Ambition! I’d just completed my final student film, was combing through Backstage, a well-known resource for entry-level movie jobs, found a production manager opening, and called. I spoke with an excitable assistant: “Can you come by now?” she asked. “Yes!”
The dingy, sign-free “studio” made me cringe. “Gotta start somewhere,” I reminded myself, and pushed the door open. 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 a newly-IKEA’d office. Ben, the co-producer of Ropes, was a friendly, soft-spoken man who’d recently moved from Beantown to Dreamtown. This “dark, psychological 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. I asked to see the script. Ben hesitated, but then said I could read it while he ran errands. I turned to page one: “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 clothing. By the time Ben came back I knew I couldn’t do the film.
“Why?” Ben asked.
“Not my cup of tea.”
I took a deep beath. “Because it’s not ‘a dark, psychological study of bondage,’ it’s soft-core porn.”
Ben looked agitated, almost haunted. “Religious reasons?”
“Well, sure, 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. He wasn’t. “I thought about everything you said.”
He told me about his life in Boston…his film degree…his dream of producing movies in Hollywood, a rarity for people of color…and of faith. Yep, he was a God guy too. A God guy who’d invented one reason after another to avoid his God guy friends ever since he’d signed on to co-produce Ropes. So that was why he’d looked so haunted.
“I walked off the film tonight,” he said, “and I just wanted to thank you for telling me the truth I needed to hear.”
Ben displayed ten times the courage I did that day: The courage to abandon his first big break. To start at the bottom again, rather than a higher rung on the wrong ladder. And the courage to distinguish…
An open door from an open pit.
“For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and yet forfeits his soul?” ~Mark 8:36