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On July 18, 1988, I finished my first screenplay entitled, "4 Fine Kids".  Written on looseleaf paper with a pen and pencil, it sits under this very desk in a binder with the other Legacy Screenplays.  This debut farce was about a 7-year-old girl that skinned her knee during recess on the playground and was taught the value of resiliency. 

Please note that writing that script wasn't just a spur of the moment idea; just before summer break, I had been cast in my Third Grade production of "Rumpelstitltskin," and admittedly been bitten by the acting bug.  Being cast in that play also, no doubt, led to my curiosity with theatrical writing.  But I think what got me hooked the most was realizing that putting on a play was way more than just actors reading lines.  It was a process. 

What I observed during my first experience was that theatre was an intricate collection of people coming together with a common goal: to complete a story that was written to have a beginning, middle, and end.  I noted that the process too, had a start, middle and stop.  Pre-production and casting, then rehearsing, then finally, the performance.  And I told myself, If I ever try to write one of these things, it's "gotta start, do stuff, then end...but no matter what, it has to be good."
It felt so fantastic that with only a pencil and paper, I could at least come up with the framework of infinite story possibilities (whether I would actually film them myself or not.) and not have to follow someone else's script.  

Some of the more ambitious titles I would eventually write, like "SCAV The Kid Vigilante", were written with multi-million dollar budgets in mind and heavily influenced by Batman (1989) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990).

So, at 8, I told myself I wanted to be an Actor, Writer, and Movie Director.  And since I wasn't necessarily the most athletically gifted child, I decided to myself that in terms of having fun, I convinced myself of the following: I'd much rather "put on a play" as opposed to "make a play", in baseball or football, for example.  

About two years later, I got cast as a Shepherd in my Sunday School Easter Production of the "Crucification of Jesus".  Had to wear the beard and all.  LOL.

Alas, that was the end of my acting career, folks.  
Ten years old and two roles: A crotchety fairy gnome and a Shepherd that watched Jesus die.  I
never auditioned for someone else for anything until 1997; the Annual High School Fashion Show.
(I was not selected, but you probably figured that out if you knew me.) 

After the Sunday School play was a critical disaster, (AKA I saw zero emotions from my Mother when I saw her face in the audience) I decided to make my own rules, and my own movies.  Movies I'd want to see.  Acting was so much fun, I figured might as well keep me as the main character.  Why not

So, in October of 1989, I wrote and directed "The Mysterious Head Hunter".  My muse at the time was my very talented cousin, Becky.  That was my first attempt at filming a story from start to finish, and her and I would go on to make two more movies together, "Sleepover at Danny's" and "Looks Aren't Everything".  But we bonded over our love for dramatic arts off camera as well.  To be clear, she was on another level - despite only three years my elder, I was Ninja Turtles, Bart Simpson and Batman, and she was already commenting on Les Mis and analyzing David Lynch's Twin Peaks.  She passed in 2018, a few weeks before her father, James, who would also serve as a creative inspiration for me: he having made a film himself as a teenager with a 35mm camera and The Beatle's "Rocky Raccoon" serving as both the title and the iconic soundtrack.

By the time I was 12, I had written forty-four screenplays, filmed about sixteen short films, (with my sisters usually in the lead), several television specials, two years of organized Olympic Games, countless commercials; and formed a Wrestling Federation with my brother, Tim and friend, James.  Man, we had good parents!  They allowed us the creative freedom and didn't hinder our expression.  Cannot thank them enough.

Still, I also spent a lot of time alone.  Around the ages of 9 to 11, I began to value my time in quiet and used those hours to create rich, engrossing stories with action figures.  The dialogue-heavy adventures would start after school and homework, then the characters would "sleep" when I would.  They went "to work" while I went to school, then their stories and sub-stories would continue each day for pretty much all of Sixth Grade (1990-91).  There would be different factions, designated areas of land for everyone and custom playsets.  There was no such thing as real-working Ninja Turtles Sewer I made one.  Using an old glass aquarium as the Turtle's Underground Sewer Lair, I built a small city above it, with connected roads and skyscrapers.  Just cardboard, tape and markers.  The characters inside the city filled in all the rest with what they were doing and talking about.

Another favorite activity was racing Hot Wheels.  In my room, I flipped a sand toy bucket upside down (empty of course) because the height was perfect for my track and it had a very nice, hard lip at the edge that would serve as a wonderful stabilizer for the part that held the cars in place before you hit the little lever and they dropped down, racing to imaginary checkered-flag glory.  It certainly instilled a sense of competitionI was craving: I was creating, watching, and controlling, basically a giant "one on one car drag racing tournament".  This would be sometimes dozens of cars in multiple brackets, multiple storylines, and fittingly unpredictable outcomes.  But what I most notably recall is that this activity kickstarted my fascination with the cohesion of victory and variables.  There's no such thing as a clear victor.  A life lesson I would certainly treasure.     

In High School, I was awkward and shy like most of us, and I grew out of all the toys and creative writing and plays and making silly movies.  I did, however, start to pursue athletics in the form of hockey and distance running.  The passion for hockey continued 24/7, so while it placed a pause on the screenwriting, I was getting a lot of exercise, and at home I formed a completely analog hockey league that ran for three years.  Doing all of the league data by hand, I became super quick in alphabetical filing, organizing numerically, and math (specifically fractions and percentages).  The league, played via NES Blades of Steel, comprised of twelve teams divided into the East and West Divisions.  Each team had six players, all of which I kept track thorough statistics, height, weight and individual back stories.  Much like the action figures before, this activity of running an analog fantasy hockey league with one long continuous story, was almost every day of Eleventh Grade (1995-96).

During college in the late 90's, I continued writing; albeit sporadically, and finally set the ultimate goal to be in the filmmaking industry by 2005.  I told myself that by then, I'd have at least two features written, a short I was proud of, and a boatload of on-set experience.  By the time I graduated from the University of Maryland in 2002, I had two semesters of screenwriting, two semesters of Acting on Stage and written a full-length feature entitled, "The Capture".  In my unfathomable ignorance, I thought that was enough to start applying to movie sets and network with the industry. 

But on a very fateful day in the early part of summer 2002, I met local filmmaker, and Academy Award winner, Susan Hadary.  I met Susan through a connection of my mother, and I was ecstatic for the chance to chat with the "King Gimp" creator.  So there I was, in her downtown Baltimore office, with an Oscar statue on the table which was separating her and I.  Elegant and polite, Ms. Hadary offered so much advice, and I'm ever so grateful she gave me her time.

At the conclusion of our talk, Susan simply laid it out for me that I wasn't ready; and definitely didn't want it enough.  It was the wakeup call I needed, but it was painful; and so devastating to hear at the time.  

And she gave me the truth for me as a man...not as a filmmaker.  She didn't realize she was doing that at the time, but she was.  In my everyday life, I honestly wasn't accountable, nor was I nearly mature enough to start such an endeavor.  Being a filmmaker meant you can take criticism and roll with it, never stop working, accept that you will get rejected more often than you think, respect those that paved the way and celebrate those around you. 

The lack of these fundamentals caused me to hibernate from being my true creative self for over two decades.

Starting on October 29, 1996, I would be a cog in someone else's machine.  Making it spin with my muscle, while being denied my creativity.  The ship that carried my filmmaking dreams had certainly sailed.  My co-workers saw a very passionate, sometimes too intense, minion.  They had no idea how much of my brain capacity was reserved for company information.  How many times I cancelled or skipped or missed or forgot plans and events from friends and family.  No one from the work side really seemed to mind one way or another, as long as I was there when they wanted me there.  I would be lying if I said I didn't learn anything from almost 30 years of being in Corporate America.  I saw how the world, or at least "America: Present Day" works.  A lot of laziness.  A lot.  But also a lot of people that are trying to do the right thing, but are at the mercy of a paycheck.  Being expensive to live is our reality.  But, after a series of personal events, money was no longer enough to cage me.   
I only am allowed to take so many trips around the sun, and I am not going to waste it.  

Fast forward to 2022.

As a 42-year-old, I end a 26-year-long career because I felt that I was strong enough to lay down ground rules.  Confident enough to say "no, I will not be robbed of who I am anymore."  Accountable enough to say, "that was my fault, I own it, and here's how I'm fixing it." 

I was finally ready to start my filmmaking journey.  And I am.

I am.

And I want it enough.  Stay Tuned.

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