Perseverance is key

The Gift
LOS ANGELES – This week we’re starting a new series of episodes about life behind the scenes of Hollywood (or wherever movies are made). Details to come, but on to more important things first!

This year has been a difficult one for many people – whether you’re supporting a family and don’t know where your paycheck is coming next, or living on the street and don’t know where your next meal will be or where you’ll sleep. In this country, we have chosen to avoid human rights issues such as adequate low income housing, accessible education and healthcare, and plentiful healthy food for far too long.

So, those of us in the film business are doing pretty well, no matter how you look at it. No matter our social or economic standing, we’re still able to tell stories, right?

Well….sometimes, maybe yes, and maybe no. Projects get stalled, money is scarce. Truly good people are hard to find. As I looked back on this past year I’ve been thinking about roller coaster of a year I’ve had – the projects I’ve worked on have had.

At the start of the year, I was producing a trailer for free to jumpstart investment on a project with an Academy Award nominated and Grammy winning actress you’d all know of. By Spring, I was no longer on the picture – I truly believe the director had a mental imbalance. I was crushed, because the lead actress – a great friend – had brought me to the project.

Then, on to producing a trailer – getting paid this time, nominally – which turned out great.

Then on to being the only producer on another feature, a scifi, which looked like it cost 5 – 10 times what we spent when we finished filming on the RED in a studio we built from scratch in downtown LA. I was “let go” 3 days after filming completed….his lawyer will be hearing from us eventually…

As a result of that film, I brought the lead actor with me to Burning Man, where I directed part of a 3-D feature film with him. We’ll be showing the trailer in Sundance this winter.

Shortly after that I was introduced to another film on which I became a producer – I was introduced to them by one of the actors on the scifi film. We’re currently 3/4 of the way through shooting it, and will finish up by the middle of February. We’re editing some of it now, and it looks fantastic. The budget for this one is about what you’d pay for a decent lead actor in a $500K movie – lower than all the others this year.

I know that if I had not persevered, this last project, which I love, would never have happened. I know it would probably not be in production. Nor would the Burning Man project.

But most importantly, the relationships I gained by sticking to it, trusting my abilities and not letting bad people get in the way of good people.

That reminded me of the first film I shot when I came back to LA in 2004.

It’s called Something True, and has won some awards in festivals, shot on 35mm. We shot during one of the worst rainstorms in the history of Los Angeles. On one of the shooting days, our camera truck floated away, and we had to carry gear across a raging river (Ventura Blvd.) with knee deep water, under tarps arranged like a long tunnel into the space, which began leaking…

A few days earlier, we needed another intern and I hired a young fellow, had him sign our standard contract and sent him out to pick up something. He came back, 10 minutes later, and triumphantly handed it to me, where upon a gigantic wood splintering CRACK and crushing sound was heard! He had a horrified look on his face and ran back out the door. I had a sinking feeling – I almost knew what it was. He had just left his car, parking next to a tree, and the rain soaked ground gave way. It crushed his car down to to the floor boards. If he’d been 1 minute late….

I immediately called my insurance broker, though I knew the answer already. Force majeur – act of god. Nothing we could do about it. And he was an intern on staff for 1/2 hour, tops.

Breaking the news to him wasn’t easy. Nor was it easy to see him on the Venice Boardwalk, selling jewelry, about a week after we wrapped. You know what he said? “It’s no biggy. Let’s work together again soon.”

(Eventually, he got his car fixed, but it took about a year.)

I could go into at least 5 other episodes on that picture alone that would amaze you.

We got the picture done. It went to festivals, won awards.

I’m very proud to have worked on it.

We all persevered….

You will too. Keep the faith, remember what story you’re telling, and never forget that  – the story is why you’re doing what you’re doing.

And this is even more important – when all is said and done – it’s the relationships you build on your journey that matter the most.

So, I’d put that down. Relationships. That will be the subject of the next blog.

By the way, we’re putting together a series of stories about Hollywood Hell (working title) and if you’ve got stories, we’d like to hear them, and possibly interview you for the series. People are very excited about it, and you could possibly build relationships by telling us your story. We’re shooting it at a famous Hollywood residence – one which has been part of Hollywood history since the silent era and stayed part of that history until the present day. If you’d like to contribute, send me an email to morethankin@yahoo.com, and tell us your Hollywood Hell story!

Remember, perseverance! Good luck!

Juri

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