The Movie SetThere is a place in this world where fantasy meets reality. For some it is in a fine novel. Others need to have the visual stimulation of a good movie, or music that evokes such emotion that laughter or tears become their refuge from the world. Is it any wonder that we seek to hear of trials overcome, love unfeigned, or fidelity that exists beyond death? No. I guess not. Not when we consider what films are best served to a voracious appetite.

“G” rated movies corner the market in each release. Why? Even if we have lost what was once most precious to ourselves, we seek to sustain the innocence of our children and grandchildren. Sometimes there are films that glorify drug and alcohol use. Immorality, with a “moral” that includes theft, the money being used in the end to start a new life. One free from the crimes that led to this windfall. That is called justification. The reality of rationalization as the end justifying the means.

Who we are and who we would like to be depends on whether we are willing to “compromise” our values for the sake of temporary satisfaction. I had been often shouted down for my belief that there is no justifying taking a lover at the expense of an honorable marriage. Or, that I do not believe dealing drugs as a means of feeding one’s family can be justified where people exclaim that their actions did not include making them available to kids.

Even reasoning whether taking money that does not belong to us, as long as our family doesn’t know, and are able to benefit. Excuses are not reasons for misconduct. For violating a personal Code of Honor that precludes compromise. The question asked these days is whether our children have been “taught” what honor means? And, whether settling for something less than our youthful dreams and goals is permissible because others wouldn’t approve? It is in abrogating our dreams that we sacrifice sacred goals in favor of something we deem more important. But often, it is because we agreed to lose ourselves for a perceived greater good.

Look at “Sleepless in Seattle.” Don’t we sometimes yearn for someone to intervene in our destiny that we may find “true love.” Do we still not dream of “adventure” that defines great achievements like “Lord of the Rings”, “Indiana Jones,” or “Star Wars”? Adventure. Pure thinking. Proper choices in serving others for a greater “law.” All in all, the romantic may love and yet hate films like “What Dreams May Come” where a man who loses his wife to suicide, then defies entering the depths of hell itself to bring her back. The “Notebook” where your greatest love can no longer remember who you are… but remains to cherish ALL that has been. Oh, how we wish someone would be there for us like that.

A Stuntman

In my younger days, I worked as an actor. In the beginning as an extra. A few bit parts and stunt work here and there. Even a couple more meaty rolls that made may have made it so far as the cutting-room floor, and a few films never lucky enough to see the inside of a theater. Still, in film and on stage, I got to be a hundred different people with a thousand different dreams. Singing and dancing my way to… well not so great a success. But, I was fortunate to make people laugh… and to cry. Just as I have indulged myself as one of those who needed these outlets in the darkness of a crowded room to do both.

To what end?

It was my chosen path to create such as this for all those seeking temporary escape. But life interfered. Settling for something less than my original plan. In so doing, I joined the human race. I stopped calling myself an actor as I moved to production. I worked dozens more films where I thought the satisfaction of production would replace the craving of being before that crowd. These films included “Baby M” with Jo Beth Williams, and the topic of surrogate mothering; “Shootdown” with Angela Lansbury – regarding that ill fated shooting down of a Korean Airliner. I worked on pilots about real life dramas like “911″. And, Annie Archer’s “Leap of Faith.” Dealing with one woman’s fight to survive cancer.

In these circumstances, I also left my performance dream in favor of feeding the family I now had. I needed to pay the bills, home school, then preparing to put them through school. I needed to think about my dear wife. Her continued displeasure at my chosen profession of film. Dissatisfaction that I would continue to enjoy my love of the martial arts. In the need to constantly “present” myself as an actor, singer and martial artist, she could only equate that with arrogance. Still, the choice was mine. I chose to walk away from those childhood goals in favor of growing up. I became a secondary player in the film of my life. I let faux responsibilities replace the most important part of my life — making myself laugh. That my children would have some semblance of a real childhood. By making life’s wonders something special to share with those I cared for most. It came back to me so succinctly when something happened preventing my own daughter from living a dream I had forsaken.

I had segregated the sum of $35,000 for my daughter to make an album. Her ability to sing with a voice such as I could only marvel at was a wonder to me. Greater potential than I had ever known — of anyone. Not just the boast of a proud father. I had arranged a celebrity friend to help her choose music, shape her voice, and record that album. But, in my regular business affairs, I permitted someone else to share in responsibility for holding the purse strings. A problem with his family’s personal affairs caused him to take funds from the business account without telling me — to save his family’s ranch. I could no longer present the surprise I had worked on so quietly (for more than a year) for my daughter. I cancelled the studio, musicians, and asked my friend to understand. She offered help in the future if I could recover. So, I blamed myself for such foolishness and moved on. Believing that I would one day be able to provide her with this chance.

From time to time we get lost in reality. I look to shows like “American idol” and “The Voice” seeing what wonderful platforms have been made to permit dreams to be pursued. The ability to stand alone, against all odds, and obtain a measure of success that otherwise would not be achieved. In this I remembered the countless friends and acquaintances in the entertainment business who achieved a modicum of success in childhood careers; only to have disappointment cause changes that would never permit their entry into adulthood to remain unscarred.

I had a friend named Mark. he came to Tucson in the 1970′s to work on Barry Newman’s “Petrocelli.” We worked that first year together (me as an extra), and he ended up being a killer on the show. We talked of our respective career opportunities and his being cast in a teenage afterschool drama. His role was quite good. The next year he returned. once again we met up on the set of “Petrocelli” where he was playing another killer. We laughed at the similarity in turn of events casting him again, so soon.

This year was different though. Mark was lamenting that he felt he may have made a mistake that past year. He had been cast as the eldest son in the primetime “pilot” for “Eight is Enough.” But as the show was picked up, he had already commenced working on a feature film. One in which he worked for not much money and very long hours. Still, as he talked of sitting on a soundstage in some kind of machine gun port, shooting at things there were not there. He felt alive! He spoke of how much money it cost him to get out of the television contract. More than his paycheck for the film. He revealed to me that inner dream we all have of achievement. He commented that no matter what, “I got to be the hero, and got the girl. I got to play this guy named Luke Skywalker. It’s called Star Wars. I am not sure it will ever make any money, but it was worth it.”

Remembering who I started out to be has come in stages. For a time, I’d stopped counting on others and returned to what I knew to be the right course. When I had left the more serious productions, I worked with John Candy on “Who’s Harry Crumb.” Then a few other less serious, uplifting, projects. Still, there was something missing. What was missing was my longing to view what Disney used to produce. Family Films that precluded sexual innuendo and nudity, violence and dismemberment, and even crass defamation in order to gain laughs. A return to yesteryear was beginning to re-emerge. I wanted to be a part of that resurgence.

That came in working with other like minded people in developing their projects, but also completing “Dojo Kids” one of Gordon Jump’s (WKRP in Cincinnati) last projects. From the idea of a 14 year-old girl moving to a new town and having a run-in with the school’s bully in the first 1 hour pilot. She happened to be a black belt. What followed was a friendship between the two adversaries in a cast that was more than family after the first one hour pilot. Dealing with issues facing today’s youth. Demonstrating resolution of youthful problems without violence, language, cutting each other down, or playing the blame game. Taking responsibility for one’s actions was part of this new direction.

The Producers

For thirty years now, I have worked to develop a motion picture studio theme park project based on those themes. From design and elevations blue prints to HVAC. Reams of paperwork covering policies and procedures. More than 35 proprietary “theme characters” developed to reintroduce character, integrity and responsibility to our children’s lives. Adding the development of a solid talent base of contract players, writers, directors, producers, camera, grip and gaffers. Working from a base of 239 acres carved judiciously out of a 3500 acre Planned Area Development.

Is there interest in such a place?

Yes. Encouragement as come from a great number of Motion Picture studios, networks, producers, directors, hotels and resort conglomerates, restaurateurs, commercial vendors and even product placement companies. That doesn’t account for a host of talented individuals that all support the unique concept of this facility dedicated to family values programming.

I still had one piece missing. I met with an entrepreneur of some renown. He put together a successful open air concert pavilion in Phoenix some years ago. He asked if I could come by to speak with him. We talked and I was gratified that he was willing to give me suggestions that have been since incorporated into the overall project. He invited me to listen to that evening’s concert Manheim Steamroller. As I had been given much to think about on my drive to Los Angeles that night, I politely declined. He commented that my relative youth was a minor inconvenience. But my inexperience in other areas, I took for granted.

Much like; “If you build it, they will come.”

I increased my efforts to expand a knowledge base in law and finance, which returned me to school. Prior, my youth had provided much experience in near every position the industry had to offer as a talent and in production. Even so far as to have Fireman’s Fund agree to insure any film I packaged; and, completion bond companies bonding my projects, sight unseen.

Still, additional training would be required to understand the nuances of film and entertainment financing. Once completed, even the accelerated learning that garnered a Masters of Law – International Tax, and Certificate in International Finance couldn’t contend with practical experience.

As with all schools of learning, financial successes and failures are overcome by persistence. First successes turned to disappointment. Mostly by trusting others. Even attorneys, accountants, and investment advisors can direct affairs slothfully when greed overcomes reason. Re-emergence of success could not come without divesting myself of those whose ability to take responsibility was never present. Ultimately, I remain responsible. No matter what others may choose to do.

For this is my dream.

So, after much trail and error, I work again to finally attain my goals — providing a small investment in laughter, tears, and shouts of appreciation — for the dreams of others. Such as we each do, when brought to the silver screen.

So, am I there yet? Not quite…But moving closer… Ask me again next year.