The other day I found myself in a three-hour wait at the DMV. I had visited the DMV earlier in the week, only to discover I had to take a test and didn’t have the time to do it that particular day. So now in the DMV, on this random Tuesday afternoon, I stood in the back of a crowded room filled with aggravated people constantly checking the time. I happened to be standing next to three gentlemen who struck up a conversation with me. I won’t lie, if I was to have met these men on the street at night, I probably would have walked in the opposite direction. But feeling pretty safe in the company of over a hundred people, I engaged in conversation with them. They encouraged me not to worry about my test and that I would do fine, as I sat their flipping through the manual viciously trying to memorize a lifetime of driving in a couple of hours. We all chatted for a while and then one by one, their numbers got called and they headed into the test room.
A few minutes later one of the younger men came back to me, very excited that he had passed his test. I congratulated him and shared in his extreme excitement to pass the California driving test. Then his face grew serious and he said to me “I’m really happy I passed this test because I was just released from prison twelve days ago after serving eighteen years of a life sentence for a murder I didn’t commit.” WOW! Well you can only imagine my face after hearing this – complete shock. He shared that he was thirty-eight years old; he had spent most of his life in prison. Then he reached out his hand to mine and I shook it and he said “thank you for talking to me today and being so kind to me.” He walked away from me and my jaw was on the floor, I couldn’t believe he had shared his story with me and this experience really struck me to the heart. It was such a beautiful reminder of how important it is to always be kind to everyone you meet. You have no idea the day they might have had. Then my number was called, I hustled up the desk, only to discover I did not have to take the driving test. This was not a random Tuesday afternoon. I believe I was meant to be there that day to meet this man.
What does this have to do with the film industry you might ask?
My answer- EVERYTHING!
I feel this rings true in the film industry because it is extremely important to be the kind of person people enjoy working with. HUGE studios do not run Hollywood. It’s run by people and the relationships they have with each other. You never know whom you are going to meet and how they might come across your path in years to come. Always treat people with kindness, and generosity, like the saying goes, “treat people as you would like to be treated”. That’s why you always see the same names popping up on films, these people enjoy working together and sometimes that might even beat out talent or money. I have worked in the film industry since I was seventeen years old and have always tried to keep this in mind: everyone I meet today could affect my tomorrow. Plus I really love working on films, so for the most part I feel complete joy when on a movie set. But I have watched others complain, bring down a crew and have always thought it was detrimental to their own experience and their future of working with those people again.
Many years ago I struck up a friendship with an assistant director named Justin Jones while I was waiting on him at a restaurant. A week later he called me and offered me a very small part on an Asylum film he was working on. The part only had two lines, but I jumped at the opportunity to get to play make believe. I only had one day on this film but lucky for me I met the director, Leigh Scott. About a month or so later I got a call from Leigh offering me one of the lead roles in his new film. I was beyond thrilled and got to go on location for a couple of days where I met friends that are still dear to me to this day. On set I met the lovely Sarah Lieving and she said to me “Did you know Leigh wrote the script with the actresses he wanted in mind?” I shook my head, thinking of course not, feeling extremely honored. Sarah said, “Leigh really liked you and wanted to work with you again”. I was completely taken aback since I had only worked with him one day. While the conditions hadn’t been the best I never complained and fully enjoyed the experience, always with a cheerful attitude. People want to work with someone they like, no drama, no fuss. If your going to be on location together for awhile it is very important to have no diva’s on set. This goes for men and woman! No Diva’s allowed!
This story resonated so deeply with me that I still think of it today. I am thankful for every opportunity that arrives and am always looking for new friends to collect along the way. Everyone is building their team and I know I am always looking for easygoing people to work with. On the set of our feature film “Home Sweet Home” we all lived together in a house and it was important for us to have a group of people that were a pleasure to be around. The movie would never have turned out as good as it did if we had not had so much fun working together. Our camaraderie translated into the film.
While John (the director/my husband) and I were embarking on the adventure of selling that feature film, we met with our potential future sales reps. Our decision to not sign any paper work before meeting them in person was because we wanted to see what kind of guys they were. It was very important to us to make sure we liked them before we put anything in writing. When we met Ryan and Jonny from Instrum International we immediately knew these guys were going to be our friends.
After they sold our movie at AFM to Image Entertainment, I was warned repeatedly from other filmmakers to watch out for sales reps and distribution companies. Horror stories started flooding in from different people about how their sales reps had screwed them over. John and I didn’t worry. We just decided to trust in them and so far had been extremely happy with our relationship. We took them out for drinks as a thank you. And anytime we had questions they returned our emails promptly. They have proved their loyalty to us and have gone above and beyond on our behalf. The other day one of my sales reps and I got together for breakfast to discuss our next project. Half way through our chat, I stopped and literally took his hand in mine (yep I’m really sentimental) and said, “Can I just tell you how thankful we are to work with you. I have heard so many horrible stories from different filmmakers that got really messed over by their sales reps, and I feel the complete opposite, I love working with you and feel blessed everyday by our relationship.” Ryan’s response was “We feel the same way about you guys. Do you know how many sales reps complain about the producers of their movies being difficult to work with? When we sign a movie, we really sign people. That’s why we only pick a select few and most important that we like the people.”
I could go on and on with so many more stories of how kindness spreads like wild fire and brought beautiful outcomes to those involved.
I have witnessed some really horrific treatment of people on film sets. I have yet to understand why or how these people think this behavior will benefit their film or their future. In all aspects of life: how we treat people will always come back around. Whether you’re the boss or the person who retrieves the coffee, kindness will get you were money never can and a rotten attitude will halt you in your tracks.
This business is completely built upon relationships; PROTECT them with all your might!
It’s a small town . . . Always be Kind!