A Filmmaker’s Journal

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.

downtown-los-angeles-gritty-urban-industrial-street-art-mural-graffiti-architecture-wedding-engagement-session-photography-photos-6061The 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.

“Why?”

“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 requiemforavamp2
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.

It wasn’t.

The phone rang just before midnight.

It was Ben. I assumed he was calling to rant at me.

He wasn’t.

“I thought about everything you said.”

“Yes?”

“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?”

~Mark 8:36

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Memoir, Movies, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to A Filmmaker’s Journal

  1. Wow. What a magnificent story. Just goes to show how one small and courageous stand for conscience can have a huge impact. Thanks for sharing this challenging and inspiring post.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Barton Jahn says:

    Good post. Very difficult profession. My hopes and prayers for you as you seek God’s direction. He can open a way where there does not seems at first to be one.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. barbigelow says:

    Loved this one! Awesome story. Did I tell you my husband has a degree in filmmaking from USC? Yup, ended up a ski bum in Aspen, then a mental health worker at a psychiatric hospital in Boston, now retired after 30 years as a Director of Human Resources at a a psychiatric hospital in Providence and writing a book! 🤣

    Liked by 1 person

  4. There are stories within the stories that could be told. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. An inspirational post. Thanks for sharing, ’cause you got a lot of cool stories.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Mitch in my financial career, I often heard the phrase, It’s Only Business. This
    I came to realize meant you lie in your negotiations and even break some securities laws but it was Only Business. And most importantly it was not a reflection on your Personal code or values, which covered your family and friends outside of your Business.
    The problem for me was that my Italian mother had taught me that how you act in life does reflect on you. So I never learned this lesson of It’s Only Business and am glad I didn’t! Great post.
    Brad
    Brad James, author The Business Zoo

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I knew a big, rough, tough, burly, muscle-bound Christian guy who was also a lumberjack. His crew would park half way up the mountain and get on a “crummy” (battered 16-seater) to take them the rest of the way up the mountain to the trees. He had to get up at 4:00 AM and didn’t get home until 6:30 PM. Had no time to read his Bible, so took it with him in his lunch bucket. When they stopped work at noon, he would eat and read his Bible. Sometimes one of the other guys would sneak a picture from “Playboy” into his lunch bucket. He could tell who did it by their snickers. The next day, that guy would have a page out of an old Bible in his lunch bucket. One time the guys harassed him so bad, he got out of the crummy and walked ten miles home. Sometime later, one of the other guys confided in him about a home problem. He said, “You are the only guy I know to talk to. I know I harassed you in the past along with all the other guys, but you are the only one we all deep down respect.” I sometimes wonder what ever happened to ole Darrell.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. dawnlizjones says:

    Thanks a billion times. That particular jewel in your crown will dazzle our socks off!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you for taking that stand, Mitch. Our culture’s entertainment is deplorable and I’m afraid our consumption of it is making us a deplorable people (not in Clinton context but still relative.) We so need to start treating each other with empathy and compassion.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. carhicks says:

    Wow! It takes a strong person to walk away from “their break into a profession” Bravo to this young man and to you as well Mitch. Thanks for showing us what “Soldiers of Christ” look like.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Praise God! Praise God! Praise God!
    28 Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”
    “29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.” Luke 18:29-30

    Liked by 1 person

  12. ekurie says:

    Wow, talk about walking through fire. Well, almost. We never know what our witness will do I guess. Thanks for being an example of how to do it. You say he had more courage than you. I wonder,

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Nancy Ruegg says:

    Just adding my thanks to everyone else’s here for being a shining star (Philippians 2:15). You are an example to us all, Mitch! I’m wondering about the ripple effect, too–what God did in Ben’s life after he left that production, how he’s impacted others, how they’ve influenced still others…The rings undoubtedly spread far and wide!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. This made my eyes well up with tears…and my heart full of gratitude. Thank you. This is a precious post to me on so many levels. Last night I watched a movie “A Monster Calls” In it the monster character calls out “a man of faith with no faith”…it’s destructive is what it is and the film clearly depicted that. I’ve not cried so many tears in a long time as I did last night watching that movie…oh my word! But it is so beautiful to see a man fear God and through that impact those around him…to respect God, women, and man-kind for that matter. Much respect. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. numrhood says:

    mark 33:11 & 13 call unto thee, thou shall answer thee.

    Like

  16. gpavants says:

    Hi Mitch,

    The Lord bless you many times over for standing your ground. We need that light in witness in the industry! I will pray the Lord opens the right doors and closes the wrong ones. Though I do pray that you bring those on the other side of the wrong door to the right side. many, many more years of you having this mission, I pray are coming to you! Thanks brother,

    Gary

    Liked by 1 person

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