Open Door or Open Pit?
In the battle for fame, conscience is often the first casualty.
I’d just completed my final student film and was combing through Backstage, a well-known resource for entry-level movie jobs, when, to my surprise I found a production manager opening.
I called and spoke to an excitable assistant: “Can you come by now?” she asked. “Sure!” I heads-upped my wife and hit the road.
The dingy, unlabeled “studio” made me cringe. I chanted “gotta start somewhere” under my breath and pushed the door open. Inside, I was greeted by Shannon, the assistant and would-be starlet I’d spoken with on the phone. Her face was freckled with hope.
She led me into the hastily IKEA’d office of Ben, the co-producer of Ropes. Ben was a polite, soft-spoken black man who’d recently moved from Beantown to Dreamtown. This “dark David Lynch-esque study of bondage” was his first big break, he said. Ah, a fellow dreamer. Within minutes he offered me the position.
This was too easy. So I asked to see the script. Ben hesitated, but then smiled and said I could read it while he ran errands. I turned to page one and read, “Heather peels off her bikini and sprawls across the chaise lounge as the camera savors every curve of her body.”
I wrestled with my conscience. Maybe I could get them to change a few things. Like add clothes. By the time Ben came back I knew I couldn’t do the film.
“Not my cup of tea.”
“Why?” He wasn’t going to let me off that easily.
“Well, for starters, it’s not ‘a dark David Lynch-esque study of bondage,'” I said, “it’s soft-core porn.”
Ben looked agitated. “Religious reasons?”
“No. I mean, yeah, OK, it’s a God thing, but it’s also a me thing. I won’t exploit
desperate young women like Shannon out there just so I can make it in the movie biz.
She’s not meat, she’s a human being.”
Ben interrogated me further, but I finally managed to escape, and figured that was that.
The phone rang just before midnight.
It was Ben. I assumed he was calling to rant at me.
“I thought about everything you said.”
“And, well…” Then he told me about his life in Boston. And about his film degree. And his dream of producing movies in Hollywood. And about his church work. Yep, he was a God guy. A God guy who’d invented one reason after another to avoid his church friends ever since he’d signed on to co-produce Ropes. (So that’s why he looked so haunted.)
“I walked off the film tonight,” he said. “I just wanted to thank you for telling me the truth I needed to hear.”
Ben displayed ten times the courage I did that night. The courage to abandon his first big break. To start at the bottom again, rather than a higher rung on the wrong ladder. The courage to distinguish…
An open door from an open pit.
“What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?”