This is the first blog entry I’ve ever written, and this is a very important topic to me. Tough Draw…this script and one day feature film has truly changed my life. From meeting the best friends I’ve ever had, to meeting my wife, and to a stronger relationship with the Lord…the last six plus years have truly been a journey, and nothing short of a testament to the work God can do in someone’s life.
It all started with Coach Taylor, “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts…” you know the line…Friday Night Lights became a hit while I was in college. At the sacrifice of missing some probably needed courses, I used to coordinate my schedule (a lot of film classes have night labs) just so I could make sure I watched FNL. One of the classes I took was Intro To Screenwriting…that semester we had to write a TV Episode, (Guess which show I wrote an episode for)…and the first act of a feature length film. When the time came to write our feature length script, I can’t tell you how long I sat there and thought about what to write. I knew I wanted to write something I’d some day make…that was my vision…I knew I wanted it to be sports related, but what to write. I remember having a conversation with my Grandad one day and just thinking about home…West Texas. Being in a large city like Austin, I missed home. Home was riding around in my buddy’s truck, home was good food, and home was Grandad’s ranch. Growing up, I remember sitting in my living room watching the NFR with my mom…I’d put on my hat and use the footrest as a bull…I was going to be a bull rider. Needless to say, I never fulfilled that dream, but I made the premise a sports drama about bull riding and loosely based the characters on people I knew…the main character representing myself in a lot of ways, and the best friend character (who has evolved the most over time) representing attributes from my closest friends.
I soon became engrossed in my characters, and writing the mandatory ten pages per week was a breeze…I typically could knock them out in an hour sitting. The class, most of whom had no idea bull riding was a sport, really embraced this story and the direction. It was great getting feedback and work shopping the start and foundation to this project and realizing that I was on to something.
To save you from more details, I fast-forward you to sitting on Venice Beach in California. I had been out in Los Angeles with the UTLA program for over a month. I had been enjoying my internship at Scott Free Productions, but other than that, was really missing home. The night before I had re-read my first 30 pages of Tough Draw (Originally called Eight Seconds to Glory)…I found my mind wondering back to the Texas landscape I had written about and reinvigorated by the thought of the lifestyle I missed. That day, I sat on the beach; getting a terrible sunburn, might I add; and wrote over 35 pages by hand in a notebook. That night I took the book back to my laptop and began writing. Before I knew it, it was in the wee hours of the morning and in that 24 hour period, I had finished the script (70+ more page).
With my fresh script in hand, by gosh, I was ready to make a movie. The next day I marched into Scott Free and handed my script to an Executive (whom I still keep in touch with today.) She read the script, and told me that it’s a perfect film for an aspiring director, like myself, to go back to Texas and make. I was one of the few who decided to return to Texas after living in LA all summer. For most that didn’t stay, it was a hard decision, but for me, I had my priorities and the fast life and a desk job weren’t too high on the list.
Back home, I began to work. I focused on all the elements I’d learned while in film school and applied them to what I was doing. Along the way, I met a lot of people that would change my life, and only help the script evolve over time as I grew. The most important family I met during this process was James and his family. They embraced the script and the concept of a realistic, athletic approach to a sport they loved. James had been modeling and doing some acting and auditioned for the best friend character at the time. Together, he and I hit the trail to try to see this movie realized. I learned a lot from their family, most important of which was how to dance (Thanks Emma)…That skillset helped lead me to the night I met my beautiful wife on the dance floor at Billy Bob’s.
As my life changed and I experienced ups and downs and grew closer to the Lord, the script evolved. Today, the script is at a production ready point. James and I have still kept the dream alive, however, knowing that bills must be paid the script has had to sit. Everything; relationships, events, opportunities…all come in the Lord’s time and Tough Draw has proven to be no different.
On Tuesday, May 26th…James and I had scheduled to shoot a commercial spot for a client who had to reschedule last minute, a plan already in place, money already spent and a crew already on it’s way…we had to put something together in a hurry. We knew it would be tight, but there was one thing that had been a long time waiting…The Tough Draw Spec Trailer we produced is not necessarily your typical movie trailer, there’s no dialogue, there’s not auditioned talent…it’s about a vision, it’s about the emotion…it’s about the last 6 and a half years and the representation of growth in so many people…and most of all in myself. There are so many people that I’ve met over this period of time, and it’s amazing and a blessing at how everything has worked out.
I want to specifically thank my wife…Lindsay, for all the love and support even when sometimes it’s hard having me run my own business and chase this dream, to James for being my best friend and being the influence that has helped me in so many instances and in my writing…to Momma Kay for being involved and always giving us a production house to work out of…and from this shoot I want to say thank you to Cody and Hannah Johnson, y’all will never know how special it was that y’all made this happen for us at Atonement Entertainment…to Lyndon Laird for all your support and filling in last minute…to Cameron Schmucker for being the lead DP on the shoot and coming in to utilize his talents to make this a reality…and Evan Kaufmann…for being someone I met early on who has always encourage me.
I think the most touching thing about this piece is, it’s taken six and a half years…and I used to think about having a younger Justin involved, and for this piece, my own son got to play the part…it was such a heartwarming thing to see.
I know we still have a tremendous uphill battle, but to see progress and the shovel breaking ground so to speak, it’s just truly a blessing.
12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.