When Ben Moses, who was one of the producers of “Good Morning Vietnam”, asked me to come in to LA and speak to one of his classes, that class was on film production and Ben had people of notoriety in the movie business come in and explain to his students what it is that they did in the business and gave them encouragement on how they can get ahead.
I enjoyed spending time with them because here I was, a guy they did not know, and I was doing my thing. I was explaining to them what I did and that my whole idea was to be able to learn every single job from the inside, I could be a driver, I could be an assistant prop man, I could be a crafts service person or a rack and restoration person, any of these little lines of names that you see at the end of the credits that nobody ever really knows. And then I moved on to packaging films and preparing things and hiring people.
It gave these students the idea that they could go out and do something. Ben said that a lot of people in his course were able to go out and get jobs who didn’t think they’d get them before and they really appreciated it.
Ben pulled me aside at the end of the year and he said…
“I wanted you to know that when I talk to my classes about who they admired most your name came up as one of the first people every time”.
I couldn’t figure out why it was because I was a regular guy who went out and told them look, “find a niche, find something somebody else doesn’t do, or find something somebody else doesn’t do well that you can do well and then, when you go back figure it out”.
A man came to me one day. He had been a child actor and had been doing all kinds of great things and yet he couldn’t make his condo payment. He couldn’t do anything and this is a guy you knew, you knew his face.
He said “I don’t know what to do” and he was breaking down crying because he thought his marriage was over.
I said “listen, you know the business, you’ve been in and out, what do you see that somebody else doesn’t do?”
Well he thought about it and decided to do craft services. This is the service that provides the food in between the meals that the caterer prepares. You always have munchies for the cast and crew.
He became the best at that and within six months he was doing a half a dozen shows at the same time. He was paying his bills and he was doing fine.
I wanted to learn everything, whether it was lighting or script work or anything that I could do. That way I would know exactly what was needed when I went down to make a movie and I’d know what somebody was supposed to do. When everybody knew what they were supposed to do that is when we win.
That’s when you know that the people that you’re working with know their job because you’ve done it before. So all of this is incorporated into what I did in the movie business. Finally somebody said “well, you can’t produce a movie” I said “sure I can”.
I went out starting packaging, first meeting with the writers, working with people and saying hey “this is what has to be done”. Instead of people rebuking me they’d say “hey that’s a better idea”.
So all of a sudden I have a producer calling me saying “hey, I got one actress over here and this actress over there, who would you hire?” I said, “I had just worked with one actress and she threw tantrums all over the place but the other one I understand is very good”. When you’re doing that, the thing is you better be sure you know both and also what the circumstances were for the tantrums. They may have been legitimate.
My M&M Buddy
So those were the things I would do. I would find out what the actors and actresses wanted. I was working crafts service on a little show and I knew that the actress loved M&M’s, but everybody kept her away from them because the sugar rush would just get to her. But every so often I brought the tiny packages you would get at Halloween and from time to time I would sneak her some M&Ms. She gave me a little thank you and wrote a note back saying my M&M buddy.
It’s just the little things that you do when you keep in mind that “I’m going to be able to make a difference” even if it’s a little one.