint of desperation. The calvary isn’t coming. And by ‘calvary’ I mean the female race. (If the ladies are actually breaking down doors to get to you, they’re probably not women. They’re probably demons in charge of stroking your pride. Don’t let them in. And don’t wear Axe.)

“With pride, there are many curses. With Humility, come many blessings.” – Ezra Taft Benson.

Side note: If you ever get bored, just go look at my old youtube videos from start to finish, 2008 to now — you’ll cringe, laugh a lot, and cringe some more. But through the painful watch, you’ll hopefully also see improvement, little-by-little. With MASSIVE AMOUNTS of room for more improvement, as always. The day I stop learning how to improve is the day I stop breathing. When I meet a new blank page, the only game plan I have is to suck less with each word.

As I’ve gotten older, the more I’ve realized how insignificant I am, how imperfect I am, and how much I have to learn about how much I have to learn. With every script I attempt to write and every short film I fearfully try to concoct, the more I appreciate that very fact — I am not good. That fact sinks in like a healthy dose of vitamin D from the sun or like hand sanitizer to a fresh, unknown cut, but either way it’s a fact. I’m not good and that’s not bad. I’d rather know that I wasn’t good than go around thinking I was. The danger of thinking that I’m “good” holds the equally volatile danger of not thinking that I’m not good. It’s a humbling thought to ponder the fact that I’m not “good.” But it’s a fact that frees me to be better at being bad.

I’m not good and that’s not bad. Here’s to better…

“THAT guy!” – blog post idea

 

that-guy

By the gracious hands of many kind and entrusting individuals, I’ve been fortunate enough to work on a handful of feature films, along with a hodgepodge of short films and commercials. I couldn’t ever pay for film school so my education comes from being on set. It’s quite the classroom. Like any school, it offers some excellent teachers and some… not so excellent.

I’ve learned so many helpful nuggets of knowledge that have shaped how I attempt to make movies. On the same coin, I’ve learned how NOT to do so many things on set — how not to direct an actor, how not to lead a crew, etc. Sometimes learning how NOT to do something is the best way to learn. Rough set experiences are sometimes the most fruitful.

Making movies isn’t just about the final product. Some may argue that, I’m sure. To me, it’s how you get there. It’s about a lot more than just the final film itself. It’s about the experience. It’s about having character no matter how tough the movie is on yours. Ultimately, it’s about other people, just like life. People will remember how they were treated on set more than the two hour viewing experience. In the end, movies will collect dust and so will your pride.

Granted, this all comes from someone (me) who hasn’t made a feature film yet. And I can assure you, I’ll be asking for forgiveness a countless amount of times from many of the crew members after wrap of day 1 (if that day ever comes.) My edges are rougher than most. I’m a work in progress. I’m human. Now, I’d love to make great films one day, but I want to be a better human than I am a filmmaker. No one wants an oscar for being the on-set Hitler.

All of this being said, I’m trying to put together a helpful, honest, and educational blog post for aspiring filmmakers like myself. One that would be filled with content from respectable professionals in the industry. Basically, the post would be a potluck of on-set stories with the tint of “Don’t be THAT guy!” or “Be THAT guy!” And what I mean by that is this — a “Don’t be THAT guy!” story would derive from a moment on set where someone did something horribly wrong or even worse, horribly selfish.

That story will then turn into somewhat of a PSA to say, “Don’t be THAT guy!” And for “Be THAT guy!” stories, it would be just the opposite — a story of a glorious PA who went above and beyond, or the director who did _______ to save the day, etc. All the while, these stories would all come from different points of view. The good, the bad, and most definitely the ugly.

  • From crew about directors
  • From crew about actors
  • From actors about directors
  • From directors about crew
  • From you about anyone on set

So, whatever role you fit into, share whatever story or stories that overflow your heart. And for all you women out there, this isn’t a gender specific blog idea. It’s just a phrase. This post will be from all sorts of people in different stages of filmmaking, men and women alike. If you’re a working actor, director, or crew member in the industry, I’d love to hear your stories. I’ll be editing all the stories into something readable and presentable. Email me at: jrobfilms@yahoo.com

DISCLAIMER — This is NOT a post that will be about bashing people or bashing a film. Some of the posts won’t include names for that reason. This post IS about helping younger, aspiring filmmakers with information to help guide the mistake-driven road into the film industry. So, at the end of the day it can help one of the young buck filmmakers to avoid being THAT guy and in return, be THAT guy.

To give you a taste of what this blog post will be like, here’s the first “Be THAT guy!” post from an actor about a director. From none other than the brilliant actor, David Dasmalchian (THE DARK KNIGHT, PRISONERS, ANIMALS) http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2810287/

buffet style cinema

The 2007 film NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN is a buffet of education. A master class piece of cinema. It’s one of my favorite films of all time. If you haven’t seen it, put it at the top of your list and see it, post haste. Seriously, the very top. I go back to it over and over and reap what knowledge my mind can take in from the Coen’s direction, DEAKINS’ CINEMATOGRAPHY, and of course, the acting. It’s a brilliant film all around. Like a beautiful painting — I keep seeing different tones, different colors, different meanings. It’s a feast. Simple, too. The classic cat and mouse story done perfectly… with a group of Mexican cats thrown into the mix.

And yes, for Roger Deakins, I go ALL CAPS, screaming his and Brent Christy’s name from the rooftops. Mountain tops even.

This was the first Coen brothers film I ever saw. (Their best in my opinion.) And it was the first film I saw after my brother Jordan died. About 4 days after, actually. Thanks to Coach Grimes and a few buddies who took me up to a cabin in North Carolina to get away for a few days after the funeral. I just remember how odd it, how different, and how original it was to me. I didn’t know what to do when I saw it. I didn’t really understand it but I probably couldn’t understand much of anything at the time. Almost 7 years later and many viewings later, I love it so. Granted, it’s not a short film but the nature of it’s healthy, buffet style substance is what I’m aiming at.

If you have seen it, just re-watch the last scene.

That being said, short films are one of my love languages. And with that love, I’ve jotted down some of my favorites, or at least the ones I keep coming back to for more. I’ve gathered these links together as a buffet for you — you like-minded aspiring filmmakers. Watch and be inspired, discouraged, encouraged, and then repent of your lazy excuses for not creating. Then go and aspire even harder. With love, I give you these.

1) THE CANDIDATE - Directed by David Kariak. Written by Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton.

The music, the WRITING, and again, the music.

2) THE PHONE CALL - Directed by Mat Kirkby. Written by James Lucas and Mat Kirkby.

(Sorry this link won’t embed so here’s the link.)

https://vimeo.com/108833098

THE PHONE CALL is a horrible, god-awful title if you ask me. Outside of the first couple minutes, the last scene, and of course, the title, it’s nearly perfect. The 20 minute film is directed by Mat Kirkby and it stars Sally Hawkins. Who, like the film is also nearly perfect. She’s so viciously real and radically awkward. She’s human. The love I had for her on screen was similar to my love for Frances McDormand in FARGO. That’s what I appreciate so much about her performance. Her simple, but beautiful humanity. This film would most likely not hold up the way it does without her. This film absolutely wrecked me like no other film ever has. A simple concept/story accompanied by a powerful and beautiful performance by Sally Hawkins. Very few moments in my cinema experience do I get misty-eyed… this film brought the rain. It’s even nominated for a live action short film Oscar this year. I truly hope it wins.

3) ELEFANTE – Written and directed by Pablo Larcuen.

This is such an odd, unique, moving little film. The weirdness attached itself to the heart-breaking story making it into  something quite special. Huge fan of this one.

4) REMOVED - Directed by Nathanael Matanick. Written by Christian Matanick.

The music, the pacing, and the lead actress.

5) YARDBIRD - Directed by Michael Spiccia. Written by Julius Avery.

This girl is perfect. There’s not many actors in the industry that hold a presence like she does.

6) SHALLOW – Written and directed by William Bridges. 

The writing is brilliant. Within a minute, I knew who this guy was. That’s power. The pacing, the acting, the tension — it’s solid across the board.

Honorable mentions in no particular order.

THIS IS NORMAL - Written and directed by Justin Giddings and Ryan Welsh.

The moment with the sister in the hospital — that’s what made the film for me. Broken. Real. Beautiful.

NOTHING ABOUT NOTHING - Directed by Daniel Levi. Written by Daniel Levi and Justin Cohen. 

A fascinating and simple scenario executed well.

THE MAN WHO NEVER CRIED – Written and directed by Bradley Jackson. 

A beautiful script written by Bradley Jackson with a beautiful performance from Keir O’ Connell. This film, unlike many who attempt the use of voiceover, nailed it.

SPIDER - Directed by Nash Edgerton. Written by Nash Edgerton and David Michod. 

Because Nash Edgerton is a beast.

CARGO - Directed by Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke. Written by Yolanda Ramke.

The love of a father… always a winner.

BONE’YEERD - Written and directed by Tom Salvaggio.

Because Mark Ashworth is so freaking good. And the long shots. I love the long shots. And Mark Ashworth.

LEST WE FORGET - Written and directed by Brandon McCormick.

Also, because Mark Ashworth is so freaking good. This is the film I saw quite a few years back and it was this very film that made me want to work with Mark one day. And a few years later… we did on GRAPE SODA.

THE CUB - Written and directed by Riley Stearns.

Just because it’s so hilariously absurd and original. The originality is oddly refreshing. I think Wes Anderson would laugh proudly.

JERRYCAN – Written and directed by Julius Avery (The same guy who wrote YARDBIRD.)

The raw style of the cinematography captures the intimate, soulful, and real feel of this beautiful short film.

That’s all for now. Feel free to go back for seconds.

Please send me any short films that aren’t on my list. I’ll eat ‘em up — jrobfilms@yahoo.com

Oscar nominated short film – THE PHONE CALL

Today I had the pleasure of seeing all five of this year’s oscar nominated live action short films. Now, I watch many short films on vimeo/youtube. As many as I can, really. Some good, some not so good. As you very well know, it’s rare to find a short film that has the ability to move. That’s a powerful ability. The only thing most films move, especially short films, is the clock — equalling in wasted minutes off a lifespan. But, I saw a film today that moved me. To tears, to my feet, and to more tears. I’m not John Wayne or anything but it does take a good bit of something to make my eyes bleed emotion. I feel so much internally, so on the outside I may look emotionless. But occasionally, my external matches my internal emotions, if you will. Today, a film did just that.

THE PHONE CALL (which is a horrible, god-awful title if you ask me) is that film. Outside of the first couple minutes, the last scene, and of course, the title, it’s nearly perfect. The 20 minute film is directed by Mat Kirkby and it stars Sally Hawkins. Who, like the film is also nearly perfect. She’s so viciously real and radically awkward. She’s human. The love I had for her on screen was similar to my love for Frances McDormand in FARGO. That’s what I appreciate so much about her performance. Her simple, but beautiful humanity. This film would most likely not hold up the way it does without her.

To Mat Kirkby and James Lucas — if you somehow read this… my respect. My mad respect. Props. I hope you win.

Without further ramblings, I give you an amazing film with a horrible title – THE PHONE CALL.

https://vimeo.com/108833098

GRAPE SODA – short film

Firstly, I just want to thank everyone who helped me make this little film. I’m a huge fan of all of the people who worked side-by-side on this. I couldn’t have done it without you. Money didn’t make this, ’cause I didn’t have a budget. A group of big, passionate hearts did.

While making many crappy student films in college, I usually had to multitask and be in front and behind the camera — act, direct, etc. Acting was never something I wanted to pursue but it was always something that I kind of had to do, since I didn’t know many good actors for a long time. But gladly, all bad things come to an end — no more me. I finally got to stay behind the camera. I finally got to only write and direct. Thanks to my incredible DP, Brent Christy and my brilliant actors, Mark Ashworth, Rachel Hendrix, Cranston Johnson, Isaiah Stratton, and Jay C Russell. This was the first time I felt like I actually got to do what I wanted to do. And I had a blast.

Thanks for watching.

photo by Shawn Stom

poster by Andrew Bradford

POPEYE THE PIZZA MAN – Casting call

POPEYE THE PIZZA MAN is a short film written and directed by Justin Robinson. Shooting 2-3 days in Greenville, South Carolina in early-mid October.

It’s a no budget project so no pay but will cover travel/lodging during the shoot.

LOGLINE: A directionally challenged pizza man delivers a helping to the wrong guy at the right time.

MALE CHARACTERS: 

POPEYE (LEAD), 20s, husky, caucasian, quirky, upfront, good-hearted, with a good sense of humor, but beneath it all, a broken soul.

LEWIS (SUPPORTING), 20s-30s, thin,  dry sense of humor, loyal, ANY ETHNICITY.

FEMALE CHARACTER: 

LORY (SUPPORTING), 20s-30s, independent, outlandishly honest, ANY ETHNICITY.

Will be accepting taped auditions only. Thank you! For sides and further information about the roles — please send an email with your name, height, weight, age, reels, and or resumes to: jrobfilms@yahoo.com

Justin Robinson’s previous narrative work: https://vimeo.com/user9562210

ANY GIVEN TUESDAY – short film

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQctKDnkurU

This film was shot in one day with a budget of $0.00. All thanks to a group of humble, passionate and talented people who helped me make it.

Behind the scenes still by Michael Gibbons

  • elliot – joe coffey
  • thomas – justin robinson
  • joe – jay c russell
  • woman – emily fincher
  • writer/director/editor – justin robinson
  • director of photography – brent christy
  • first assistant director – matt barmier
  • composer – daniel james
  • colorist – john carrington
  • dialogue editor – jeremiah clever
  • sound mixer – david sniadecki
  • boom operator – taylor wooten
  • makeup – jordan kelley
  • first ac – scott jones
  • second ac – dennis kuhnel
  • associate producer – gunner willis
  • key set PA – andrew bradford
  • shot on the RED EPIC with the Rokinon 35mm, Canon 50mm, Canon L 85mm
  • edited in adobe premiere CS6
  • colored in davinci resolve

The idea for the film came from a friend who shared a few recent spiritual happenings at a family members house. So, the real life happenings posed an idea of the everyday 20 something guy trying to rid an object that was owned by a friend and housed by something dark, something demonic.

Some BTS photos by Shawn Stom

 

blatant, black reality.

To preface, I’m not really sure why I’m writing this. Maybe it’s for you, maybe it’s for us. My heart has been at odds with writing/filmmaking as of late. So, I figured I’d funnel some scrambled words onto the internet, to you.

I have all the ingredients for a burnt meal of failure: I hated reading as a kid, I made a 17 on my ACT, I made a C in freshman English class, I went to a college that had one C stand, I have no education on writing or directing films and I love Jesus. As you surely know, a vast majority of Christians make terrible films. These are the things that run through my fickle mind. True things, yet to which I scream, “RUDY!”.

All odds were against little RUDY (Sean Astin). The scrawny little body of his could barely cage his raging heart. Sleep was no match for his big dreams of playing on that Notre Dame field. I’m not a huge sports movie guy but I recently saw it for the first time in years and it filled my little brown eyes with tears of joy. He wanted it so badly! Nothing could stop him, nothing could crush his goals. After each big hit, after every let down, after every rejection, he kept on gettin’ up. He would not and did not give up. In simpler terms, he put in THE  WORK.

DREAMS vs. GOALS. Apples and oranges, my friend.

I’ve had younger guys come to me and express their aspirations to become a screenwriter and without wasting a breath, and with my wand of discernment tightly clasped in my hand, I quickly realize that they don’t truly WANT it. It’s more of like, “Yeah, I think I could write scripts. I just don’t have time.” To that, I say, if you truly wanna do something, you’ll make time.

I don’t think they know that writing means working 24/7 because it’s all in your head. Your head doesn’t clock out at 5. My brain houses a jumbo gym for ideas and I’m the only employee. Quentin Tarantino worked on Inglourious Basterds for ten years. You can’t just grow a blond mustache and wear short shorts to be Larry Bird; you gotta put in the work. I’m the Karate kid’s kid. I’m the patch on a Private’s arm. I’m no master or veteran of screenwriting but in the little time I’ve attempted to do so, I have tasted the lonely solitude it requires.

I don’t go out on the weekend. I barely see movies. I sit in the dark in my $10 writing chair from Goodwill with back sweat drizzling down like condensation on a cup. With fear and uncertainty oozing from my fingertips, I type little, black letters, one by one into the white abyss. Apart from working on set and spending time with my girlfriend, my closest friend is my laptop. Honorable mentions: other writer friends who let me vomit ideas on them day and night. Mostly night.

After hopelessly watching my queue of shootable scripts stack up a few months ago, I asked myself, “If I never became a director and I could only write for people, would I?”

Yes.

I want to direct movies more than anything, especially my own writings but the answer to the question above was something I needed to know before I got into a complicated, life-long relationship with writing. I had to make sure I wanted it. I don’t write and direct because I want to be known for it. If I wanted to be known for something, I’d pursue acting. Actors have faces. The average movie goer has no clue there was a script, let alone a writer. Writers are faceless ghosts trampled under the red carpet. Everyone just wants the switch – they don’t want Edison and his 10,000 failures. I write and direct because it’s what I crave, what makes my blood boil, why I don’t sleep and, why I wake up.

HUNGER vs. STARVATION. Tomatoes and potatoes, mi amigo. (I hate tomatoes by the way.)

Put a starving person and a hungry person in the colosseum and see who walks out alive. Desperation knows no rules. Most guys my age are just kind of hungry, not sure what they’re exactly craving for dinner. Now, I’m not saying I want to kill people like a gladiator. I’d hope to share whatever food scraps I can get with the next guy. What I am saying is that I’m waiting in line, starving.

I know it’s one of the seven deadliest sins in the religion of film, but I don’t drink coffee. I usually stick to a morning cup of blatant, black reality to get me going. It tastes like humble beginnings. Though it’s bitter, and no it’s not sweet, it’s healthy for my heart. I’m a nobody in the world of film. I’m an extra in the background, just trying to find something to stand on so I can see how it’s done. Even if the odds are never in my favor, I’m just gonna be waiting for my chance to get on the field, even if my mom is the only one chanting “Rudy.”

Whether it’s film, acting, writing, or whatever you want to do in this life, don’t let a stop sign held by inadequacy hold you back. Put in the work. It’ll be a long, bumpy road, filled with many a fork in the way. Just check both ways and then send that gas pedal to hell. Roll your windows down and give that blank piece of paper in front of you a dandy, little wave and write on, my friend. Write on.

One of my favorite filmmakers, Salomon Ligthelm, says it best in this gorgeous little piece. https://vimeo.com/90667610

I surrender to the great abyss.

Before you go, take a couple minutes and revel in the inspiration of a beautifully written scene from one of the greatest trilogies of all time, starring none other than Sean Astin. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Soe8ayi3ScE

Sean Astin & I on set of MOMS’ NIGHT OUT last year. In theaters May 9th, 2014.

unknown waters

This season of life has been one in the water, swimming through the black abyss of questions. I’m drifting across unknown waters hoping to find an island where I can make movies and get married. The water doesn’t have to be crystal clear and I don’t need a mini umbrella in my coconut. I just need an island. Somewhere to stand would be nice.

I’m in a post-college-trying-to-figure-out-how-to-become-a-filmmaker season. There’s no forecast, no map, rain or shine. I take the days one-by-one.

My arms feel like lifeless noodles, but they keep raisin’ to the sky, digging in, moving me forward, one stroke at a time. At times, sharks swim up beside me and cause some waves, using their talent of discouragement. The great whites that swim in my heart and the hammerheads posing as friends come hungry for blood, circling me. Sometimes they get a good bite but sometimes I stick a pressurized scuba tank into their mouths and pull a much needed trigger. (That was a JAWS reference.) Sometimes I feel like I’m trying to climb a ladder with no arms. “Will I ever write anything good? Will I ever become a real filmmaker?” I don’t know the answer to those questions but… I’m still breathing and I’m still writing.

Obviously to become a filmmaker, by definition in my own personal dictionary, one would have to, funny enough, make movies. There’s no three step program on how to become a successful filmmaker. There’s no recipe, no easy button. Some guys go to film school, while other guys don’t finish high school. The common denominator between them is unyielding, unrelenting passion. Desperate passion. I think desperate people will succeed. Lots of people talk about becoming a filmmaker but they spend more time on Facebook. They spend more time wishing than making. Lots of kids wanna play in the NBA but only a few play in the rain for hours until their hands are raw. There are hundreds of yellow brick roads that lead to the big screen. I’m trying to lay my bricks.

I want to be a filmmaker for the rest of my life, short-lived or old and gray. That’s what I do all day and it’s what I think about all night. My mind won’t stop. I’ve even asked it nicely at times, so I can sleep like a normal human being but NOOOOOOO. Now, I don’t want to be the best filmmaker ever because I won’t be. I don’t wanna be the next ____________. I just want to tell the stories I need to tell and the ones no one else will. Stories told honestly from the soul in it’s rawest, truest form. I want to encapsulate an atmosphere of love and honesty that allows everyone on my set to be themselves, truly. Film sets are one of the greatest places to build relationships. Credits will one day be forgotten in the tomb of things that don’t matter but the intentional, meaningful conversations won’t be. That’s why I do what I do.

Now, don’t think I’m on my knees coining for your money. I’m walking down the streets, putting in the work, looking for dropped dimes. I try to be the hardest worker on set but even still, a film career doesn’t come from my hand alone. It comes from God and it comes from the opportunities He’s given me. So to all the men and women who’ve allowed me to work on a set, who’ve given me opportunities to be stretched and taught, thank you. I owe it to you. From the palm of your hand, I eat like a hungry rat, starving for experience.

I’m a nobody. I’m not a rock star, I’m not a superhero, I’m not saving the world, I’m just trying to make some meaningful films.

If “thank you” were a cuss word, I’m about to swear your pants off. I’d tighten that belt if I were you.

For anyone who’s seen anything on VHS footage of hurricane/wannabe jackass videos in Florida (The Fruits in 2006), to a film of me with a shaved head beating up my brother (no.14 in 2013), I just want to thank you for watching. Thanks for believing in a skinny homeschool kid with hopes as high as everest of making movies. Thank you for encouraging me, for pushing me to be better, for pouring your life into me. Thanks to the people who’ve read and given notes on my scripts. Thanks to all who have helped me on set at one point, even if you had better things to do. It means the world.

PS: Thanks for reading.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I gotta tighten my floaties and jump back into the abyss.

*underwater splash sound effect*

the happy ending.

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.