The Void

James Duvall and coffee cupThere is a void in all of us and around all of that sucks in every negative thought, action and belief that is said to us about us from others or ourselves. This is rough. How do you separate what is negative from what is truthful and needs to be fixed. The hardest part in building our team of filmmakers, has been watching this void devour hopes, dreams and finally actions.

I see it daily in actors, writers, directors, and people just trying to finance a movie. Constantly battling the void, trying to make their movies better or present their films better. It often seems like laying twigs over a hole and throwing dirt on it, then praying no one steps on it and finds the hole again.

Part of the problem is that, imaginary problems. Imaginary problems require imaginary solutions. The problem is you cannot solve an imaginary problem so the imaginary solutions devour all you time. And it is time, not talent, or brilliance that will lead to success. All those other elements that people think are important are not, unless there exist time to put them in action.

James Duval on Mano a Mano

We have all met talented people who are constantly putting time into their boyfriends, girlfriends or both. People who you know could make it. Their relationships become their excuse. Then there those who just run out without prepping for their meetings, with a first draft of a script, or the first pass on a film (this is the twig covered hole) and only feed the void with the on going rejections.

Time is for intelligent thought out action. It is a mathematical formula that surrounds all of our lives and endeavors. Applying it to our hopes, dreams and more importantly actions. What if you knew for a fact this was your only life, that there was no afterlife. How would you treat your time, your dreams and hopes? Your passion would hopefully become the important part in your life.

Appetite is the void. I need this. I need this hour, this moment. What if you needed your success and you found joy in your dream and the efforts to make the dream happen. If you are not finding joy in your dream, maybe its not what you are looking for. I am not talking about the moments of frustration or self-doubt. I am talking about in the moment of when you are doing them.

Cropped Jim CIMG1444Have you ever met a writer who hates writing? Probably will not be successful. Athletes enjoy the pain of training. Professional athletes train a lot. Be a professional. Acknowledge the void; try to feed it as little as possible. Enjoy the good and the bad moments of your dream. Let the bad moments drive you to moments of success.

If at all possible avoid people who will push you into the void or worse encourage you to walk into the void yourself. The successful writers I know, and some of them have had major films, get up every day and write. Just as an athlete will train or exercise daily. This advice works at every level for every creative or action motivator in a project.

To put it simply, those who work for their dreams and work daily are more likely to achieve their dreams. Don’t feed or be feed to the void.


Hope and the Power of the Dream

Hope and the Power of the Dream

James Duval profile picturesI am not certain this blog will win me friends or not. When you talk about what motivates people you almost have to treat it like a discussion on religion. In some cases it has almost become a religion. How people feel has become from my experience more important than what they do. When this is applied to a life long dream, well how do you know it won’t happen? I can’t predict the future. I can barely predict the present.

I have been involved in hundreds of conversations on how to make it in whatever endeavor people choose. I have met many people who have succeeded. I have noticed a difference between those who try and those who actually accomplish. It falls down to an understanding of how to keep one word in perspective, hope.

Now I am not saying I have accomplished anything. That I believe is for others to judge. On this topic I am speaking only as a person who has observed. When I think of hope I think of in two ways. The most common way is a fear or hope of consequences. Kid wakes up, remembers he had a report do, and then prays with all his hope that the teacher does not ask for it. Sometimes happens. I had a few unexpected extensions. But reality usually was it was due and I did not have it. That is common hope. Then there is hope where you have done everything you can and you place the rest into the hands of the universe and you hope it turns out the way you want it. That is hope where you understood the obligation of your own effort and acceptance of our own human condition.

How does this apply to film, being an actor or accomplishing anything in the film industry? The people I know who have succeeded by my definition, have a few things in common. The first thing is forward motion. Every day, almost every moment they are focus on moving forward. They will get up and write, even if it is bad, They will go to any audition no matter how small or presumably unimportant, they will go out with the intention of meeting someone to finance their film. Even if it is just the slightest part of an inch they are always pushing forward.

The second thing that is in common is acceptance of responsibility for their own success. I have heard at least a 1000 times how someone’s agent or manager is not doing anything for them. I have done that myself. Okay logic question: This is easier for actors:

You have an agent. You have not succeeded yet. So what level of agent do you have? Probably not one that will make it happen for you. On the other hand, if you are responsible for your own success then the agent probably can help you help yourself. Why? The agent is also trying to make it also. This is the reality at the beginning— beginning is, are you successful yet? No? Then you are still at the beginning. Success is a partnership waiting to happen. Now reality dictates that not all partnerships are good. That is understood.

Consequences are a mathematical approach to thinking. If the cow its grass it makes milk. If it does not make milk it becomes hamburger. (sorry for the visual) Hamburger is not what you want to be. You want to be part of a process that leads you to your goal.

In filmmaking it is the understanding that the film comes first, the acting comes first and that constant motion is necessary. If you are treating the process like math and you just keep doing it you will find some measure of success. Success leads to more success. Hoping that you will be a great actor or director, but spending your time not doing things related to actually succeeding in your dream gives you no choice but to hope.

Movement gives you an understanding that you will win and accomplish your life goal. It may not come in the form you want, or even expected. But when you find it, you know it. Making you dream the result of consequences in my opinion is a more likely path to success.

Part of our problem is the word consequences. For many people the word has a bad connotation. For me it is the result of an equation. If you want a different outcome you change the elements in the equation. If you do this you don’t need hope so much. You have understanding.

Decisions are hard. We always want to hedge a bit on them. Just in case we are wrong. The what if I fail fear kicks in. What will people think? When I began this journey with my friends I used to point out that lots of people die before they get to the mountaintop. For me the journey was the justification for the risk. Dying while climbing a mountain is better than standing and only staring at it your whole life. Film is a mountain; if you climb you have a better chance at getting to the top than if you just wish.

The other part of taking the consequences approach is most people around you will not understand, even if they are giving lip service to the same dream you have. When you make it many of them will make up a little lie to justify in their minds how you did it and they did not. The thought of the consequences of their decisions is beyond their ability to accept. You must have had a “special” friend or just got lucky. Success is rarely luck. It is almost always motion. You can walk into success. You can run, crawl and even fall into success. But rarely can you stand into success.

I have chosen to live my dream and to always push forward. As such even against difficult odds, I have manage to make some movies and even get them out. I have found myself to be part of a wonderful team of human beings, Continuum Motion Pictures. I have found myself surrounded by people who want and are willing to move forward with their dreams.

James Duval

Surviving as a Director and Where Do You Go

With the Killers Mask from Cider Springs Slaughter

With the Killers Mask from Cider Springs Slaughter

As a kid I remember dreaming of being on the set. The actions inside my head took place in dolly moves and crane shots. I did not grow up to be a director. I did grow up with a love for film and those who make them. I also feel I have gained a little bit of an understanding o what makes filmmakers tick.

Making a movie is always a mixed bag of emotions and agendas. Directors pin their hopes on a film and what it might do for them. Good directors usually can manage both and keep their focus on the film itself.

Continuum Motion Pictures The Team

Continuum Motion Pictures

It’s the agenda I want to focus on. I am making a basic assumption here, that the director wishes to make another film, make a bigger film and hopefully someday have a shot at making the big films.

I will share with you a bit of history I know. I have a friend who has directed a couple of big movies. He even went number 1 in the box office twice. His secret before he got to direct his first almost major film, he had directed probably a good 15 to 20 short films. With the digital world being what it is and the fact that all the filmmaking tools are now in the hands of almost anyone who wants to make a movie. Make movies. Make a lot of them. Set some rules so that if one of them gets attention it can go some where. Rules as I mentioned before about music and logos. Be working every chance you get.

The Worst Movie Ever and it is seen every where.

The Worst Movie Ever and it is seen every where.

I have had the chance to talk to many filmmakers around the world. Those that set their minds to it and take action make movies. Not always the best movies but they make them.  That has been our approach. Stay in production. Along the way you meet others that want to make movies as well. Work with them. Build a team.

The failure is rarely in the production values or technique, people just want to hear and see a good story. Take a moment on your stories. Work on a couple of ideas at the same time. Try and work with many writers or people who are trying to be writers. The number of drafts is what is important on a script. By definition a first draft no matter how good it is, is bad. Work out the stories so they make sense. And if you are making a movie that does not make sense intentionally embrace it and people will notice.

To quote World War Z when Brad Pitts character is talking to the Latino family: Those that keep moving live, those that stay die. There is truth to that in filmmaking. Keep moving and keep filming.

What to Do on the Bad Days

James Duval

We all have bad days that seem to wipe out our momentum. I wish I could say they can be avoided. They can’t. Well, at least, that is my own personal experience. I do think, though, that the aftermath of a bad day can be avoided. That is where you spend days telling yourself, “if only I could stay positive, then I would be further along than I am” and all the kicking yourself that goes along with that.

On my journey I have had bad days, bad weeks and even a few bad years. At one point in the middle of a spat of a few bad months is when Continuum Motion Pictures received the call that gave it the opportunity to have offices on the Paramount Studio lot. On another occasion during a period of over-all badness is when we suddenly went into production on one of our best films.

I personally don’t think you should worry about whether you are having a bad day or not. I have seen many actors give bad auditions because they are having a bad day. I have seen whole teams of people give up on films and their dreams because they were going through a bad time. I have seen composers let their lives get in the way of opportunity. And I am certain that you have seen all of this and more in your own life and the lives of your friends who have left the journey of their dreams.

Jason Durdon and Danny Torres at Paramount 2012 when Continuum had offices there.

Jason Durdon and Danny Torres at Paramount 2012 when Continuum had offices there.

Now the promise of the premise, “What to do on a bad day”? My answer will not make sense to some; to others it will be obvious. Enjoy it. That does not mean relish in it and pass it on. There is never an excuse for passing it on to other people. They do not deserve it. Enjoy it means notice it, watch it unfurl, but give it no power. Be professional and give the task you are doing the positive energy that it needs. Don’t worry about the day, but worry about the task at hand. The day will handle itself. If you are having a bad month, year or even life, and trust me – I have been there on the “life” part – it is not important. Focus on the the journey. If you are an actor, act; if you are a writer, write; and if you are a director or producer, simply barrel down on your project.

If someone else is having a bad day, it is okay to give them fifteen minutes or more if you have the time. But when you walk away, turn your thoughts to your projects. Don’t let the energy slip into you.
Chaos has to to find a home, if you don’t give it one with yourself.

I realize this all simplistic. But imagine if you are a farmer in the 1800s and you wake up – and heaven forbid – your wife has passed away in her sleep. (Horrible example, I know.) You still have to milk the cows, feed the chickens, and most likely the fourteen children you have. Then you get to grieve and handle the issue of the tragedy. We live in an age where we are supposed to pay attention to our feelings and the feelings of others. That is a good thing. But we give so much energy to how we feel, that it often stops us from doing what we need to do. People seem to need to feel if something is the right direction or not. Success is based on decisions. Now, these decisions can factor in intuition but feelings are not necessarily intuition. Intuition is a thought in the back of your head, or a “gut feeling”.

The other side of things is how we want people to feel about ourselves. I sometimes get caught up in this, especially due to the fact that people in film are not always the most mature and it feels like perpetual high school at times. The reality is this: we are very seldom made successful by how people feel about us. We are made successful by delivering. Can you ultimately deliver even if you are having a bad day or week?

People can hate you, but if you deliver the role and are not too difficult too work with, it really does not matter how people feel. Now note again: if you give people a reason to feel badly towards you, well, you might be passing on your bad days, and that has consequences.

James Duval in Alaska with family age 9

James Duval in Alaska with family age 9

Now, a disclaimer: Sometimes a bad day is an on-going battle with a real mental illness called depression. We all have an obligation to be aware of each other as human beings and to acknowledge medical conditions visible or not visible. That is the other side of the “bad day” coin. I am not certain how others need to actually deal with it, but I try to at least be aware of it and not let it affect how I see or feel about a person. Depression runs in my own family and even I suffer from it at times. I have worked with people who suffer from depression and PTSD. I take a deep breath and try not to personalize the conversation, and focus on the shared goal. If you keep the goal in the forefront of your mind, you can even move through your own depression when you have too.

Bad days are not necessarily the fault of anyone. There are many factors involved for ourselves and others. I feel I can best sum it up this way: give yourself the benefit of the doubt. You may just be brilliant and you may even accomplish your goal. To do this, you just have to keep moving in the direction that you set your sight upon. It does not matter if today you move an inch or if you move a mile – you just have to move.

Enduring to the End and Making Your Dream Happen

With the Killers Mask from Cider Springs Slaughter

James Duval with the Killers Mask from Cider Springs Slaughter a Continuum Motion Pictures horror film

I have been doing this many years now and in all honesty it has taken me longer to get to where I am. I do not know if where I am is actually very important in life terms. I do know that I can look back and recall every decision that has brought me to the point that a company I helped start has accomplished and is accomplishing things. We have made some movies, we have help get many filmmakers films out and are continuing to do so. I think i can give credit in particular to one decision. I am responsible for my dream. 

Like many of you I have chosen to be a filmmaker. I have had a similar journey to many people I have spoken to. There really has not been any thing special about my journey. I have simply chosen never to stop off the path of that journey no matter what. I have spoken recently to a few filmmakers who have consider giving up. I have hear the term that this business is “bullshit” or “nothing is ever real”. I can’t say I have had that experience as I think we have tendency to over generalize  what is occurring to us. If we give our displeasure a vague label, then there is nothing ever to solve, and we are always right in our failure. I like specifics. The hardest part of the journey has not actually been in getting funding for a film, or writing that winning script, or even production. It has always been people. As I continued my dialogue with the filmmakers wanting to quit, I found that when I pushed, there difficulty was the same. The difference is they were letting their experience with people stop them, while I think I can say honestly we have tried to learn from our experience and in the end choose to work with better people. 

Others should not have the power to push you from your dream, no matter what they say or do. Oh and they will say much, spin little truths in big lies and stand their in their spot light thinking they have done an amazing thing in hurting you. All I can say is you must be very important for someone to dedicate their time to hurt you or stop you. If you are that important you are probably close to success. So I have learned to smile and take the most difficult thing in the business — the people  and smile. 

Choose who you surround yourself carefully and know that you will have to deal with people who turn out to be as my son would say butt heads. Don’t let them dissuade you from your dream. YOU are important and what you are doing will turn out amazing, if you simply do not give up.

The company I helped co-found Continuum Motion Pictures is doing fun things. We hope to be able top share in the fun. Believe in your journey.

James Duval

Getting a Movie Started: Step One – Team Building

On Set: Cider Springs Slaughter

On Set: Cider Springs Slaughter

I realize for many people this will be an “ox before the cart beginning”. I have always been told, find a project then find the team to make it. I know that can work. I also know that the world is littered with the bodies of unfinished films. By the way I define a finished film by; is it out there and people can see it.

Getting a film from point A to Z is almost impossible. It is easy to get people excited about a project. It is difficult to keep them excited when they find out that it is more work than it is fun. This is why I say building your team is the first step. You want to find people who are committed to the work that is filmmaking. You want people who see your project and you as a necessary step along the way to their dream of becoming something in film.

Another contradicting point: It does not matter if they know what they are doing. It matters are they willing to learn. Odds are you don’t know what you are doing either. Once you have a group who want to make a movie, find out what each person does know, or more importantly who they know that can help you a little bit along the way.

James Duval, Mustafa Waiz Dylan Kellihg (Delkha)

James Duval, Mustafa Waiz Dylan Kellihg (Delkha)

My first experience with this was with Devon Ryan. I was attending San Francisco State University with a friend. We met another young man there who had shot a short film. I had a script (which surprised him. I guess people had ideas not paper). He knew more than we did. We began our journey that lead us to meeting Devon Ryan a special effects guru, who had taught many people in the industry. I meet with him with my fairly standard slasher pick screenplay and asked, would he help us. He gave me a budget for the effects which we could not afford naturally, and then made an offer. If we gave his students the credits, he would do it at cost.

As I was leaving, he said I had learned the most important thing in making movies, Ask. And he was right. I ask lots of questions. What do you want to do? Do you know how to do it? Will you let us shoot here? Will you help us make a movie?

James DuvalEveryone wants to make a movie. It takes dedicated people at every point to make it happen. If you have them, you can make any movie. It simply takes time. You need to be excited about your movie. More importantly, you need to be excited about being able to actually finish the movie.

I quietly sneak out an help students on films and first time filmmakers. Usually the ones who ask. I don’t get to do it as much now, but I always have time to talk about how they can do it.

Continuum Motion Pictures The Team

Continuum Motion Pictures: The Team

Much of my team has been with me for years and I miss the ones who are not with us now. People get feelings hurt, or have girl friends or boy friends, sometimes both, parents and responsibilities that find them in life. These can get in the way. In the end it has to be about the dream and making the dream real.

Finding a team and sticking by them, makes the dreams more likely to become reality.

Jame Duval
Continuum Motion Pictuers

The End of the World as We Know It-If Only: James Duval Continuum Motion Pictures

The End of the World As We Know It. If only.

James Duval Continuum Motion Pictures: Today the world was supposed to end by many peoples interpretation of the Mayan Calendar, and well as many of you noticed, it did not happen. So like us you are stuck with some assholes out there who do nothing but try to make your life worse. Maybe they are bill collectors, or neighbors, for us in the film business it’s the guy you met and you thought was cool.

James Duval 4th grade

James Duval 4th grade

Over the years we have helped many people get their first projects done. We have often taken great pride in this. Yet at times events occur that make you go, “do I want to know anyone else.” Often there is a reason people have not made it before. The problem is you discover why somewhere in production or post. Now, this is not to say that some people have legitimate frustrations, post can take a long time. Every movie is different. You just can’t edit it. You have to find the right editor and the right vision, and that is just the reality of postproduction. Anne Hall and Pulp Fiction are films that well took great editors.  On the indie side of things, it is just a long journey in finding a good editor. Some get this, other do not. The ones, who get it, sit quietly for the most part. Oh, they will yell at you or whisper in your ear their frustration and doubts, but they get it. Others on the other hand will see it as a betrayal, failure to do, etc… And they will not sit quietly as their film reaches the best conclusion, even though they have never done this before. No they will speak, write and chatter to the world like dying birds, squawking their mothers lies.

Near My Home in Alaska

Near My Home in Alaska

Now we have had to deal with this many times, and if you are making it in the film industry so have you. Actors you have replaced will write shit and say shit on the Internet. Directors you have tried to help will some how make you responsible for their dream, even though since working with you they have done nothing. Yet somehow the movie they messed up, and you are trying to fix will be your fault.

Being a producer, you volunteer for the abuse, this is why Producers probably get Best Picture in various awards shows. If you are making it as a producer and climbing out of the indie world, just know that other producer get it when people say something about you.

Continuum Pictures Logo Now, in our modern age, and please note a Mayan Apocalypse would have cured this, there is a definite no responsibility for what you post issue. Even with the latest tragedy in Connecticut, people abused the Internet and the suffering of those victims families and community. The Internet is like a loaded gun handed to every child and every childish adult. They can say things because well supposedly the constitution says they can.

James Duval letting it fly by

James Duval letting it fly by

My Company and I have had our share of stalkers and crap talkers. We even know their names. They should not check their email at the same location they post crap. Now we can pursue or we can create and leave them behind. This is the choice for many of you. Yes some people will believe the crap written or worse get scared and make coward’s choices. But in the end you have to believe in what you are doing.  We have a stack of movies and three films coming out in theaters that prove we know what we are doing. What do they have, just what they write.  You must never give power to those who would black mail you and besmirch your name. You must create and show the world you can do it.

We live in an age where what people post often drive the victims of their posting to harm themselves. We have seen this in the news also. It is tragic. It often seems we live in a world of fools. I have lost, “friends” because of what others say, but I have gained more.

In 2013 we march forward and I will blame my Mayan calendar for the idiots, stalkers and fools that still trail our success.  I am proud of my team, and those who don’t get it sadden me. Making movies is not easy. It is hard at the studio level and harder on the indie level.

I hope in 2013 we will still feel the bravery it takes to work with new people and to help them with their first projects. I look forward to creating and making the world better.

James Duval
Continuum Motion Pictures

#continuummotionpictures #continuumpictures #dannytorres #jamesduval #jasondurdon #news #update. #reponse

James Duval Senior, the man who taught me to forgive every one.

James Duval Senior, the man who taught me to forgive every one.