Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Wish I Was Here

At the age of eleven, Zachary went to summer acting camp.  It was the first place he’d ever been where it wasn’t unusual to care more about acting than sports, and he loved it.  There, Zachary was noticed by a talent manager who encouraged him to begin auditioning.  He only landed one small role during his teens, but learned a lot about the process of putting on shows and organizing film and TV productions.

Zachary studied film in college, during which time he also got his first role in a major movie.  He was wide-eyed and terrified to be in a scene with several big Hollywood figures, but made the most of the experience. He also earned a significant role in a theatrical production of Macbeth, but acting work was so scarce that he eventually decided to try his luck out west.

Zachary relocated to Hollywood, and got a job waiting tables in a French-Vietnamese restaurant.  That year, three very small independent films in which he appeared were released, the last of which got him some positive attention.  Restaurant guests would say, “We just saw your movie!” to which he’d answer, “Thanks… now let me tell you about our specials.”

After several years of waiting tables and auditioning, Zachary landed the starring role in a major TV series.  He immediately quit his serving job, then learned that the series wouldn’t start filming for several months.  With almost no money, he panicked, realizing he may have quit too early.  Ultimately, though, he decided it was a sign that he needed to stop procrastinating, and finally work on writing the movie script he’d been thinking about for some time.

His script focused on a mostly out-of-work Los Angeles actor who returns to his New Jersey home for his mother's funeral.  It garnered little studio interest.  Zachary’s TV show was doing well, but almost every production house he pitched passed on his movie due to his unwillingness to change what they felt were basic structural problems.  Finally, Zachary managed to find a financial backer for his project who had no experience whatsoever in the entertainment industry.  It was perfect, because the novice producer did something no major studio would have done:  he agreed to let Zachary star in the movie, direct it, and have final approval over the finished film.

Zachary “Zach” Braff’s first movie, Garden State, transformed his life.  He had become recognizable as the likeably-bumbling star of NBC’s Scrubs, but the positive reviews and enormous financial success of Garden State marked him as a filmmaker to be taken seriously.  Moreover, he had done it without sacrificing his vision for the movie, something few first-time filmmakers get the chance to do.  But even so, repeating the success of that process wouldn’t be easy.

Over the next eight years, Zach pursued numerous filmmaking projects, and learned that getting a movie made the normal Hollywood way wasn’t easy.  In one case, he had a commitment to direct one of the biggest movie stars on the planet, until that star called back to say that his wife didn’t want him to work that year.  On another occasion, Zach was scouting locations for a film and got word that he had lost his star to a bigger, more famous director.  Two other times, he was set to make movies at major studios, but his champion at the studio was fired.  Without a champion to fight for a project and studio resources, a production was as good as done before it began.

In 2013, Zach decided to stop trying to do things the Hollywood way, and went back to what had worked for him the first time:  going outside the system.  Instead of looking for major film studio backing, Zach appealed to all the fans he had made with his first movie, inviting them to help fund turning the new script he and his brother had written into a movie.  It was an overwhelming success.  Surpassing his funding goals by over a million dollars, Zach was able to direct and star in Wish I Was Here, a movie that would have hardly been recognizable if he had let Hollywood do it their way.

Sometimes we let other people dictate how our dreams are supposed to turn out.  I hope Zach’s story will remind you that your future is yours to write. If nothing could get in your way, what dream would you pursue next?  Lights… camera… action!

Until Next Week,

Live Your Dreams!

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