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*

10 thoughts on “unknown waters

  1. Getting up before dawn, warming up the van, donning hoodies, flannels and knit caps, stopping by Chik-fil-a, munching delicious breakfast biscuits while jammin’ out to whatever was on, running a red light, almost swerving off the road, swapping stories and doing Grandma imitations in 30 degree weather, countryside fog, breathing in that crisp air, and just laughing laughing laughing….showing up to set ready to rock the day….I’m blessed to have met you and continue to have you as my friend. Much love, brother.

  2. I’m thankful to know you Justin. Befriending and working with you has forever changed my life. You have been such an amazing role model to me. Your hard work and passion is truly an inspiration. I look forward to what the future holds for you.

  3. You can do it!!! God has given you a vision and the skills to do the task. You’ve got many friends that are inspired by your drive. (In the words of grandma) “don’t ever let a person or diagnosis tell you to quit something you love… Especially if it’s smoking.”

  4. Only disagreed with one thing… you’re definitely not a “nobody”. You are a somebody — and an amazing somebody at that!

    As you swim around in this shark filled world, don’t forget you can always introduce some of those teeth to some highly energized power lines! (‘Jaws 2′ reference there). And, hey, if the sharks get too dense, you’re welcome to scramble onto my little skiff sailing nearby. I’m sure we could swap some tales, enjoy a Chik-fil-a chocolate shake (or two), discuss the recent Redford movie, “All Is Lost” and ponder the questions of this amazing life that God lets us enjoy.

    Still praying, and cheering you on!

    U.R.

  5. What you’ve just said accurately describes me. I feel I’m swimming in an endless ocean. I’m someone who wants to tell stories accurately for what they are. You are not alone in your search for thought provoking filmmaking. It’s a process that we never truly arrive at, but always strive to get as close as we can.

  6. You have been whirling around in a funnel; yet an inspiration to all of us who know you. Giving up has never been an option in you life! Keep your faith strong; as i know you do. Slow down. Don’t let your eagerness out do you. Keep your head above water; the whales are tired of looking at you! Missing you! libby

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