My Journey into Filmmaking

I. have produced this website for years promoting the film shorts that I have produced with my close friends. While I am very proud of our accomplishments I realize that this website does not give you any information as to who I am and why I love filmmaking I intend to fix this oversight.

The early days

When I was young I enjoyed entertaining people.  I loved making friends and family laugh whenever the opportunity struck.  I loved to perform physical comedy, trips, and pratfalls. On many occasions, I would start walking similar to Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks, often cracking up and embarrassing my friends.

When my oldest brother was in High School, he had joined the Drama Club. I remember seeing him act on stage performing in the “Princess and the Pea”.I still have vivid memories of the giant bed that the Drama Club created from many mattresses, and the princess’s inability to sleep because of a “pea” stuffed between the mattresses. The night I saw this play was the same night I realized that when I was in High School I wanted to join the Drama Club and act. There was only one problem, despite my love of entertaining friends and family, I was a shy introvert.

High School Drama Club

When I started High School I was too nervous to audition for any of the plays.  I did still join the Drama Club, but I worked behind the scenes as a tech and stagehand. Although this wasn’t what I ultimately wanted, I still had a great time being behind the scenes. For two and a half years I worked behind the scenes too nervous to audition for any of the plays.

The spring play of my Junior year was a play called Night Watch. An actor had become incredibly unreliable and was not showing up for the rehearsals during the tech week, a few days before the show was supposed to open.  One of my friends in the play asked me to do it and I agreed. The part was so short that I was able to memorize the lines within fifteen minutes. My friend coached me a little on how our director wanted the delivery and then I went on stage during the tech rehearsal to perform the part. My performance was an instant hit, I was able to save the scene.

There were two things I loved about getting thrown into an actor role in that fashion. First, it gave me the confidence to finally try out for plays during my senior year. Second, the role required me to cuss, I got to say “damn” and “ass” on stage, which was a big deal to be able to say that in a school environment without getting busted.  The Principal sat in the front row so I had the extreme pleasure to witness the look of shock on his face when I delivered my lines. The Principal even commented on how well I knew the cuss words after the play was over.

My Senior Year

My first role may have been minor, but it did give me the confidence to audition for both plays the following year; mostly because my fellow actors loved my performance so they strongly encouraged me to audition. The friendship and camaraderie played the biggest role in my gaining the confidence to audition during my senior year of high school. My senior year was interesting because it was the first time since I had been in Drama Club that the plays were not directed by any of the school staff.  The school let the Drama Club hire a director from outside the school. We had to hire a director because the teacher who normally directed was not able to direct that year.

The first play that year was a play the director sort of wrote. I say sort of because the play was multiple short stories put into play format and brought together with a common narrator character that moved us from story to story. One of the stories in the play was “The Death of a Government Clerk” by Russian playwright and short-story author Anton Chekhov, I played General Brizzhalov. I do not remember all of the short stories included in the play, but I believe they were also written by Russian authors. Another role I performed was that of a young man on his coming of age birthday. This young man is with his father who has decided to get his son a hooker as a right of passage into manhood for his birthday present.

Arsenic and Old Lace

The second play that year was Arsenic and Old Lace and I was cast as the lead, Mortimer Brewster.  We chose to hire a different director for this play as the previous director was an alcoholic.  The director we hired was an alumnus of our high school who was currently enrolled at a University studying to be a director.  In my opinion, she was a better director than the first one we hired; of course, she wasn’t an alcoholic, so that helped.

The new director loved the 1944 movie of Arsenic and Old Lace with Cary Grant (and who in their right mind wouldn’t like it), which is why she picked it to be our play. One of her minor quirks was that she loved the movie so much that she wanted us to do the play as close to the movie as possible. This annoyed some of the actors but I liked it. There is a fair amount of physical comedy for Mortimer Brewster in the movie and I love doing physical comedy. 

Image of Milan High School Drama Club Best Actor Trophy
“You like me, you really like me!”

Mortimer also kissed Elaine in the movie so that meant I would have to kiss the actress playing Elaine in the play. Although I was too shy to say anything, I thought the actress was attractive so I was happy to kiss her. As with the physical comedy the Director wanted the kissing scenes to be similar to the movie. She decided the best way to show the actress playing Elaine how she wanted her to kiss me was to kiss me herself. Considering the Director was also attractive I was not going to complain. I got more kissing action during that play than I did my whole four years of high school, it sucks to be too shy to tell someone you find them attractive.

That year our Drama Club decided to make some trophies and hold an awards ceremony at the end of the year.  Because of my performance in Arsenic and Old Lace, I won the Best Actor award and I still have the trophy to this day.

After High School

Sometime after graduating high school, I auditioned for a play in a community theatre; but because I didn’t know anyone my shyness prevented me from performing well during the audition.

I also spent three years at the University studying a “safe” career instead of studying theatre and film. Counselors tend to encourage the “safe” career over the arts, being a shy individual I was easily convinced to pick the “safe” major. I was very unhappy with this path.

My oldest brother was living in California pursuing an acting career.  I talked to him about me moving out there and joining him. My brother was all for it and the next time he came to Michigan for a visit we both drove back to California in my car.

Moving to California

California was a bust for me with regards to acting; I was not able to overcome my shyness and confidently pursue an acting career. On the positive side, I did meet the woman who would eventually become my wife. I also met a very close friend who has since moved to Arizona and is one of my cohorts in creating films with Mad Maxx Productions.

After the 1994 Northridge earthquake, I decided to leave California. My job was essentially defunct until they could rebuild, and many businesses needed to rebuild so I didn’t think my prospects of finding a new job were too great. A few months before the earthquake, my girlfriend, now wife, had moved back to her parents’ house in Arizona. After the earthquake, she suggested that I move to Arizona as the economy was booming, so I did.

Moving to Arizona

After moving to Arizona, we eventually got married and raised her son together. During this time personal computers became powerful enough to do video editing allowing anyone to create film shorts and feature films. I purchased a MiniDV digital video camera and some editing software and found I had a talent for editing video. I decided that I should pursue my acting career by creating film shorts and films.

At the same time that I was teaching myself how to create and edit video, my wife and I were trying to have more children of our own. Sadly we found out that we could not due to my wife having chronic health issues; so we decided to foster and adopt children. Over the years we have fostered more than forty children and we were lucky enough to adopt seven of them. Working the foster care system and taking care of special needs children takes time so my filmmaking career had to be put on the sidelines. At the same time that we were working with the foster care system, my wife’s chronic health issues became worse and I developed one of my own; once again forcing filmmaking to the sidelines.

Filmmaking

Fortunately, I have been able to get my chronic health issues under control and my wife is working hard to get hers under control. After adopting seven of the children that we fostered in our house, we decided that we had adopted as many kids as we could handle; therefore we stopped being foster parents. Because of this we no longer have to deal with the politics and stress of Child Protective Services. With the improvements in health and the stability of our children, I can take my filmmaking company, Mad Maxx Productions, off the sidelines and start focusing on making film shorts and films again.

We are currently filming our first feature-length film. I will upload many blog posts regarding the progress we are making with this film. Please keep coming back for more updates and also more personal aspects of my life that brought me into filmmaking. I would love to see any comments you may have, please register for a free account and leave a comment.

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