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.

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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

2014 And Going Strong

I personally had the chance to spend the beginning of 2014 with my family. This was a rare event for me. I am usually spending most of my time here in California working either to get a film made or to get a film out. Lately I have been spending much of my time with social media. Why well it is the age of meanness to some degree. People read something online and well it must be true. It has become such and issue that I believe it was an ATT commercial that talked about some girl believing her date was French because she read it on the internet. With the lack of honesty in advertising or action these days any company has to prepare for the inevitable bad info on the net. I try not to focus on this too much instead focus on positive things. Like my family and the success of my two sons. The success of our company Continuum Motion Pictures, but at times it just is honestly hard.

I can say this. Filmmaking like high school has its good moments and its bad. It has its bullies as well as the kids who stand up for the other kids. And it has it gossip, and the internet gives free reign for people to believe lies and half truths.

So here is a statement: I love making movies. I love helping others make movies and honestly I am pretty good at it. I love getting movies out and we are definitely good at that and getting better. I am fortunate, the intelligent and the professional seem to recognize this.

At times like many of you I do get depressed working with people or sometimes against the efforts of not nice people, but it keeps it clear to me, to quote a wonderful teacher and mentor in my life Bonnie Gartshore “Cowards destroy and you don’t strike me as a coward.” I see a lot of bravery in filmmakers trying to do the impossible. I rarely see cowards. I hope I never become one.

Make your movies and make your dreams happen. No one can stop you no matter your past or what people may assume is your past. Your friends will stick by you and if not, well we all know what that means, they were not your friends. When you succeed there will be those who talk about “how you got there” and why they have not and then there will be those that simply respect you. Be good to yourselves and most important be kind and gentle with yourselves. There is quite a bit of love out there, plug into it and BELIEVE

James Duval

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.

Response by Danny Torres Continuum Motion Pictures Producer

Continuum Motion Pictures CEO Danny torres on location.

Continuum Motion Pictures CEO Danny torres on location.

When I was in the fourth grade, I did something stupid. My teacher, in an effort to instruct my class on how to properly write correspondence, had everyone write a letter to a sixth grader. I was randomly assigned a particular student who was a bit unusual, but overall a nice kid who had never done a thing to me in my life. I, in an attempt to be funny or playful or perhaps not even knowing what else to write, proceeded to compose a letter to this student where I called him weird, odd and an assortment of other things that were honestly, mean and undeserved. Two days later, my teacher started the day by lecturing to my class about what had happened, though she refused to name the student who had written the letter. She stated she wanted everyone to know about this act of cruelty and that she would deal with the offending student later in private. As she continued on explaining how what I had done was wrong, I raised my hand, and then simply said aloud, “I did it.” I ended up apologizing to my teacher, the student, and the student’s teacher. I don’t know or remember why I wrote the letter and I don’t know or remember why I admitted to my class that I was the one who did it, and to this day, I regret any harm I may have done to that student. But the two things I learned that day were—one, learn to treat others well; and two, my teacher respected me for having the willingness to admit to my mistake.

Danny Torres speaking to Cameras at IV Film Festival

Danny Torres speaking to Cameras at IV Film Festival

As you may or may not know, there is currently an individual anonymously posting things about me online under the guise of different people. I know who the individual is, but I will not name them here or at any point publicly because frankly, what purpose would that serve? Would it not just maintain a perpetual circle of malice? In the film industry, you will come across a lot of people, some of whom you will love and some of whom you wish to part ways with as you simply don’t mesh. But unfortunately, there are times that you meet people who have become embittered and hardened by the difficulty of this industry, and in truth, it is hard. To quote Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it.” But unfortunately, rather than just continue pushing forward, people feel the need to place their anger, frustration, and dissatisfaction on whatever or whomever they feel has wronged them, whether legitimate or not.

Gossip and innuendo can be fun for people. There are magazines, websites, and TV shows that all profit off the gossip of many a famous people. Now, I am certainly not famous, far from it, but I do understand that part of human nature that derives some type of satisfaction from seeing a person being torn down, giving way to a dark sentiment inside of us that secretly says, “my life’s not great but at least I’m doing better than that person.” And yet, the same people willing to tear you down are the same people that perhaps once sung your praises. I can’t speak for everyone, but I rather learn about people by speaking with them and meeting with them than by judging them based on what I read in a magazine, or saw on some news show, or, God forbid, read about them on the Internet.

Now, with my particular situation, am I to assume that this person thinks that my success is growing to the point where he or she needs to spend as much time and effort to try and debase me? Or do they simply not trust that when people meet me, or speak with me on the phone, or interact with me in any manner, they can’t make a judgment for themselves as to whether or not they wish to work with me? If anyone ever wishes to ask me about my dealings in the industry or the business relationships I have taken part of, I’d be more than willing to have an open, honest conversation. I’m not hard to reach.

Now, I don’t wish to address anything written about me because honestly, it’s not worth dignifying. However, there is one matter I do wish to say something about and it is this—I was once accused of taking a sum of money from an investor with a time, place and amount stated. I’d just like to be on the record of saying that I love telling that story because at the accused time, I was in the sixth grade living on the other side of the country. That’s the fun of the Internet—anyone can write anything about anyone. In the words of Mark Twain, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” Then again, he also said, “Most of what’s on the Internet is true.”

And finally, to the person who keeps writing things about me, I just have this last thing to say to you: Thank you. Thank you for spending so much time thinking about me and my company and my business partners. It’s nice to know that I have not been forgotten. I’m sorry for the fact that I can’t pay you the same compliment, outside of writing this, as I spend my time, energy, and day working on moving my company forward by producing more movies and helping other filmmakers have the opportunity to distribute their films to the public. I honest to God wish you the best of luck on your own projects when you finally decide to spend your time working on those, instead of trying to defame my reputation. By posting on the Internet. Anonymously. Like a fourth grader would.

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
Producer
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.

Continuum Pictures

The Bouncer directed by Joel Murray, Produced by Danny Torres, James Duval

The Bouncer

It is now 2012 and each day i find myself facing what often appears to be a never ending supply of problems ranging from high school level issues to financial. I have found a commonality in each of the problems, people. It seems we are in the business of people. I know this seems obvious, except when you are in the middle of the problem, you often on see the problem, the I need this or that. When you pull back you begin to see some common issues with problems in film.

Lets take the issue of money in film. Well it really is not an issue, films make money, and believe it or not most films can make money if the film is made for the right budget. It is not the needing of money. There are lots of people who want to invest in film because the see the value of it. The problem is simply getting past the people that say they have money so that you can spend your time with the people who actually do have money.

Everyone says they can finance a film. Which is why you hear so many promises which never happen. This leaves you and for that matter myself scratching yours and my head. (not sure that sentence works, but you get the message). I have stood astounded and amazed why would someone spend so much time trying to deliver something they don’t have. Half the time I would work with them even if they couldn’t. It is this time that kills you as a filmmaker. You need your time to go towards people and projects that can move forward. The other part of the problem is the people who have made movies, but have never been involved in the financing of them. They always say they know how it is done, and spend so much time getting in your way, trying to make you do it their way. Their way does not work. How do you know this? If it did they would not need you.

Danny Torres CEO Continuum Pictures & Austin Anderson

Danny Torres & Austin Anderson

Once you have financed a film no matter no matter how small, you probably have a real idea on how it is done. I have heard that it works in this ratio: 1 to 10. If you financed a 100K film you now  can finance a 1M film. I hope this is true. There is no real right way, but there are a whole bunch of wrong ways to finance a film which I will simply say is this. If it feels like a short cut, it probably is and will not work. And if it does work, will most likely get you or your project in trouble.

Now onto the high School problems. These are issues of egos, yours, mine and especially theirs. If you keep it about the project, which is defined as getting it made, financed or out, you probably are doing okay. The problem is many people chase the feeling. They need film to justify themselves as having some value. Film does not do that. It entertains and their is no salvation in entertainment. I have sat in many rooms and been told how it is, by people who have never been actually been responsible for actually making it happen. They have always been “involved” in an aspect and saw how someone else or worse yet read how someone else did it. If they have not produced, financed, or distributed the film they probably no nothing about making it happen. Directing is the iffy part of all of this. The directors depending on how involved in the project they were, might be able to do it. Often their egos correction creative drive, interfere with the clear sightedness required to move a deal from point A to Z.

Continuum Pictures Studios

Continuum Pictures Studios

Now Application: Continuum Pictures has been the effort of many people inside the company and outside. We have often had people helping us. The hardest part is teaching people to do it our way. When people start working with us they want to do it the way they have “seen” or “heard”. A prophet is never accepted in their own land. This is true with building a team. The moment you get to know someone, the strangers advice is always truer. The reason for this is simple. When you work close to someone, you begin to see their faults, and even more scarier what you may interpret as leaps of faith, which are in all reality instinct combined with experience. Because of your own lack of experience it is confusing. This confusion leads to fear and fear well, you know what Yoda says. I prefer to quote Dune: “Fear is the mind killer.” I have seen this over and over. People quitting just before you cross the finish line, or simply needing desperately to be right.

This need to be right and fear, has destroyed more projects than you can imagine. I have watched it even hurt our own team. People see being right as part of their self esteem. Film is not self esteem, it is simply film. It is was you do and it is what you get done. If you do it right, it can do amazing physical things for you, from health to owning things. Film is not a spiritual journey. How you make film can be a spiritual journey, if it applies to how you see people and their foibles.

Now there will always be those who bring chaos, haters. Often times in film you will meet people who you think see the journey the same way you do. And sadly they don’t. This is rough. You want to help them, but they are chasing a feeling much like an addict will chase a drug. And when you will not give them that drug or if in their opinion you are some how amazingly responsible for their not getting the drug, they will attack you. It happens all the time. The stalker situation in the film industry is horrific. It often simply taking form of using the internet to cause someone harm, much like cyber-bullying. They will take a small truth and make it big, they will make up stuff and they are simply desperate fools. And there is almost never anything you can do about it. They are bullies. You will find them in your projects, in your meetings. People their for their own purposes. When it happens you move on.

The team members of Continuum Pictures have been through it all, enough to fill a novel. Somehow we have always gotten through by just focusing on the movie. When we are distracted by people, one of us will always say, does that get the movie done or out. That brings us to our senses. Making movies is work. Getting the deal is work. Film is hard. If it were easy then everyone would do it.

I can only hope each week as I face the problems in front of us, that I keep it about the movie.

– James Duval –
Continuum Pictures Studios